Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

Today was one of those part time days.  I had oatmeal for breakfast and a tomato sandwich for lunch.  But for dinner I veered away from the vegetarian diet and had Pumpkin Shrimp Curry.  The recipe is from a chef at L’Etoile in Madison WI published in Bon Appetite.  I made some changes as I had fresh pumpkin so I cut it up and poached it in vegetable stock.  I then put it in the pan instead of the canned pumpkin and butternut squash.  I also added roasted ginger and red bell pepper.  I spiced it up a bit more with Sriracha.  Yummy!


Let It be a Thankgiving to Remember

As the autumn takes its strong hold on the land and winter edges closer with every day, I take time to reflect on the year past.   It is November and Thanksgiving is only weeks away.  It is time to gather friends and relatives together and give thanks for everything around us.  Yet, as my life moves forward I have become increasingly busy like so many others.  My mind becomes focused inward and I loose sight of those around me.  I find myself thinking in terms of me instead of focusing my attention on those people that I interact with everyday.

I walk through stores that promote the big Thanksgiving dinner and all the excess that surrounds the holidays.  I see commercial ads that promise happiness when we buy.  I see people rushing through the day with little notice of the person beside them.  In this season of thanks have I become so influenced by the avarice of our capitalistic society as to forget about the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  Am I or are we so busy with the Thanksgiving feast that we are forgetting to give thanks to all those around us that have influenced our life.

It has been a good year.  I have a good job that challenges me mentally and coworkers that take pride in a job well done.  My neighborhood is welcoming and friendships have become stronger between us.  My family has grown in its love over the year in the face of struggles.  My life is brighter because of the people around me that have influenced my life.

So with this realization, I am taking the time to thank each person for the kindness they have bestowed upon my life.

Thank you, my mother, who praises the goodness in me, who loves me unconditionally, who wants nothing but the best for me.  Thank you for guiding me through my life.  You have made me the person that I am.  I have a good heart because of you.

Thank you, my father, for your strength and direction.  With you wisdom I have found a life that has been fulfilling and gratifying.  You have molded me as you watched me grow.  It is your thoughtful words that I hold close to me and influence my actions.  You have made me strong and independent, able to face all adversity.

Thank you, my brother, who has the biggest heart I know.  You kindness and spirituality overwhelms me.  You give all of yourself to the needs of others.  I can only wish to be half the person you have become.

Thank you, my oldest sister, whose strength of family runs deep.  Your nurturing hand has guided your family to become a light in your community.  I am grateful to have you in my life for you are a beacon guiding my actions as well as your families.

Thank you, my second sister, your selflessness and forgiving heart provide a warmth to all those around you.  You traveled many miles to be by my side when I was stricken with cancer.  I thank you for that.  You also have a forgiving heart.  Your ability to forgive those who hurt you is a strength that I try to emulate everyday.

Thank you, my youngest sister, your faith in others is amazing.  You love those around you wholeheartedly and ask nothing in return.  You took me to the hospital on a day that I had hit rock bottom.  You were my angel and for that I am grateful.

Thank you, my partner, your love knows no boundaries.  Your trust is unfailing,  Your leadership and integrity gives strength to our community and your workplace.  You are my guiding light and rock.  As we grow together you have become a part of me that I cherish everyday.  I love you.

Thank you, my siblings partners, your additions to this family have made us all that much stronger.  Your kind words and acceptance are greatly appreciated.  Each of you have been so generous in your love.  It is as if you were always a part of this family.

Thank you, my nieces and nephews, you are made from love.  Each of you are your parents gift to the world.  You have taken their love and blossomed into caring beings.  Your smiles light up my heart.  Your kindness is precious and your boundless love is felt by each member of the family.

Thank you, my friends, for which I am forever grateful.  You picked me up when I was down.  You found time to talk when I needed an ear.  You helped me when I needed a hand.  You were strong for me when I was not.  You found me when I was lost.  It is wonderful to have people in my life such as yourselves.  May all your goodness bring you happiness throughout your lives.

Thank you, my neighbors, you were there when I was unable to care for my home.  You shoveled snow for me.  You watched my door when I was away.  You cared for my dog when was on business trips. You opened your door when I moved into the neighborhood.  You found kind words when I could not.  I will never forget your generosity.

Thank you, my coworkers, who work by my side and never work against me.  You have shared your lunch with me.  You have given me rides when my car needed repair.  You worked hard when the going was rough.  you visited me in the hospital when I was sick.  You sent me flowers when I was laid up at home.  You are the people that make me smile when I get up everyday.

Thank you to all the people that I meet each day.  The person that holds the door when I have my hands full.  The gentleman that bought my coffee out of generosity.  The person that help me fix the flat tire on my bike.  The girl that caught my dog when she ran out the front door.  I may not know you but your generosity is not forgotten for I pay it forward whenever I can.  You are the strength of our community and it is your small acts of kindness that give everyone hope that there is still good on this earth.

I would like this to be a Thanksgiving to remember.  So, I will give thanks to each of you and give of myself to thank you for your selflessness that you have shown to me.

