Pumpkin Stuffed with Turkey, Pears, and Cranberries

I picked up some gorgeous sugar pumpkins and winter squash from my mom’s garden last month. The first thing I made was this stuffed pumpkin. It was perfect. It has all the flavors and smells of a harvest meal. It’d make an impressive looking dinner party or potluck dish. To serve it, I sliced it in wedges and once plated, removed the peeling and cut the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces. The only thing really missing was a sauce so I recommend making turkey gravy to serve with it.

I used pears because that’s what I had on hand but apples would work just as well. I had a sunflower and pumpkin seed mix but one or the other would work. To remove the seeds and other innards of the pumpkin, I use a serrated grapefruit spoon. It cleans all the strings off the sides of the pumpkin better than anything else I’ve used.

As usual I forgot to weigh or measure the pumpkin. It fit snugly in my 9″ across round baking dish if that helps.

1 sugar pumpkin (about 9″ across), washed, stem end cut off, and seeds removed
1 lb ground turkey
2 pears, cored and diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbs grapeseed oil
2 Tbs fresh sage leaves, minced (2 tsp dried)
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, minced (1 tsp dried)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, destemmed (1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350*F. Prepare a deep sided baking dish with a roasting rack and half an inch of water. Saute onion, garlic, and grapeseed oil until the onion is translucent. Add the ground turkey, cranberries, pears, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until the turkey is cooked through. Stir in the sunflower seeds and pepitas. Stuff the turkey mixture into the pumpkin, leaving room to put the top back on the pumpkin. Put the pumpkin on the roasting rack and tent it with foil. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft when stuck with a fork. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before moving the pumpkin to a plate or serving platter, removing the top, and cutting into wedges.

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Dairy Free Bacon Pumpkin Soup

Autumn is my favorite time of year and one of the things I love about it is the huge bounty of winter squashes and pumpkins available in the markets. I titled this pumpkin soup but I used a beautiful orange squash from my mom’s garden. I think it’s an orange hubbard squash but don’t quote me on that.
Hubbard Squash

Breaking down a winter squash or pumpkin can be challenging. I use the method for peeling and cutting melons and pineapples I learned long ago at my first job after college at a salad bar. Cut the stem and flower ends off the squash. Set one end firmly on a cutting board and working from top to bottom with a large chef’s knife, cut the peeling off in strips, working your way all around the vegetable. Once the peeling is removed, cut in half, remove the seeds (save them to toast later), and dice the rest of the squash. Removing the peeling first with this method is easier than trying to cut all the way through a hard shelled squash.

This soup was conceived as an alternative to creamy potato soup with fewer carbs and more nutrients. I’m impressed by how well it turned out. I used an immersion blender to puree the soup but it can be pureed in batches in a food processor or standard blender, too. I guesstimated at how many cups of squash I used since I forgot to weigh it before I cut into it or measure it before dropping it in the soup pot. I didn’t add salt to the recipe since the bacon supplied enough. If you use reduced salt bacon, you may need to add a teaspoon or more. Coconut milk is optional but I like the added creaminess.

6 cups of chicken stock or water
5 cups squash, rough chopped
1/4 lb bacon, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 14oz can coconut milk, optional

In a large stockpot, saute the bacon until the fat is rendered, stirring often. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add carrots, celery, squash, chicken stock, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for at least an hour until all the veggies are soft. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Puree and serve.

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Marinated Artichoke Heart Salad

I’ve made this twice recently, serving it with lamb shoulder blade steak. I love the Greek inspired flavors and using the oven dried cherry tomatoes from my garden. I used the olive oil I preserved the cherry tomatoes in and saved the rest to turn into a salad dressing later.

Artichokes are a staple in my diet and when I can’t get fresh ones I buy frozen artichoke hearts. I used one box of frozen then thawed artichoke hearts for this recipe. If you haven’t bought them they’re worth looking for.

This salad can be served as is or mixed with greens for a more substantial salad. Feta cheese crumbles would also be a nice addition.

8oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup oven dried cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt

Combine artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, thyme, and salt together. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Stir until all the vegetables are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

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Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes

I have one very prolific Sun Gold tomato plant that produces more fruit than I can eat on my own so I started looking for ways to preserve them. I decided to dry them in the oven. They turned out great and I’ve dried nearly a gallon of them so far. I’ve tossed them into pasta, salmon salad, and in a zucchini noodle dish.

Being oven dried, these aren’t as dry as fruit dried in a dehydrator, which is why they have to be preserved in olive oil or frozen. I like the olive oil method because you can add sprigs of herbs or garlic into the jar to add extra flavor and use the olive oil in whatever dish you’re making.

