Monday, September 24, 2012

Radical Cooking - Winter Squash Made Easy

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

"In the Kitchen with Karla"
Roasting Winter Squash Class

Next to pie crust and roasting a Thanksgiving turkey, cooking winter squash seems to baffle even the most experienced cook.... and I don't know why.

Maybe it's because winter squash seem so big.  Or maybe because it's not easy to tell when they're ripe.
Or maybe it's because they seem so mysterious.... but winter squash is one of Mother Nature's yummiest treats.

You probably know pumpkin.  That's a winter squash.  And maybe you know Spaghetti Squash and Butternut too, but there are as many varieties of winter squash as there are gardens and fields to grow it.

Winter squash takes its name from the fact that (because of it's hard shell) it will store all winter in a cool-ish space without canning, freezing, drying or any preparation at all.

Maybe the real reason winter squash baffles cooks is its hard shell.  Yes, that must be it.  But don't worry - that rock hard shell which protects the delicate interior is a snap to's how:

1.  Wash the squash well under tepid running water.  Drain.  Drying isn't necessary.
Microwave squash briefly to soften the shell

2.  If the squash will fit into your microwave, heat it for a minute or two just to soften the outer shell so you can get the tip of a heavy knife into it.

3.  Wiggle the knife back and forth into the softened outer shell until it cracks apart.

  Insert the tip of a heavy knife into
the softened shell
Wiggle the knife till
the squash cracks open
4.  Remove the seeds and discard, roasted for snacking (think pumpkin seeds) or save for next year's garden.

5.  Place squash cut side down onto baking parchment lined pan. (No parchment?  Use foil, spritzed with pan spray.)

Roast, cut side down
6.  Roast, uncovered, until it reaches your desired soft-ness from just soft to the touch (like for stuffing them) or till it all falls part (like when you want to puree it for pies).

The temperature doesn't matter so you can roast it along with something else.
350 degrees is ideal but lower temperatures work, too.  It will just take longer.  A little higher temperature is OK as well.

How long will it take????
It depends on the size of your squash.
Allow at least an hour at 350 degrees - maybe longer.
Lower temperatures will take more time.
Higher temperatures may take less.
Winter squash is just one of those things that you can't ruin.... well, most people can't ruin.

Karla's Tips

Can't get the squash into the microwave?  Try cracking it with a hammer.  (Seriously!)

If all else fails, you can roast it with the seeds but sometimes the seeds can make the squash taste bitter so it's always best to get the seeds out before hand if you can.  Also, you can't plant cooked seeds. They won't grow.
You can roast a variety of
winter squash at the same time!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Radical Cooking - How You Can Make An Apple Pie Without Sugar

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Can you make a pie without sugar?
Yes, you can!! 

Cutting back on sugar?
Good for you!!

But don't gunk up your good intentions with artificial sweeteners.
This pie is a REAL pie made with real fruit.  
No artificial sweeteners or other yuck-y things.  
Just the sweet taste of sweet apples.

No one will miss the sugar.
Who knew good health could taste this good?

Unsugared Apple Pie
Not a smidgeon of added sugar in this little gem but plenty sweet.... no artificial sugar either!  The sweetness comes naturally from sweet apples!!

This does NOT taste like a diet pie and, actually, it isn't a diet pie.  
It's an honest to goodness real pie that just happens to be made without sugar.

This is our most requested recipe.
You're going to be surprised!

Makes one (10 inch) pie

Pie crust for a 2 crust (10 inch) pie  (purchased or home made)
12 (4 inch) red or yellow delicious apples (peeled, cored and coarsely chopped - about 10 cups)
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup walnuts (halves and pieces)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon instant or quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Position oven rack so pie will bake in lower third.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line pie pan with bottom crust.  Fill with apples, raisins and nuts.

In a small sauce pan, heat juice, butter, tapioca and vanilla until butter melts.  Pour over apples in crust.  

Top with second crust.  
Crimp edges.  
Cut a steam hole in the center of the pie.

Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes or until crust is browned on the bottom and apples are tender.  

Cool completely before cutting so the juice thickens.  
Cutting too soon results in a watery pie.

PS.... How about a scoop of ice cream to gild the lily????

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Radical Cooking - The Secret to Peeling Hard Cooked Eggs Without Making a Mess

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Beyond the take out box....
Better, fresher, quicker, cheaper and healthier.

Hard cooked eggs (you should never say "hard boiled") are beautiful things.  Light and delicious, they can be transformed into gorgeous egg salad, feisty deviled eggs or that sophisticated first course - Neufs Mayonnaise....  eggs caressed with a mayonnaise sauce. 

But peeling hard cooked eggs is a dismal chore.  More often than not, the eggs wind up tattered and torn.  Ugly at best.

Kitchen lore says an egg needs to be stale to peel well.

Now I ask you, who wants to eat a stale egg????
Isn't it more wonderful (and flavorful) to eat a fresh egg?
Fresh eggs taste sooooo much, well, fresher!!!!

Over the years, I've tried every trick that came along but nothing really worked.... until just the other day I came across an egg peeling tip in a 1930's era cook book..... put a little vegetable oil into the cooking water.

Desperate, I gave it a try and guess what?  It worked like a charm.

I put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pot of the dozen eggs I was cooking and cooked them as usual.
After they were cooked, I poured off the boiling water and replaced it with cool water to stop the cooking.

I added another tablespoon of oil to the cool water and cracked the shells gently against the sides of the pot.  I let the eggs sit in the cool water about 5 minutes.... until they were cool enough for me to handle.

Then, the fun began.  Like a miracle, the shells slipped off..... they slipped off my farm FRESH  eggs!!!
Oh, I had a couple that were a little stubborn so I put them back into the water to soak a little longer and moved on to another egg.  But all in all, me peeling was a HUGE success!!!

I still have to try this technique a few more times to feel 100% confident in recommending it but it was such a HUGE success right away that I couldn't resist sharing it!!!

Fresh, hard cooked eggs that peel easily.... now that's a radical idea!!! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Food for Thought - Get Angry and Transform Your Life

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

Angry?   Put that energy to good use!

Anger is an important and much maligned emotion! 

When you're angry, you're not satisfied with the way things are - in fact, conditions have gotten so bad that you just won't take it any more.

Anger is rising energy.  It builds and grows and swells until it erupts. But anger, if you will let it, will move, release and fill you with the readiness to make a change.

Many well-meaning people will tell you not to be angry.... to just get
 over something or forgive and forget but none of those suggestions puts anger to good use.  Anger was intended to be used as a positive source of motivating energy.

Anger is considered the most important emotion in the eastern  philosophies because it frees the self from feeling stuck. 

The next time you're angry, ask yourself what your anger is calling you to do then use that energy to put your foot down, set a boundary or take a huge step up.

Embrace anger!  It's a powerful tool that, when used properly, brings on positive change.

Anger is the energy to transform your life and the lives of others.