Category Archives: How to Cook without a cookbook

pumpkin cooking

painted pumpkin
painted pumpkin so we can cook it later
One of my daughters-in-law that grew up on the farm went to make a pumpkin pie. She wanted to do it “from scratch”. She had only seen canned pumpkin so she thought when you cut up the pumpkin it would be soft inside. I thought maybe some others do not know and I am not sure where I learned so I will post some pictures of the pumpkin. First is the picture of the pumpkin we painted a face on (left from fall holidays) so we could roast it and mash it into cooking pumpkin for pies and baked goods. The pumpkin did not sit in a warm place too long. Here in North Georgia cool nights and warm days can rot a vegetable pretty quickly. The pumpkin was sliced and roasted and then I used my Ninja blender to make puree.*
Of course you can cook and eat a pumpkin as a roasted squash such as acorn, cut and roasted you can add oil or butter and seasonings that you prefer. Then we scooped out the string in the center and separated the seeds. I had some bacon grease in the baking pan from earlier so I stirred the seeds in the grease before roasting with a little sea salt.
roasted oumpkin seeds
roasted pumpkin seeds using bacon grease for oil
That was a hit but I should have set them on paper towels at the end because they did come out a bit too greasy. I tried to warm them a second time to wipe off some the grease and I think that would have worked but I let them burn, they were already pretty toasted. Sometimes my switching multitasking gets the better of me and I have too many things going at once. I really hate to spoil food.
So we made puree and I froze it. It seemed a little wet but when I began to thaw the first to use I found the plastic freezer bags leaked. I put two cups per quart bag so that I could either double the recipe or make two things for each bunch of thawed pumpkin.
pureed pumpkin
baked pumpkin run through food processor

What worked is to put it in a bowl as it thawed and since the puree lost some of the water, the pumpkin puree was actually more the texture of canned so I used it like that. It was almost good to have less water. Haven’t made cookies yet but I am thinking about that. I have been experimenting with no gluten or decreased (for many reasons, see health posts) The cobbler I made had blueberries and apples with the pumpkin. Not sure I liked that combination. The apple and pumpkin muffins worked well and the apples helped the gluten free flours not be so dry and crumbly. I finally broke down and used more tapioca flour and that also helped.*1

*I recently acquired the least expensive Ninja food blender, after seeing and using one my son had. I would like the more expensive model because we had to hold the lid to keep it grinding. It worked and I am not a huge food processor theses days. Might like the bigger food processor, if I was producing the food for a large family. It worked great for chopping zucchini for zucchini burgers, but this one is great for most of our ordinary needs.

food processor that is cheap and works
inexpensive processor for pumpkin puree

Healthy Apple Butter Chat

crockpot apple butter
apple butter on gluten free biscuit

I love apples. In October in Georgia the apple are often prolific and wonderful.
Apples are full of vitamins (A, C, K) calcium, iron, trace of b vitamins, potassium and phosphorus and phytosterols, which the research shows they are wonderful cholesterol balancing chemicals. Science has been finding the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away to be full of sound science in that apples are good for you.
There are many varieties and I have heard some nutritionist caution people that are watching sugar for health(diabetics) to payu attention to the type of apple because of the different sugar contents. The most recent research I have read suggests that gycemi numbers may not play that much role in the exact response to food. Number one rule about health also is that every person is unique and every person has a unique response so it can only be predicted in generalities.

When I had some not so crispy apples that were not that great to eat, I decided to make some crock pot apple butter. It is so easy. I usually peel the apples individually but I saw someone had boiled the apples in pieces and then mashed them through a sieve. That was so much easier and I froze the liquid that was left. The apple cores and skin and seeds are full of pectin so I saved the solution that I will use to make other jams and jellies.
I used sucranat* sugar. Half the recipe of sugar was all I needed and I added more cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to make it the flavor I desired.

You just put the sieved applesauce in the crock pot with sugar and flavor and in about four hours on low you have a luscious butter. I freeze the butter in jars leaving room at the top for expansion in the freezer.
As long as I have a freezer I prefer this method but to can the apple butter you could use the water bath canning method. I would pressure the jars to make sure I got a tight seal if I was to do that. If your freezer fails or you do not have room you can always can the butters later.
This method could be used for any fruit but the left over juice would not necessarily have the pectin quality that apples do.

Just like my How to Cook without a Cookbook book, you can look for patterns in preserving foods and extrapolate.
Right now we live with seemingly unending information on the net for so many things. When I learned to can, it was not in my history, so we took books and studied them. For me the real help was when some experienced neighbors in Missouri took us under their tutoring and showed us. You can learn from books but one on one was so more about tips and confidence. Maybe it was my learning style because I find things on Utube also helpful if someone can show me.

*Sucranat comes in various stages of processing. I buy a brand that is very hearty large chunks of sugar cane that is just crushed and dried cane with all the molasses in it. This is twice as sweet as regular sugar so I usually halve the recipe and find it plenty sweet. I have bought various brands and they are often more processed than this one kind. You can use other sugars but I prefer one that has at least the minerals so that is slows the metabolizing of the sugar. For the most part all sugar in large quantities will raise blood sugar. I am working with coconut palm sugar right now and it is not as sweet. Supposedly slow to metabolize. I don’t think you would count it any differently if you are diabetic. Any time a product has more fiber in it then it slows the metabolism, except for popcorn, another discussion. Glycemic index is a term thrown around a lot but for carbohydrate counting diabetics this is not really shown in research to be very significant. This field of sugar and research and food is being studied a lot and there is a lot being discovered all the time. Hard to weed through all the most recent findings.

