Desserts, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Thanksgiving Dishes


I’m always interested in what other people serve at the Thanksgiving feast.  Our dishes don’t vary much, but sometimes we add something new to the menu, or we’ll drop something that’s not that popular.  So this week, I’d like to share with you what’s on our menu this year, and I’ve got a couple of recipes for you that I really like, and a new one I’m trying for the first time.

We like to hang out together all day as the dinner cooks, but we’re not the type of folks who go for formal appetizers, so we just have a cold cuts and cheese and crackers tray and a pickle plate out on the counter.  For the pickle plate, I’ll bring jars of pickled beets, pickled spicy green tomatoes, some black and green olives, and either Joel or I will open jars of dilly beans and kosher dill pickles.  I’ll also be bringing jars of my home-canned, charred salsa and green tomato salsa to go with tortilla chips.  There will probably be potato chips and dip, too.

This year, I’m bringing a bottle of champagne and a bottle of either my raspberry cordial or blackberry cordial, or maybe both, to make pre-dinner champagne cocktails.  For the kids, I’ll make a lemonade-based punch.  At dinner, we always open bottles of sparkling cider.

There’s turkey, of course.  We cook one at home for leftovers to feed the out-of-towners who stay at my house (our daughter, Amy, her husband, Solo, and his mother, Theresa).  Amy usually arrives a day early to help me with all the cooking.  For the last two years, my daughter-in-law, Tori, has cooked the turkey for the big family feast, and she’s done a marvelous job.  I taught her how to roast a chicken, told her to treat the turkey like a really big chicken, and she’s come through like a champ two years running.  This works well because we eat the feast at Tori and Joel’s house, and I don’t have to cook the turkey at my house and worry about then transporting it.  I have transported the entire dinner before, and I don’t like it!  I have also tried cooking it at someone else’s house, and I don’t like that, either.  So now, we divvy up the cooking, and it works well.

We are turkey traditionalists.  We season the bird with butter and herbs and roast it at 325 degrees in a big, old-fashioned, heavy-lidded, enamel roasting pan.   I like to mix fresh herbs from the garden—chopped thyme, sage, hyssop, and tarragon—into softened butter, and this goes under the skin of the breast and all over the bird outside.  I sprinkle it with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I baste if I think about it, but the lidded roaster keeps the bird moist while producing a crispy skin, so if I forget to baste, it’s no big deal.


I stuff my turkey with cornbread stuffing.  I make extra stuffing in a large casserole dish, and we take the casserole dish to the feast.  The stuffing that cooks inside the turkey stays at home for leftovers.  Tori doesn’t make stuffing, and her parents, who always feast with us, like a sausage and carrot and bread dressing, so they make and bring their favorite dressing.  Everybody has what he or she enjoys most.

Amy and I make most of the sides.  Amy has been crowned Mashed Potato Queen.  She has cooked and mashed the potatoes every year since she was a teenager.  Usually, she cooks the Yukon Golds I’ve grown in the garden.  But this year, all my Yukon Golds were volunteers (from a row Dennis didn’t dig the fall before!) and they matured so early that we had to eat them all this summer.  I have some garden reds, and I bought a 5 lb. bag of Golds, so we’ll mix them this year.  A handful of salt goes in the cooking water.  If this sounds like a lot, consider that if I don’t stop her, Amy fills my 13-quart stock pot with peeled and cut potatoes!  She puts lots of butter in them, and fat-free half & half to balance the fat in the butter.  She uses my old potato masher to break them up after draining, and then in goes the butter, and after it melts, the “cream.”  Then she uses the mixer to whip them up.  They are always light, fluffy, and creamy.  The key is to not overcook them.  Over-boiled potatoes will be gummy and gluey, no matter what else you do to them afterwards.