The first batch I dried left a sticky mess on my baking sheet so before the next batch I put foil down first and parchment paper on top of it. Clean up was much easier.

4 pints cherry tomatoes, washed & stems removed

Preheat oven to 250*F. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the tomatoes evenly across the pan. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 4-6 hours, until the tomatoes are wrinkled and just starting to brown at the edges. Allow to cool.

Preserving in oil: sterilize glass canning jars and lids in boiling water, allow to air dry. Fill loosely with dried tomatoes and a sprig of rosemary, thyme, oragano, and a clove of garlic if desired. Pour olive oil over the tomatoes. Leave at least a half inch head space at the top. Put the lids on the jars and seal them in a hot water bath for 6 minutes or leave them unsealed and refrigerate for up to a month.

Freezing: Put 2 cups of dried tomatoes in a quart sized freezer bag. Spread the tomatoes out flat inside the bag and freeze.

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Sugar Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

At some point I need to post savory recipes but those meals are mostly tossed together without measuring or too much advanced planning whereas desserts require me to write out a recipe before starting.

This was a request from Mei-Lu for a sugarless chocolate dessert. I picked a flourless cake because while it contains a lot of fats, it also has a lot of protein and very few carbs.

I used unsweetened baker’s chocolate in this cake even though semisweet chocolate is normally used. If you don’t have too big of a problem with sugar, use semisweet. Baker’s chocolate has bitter notes that not everyone likes. I may experiment later with adding fruit puree or coconut milk to the recipe to tone down the bitterness.

From previous experiences with erythritol, I know it doesn’t perform quite like sugar and can recrystallize once cool. To make the crystals smaller, I powdered it in my spice/coffee grinder first.

I served the cake with sugar free raspberry coconut ice cream but it’d also be great with raspberry or blackberry sauce or fresh berries. The fruit helped tone down some of the bitterness, too.

4oz baker’s or semisweet chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil or unsalted butter
1/2 cup erythritol, powdered
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp stevia extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease either six 4oz ramekins or one 8″ round cake pan with butter or coconut oil. Break or cut the chocolate up into small pieces. Melt the chocolate with the butter or coconut oil over a double boiler or in a bowl over a pot of boiling water, stirring until all the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat, stir in the erythritol, stevia extract, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time until well combined into the batter. Add the cocoa powder and mix until the batter is smooth. Pour into the ramekins or cake pan. Bake until the top of the cake looks dry, about 20 minutes for ramekins and 25-30 minutes for a cake. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning it out on a plate and serving.

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Grain Free Pear Spice Cake

This recipe is loosely based on an apple spice cake from the Against All Grain cookbook but I changed it to suit my tastes and dietary needs. The pears came from my parents’ tree and I left the peelings on them because they’re nutritious as well as wax free. Feel free to peel the pears first.

As with my other cashew based cake recipe, I mixed the entire thing in my food processor. Since I can’t use Teflon coated pans due to my health, I used a deep, round ceramic baking dish rather than a traditional cake pan. This added a few minutes onto my cooking time.

Pear Spice Cake

2 1/2 cups raw cashews
6 pears, cored and sliced thinly
3 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
juice of one lime
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp stevia extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350*F. Prepare a 9″ cake pan with coconut oil or olive oil spray. Layer the pear slices on the bottom of the cake pan in the circular pattern, saving the slices from one pear to put on the top of the cake. Add cashews to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they turn into fine powder. Add the coconut oil and lime juice, pulse until a thick paste forms. Add erythritol, cardamom, cinnamon, stevia extract, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt. Pulse until well combined. Add one egg at a time and pulse in between until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the cake pan, even out the top of the cake and arrange the slices from the last pear on top in a pretty pattern. Bake for 60-75 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.

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Cashew Cupcakes

I ran out of almond flour but had several pounds of raw cashews in my freezer so I looked to them as a cake base. I don’t like cashews in bread because I found them too sweet but sweetness is a desired quality in desserts. I’m very happy with how these turned out and only made one small change to the recipe to improve its rising.

I mixed the entire batter in my food processor, pulverizing the cashews first, then spooning it into cupcake papers. Surpringly I had just enough batter for 12 cupcakes, that never happens to me.

2 cups raw cashews
1 cup coconut milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon stevia extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake wrappers. In a food processor or high speed blender, add cashews and pulse until it forms a fine powder. Add the coconut milk, half at a time, pulsing until a paste forms. Add all the other ingredients except the eggs. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs, pulsing in between each one. Once the batter is smooth, spoon into prepared cupcake tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out clean.

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