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Entries in Food & Drink (38)


Hand-Cranked, Homemade Pumpkin Pie

For Thanksgiving this year, I had a little bit of fun, seeing how hard it would be to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch. Our yearly visit to the Elegant Farmer yielded two perfectly-sized pumpkin pie pumpkins, which gave me the idea to give it a go.

The process was actually not difficult as much as it was putzy, but that's alright. There is a bit of fun in the putzy things of life, such as making espresso or what have you.

First, the pumpkins are halved, then the seeds and inner stringy stuff gets scraped out with a spoon. Next, I spread a thin layer of butter on a large flat pan (12 x 18) with 1/4 inch high edges, adding about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water to the pan. The halved pumpkins are placed onto the pan (adding the water simply keeps the pumpkin edges against the pan from burning).

I baked the 4 pumpkin halves for about 45 to 50 minutes, until I could tell the flesh was very soft by inserting a knife, then removed the pumpkins and left them on top of the stove to cool. As they cooled I sliced the halves into smaller pieces, preparing for their processing later.

Once the pieces of baked pumpkin were baked and cooled, I setup a hand-cranked food processor loaned to me by a friend on the kitchen table. This cool tool separates the heavy pulp, skins and stuff not fit for pie into one bowl, while the good stuff gets strained down a plastic corkscrew gear through a pumpkin strainer screen and into a second bowl.

My son helped crank while I fed and pressed the pumpkin chunks into the processor, until we cranked through both pumpkins. It was mussy and gurgly but loads of fun for both of us. :-)

Apparently pumpkins can be processed with a blender, though the skins must be manually separated from the pulp, then the pulp gets blended thoroughly. I may have to try that next year, just to see how easy it is to pull off.

Some of the final pulp was stored in a 16 oz sour cream container and put in the fridge, while I prepared a pumpkin pie to use the rest of the pulp. I made use of the convenient recipe from some solid pack pumpkin (store bought) for a simple recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 Unbaked Pastry shell
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup white or brown sugar (I prefer brown)
  • 1/2 TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Cinnamon
  • 1/4 TSP Cloves
  • 1/4 TSP Ginger
  • 1/4 TSP Nutmeg
  • 16 oz Pumpkin pie filling
  • 8 oz Evaporated milk

Prepare a one-crust pie shell. Combine the eggs, salt, sugar and spices in a bowl and beat well. Blend in the pumpkin pie filling. Add evaporated milk and beat well.

Turn into the one-crust pie shell and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F for 40 to 45 minutes. You know the pie is done when you can insert a knife into the center of the pie and have it come out clean (no filling on the knife).

I've made this recipe with canned pumpkin filling and it's quite good, though fresh filling is even better. It has a bit better taste than the canned filling, in my opinion. But I truly love the spices the most: nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger all rock! :-)

More than likely, canned pumpkin will do the trick for most of my future pumpkin pies, but it was still great experience to make a pie from pumpkins.


c-6.jpgSeveral weeks ago on a weekend, I stumbled across a site dedicated to coffee fans like me. I was actually Googling a manual method for crafting pods for a Melita One-to-One pod coffee maker I'd picked up and found iNeedCoffee. has a variety of information, from roasting, brewing and recipes to coffee history, business, cafe culture and even comics! Items are posted to the site on a monthly basis and are all gathered from volunteers who are interested in coffee and want to contribute to the site.

Here's the mission of

INeedCoffee is a labor of love. It was started in 1999 when Michael Allen Smith, Ryan Jacobs and Lura Lee combined their computer skills and creative talents to create the site. We're selling a few products (t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and mousepads) in the hope that we'll cover the operating expense of maintaining the website. We do not sell coffee ourselves, nor do we accept advertising revenue. To learn more about the advertising that appears on our website, visit the Friends of INeedCoffee information page. intends to be the most comprehensive gathering of coffee information on the Internet. It is dedicated to providing quality coffee-related information, instruction, and entertainment.'s contributors aim to provide a fun, comfortable environment for visitors to learn about and celebrate their favorite beverage. is intended to be reflective of the knowledge and tastes of its readership, not just its creators. Readers are encouraged to contribute articles, reviews, stories, and links that enhance their fellow readers' appreciation for coffee. Contributions may be edited for style and/or content.