I make gravy from the turkey drippings.  I used to make turkey gravy with flour, but since I have stopped eating wheat, I’m reverting to cornstarch.  My mom had a funny rule:  cornstarch for light-colored gravies from poultry drippings, flour for dark-colored gravies from beef and venison.  (Of course, it was always flour for milk gravies, but that’s another story.)  I don’t know where she came up with this rule, but she never deviated from it.  At any rate, cornstarch makes a good, clear sauce for a light meat like turkey, and my turkey drippings are rich with butter and herbs from the herb butter I slather the turkey with, so it makes a delicious gravy no matter what you use to thicken it.

Some years, I make a puffy, sweet potato casserole.  My husband likes those overly-sweet yams with marshmallow topping, but he is the only one who does, so I don’t make it.  My kids don’t like sweet potatoes any way I fix them, but the puff is sometimes popular with other guests, and I really like it.  The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

This year, my son asked for a dish I love:  Roasted Roots.  I have to thank my dear foodie friend, DeAnna, for introducing me to Roasted Roots some years ago. This is a simple and easy dish, but you do have to have time to prep the vegetables and the oven space to cook it.  Tori and Joel have double ovens, so one oven will be free to roast the root vegetables and after that, to brown some homemade sourdough brown and serve rolls.  You can use any kind of root vegetables in Roasted Roots.  Our favorites are sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, and onions, a cup of each vegetable, cut into chunks.  If you can get tender baby beets, there’s no need to peel or quarter them, just trim off the stem and root ends and scrub well.  If the beets are big and you can tell they’ve been out of the ground for a while, put on some rubber gloves, peel them, and cut them into approximately 1-inch chunks.  Peel the sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, and cut them into chunks the same size as the beets.  Cut the onions into quarters, and then halve the quarters.  Put all the vegetables on a cookie sheet (or two, if you’re making a big batch) and throw on at least 6 garlic cloves, still in the paper.  (The paper helps keep them from burning.)  Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables and toss them to coat.  I also like to mix a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or my homemade apple scrap vinegar with the olive oil before I toss the vegetables in it.  The vinegar really brightens the flavors, and the sugar in the vinegar helps the vegetables brown. Spread them out in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If you have fresh herbs available, sprigs of thyme and/or rosemary are very good, tossed on top of the roots about 15 minutes into the cooking time.  Roast at 425 about 20-30 minutes, stirring at least once about halfway through, or until the beets, parsnips, and carrots are tender.  They are the hardest vegetables, so if they are tender, everything else will be done too.  The vegetables should be tender but should have browned and developed a crunchy outer “skin.”  Remove the herb sprigs before serving.  If you have more herb sprigs, a fresh bunch makes the dish look pretty.

We don’t make the traditional green bean casserole, but we do sometimes have green beans.  I like fresh green beans blanched and then tossed with mushrooms and onions sautéed in butter.  But this year, Joel is making the green beans.  He’ll probably use frozen beans, and he plans to crisp up some bacon and onions and sprinkle them on top of the cooked green beans.  They’ll be delicious.

I usually make some kind of fresh bread for Thanksgiving dinner.  I grew up with those packaged brown and serve rolls (my mom was not much of a bread baker), but I love fresh bread.  It’s one of the things I miss most about going gluten-free.  For the past several years, I’ve alternated between a loaf of herb bread–easy in the bread machine–made with herbs I picked from my garden and dried over the summer, and sourdough biscuits or rolls.  My old bread machine finally died this summer, so it’ll be sourdough rolls this year.  My sourdough starter also died because I didn’t use it or feed it enough, so I had to make some fresh starter.  The recipe for the starter and the brown and serve rolls comes from Tina Harrington’s Facebook page, Cooking on the Sagebrush Sea.  The recipe will appear at the end of this post.

I grew up with canned cranberry sauce, but the first time I tried homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce, I was hooked.  I make it every year, following the directions printed on the plastic bag of cranberries.  It’s just cranberries, water, and sugar.  So simple, but so delicious.  Some years, we make a fresh cranberry, orange, and apple relish as well.  It’s just equal parts chopped cranberries, peeled oranges, and shredded apples, mixed with just enough sugar, a half cup or so, to sweeten it to taste.  The problem with this relish is that it doesn’t keep well as a leftover, unlike whole-berry cranberry sauce, which will literally last months in the fridge.  (Yes, I’ve found it after 6 months in the back of the fridge and it is still good–a tribute, I guess, to the antioxidant power of cranberries.)  For this reason, you don’t want to make more of the fresh cranberry relish than you think you will eat on Thanksgiving Day.

