Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Favorite Things

Christmas shopping is just around the corner, Oprah is off the air and Ellen has her 12 days of Christmas, but I have my favorite things, too.  (Although, I'm not going to buy them and give them away to you.)  Here are a few of my favorite things.  As you can see, I have very affordable taste and maybe you'll get some fun gift ideas.

1.  REI down booties.  During a hut trip, I drooled over my friends' pairs of these.  I got my own last year!  (Actually, I think I got them for my mom and she didn't want them.)  There are two places on my body that, if cold, make my entire body cold.  One is my lower back, the other is my feet/ankles.  These puppies keep me toasty around our house, where we like to keep the electric bill low by setting our thermostats low.  (The sale below lasts until the 28th, I believe.)

2.  A silpat.  This baby fits on a cookie sheet and allows you to not grease your pan, and not even wash your pan, just rinse off your silpat when you're done.  Besides cookies, it's great for making candy on it, rolling out pie crusts, and I just used it to cook pumpkin seeds on.  Martha Stewart has this as a part of her collection at Macy's for $25. 
3.  Instant Netflix.
I don't even know how DVR works or if people still have Tivo's, but I just wait for interesting TV shows to come out on Netflix, then stream them to my TV via our PS3.  It's also good for watching movies, but not always new releases.  For that, you might want the DVD by mail deal. For a gift idea, you can give someone a few months of Netflix.

4.  Bananagrams.  It's like scrabble, but easy.  This portable game goes with me on every trip, backpacking, camping, or flying home.  If you're into board games, a few of my favorites are Carcassonne, Pandemic, Settlers of Catan for two, Power Grid, Agricola, and Thurn and Taxis.  I think playing board games is a great way to stay sharp. 

 5.  The Help.  I'm reading this now and it's a great book! I could see any woman enjoying reading this on their winter break.

6.  Good boots.  My dad bought me some good boots a few years ago and I use these for snow shoeing and playing in the snow and walking to work.  Dave's favorite boots are on sale at REI right now.  They are super comfortable!  I tried them on!

7.  Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  This is my cooking bible.

What are a few of your favorite things? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Puree and Gluten Free Thanksgiving Plans

Since I last posted, Dave had a successful PhD defense, and is now Dr. Dave!  We also took a trip to Wisconsin and got to see lots of Dave's and my family.  It was a lot of fun!

Believe it or not, a month after the first frost, our CSA is still delivering weekly boxes of amazing veggies.  In the last month we've gotten lots of squash and pumpkins.  This weekend, the start of fall "break," I had a chance to catch up on five loads of laundry, cleaned my house, and decided I'd better start taking care of these pumpkins.  We have three huge ones, one small one, and Dave already used a different one to make a pumpkin stout that will premier on Turkey Day.

The pumpkin stout went CRAZY and Dave had to improvise with an external air lock.  Don't mind the orange wall and the red chair.  (Yes, we have a room that is orange, and we put a red chair in it, it kind of looks like a throne.  Hey, we rent!)
Two of the pumpkins are "Cinderella" pumpkins, which are really "Rouge vif d'etampfs," which you can read about here.  One pumpkin was green, one is a deep orange.  We got the green one first, and we had another small pie pumpkin that was old, so it was time to bake these things in round one.  It took Dave's muscles and a huge butcher knife to cut the big guy open.  His meaty part was so thick!  This was definitely not a carving pumpkin!  We filled three pans with massive pieces of pumpkin.

I spooned out the baked pumpkin and pureed it in my kitchen aid food processor.  Don't be fooled, that jar is twice as big as a regular canning jar and holds 8, yes 8 cups of puree. 

I decided I could use 8 cups of pumpkin puree, but the other 8 would have to be frozen, so I made 1-cup bags and threw them in the freezer.  My kitchen is the smallest kitchen known to man.  You'd be surprised how often I use the stove top as a counter top.  The huge seeds that came from this monster are drying there on the left.  I might plant a few of these next year. 
 I think this is a good time to remind you that this was from one cinderella pumpkin and one small pie pumpkin.  I still have another, larger cinderella pumpkin, and one giant "New York Cheese" pumpkin left!  So, if you're one of my Boulder friends, and you're in need of some puree, please stop over! 

What's a girl going to do with all of this pumpkin puree?  My good friend already claimed pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (she also belongs to a CSA and has the same problem).  It was time to get creative.  I made pumpkin fudge, and due to a massive failure of an ingredient substitute (canola buttery spread instead of butter-- hey, we were out!), I now have a huge amount of really thick candy-like jelly that might have to become a topping of some sort.  Try it yourself, the recipe is here.

Luckily, I've had a few other great suggestions.  I just bought some gluten free gingersnaps to try pumpkin cheesecake squares.  Best of all, though, one of my friends that dates all the way back to grade school loves loves loves pumpkin everything!  She just blogged about Pumpkin Risotto.  I whipped some up tonight and ate the whole thing (well, I cut the recipe down to 1 serving).  Savory pumpkin puree might be the way to go.  This was like thanksgiving in my mouth and I am so thankful that Alisa shared this recipe with the world.  Try it!   
Pumpkin Risotto.
Lastly, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Due to my gluten-free-ness, I am making a few extra dishes to make sure I can get all of my favorites on Thanksgiving Day.  Some I'll bring to share, others I'll just bring enough for me (stuffing, dessert).  I'm making
I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!