Friday, October 31, 2014

On the Night Before Halloween…

Ninja really wanted to know if we were finally going to get around to carving the pumpkins??


Brad managed to get away from work a little earlier than normal, the kids had homework done, and I had thrown a batch of chili in the crock pot, so we got set up to carve our jack-o-lanterns. The cats were very curious. Pumpkins were hard to come by our last couple of years and so we haven’t had a chance to do this in quite some time! These are probably our first pumpkins since our time in Amman.


Ninja made sure to read all of the instructions.


And she inspected my work closely…


Verrrrry closely…  (she is so trusting… )


She also made sure that Honor’s pumpkin tasted good.

Brian took his work very seriously.


This was probably the first year that everyone did their own pumpkin – design and carving, and we all had a lot of fun with it.




And finally! We were done. Brad was first with his happy, traditional style Pumpkin:


I finished mine next. The kids had told me to make something ‘scary’, so I created a vampire bunneeee!! (It has fangs like this!!)

Brian came up with a haunted castle with a wizard:


And Honor made a very awesome diva cat!

All together now…


And then we had chili for dinner. Well, some of us did. Some invited themselves to the table and just wished they could have chili for dinner.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winter Squash and Beef Stew

By the way, we moved this summer. New house and everything. I guess I should catch up on my blog a little, and why not start with a recipe? I’ll eventually go back and post some pics that I want to save for before and after purposes, but right now, it’s Autumn in the US, the leaves are turning color here in the Maryland area, and the weather is getting cool.

Brian and Honor coming home from school on a wet fall day.



Interesting items are showing up on the grocery shelves, and with my being unable to resist such new things, I brought some home. I had these winter squashes, and some beef. I thought they’d probably go together nicely in a stew, and I was right!

I don’t know much about winter squash other than they keep well and have very hard skins – that, and they are delicious! I picked up several types at random. Acorn squash, Carnival, Sweet Dumpling and Sugar Pumpkin. We also really like Spaghetti squash and Butternut squash. I use a serrated edge knife to saw them open. They’re tough. I’m tempted sometime to get a large clean knife/cleaver and smack the heck out of one samauri style, but that could be scary. I may also simply try poking a hole in one, to allow steam out, and baking it seeds and all, cutting and scooping half way through when it’s softer. I’d appreciate any other ideas for safe squash opening!

Anyway, once hacked open, cut into pieces, and seeds scraped, I put the squash on a tray in a 350F oven for one hour. You can put spices or butter or olive oil on the squash at this time if you like. I simply added some water to the ‘cup’ like bits to help steam them a bit and keep it moist in the oven.


While these were baking, I got out my electric dutch oven, cut up one large white onion and a number of garlic cloves. I sauteed them with unsalted butter. Then I dumped in a pound or so of beef cut into ‘stew size’ chunks. I let this brown, then I added water and spices, turned down the temp and just let it, well, stew. Eventually, as the beef cooked, I pulled it out, chopped it into bite sized bits, and dumped them back in the pot again.


Eventually I added more goodies to the stew. I didn’t follow any particular recipe, just a basic beef stew. Tomato paste, tomato sauce, spices, leftover veggies. Continue to cook, low and slow.


Then came the really hard part. The roasted squash. When that was done in the oven, it had to cool enough to be handled, and then peeled and chunked. The work isn’t hard. After cooking, the squash is soft and easy to get out of the skin. The hard part is to resist not shoving all of the delicious squash directly into your face rather than into the stew. There’s no way to prevent this. You just have to buy enough squash to both eat and add to the meal. (Just trust me on this!)


Finally, all the squash and beef are hanging out nicely in the pot together. I let it simmer for another hour or so, and it turned out to be warm and amazingly yummy.


And we have leftovers too!