At this point, we come to desserts.  Amy and I bake the pies, and this year, my granddaughter, Kaedynce, will be helping with the pie-baking.  I have made so many kinds of pie for the feast over the years, including pecan, apple, strawberry-rhubarb, and the traditional pumpkin.  But there are two pies that everyone always wants:  pumpkin, of course, and sour cream apple.

I grow pie pumpkins, and I roast and puree them for pumpkin pie filling.  I use the same recipe I grew up with—it’s on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can—with one other exception besides growing and roasting my own pumpkins.  Goldie, my sister and pie baker extraordinaire, taught me to double the spices the recipe calls for.  Oh, yeah.  It’s fantastic!  And the home-grown, fresh-roasted puree puts the whole pumpkin pie deal right over the top.  It is sacrilege to put anything except freshly-whipped cream, just barely sweetened and with a touch of vanilla, on top of that pie.  So that’s what we do.


I owe the sour cream apple pie recipe to my good friend, Wes Reid, who brought me one years ago that his partner, Lori, had made for us.  I fell in love with the thing, made it for Thanksgiving that year, and then the whole family fell in love with it too.  Now, it’s the first dessert to disappear.  Sour cream apple pie is in the chess pie family, and it’s topped with a cinnamon streusel that gets crispy under high heat during the last few minutes of cooking.  This is a custard-type pie made with sour cream, eggs, and shredded apples, and while it sounds odd, it is absolutely the bomb, sweet and tart and tangy, and very easy to make.  You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.  My thanks to Wes and Lori for passing along this recipe from Lori’s family to ours.


I usually make at least one other pie or dessert.  This year, I’ll be making my new love, pear mincemeat in a gluten-free pie crust.  Follow the links to previous posts that contain these recipes.  Pear mincemeat (no meat) is spicy, tart-sweet, with a great hit of citrus from the whole lemon ground up with the pears and other fruit.  It’s a wonderful filling for the gluten-free crust.  I like to make turnovers because they’re handy, literally, and bake up nicely, but a pie would be just as tasty.  I’ll see how busy I am on baking day.  A pie it’ll be if I don’t have time to form turnovers.  If I make turnovers, I’m thinking I might make a fresh lemon glaze to drizzle over them, to pretty them up a little bit and tempt someone who might be scared of the idea of “mincemeat” or gluten-free.


It’s standard to ask a question at the end of a post, in an attempt to generate more comments.  I see it so much, it sort of feels like a cheap trick to me, and I’ve resisted the trend until now.  But now, I’m asking because I’m genuinely interested:  What’s going to be on your Thanksgiving table this year?  And if you’d like to share recipes or stories, so much the better.

And now, the recipes, in the order they were mentioned above.   I hope one or more of them makes it onto your Thanksgiving table, either this year, or in the future.

Sweet Potato Casserole

2 ½ lbs sweet potatoes

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 T. unsalted butter, melted (plus more for the pan)

2 T. dark brown sugar

1 t. salt

½ t. cinnamon

½ t. ginger

Pinch of nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place scrubbed sweet potatoes on baking sheet, poke with fork three or four times.  Bake for 45-60 min. or until tender.  Set aside to cool.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees.  Scoop potato meat out of skins and into bowl.  Mash potatoes until smooth.  Add eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.  Whisk mixture until smooth.

Butter 8X8 casserole dish or pan.  Pour sweet potato mixture into pan and sprinkle top with pecans.  Bake for 30-40 min., until a bit puffy.  Serve immediately.

Sourdough Starter and Brown and Serve Rolls

Sourdough Starter:  Mix 1 cup white all-purpose flour, 1 cup lukewarm water, 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tsp. active dry yeast in large bowl.  Leave out on the counter (or in warm place), covered with a cloth, until bubbling and yeasty smelling.  When mixture is frothy, scrape into a jar or lidded crock and refrigerate.  Starter is ready to use when a clear liquid has risen to the top of the jar.