One thing led to another and I emailed one of the owners of the site, Michael Allen Smith, offering some of the coffee-related writing and sketches from this blog for publication. Michael liked my work and offered to immediately take one of my cafe sketches and some writing from the blog for the October issue. So I offer to you my first entry on the iNeedCoffee website, Foggy Morning.

If you're a fan of coffee like me, stop by iNeedCoffee and enjoy the creative and informative information they offer.

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Indian Curry Recipes Request

Indian CurryLast weekend we travelled down to Illinois, to attend one of Nathan's friends' 3rd birthday party. While we were there, I had a chance to meet and talk with a friendly Indian couple attending the party with their daughter.

I mentioned how much I love Indian cuisine and curries particularly, asking a few questions about curry (what's good, where to but it, etc.). Before I could say “I love chicken curry” the woman I was chatting with offered me some of her own home-made curry! While our kids played, she zipped across the street to her home, and bagged up a good amount of yellow curry and a big bag raw spices to grind my own garam masala, complete with ingredients and instructions! Wow!

I was so very honored to be given a gift such as this, and boy, she gave me probably half a pound of her mother's own hand-ground curry mix and a raw spices for garam masala curry! I thanked her for the curries, but more importantly, for the honor of being given such a wonderful gift!

Recipe Research

The couple also pointed me to and their food section, which I checked out back home. Unfortunately, I was a little overwhelmed with the choices, terminology and options at the site. I was able to find one good-looking chicken curry recipe after a bit of Googling, but I'd love to have some more personally recommended recipes to try with this precious curry.

Readers to the Rescue

Today I thought, hey, why not throw it out to my readers and the blogosphere? So, here I am, asking anyone out there with good curry recipes to share them with me! I particularly love Chicken Curry (Murgh Kari), but any Indian fare with (or without) curry involved interests me.

If you don't have recipes to offer but can share suggestions for websites with good recipes or which can help me understand terms, history, and other things about Indian food, I would greatly appreciate it.

Once I've gathered good recipes and links and have tried a few out, I'd like to post a follow-up article with everything compiled in a nice posting, with credit to those who have helped out (e.g. names and links).

I better go get my stack of blank 3x5 cards ready... :-)

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Our Little Lavazza Moka Pot


Once and a while I come across a tool that has been forgotten, but proves its worth and comes back into my consciousness again. This weekend, I was reminded how wonderfully useful our little Lavazza Carmencita stovetop moka pot is.

Gail, Nathan and I traveled up to a friend's cabin for the long 4th of July weekend, to get away from the city, spend some time sailing on their boat and just hanging out with friends. On a lark, I grabbed the Lavazza moka pot and some Café Goya espresso for the trip. I wasn't sure how much use it might get, yet I talked myself into taking it along.

The Lavazza is small and light, yet simple and effective. It's a coffee pot made of heavy-gauge stainless steel, designed for brewing delicious espresso-like coffee on a stovetop. Really, it would even work on a campfire or anything that can generate sufficient heat (maybe even an engine block).

Making coffee is dead-easy: Simply unscrew the upper and lower portions from each other, and the lower chamber is filled with water just below the steam release valve. A metal filter drops into the water chamber and receives the loose, ground coffee. Next, screw on the upper part of the pot and put on medium heat.

The upper portion of the pot has a filter and circular rubber gasket to hold it in place. Heated coffee escapes past the filter (which traps the grounds) and travels upward through a long narrow tube, and is deposited at the top of the tube, into the upper chamber of the pot.

Once brewing is done, the pot grows quiet and the can be removed from the heat source. The top section of the pot has a handle, which is used for pouring coffee into your favorite mug — and boy-o-boy is it tasty!

Cleanup is quite easy: just dump the grounds and wash the pot off to make it ready for the next batch of tasty, rich coffee.

I understand from Italian friends, that these types of moka pots are quite popular in Italian kitchens, and I can see why. If you love good coffee and have a chance to try one out, give it a spin!

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South Beach Notes

My wife and I have been following the South Beach Diet since July and we've both lost over 20 pounds, and are keeping it off. Our friend Michael Ashby had an impact on our decision, along with several other friends seeing good results doing South Beach.

Some of the most enthusiastic proponents of South Beach have been physician friends we've spoken with about the diet. Interestingly enough, one of those physicians started the diet himself, after speaking with us and seeing our and other people's good results.

At the core of South Beach it's really quite simple: avoid highly processed foods, (particularly processed carbohydrates) in favor of complex carbohydrates, veggies and moderate amounts of lean meats and nuts.

