When I was younger, I wanted to go to culinary school, but my choices, along with life itself, drove me into a different direction. A few years ago, I started to move away from pre-made and processed foods that so many of us lean towards because of convenience. Much of this decision came from my doctors pushing that I needed to eat better. The other side of that issue, was that I started to pay attention to how the good restaurants in Buffalo cooked their food. I admit, I used to think that all food was the same and that it didn’t matter much if you used a can of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes for your sauce. While, the science can be argued when it comes to how organic and industrial farming products affect your health, the taste cannot be denied. Fresh foods and farm fresh will always satisfy the palate in a superior way.
So, I started cooking at home more often. It can be time-consuming, but there are always ways to speed up the time by planning ahead. For example, if you are pressed for time after work, just cut and prepare your veggies the night before or even for the week. This way when it’s time to cook you just toss it in and go. Make sure to seal them as tight as possible, a vacuum seal is best. It saves flavor and it keeps longer. In my opinion, the best marinades are achieved via a vacuum seal.
Eating healthy and fresh at home is a great change in dynamic in your household, too. With three kids, it gets a little hectic and crazy, but when I cook, they all want to help. It is truly a great way to get the kids involved at home and spending some quality time with the family. It also helps them see that veggies and fruits don’t have to be boring or gross. Letting them get creative with you in the kitchen also helps them to really enjoy and appreciate the time and science in making their food.
When I first started on this change, the kids would grumble and fuss at eating homemade Chinese or Indian style foods. Now I can make any style of food and they are (most of the time) excited to try it. Cooking at home should be a journey of learning and fun. Speaking of fun, why not try making some pumpkin pie at home with your kids. Here’s one recipe I use:
My Holiday style Pie Crust:
All Purpose flour – 2 1/2 cups
Cinnamon – 1 tablespoon
Fresh nutmeg – 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar – 4 teaspoons
Butter – about 14 tablespoons (diced and cold)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
Add dry ingredients stir together thoroughly, add butter and chop into flour. When the flour and butter start to combine and lump together, add egg liquid and work dough with your hands. It should become yellowish, sort of like corn meal Note: If the dough mixture gets warm, pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes before continuing. If the dough is dry, toss in another tablespoon of cold water.
Then flatten the dough a little and cover in Saran wrap and place in fridge for 10 minutes. Cut it in half and flatten out the dough until it is a little larger than the pie pan. Roll lightly into a cylinder shape making sure to not press the dough too hard against itself, because you will need to unroll it to place it in the pan. Again, wrap in saran wrap and place back in fridge for 20 minutes. This will make it easier to form the pie crust in your pie pan, while waiting you can start to make the pie filling. When you bring the crust out it should be a little stiffened, work it into the pan slowly softly pressing it against the sides on the pie pan, make sure to cut any excess crust from the sides, and pattern your crust as desired.
Pumpkin Pie filling:
1 medium sized Pie Pumpkin
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
Sugars can be substituted with a cup of honey
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 cup of melted butter (half a stick) can be substituted with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
There are three choices of liquid for the pie. I recommend using 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, but you can use 1 cup of half and half or 1 1/2 cups of evaporated milk, instead.
Make sure to thoroughly clean the pumpkin and then steam, boil or bake it.
remove the seeds and innards, and then cut pumpkin into halves for baking or quarters for steaming or boiling.
If boiling or steaming, do so until the pumpkin flesh is tender when pulled with a fork, let cool after cooking, then scoop the flesh from the peel.
If baking the pumpkin (my preferred method), heat oven to 325 degrees F, slightly oil the pumpkin, then place the pumpkin, cut side down, on a lightly oiled non-stick cookie sheet. Again, we will cook the pumpkin until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork, about 40 minutes, let cool after cooking, and then scoop flesh from the peel.
Now that we have our softened pumpkin, we can puree it. After the puree is done, grab a sauce pan on low heat and add the pumpkin puree along with the spices, the eggs, milk and whipping cream, wisk briskly to mix. Stir occasionally while it heats to allow the sugars and spices to blend. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.
Lastly, we add the mixture into our pie crust and bake at 400 degrees F for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until you can stick a knife in and it comes out clean.
That’s it! I hope you like the recipe and have fun with the kids while making it. Let me know how it came out!