It’s best to take the starter out the night before you plan to use it and feed it.  To feed starter, place in large bowl and stir in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.  Cover and let sit in a warm place overnight to activate yeast cultures.  After measuring out the starter called for in the recipe, put the “fed” starter back in the jar or crock and back in the fridge.  Use your starter frequently, or at least feed it, or it will die.

Sourdough Brown and Serve Rolls

1 cup milk, scalded then cooled
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 cup of activated (“fed”) sourdough starter
2 small or one large egg
4 ½ cups flour (white or whole wheat)

Mix milk, salt, sugar and butter in a microwave safe measuring cup.  Heat until the butter melts. Let this cool to room temperature. Add yeast and let proof five minutes, then combine with other wet ingredients and 2 cups of flour in bowl of stand mixer.  Let knead on the dough hook for ten minutes.  Add remaining flour in ½ cup increments until the dough just comes together. Turn out into a greased bowl, and proof (raise) for an hour. Make into rolls (makes about three dozen rolls). Place in greased pans a quarter inch apart, and let raise another 45 minutes.

For Brown and Serve: Preheat oven to 250*F and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool, and wrap and freeze (or refrigerate). When you want to serve these, take them out of the freezer and let them thaw for ten minutes, then bake at 425*F for 5-10 minutes.

Note:  An egg wash makes breads brown beautifully.  Simply beat up an egg with a spoonful of water and brush it onto bread before baking.  For the brown and serve option, use the egg wash prior to the second baking/browning.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

One 9” pastry shell, unbaked

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup sour cream

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups finely chopped or grated peeled apples (tart pie apples are best)

Mix dry ingredients, beat in egg, sour cream, and vanilla until smooth.  Add apples, mix well, pour into pastry-lined pie pan.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for additional 30 minutes.

While custard is baking, mix the topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup softened butter

Mix well and sprinkle over pie. Return to oven at 400-425 degrees and bake for ten minutes to form streusel crust on top of custard.  Cool completely before cutting.  Store in fridge.

Gluten-free, Main dishes, Recipes

Gluten-free Eggplant Lasagna (with meat)


Some months ago, I decided to cut gluten and most grains from my diet.  This has meant learning to cook in new ways and with new recipes, and learning to adapt beloved ones, like lasagna.

I love pasta, and I miss it.  It’s really about the only thing I haven’t yet figured out how to make from gluten-free flours.  I hope I’ll have the time to work on that this winter.  A few months ago, when the longing for Italian food got too strong, I went on the hunt for something to fill that craving.  I found a recipe for eggplant lasagna, but the eggplant was there to substitute for the meat, not the pasta.  I wondered:  could oven-roasted eggplant take the place of the pasta in lasagna?  Conveniently, I had eggplants in my greenhouse, so I was able to give the idea a try.  And it’s delicious.  I was surprised that I didn’t miss the pasta at all.  The flavor of the lasagna is authentic, and it fulfills all my cravings for Italian food, without wheat.  Cutting out the pasta cuts down significantly on calories and carbohydrates as well.  This is a protein-rich dish that also contains a lot of vegetables, so while I usually serve it with a salad or another vegetable, we have been known to heat up a square and eat it by itself with no loss of satisfaction.

You can use any ground meat you like in this recipe.  I have used ground beef, turkey, Italian sausage, and ground venison.  You can mix ground meats, and frankly, mixing a little Italian sausage with any other meat is going to add extra flavor and succulence to your lasagna because it adds fat.  You can control the fat in the recipe by using leaner or richer meats, and lower or higher fat cheeses.  For the pictures for this post, I used bear sausage and ground turkey, because that’s what I had on hand.  I also used shredded, low-fat mozzarella out of my freezer. I buy cheese on sale, shred it in the food processor, mix a teaspoon or two of cornstarch into it, and freeze it flat in Ziploc bags.  The cornstarch keeps the cheese from sticking together, so I can use as much or as little as I want from a bag while it is still frozen.