For 2 weeks (Phase 1) you cut out carbs completely, to get your blood sugar and insulin production in balance. Then, in phase 2 and 3, good (complex) carbs are introduced to achieve a balanced diet. It's not really about no carbs — it's about good carbs, in moderation. For example, rather than highly processed white bread or even wheat bread that uses processed, enriched flour, we have substituted whole grain wheat bread, pitas or whole grain tortillas.

In my opinion, the diet has been sensible and flexible, taking into account that I'm probably going to eat desserts and "bad" things now and then. But here's the key — if I consider these "less healthy" foods as special treats, eaten occasionally, I can have nearly anything in moderation. If I fall totally off the plan, I can return to phase 1 for a week, to clear out my system. However, I've had no need to do this yet.

Another key for me has been the emphasis of flavor and taste over quantity. I find I'm eating less now, and can turn away even tasty things more easily, because I'm not in "craving" mode all the time. The severe reduction in sugars of phase one helps reduce cravings, and the introduction of complex carbs helps meter out the sugars in my system.

Since I'm now apparently a South Beach evangelist, I thought I'd share some tips my wife and I have discovered on our journey, in case you're considering the diet.

Teamwork. If you can do the diet as a couple, that's a HUGE advantage. Because Gail and I both were on the same team, we could commiserate about challenges during the first two weeks of no-carbs. It's great to have someone challenge and cheerlead you toward eating better, when you're feeling that you can't go another day without bread or chocolate. ;-)

Sweets. For phase 1, sugar-free and no sugar added popsicles and fudgesicles can be very helpful. after a long day of eating a carb-free diet (phase 1) a sweet-tasting popsicle hits the spot! Dittos on sugar-free hot chocolate. Other friends have commented that sugar free Jello was also very helpful.

Look Ahead. Right about the second week mark of phase one, it's likely you'll want to quit. Just keep telling yourself it's only one more week to go. By keeping my mind on the limited 2-week time of phase 1, I was able to deal with the restrictions. Once you start losing weight in the middle of week two, the dropping scale numbers will stoked you up for a strong finish.

South Beach Recipe Book. We found that the recipes in the green "diet" book were pretty good, but too limited. Once we started phase two, we picked up the orange South Beach Recipe book, which helped greatly in "what to make for dinner" dilemmas.

Take it Slow. When you start phase two, don't go nutzo on carbs. Pick one thing you really love and add it in moderation.

Hummus. I've come to love hummus. In fact, I'd say I'm addicted to the stuff. You can find it as a dry mix (Fantastic brand is good) or there's a good recipe in the South Beach book, though it's a little messy and putzy to make. But it's very tasty.

Olive Oil. I've also come to love the flavor of olive oil. I now have it with whole grain bread and hummus for lunch, and also on chicken when we grill. I now thoroughly enjoy its slightly bitter taste.

Wine. In phase two I have also added a small glass of red wine (6-8oz) at dinner. I've heard red wine praised as a benefit in South Beach and by other sources, and am coming to enjoy the taste of Merlot and Shiraz quite a bit. I understand it's also quite good for heart health.

Nuts. Most nuts are quite good for you, according to South Beach, again in moderation. We especially love cashews, and I am a fan of roasted soy nuts. The South Beach book also has an easy recipe for roasting your own chickpeas.

Cheese. We love cheese, and have found several brands that offer reduced fat versions that taste great and are better for you. String cheese rules!

Excercise. We've tried to incorporate more walking in our lives and have found that even short walks seem to kick in the fat burning process. As a cyclist, my rides also seemed to help, though with winter coming on, I'll have to settle for rides on my trainer in the basement. Whatever you do, keep active!

If I think of other tips, I will add them here. And, if you are a South Beach dieter, or just have some good suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

By the way, a few weeks back, I read the article Effects of age-old diet long-lasting. This article mentioned the healthy benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet. As I read, I kept thinking "this sounds alot like South Beach." Sure enough, the writer specifically mentions the South Beach diet near the end of the article.

I was encouraged to see our choice to change our lives through diet confirmed. However, we we're already confident that our choice was a good one. It might have something to do with watching our fat melt away, the scale showing smaller numbers, feeling clothes flap around and fall off, and the return of our energy levels. We feel better, are eating better, are eating less and enjoying it.

What's not to like? ;-)

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