Stevia does not raise blood sugar but I wonder being sweet how it affects the body. All artificial sweeteners have negative affects, and I understand they are seeing that the body and insulin issues are still messed up by artificial sweeteners. I would not choose these from what I know about health.

Recipe adaptations – Brownies as an example

brownies from adapted recipe
chewy almost good for you brownines

Adapted brownie recipe

Here is a good example of adapting a brownies recipe to your own healthy one.
This author wanted ½ cup of butter. Because the consistency of coconut oil is the same I just replaced item for item.
Pretty standard measure for any chewy type of substance cookie or bar.,.
There are all kinds of research about coconut fats.
If you use olive oil need a little less moisture somewhere else.
Want to try rice oil when I can find it at a good cost. Supposed to lower cholesterol.

We took the white flour and replaced it with whole wheat. You could use quinoa flour instead because we are not really need the rising power of the gluten in this item. Could cook them individually and ended up with a cookie type of dessert. I like the bars because they are quick but not as crunchy. Could use a muffin pan to cook the so they all have a crust. My family likes softer not crunchy. The outside edges are mine, and that is plenty for me that likes the crunchy.
1 cup of butter replace with coconut  oil.
1 cup flour – replace with wwflr
4 eggs instead of 6(I doubled the recipe
Used a little less sugar then called for because I think the raw sugar is very sweet, I wanted cocoa brownies and I added rich chocolate chips and they were sweet.
Vanilla was homemade .+
Leavening aluminum free. (this amount also changes texture could have used half as much.)
Sugar replace with raw sugar, could use honey, again may need a bit more dry ingredient for moisture change.
The sucranat (a very lightly processed cane sugar and raw sugar do not dissolve as well so I had to melt the coconut oil and so I stirred the sugar in to dissolve it better and cool the melted fat,
I use a few less eggs to help make more chewy and less cake like they called for three, I doubled the recipe and used four. This is a cooking pattern to know more eggs give a more cake like texture.
I used pecan pieces cause they were the cheapest nuts I could buy this month and I love pecans.
You know I thought living where they grow they would be cheaper but like a lobster in New England they can get more sending them away. Looking for a producer locally I can score from.

I bet I spent 10 more minutes making these from scratch putting things out and away. The time is to organize your pantry to have the ingredients on hand for all different combinations and you don’t need to run to the store for an expensive box mix full of chemicals.

+Homemade vanilla.
Pour vodka over vanilla beans and wait. I found them at whole foods. They are expensive buy $12 worth of beans lasted me two years. Much cheaper. I poured new vodka over the beans every time it got low and that seemed to do. I had a clear bottle in a dark cabinet but a dark bottle is probably better.

How to, without a recipe. Granola

How to cook without a cookbook .. Breakfasts.
Granola without a recipe.

To eat grains or not, so many questions about food these days. I will discuss some of these things in the non recipes that I create for you.
Set yourself free and realize food is chemistry of patterns. There are many things you can put together and your preference is like culture, everyone has different tastes. Most people have several basic family foods they are used to and modifying them is the key to better health. There is a lot of different information to get into about food and digestion today but that will be another discussion. I eat granola . I love to eat certain ways so I cook. I eat oatmeal in a lightly cooked homemade granola. The food industry puts too much sweetener and preservatives and salt in our foods so they subtly keep us addicted and coming back for more. If you are gluten sensitive you can buy gluten free oats. I believe that just means that the oatmeal is not prepared on equipment that other gluten products contain.
Basic ingredients is oats but any grain can be rolled like oats are and flattened so you could use other grain flakes. I also add flax seeds often and sometimes quinoa or millet. I do not have digestive issues since I have been on protandim (more information on that on my website.)
I usually use some kind of chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans and almonds are my favorites. I keep raw nuts in my freezer because if they are good they will spoil rather quickly.
So we have grains(oatmeal, quinoa , millet or any choice you like.) and nuts. Then I wet the ingredients before I roast them. I use one part water, one part oil and one part honey, or half honey and maple syrup. You can replace any sweetener that you prefer. I may make a syrup with raw sugar, or brown sugar, for variety, or molasses I use in the winter for a more hearty flavor and some extra vitamins. Oil choices can be part coconut, I use light olive oil, can be any other oil you prefer. I would try for cold pressed oils.
For a container of rolled oats, I usually have three- four cups of liquid. I mix and wet everything in the bowl then spread on cookie sheets to roast. 300. degrees is good. I watch it carefully and stir at least one time. I prefer almost raw so I barely brown the ingredients. I usually buy plain yogurt, add a bit of granola and lightly sweeten with maple syrup or natural fruit jam, or fresh fruit.
This is nothing like what you buy in the store. It requires good teeth, lots of chewing and someone who has begun to train themselves to not eat such sweet food all the time. Happy granola.