I also make my own ricotta for lasagna because it is easy, and so flavorful, and so much cheaper.  I make ricotta whenever I have milk about to sour or already gone bad, so I’m minimizing waste.  Sour milk makes great cheese.  After the whey has drained away from the cheese, I put the ricotta in the freezer, so again, it’s handy when I want to make a pan of lasagna.  The whey can be saved and used in baking, particularly breads and cakes, instead of water.  You can make your own ricotta out of any kind of milk, from low-fat to full-fat, or even out of half-and-half, if your coffee creamer has gone sour.  But of course, you can buy ricotta cheese if you don’t wish to make homemade.

I’ve always made my own marinara sauce for lasagna, but you don’t have to.  You can buy jarred marinara or spaghetti sauce from the store.  If you do that, I strongly suggest that you add herbs to it to perk up the flavor.  However, marinara is easy, cheap, and quick to make, as you’ll see from the recipe below, so I hope you’ll give it a try and see how much better it is than pre-made, store-bought sauce.  I’m starting with the marinara sauce, because it can be cooking down while the eggplant is roasting.

Easy Marinara Sauce

You can start homemade marinara with either canned tomatoes or tomato sauce (or with fresh tomatoes, if you have the time).  Making the red sauce with canned tomatoes takes a little longer than starting with tomato sauce, but it cooks down while the eggplant is roasting.

1 28 oz. can of whole or diced tomatoes or 2 cups of canned tomato sauce

¼ cup red wine (optional)

1 T. fresh basil, chopped, or 1 t. dry basil, crumbled (more or less according to your taste)

1 t. fresh organo, chopped, or ½ t. dry oregano, crushed (more or less according to your taste)

1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped

½ cup. onion, diced

1-2 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

If using whole or diced tomatoes, whirl the contents of the can (or quart jar, if you can your own tomatoes) in blender until smooth.  Place in large pot, add wine, herbs, garlic, onion, sugar and ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper (more or less to your taste) and cook on med. high heat until reduced by half.  Watch out—it spits as it reduces!  If you are starting with tomato sauce, just add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until onions are translucent.  You can add more wine, more sugar, more herbs, more of anything you particularly like.  You can use basil alone if you don’t like oregano, or vice versa.  You can add a tablespoon of fresh, chopped Italian parsley if you have it.  I use a larger quantity of herbs than I’ve specified in the recipe because I love the flavor of herbs, but these amounts are a good place to start.  Play around with the sauce until it suits your taste.  You want to end up with about 2 cups of marinara sauce, so don’t over-reduce.

That’s it!  That’s marinara sauce.  You can make it more complicated, roasting the garlic and adding shredded carrots and other ingredients, or you can buy it in the jar, but what’s the point, when this is so easy?  It is delicious and can form the basis for many an Italian dish that calls for a red sauce.  Now, on to the lasagna.

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

2 large eggplants

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Cut tops off eggplant and slice lengthwise into ¼ to ½ in. slices.  Keep them uniform in thickness.  Brush olive oil onto cookie sheet and lay out eggplant slices in one layer; brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until very tender.  Turn eggplant over half-way through cooking time.

While the eggplant is roasting (and your sauce is cooking down, if you made sauce), it’s time to season and brown the meat.

1 ½ lbs. ground meat (Italian sausage, turkey, venison, beef, bison—whatever you like or have on hand)

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 red or green bell pepper, chopped (optional)

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups marinara or red sauce (see recipe above) or jarred spaghetti or marinara sauce

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 beaten eggs

Season ground meat with salt and pepper and garlic powder; brown and drain.    Add onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper; cook until onions are translucent; add chopped garlic, cook for one minute.  Set aside.

Mix eggs with ricotta and ½ cup of parmesan cheese, season with ½ to 1 teasp. salt and ¼ teasp. pepper.  Reserve ½ cup of parmesan for top of lasagna.  (As always with my recipes, start with the smaller amount of salt and add more to your taste.  Salt is a highly individual seasoning.)

