Pumpkin-Palooza!

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As much as I hate to say it, pumpkin season has snuck up on us.  Not being a big fan of the pumpkin spice craze, I’m still a fanatic for things with fresh pumpkin.

I don’t like my pumpkin related foods to include canned pumpkin from the store and HATE anything made from the store-bought pumpkin pie filling.

So, it’s not uncommon for me to get a few large pumpkins in the fall and make my own pumpkin puree for myself and the in-laws.

Making your own pumpkin puree may seem like a daunting task but it’s really quite simple.

  1. Know your pumpkins – There are several types of pumpkins but you can usually lump them into two main categories:
    • Carving/Decorating Pumpkins – You are certainly familiar with these.
    • Cooking Pumpkins
      • You can actually use either to cook with.  But, I think you get more out of a cooking pumpkin and a meatier/better texture.  The texture issue can be resolved by draining off the extra liquid from the puree.
  2. Wash and dry your pumpkins
  3. Cut your pumpkins in half.
  4. Using a large spoon (or even an ice cream scoop) remove the “guts” and stringy bits.
  5. Cut your halves into consistent size chunks in order for them to cook evenly and quickly.
  6. Cook the pumpkin until it’s soft.  You can do this in a pot on the stove or cover it with foil and roast it in the oven.
  7. Remove the skin of the pumpkin.  Sometimes you can just peel it off.  Some people prefer to scrape out the cooked meat.
  8. Using a blender, puree the pumpkin until it’s the consistency you want.  If your blender won’t start processing the pumpkin, add a little water.  You can always remove the water later.
  9. Once your pumpkin is ready, let it sit for 30-60 minutes and drain off any extra liquid.  Some people like to strain the liquid out with a cheesecloth.
  10. Freeze or can your puree.  I prefer to freeze mine.  I bag it in quantities of 2 or 4 pumpkincups (2 cups are standard for 1 pie) and lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet and let them freeze overnight.  Then, I can just pop them in a basket in my freezer and they don’t take up as much room as a canning jar would in my pantry.  Make sure you label the bags before you freeze them!

When you thaw your puree, feel free to drain off any excess liquid.

I prefer not to add any spices to my puree as I am making it.  Picture your puree is a blank canvas.  Then, you can add what you like to it depending on what you are making or who it is for!

Peace, Love & Pumpkins!

Hoosier Barn Chick

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The Barn Cast & Crew – The Boy

13902575_10210147530347597_4480158276931805146_nAhhh, The Boy.

Over 11 years ago he came into our lives.

He was a hefty 8 lbs and 8 oz.  And over a week late.  He was a much wanted baby.  I had been pregnant the year before and had a miscarriage shortly after discovering I was pregnant.  So, with that, and being an only child, he has been spoiled.  He’s the last of the grandchildren on both sides of the family which doesn’t help.

Now that we live next door to my in-laws, he pretty much lives over there.  He comes and goes from our house here and there.  But, he rarely stays at our house much more than an hour at a time.  When he is grounded and has to stay home,  the in-laws complain that they miss him and come over to visit.

He’s pretty amazing.  Being around adults the majority of the time, he knows a lot about things like gardening, trees, canning, cooking, animals (both wild and not so wild) and hunting.

I’m sure he will appear a lot in this blog.  He’s made life frustrating, hilarious and interesting.

Wait . . . What?

During part of the year, we keep trail cams up on our property to see what the wildlife is up to.  This helps us in hunting, keeping an eye on the coyote population and just general entertainment sometimes.

A few years ago we were reviewing some trail cam pics and saw this:

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Yeah, it’s cool.  But, it’s not very far from our house.  Needless to say, now I worry not only about the coyotes but about this cat as well.

According to Indiana DNR, bobcats are living in Indiana.  But, since they are solitary animals, they aren’t spotted very often.

Life at The Barn is never boring.

The Life of Spices & Such

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If you look in my kitchen and pantry you will find LOTS of spices and spice blends.  Not only am I a big fan of them, The Hubby is as well.  He has some secret recipes that he uses when he smokes meat and when he cooks steaks on the grill.

That being said, one of the most important things about using spices is to know when they are at their best and when it’s time to pitch them.  As far as I know, you won’t die from any kind of poisoning by using old ones.  But, to get the most from your pinches and dashes, you’ll want to use them before they lose their power.