Place a couple of spoonfuls of marinara sauce into the bottom of an 8×12 or 9×13 pan and spread it around.  (This keeps the eggplant from sticking to the pan.)  Place one layer of roasted eggplant slices on top of sauce.  Stir the meat mixture into the rest of the marinara.  Spread half of marinara/meat mixture on top of eggplant slices.  Top with half of ricotta/egg mixture.  Spread half of shredded mozzarella on top of ricotta mixture.  Top with another layer of eggplant, layer of meat mixture, layer of ricotta mixture, and mozzarella.  Sprinkle reserved parmesan cheese on top. (I always seem to overfill my 8 X12 glass pan, so I put it on a cookie sheet to keep any potential spillage off the bottom of the oven.)


Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until dish is bubbling and cheese is browned.

If you can keep your hands off it that long, cool slightly before serving, about 10-15 minutes.  This allows the dish to set up a bit and makes it easier to cut into squares for serving.


This gluten-and-grain-free lasagna satisfies my every craving for Italian food.  I don’t miss the pasta, and neither has anyone I’ve served it to, including my dear foodie friend, DeAnna, and my son, Joel.  Joel said, “Mom, I’ve never had lasagna like that, but it’s killer!  It’s lighter without the pasta.  I don’t miss it at all.”  If you try it, I bet you won’t either.

Garden and Greenhouse, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Pumpkin/Winter Squash Soup


It’s nearly Halloween, and that means pumpkins are on the market and in the garden.  It also means winter squashes are ripe and readily available.  I grow my own.  You would expect nothing less, would you?   I always have a lot of them, so I’ve had to learn how to store them long-term.  I’ve also learned how to use them in various ways, so we don’t get tired of them before winter is over.  Read on for tips to make sure your squashes get through the winter without spoiling, and for some recipes using winter squash and pie pumpkins.

If you are growing your own, or even if you’re buying pumpkins and winter squashes cheap or on sale, and want to store them, there’s a very simple step you can take to keep them fresh for months.  First, if you’re harvesting out of your own garden, it helps them last longer if you’ll let a light frost kiss them before you harvest.  This hardens the skins, and a hard skin protects the golden goodness inside.  Then lay the squashes out on a deck or patio and hose all the dirt off them.  Let them dry.  At this point, the method for ensuring long storage is the same for home-grown or store-bought.

To a gallon bucket or bowl of warm water, add a cup of white vinegar.  Get a clean rag and an old towel, and line the boxes you’re going to store your squashes in with newspaper.  Wash each squash or pumpkin with the vinegar water, dry thoroughly, and store in boxes, loosely stacked.  You can also store squashes on open shelves if you have a place with the right temperature range where mice or rats or squirrels won’t get to them.  Even though the skins are hard, in the winter, a hungry rodent can do a lot of damage.  It’s a good idea to line your shelves with newspaper, to absorb any oozing from spoilage if it occurs.  But the vinegar bath helps kill off bacteria and mold spores and minimizes spoiling.

The other crucial factor to prevent spoilage in long term storage is the right temperature range.  Colder is not better when it comes to preserving winter squashes.  I learned this the hard way when I tried to store them one year in our pump house, which is kept just above freezing all winter.  The squash and pumpkins developed little black mold spots in January, and within a week or two, I was roasting and freezing like mad to keep from losing them all.  I did a little research and learned that the optimal storage temperature is much warmer, from about 45-55 degrees.  Keeping the squash dry is also important, so a damp, cold basement (or pump house) is not a good storage option.


Now, I store my pumpkins and winter squash in my laundry room, in wooden boxes, lined with newspaper, that slide under the shelves my husband put up for my canned goods.  The laundry room is unheated except for the freezer that puts off heat when it runs, but the room is well-insulated, so it stays around 50-60 degrees all winter.  That seems to be just about the perfect environment for squash storage.  I harvest my squash after the first light frost burns the leaves of the plants, give them a vinegar water bath, store them in my boxes in the laundry room, and we’re still eating fresh roasted winter squash and pumpkins the following spring.  Which is just fine by me, because I really love the stuff.

The photo below was taken on May 8, 2013 of the box of pumpkins I had left from the 2012 growing season.  (I didn’t weigh them, but I must have grown about a hundred pounds of pumpkins and squash in 2012.)  These were still sound!  (Yes, I think that fact deserves an exclamation point, maybe two.)   In March, I had taken out those that were left and had given them another wipe down with a vinegar wash–just being proactive with possible mold.  In May, I decided it was time to roast and puree what was left and freeze my puree in bags, so now I have pumpkin puree all ready for this fall’s pies, which is fortunate because I didn’t get many pumpkins this year.  Just another lesson from the garden:  this year’s bounty may turn to next year’s dearth, so preserve while you can.


I like to grow acorn, butternut, and pie pumpkins.  I have tried other squashes, but these are my favorites, and in a garden the size of mine, space is a factor.  I try to use up my butternuts first because they have the thinnest skins and will usually spoil before pumpkins or acorn squash.

My favorite way to eat butternut squash is roasted, of course.  I love roasting butternuts because you can eat the skins.  Just cube up the gutted squash, sprinkle and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, any crushed or ground herbs you like (I like sage and thyme, but rosemary is also delicious), add a few unpeeled garlic cloves if you like, a sprinkle of apple scrap vinegar or another fruit vinegar (the acid brightens up all the flavors), and roast on a cookie sheet at 400-425 degrees until tender and browned, usually 20-30 minutes.  The roasting time depends on how large your squash cubes or chunks are.  The skin of the squash gets tender and then goes slightly chewy, so you get great texture.  This is a wonderful side dish to any roasted meat.  I like to serve it with oven-fried chicken because both dishes cook at the same temperature.

Acorns squashes store very well because they have such hard skins.  I like acorn squash because of its size and its seeds.  Acorns are just the right size for a meal for two people.  Each person gets a half.  My husband likes them with butter and brown sugar, so I can dress his half with gooey sweetness, and my half gets a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sage and thyme, salt and pepper.  We each get what we like with no fuss. Roast them at 400-425 degrees until the flesh is tender.  And if you like roasted pumpkin seeds, you’ll like roasted acorn squash seeds.  Actually, even if you don’t like pumpkin seeds, you should try roasted acorn seeds because they are even better than pumpkin seeds.  They are smaller and roast to a crisper, crunchier texture.

The process is the same for pumpkin seeds and all squash seeds, so don’t throw any of them away.  Simply spread the seeds (and a little bit of the flesh or juice will give the seeds more flavor, so don’t rinse them!) on a cookie sheet, drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over them, stir to coat, sprinkle lightly with salt (I like freshly ground sea salt), and roast at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.  Roast until golden brown.  These are a nutritious and delicious snack that my grandchildren, daughter-in-law, and husband love.  I keep a bowl of roasted squash and pumpkin seeds on the coffee table all winter long.

I love pie pumpkins, and they also store very well.  I use them for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and pumpkin soup.  There are many ways to handle a fresh pumpkin for cooking.  Some people roast them whole and then peel and scoop out the seeds.  Because I like to roast the seeds and get them crunchy, this is not the method I use.  I used to cut them open, clean out the seeds, quarter and steam them, and then run through the chinois to remove the skins.  This works if you’re processing a lot of pumpkin for freezing (pumpkin puree has been deemed unsafe for home canning), but you don’t get that wonderful roasted flavor.  Roasting is what makes your homemade-from-scratch pumpkin pie or soup so superior to what you can make with what comes out of a steel can from the store.  So, now I quarter my pumpkins, clean out and set aside the seeds for roasting later, and put the quarters on a cookie sheet and into a 425 degree oven until they are soft.  I take them out, let them cool, then scoop the flesh away from the skins and put it in the food processor to puree.  (The skins go into the compost bucket.)  At this point, the puree can be used in a recipe in the same proportion as the canned pumpkin you buy.  Or, you can make soup with it, which is a winter staple in our home.