We’re going to cover four types in this article.  We can talk about other pantry basics later.

Fresh Herbs – These vary quite a bit.  One to three weeks is the general rule depending on if they are “tender” or “hardy”.  Tender herbs include cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and tarragon.  Chives, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme are considered hardy.  Basil is in between there somewhere.  I’ll talk about how to best keep your fresh herbs actually fresh later.

Ground Spices – These are typically good for about 2 years.  If you find a REALLY good sale on them (and it’s not because they are about to expire) you can put a few jars in the freezer.  Make sure you mark the date you take them out of the freezer and keep them no longer than one year after that.

Whole Spices – These are typically good for 3-4 years provided you keep them whole and don’t grind them yourself.  Cloves, cinnamon sticks and any kind of peppercorn are examples of whole spices.

Spice Blends – Blends are usually at their best if they are kept no longer than one to two years.  If you make your own (like I do a lot of the time) make sure you mark on the container when you made them.  I generally do not keep these over a year.  Because I make them, I can easily make smaller amounts.

One of the things that I’ve found most helpful over the years is to remember that air and sunlight are the biggest enemies to bottled spices and seasonings.  Always make sure you put the cap back on properly.  And, keep your jars in a drawer/cabinet or transfer them to colored bottles.  Old prescription bottles work great after you have washed and dried them thoroughly.  Or, if you are crafty, chalkboard paint or milk bottle paint would work great and would make storing them a cute part of your kitchen decor.

I’ll bet you have something in your pantry that is WAY overdue for being thrown out.  A good way to help with keeping things up-to-date is to always put the newest jar of something in the back and move the older to the front.  Using a colored pen, highlighter, or Sharpie to mark things makes it easier too.

The Barn Cast & Crew – Daisy Doodle AKA The Wonder Lab

20170919_174852 (1)A few years ago, one of my friends who breeds amazing labs (look up Hawgback Labradors on Facebook) called upon me to dog sit a very pregnant dog while they were out of state.  It was most likely that she would have her litter during her visit with me. Keep in mind that I had never helped birth anything before in my life.  I’m not a vet, and I don’t even play one on tv.

They dropped Spooky off on a Saturday.  The following afternoon she was on the couch (this was unheard of at that time but she was a guest) and she jumped up and there was something on the couch.  It was a puppy.  No joke.  I put her in her delivery box and stayed up with her all night.  We delivered nine healthy and beautiful pups.  My whole house stunk.  But, I was in love.  I declared myself an auntie.

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Spooky & The Litter I Helped Deliver

Recently we went to our friends’ house to help out with some minor things.  They announced that they had the perfect puppy for us and they weren’t taking no for an answer.  It only took one look for me to fall in love.  And, when I learned that Spooky was the mama of this pup, it was decided.

I did ask that they name her.  They chose Daisy.  It didn’t take long before I added Doodle to it.  I’m not sure why.   It just worked for me.

 

 

 

 

FB_IMG_1506022116717So, we’ve increased The Barn by four feet.  Let’s pray I survive the chewing and potty training phase.

 

The Barn Cast & Crew – Dinky The Fierce

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I am an animal lover.  It’s no secret that it’s hard for me to resist the critters.  Well, the tame critters, not the wild ones around my house.

Last summer, an employee at my day job came running into the office stating that she could hear kittens somewhere in her truck.  After tracking down the sound to the underside of the truck. we removed the spare tire and found 3 female kittens in it.  It only took one look at them for me to ask if she was looking for homes for them.  She was.  You guessed it, I brought home a kitten that day.

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Dinky The Fierce

Now Dinky The Fierce is all grown up.  She’s such a tiny cat but she makes up for it with a big personality.  I often joke that , like me, she’s bipolar.  Days on end I pretty much only see her hanging out on the beams of The Boy’s loft bedroom that overlooks the living room.  Then, suddenly, she will be all over me and purring.

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DTF on her normal perch

 

The Hubby is not fond of her.  He’s not a big fan of cats.  The Boy loves her but she rarely lets him pet her and she hates for anyone to actually hold her.  Everything, like a lot of cats, is on her terms.

She hates everyone but me, and most days she’s not that fond of me.  It doesn’t matter.  I love her.20170212_173941