Here’s my recipe for pumpkin soup, and keep in mind that you can substitute any orange-fleshed winter squash, such as acorn or butternut, for the pumpkin.  You’ll get a slightly different flavor, but it will be delicious with whatever kind of squash you use.  Don’t use huge, grocery store jack o’lantern pumpkins for this soup—they are too stringy.  You can sometimes use smaller grocery store jack o’lantern pumpkins, but pie pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut, or any other yellow or orange-fleshed winter squash are better.  You can mix varieties as you like.

After your pumpkin or squash is roasted and pureed as above, follow directions below for making the soup.  (You can also use canned pumpkin, and the soup will taste good, but it won’t taste quite as fresh or rich as when you roast your own.)

Roasted Pumpkin/Winter Squash Soup


1 quart pureed pumpkin or squash

2 cups chicken stock/broth

1 tablespoon olive oil, or butter, or canola oil

¼ cup finely chopped onion

1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped (deseeded, if you don’t like the heat)

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated (if not available, substitute 1 teaspoon powdered, dry ginger)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon dried or fresh chopped parsley (fresh is always better)

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

¼ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional for those who like more heat)

½ cup half & half

For serving:  ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt or sour cream; ¼ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds.  Makes about 4 servings (cereal bowl size).

To the pureed pumpkin or squash, mix in chicken stock (I use homemade or low sodium canned) and start heating on low in a large pot with a tight lid.  Stir frequently to keep the natural sugars in the pumpkin/squash from causing the soup to stick.  As the soup heats, it starts to bubble like a volcanic mud pot, so keep it covered and be careful when you remove the lid to stir.

In a sauté pan, heat oil or butter.  Add onion, jalapeno pepper, celery and minced garlic.  Saute on medium heat until vegetables are soft.  Add fresh grated ginger root, if available.

At this point, you’ll have to decide how smooth you want your soup to be.  I like it silky smooth, so I put my sauteed vegetables into the pumpkin mixture and use my immersion blender on it until the vegetables are just tiny specks in the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, and you want your soup smooth rather than slightly chunky, put a small amount of the pumpkin mixture into a blender or food processor along with the sauteed vegetables and whiz until smooth, then add back into the soup.  If you want more texture in your soup, add the vegetables without blending and proceed to seasoning.

If not using fresh ginger, you can add 1 tsp. dry ginger at this point.  Add about ½ tsp. of salt (taste as you go so you can get the seasoning right for you), ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. ground coriander, ¼ tsp. ground allspice, 1 T. dried or fresh chopped parsley, and 1 tsp. rubbed poultry seasoning.  (I grow and dry my own herbs, so instead of poultry seasoning, I use about a teaspoon of dried, crumbled sage, and a half-teaspoon of dried thyme.  If there’s no snow in the garden, I substitute fresh herbs, but I’m careful with fresh sage. It’s a strong flavor.)  Taste and add more salt and pepper or other seasonings as necessary.  If you like more heat, you can add a little crushed red pepper flake.  I like the different layers of heat in this soup from the fresh jalapeno, ginger, and black and red pepper.

As soon as soup is hot and bubbling like lava, add about ½ cup half & half.  Reheat almost to boiling and serve. (Do not boil after adding the half & half because the cream will separate. It still tastes fine, but it doesn’t look as pretty.)

For serving:  I like to add a dollop of plain, low-fat, homemade yogurt (sour cream is also good) to the middle of my bowl and sprinkle it with about a tablespoon of roasted, salted sunflower seeds. Then when I eat it, I get a little yogurt and sunflower seeds in my spoon along with the soup.

This is a very filling (and nutritious) soup, and you can make it relatively low-fat by using low-fat chicken stock, coconut, olive or canola oil instead of butter, fat-free half & half instead of regular, and low-fat or non-fat yogurt or sour cream in the topping.

Because I grow my own pie pumpkins and winter squash, and have learned how to store them all winter, I have a plentiful and tasty supply of Vitamin A through the winter and into spring.  I hope I’ve inspired you to try it for yourself.

All original text, photographs, and the pumpkin/winter squash soup recipe are copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without the author’s permission.