Thank you to all of you.

Do We Know What’s in our Grocery Cart?


Recently the FDA made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer recognized as safe.  Once the preliminary determination is finalized partially hydrogenated oils cannot be used in food without prior approval.  That means they will become illegal as food additives.  This got me to thinking.  What foods contain hydrogenated oils (trans fat).  The list is long and eye opening as many food contain trans fat as an additive for flavor, creamy texture, shelf life, etc.  This list does not contain dairy, pork, lamb or beef  as the trans fat is naturally occurring. The jury is out on whether these are harmful in your diet.

Foods that contain trans fat:

Cookies, crackers, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
Some stick margarine, vegetable shortening and processed cheese
Pre-mixed cake mixes, frosting, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
Fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
Snack foods, including chips, crackers, candy, and microwave popcorn
Frozen dinners

This is a long list and yet it only contains a small amount of the foods that contain trans fat.  A another list is in the link below.  Yet again it is not a full list of products.

The FDA’s concern is that many foods contain a small amount of trans fat and when adding the total amount consumed in a day it is easy to have a much higher intake than the recommended 2 grams per 2000 calories.  The FDA estimates the average American eats about 4.7 pounds of trans fat in a year.  This equals 6 grams per day.  Three time higher than the recommended value.  There is another concern that leads to the insidious lie perpetrated at the supermarket.  Food labels can state that foods containing 0.5 grams or less of trans fat can state they contain 0 trans fat.  So if you were to eat 6 products during the day that were labeled 0 trans fat and yet each contained 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving you would have eaten more than the daily recommended amount of trans fat.

Labels as the one below state o grams trans fat and yet if you read the ingredients it contains partially hydrogenated oil.  The manufacturer can round down to 0.  This allows them to state they have no trans fat when in fact they do have trans fat.  Also portion sizes may not be realistic therefore when you eat a realistic portion you are eating large amounts of trans fat.

I am curious how much trans fat am I eating in my diet.  I eat very little meat in my diet if at all.  So I can eliminate anything on the list that would be meat related.  I also have cut back on my cheese intake but I do consume cheese most every week.  But crackers, baked goods, and pancake mixes which I eat regularly on on the short list.  So I make my way to the supermarket.

I decide to start with the vegan alternative foods.  (vegan cheese, meat substitute, milk or creamer)  I go the the dairy section and pick up a container of Tofutti cream cheese.  2 grams of trans fat per serving.  One serving of this and I would be at my limit for the day.  I heard that there is a 0 trans fat alternative but it is not offered at the supermarket in my town.  Next, Morning Star Veggie Meatballs.  0 trans fat and no hydrogenated oil in the list of ingredients.  Next, Silk Soy Milk.  0 trans fat and no hydrogenated oil.  Also the same for Silk creamer, Gardenburgers, Field Roast sausages and Tofurky dogs and tempeh.  Looks like the vegan alternative products are scoring well.  I have tried the Tofutti cream cheese but it s not a part of my regular diet.  I do like the silk products and eat Gardenburgers and Field Roast sausages once in a while and feel good about keeping them in my diet.

Now I move onto the other foods.  Frozen Pizza.  I picked up two brands one had trans fat of 1.5 grams the other had partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list.  Two others had neither trans fat or hydrogenated oil in the list.  Several packages of frozen dinner contained partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients list.  In the snack aisle it was actually scary.  SO many products contained partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list.  I only found one cracker brand that did not have the trans fat.  Mitton’s.  All the pototo chips had hydrogenated oil in them.  I didn’t even look at the cookies.  Most contain hydrogenated oils in them.  The Act I popcorn surprisingly did not contain trans fat but it contained palm oil so it was high in saturated fats.

Off to the bakery section.  No surprises here.  Most of the products contained partially hydrogenated oils.  The breads were the best bet with good grain breads scoring well and white breads not so well.

I looked at other processed foods in the store.  These contained partially hydrogenated oils.  It is not a complete list.  Potato Buds, Pancake mix, biscuit dough, cookie dough, coffee creamer, breakfast cereal, granola bars, pudding mix, cake mix, canned frosting, chocolate chips, candy, and many more.

I am not a fan of processed foods but the crackers that I eat and the cookies also the non dairy creamer.  If I were to eat two cookies, some crackers and coffee creamer I would be over the daily amount recommended.  I think about people that eat processed foods everyday and those who eat fast foods everyday that have high trans fat content.  It is scary.  I know children that eat at fast food restaurants two or three time a week.

I don;t like the FDA regulating what we eat but something has to be done about the unhealthy eating habits of Americans.  I am going to watch my intake of these products and find healthier alternatives.  No more crackers or coffee creamer.  Maybe a cookie every once in a while.  I just cannot resist those crunchy treats.

Below is an article from the mayo clinic that explains the health risks associated with a high fat diet.

Looking for the Hidden Garden


The hard frosts of the season have settled in.  Gardens around the area are putting their winter squash into storage and closing their gardens for the season.  Frost wilted plants are pulled from the soil to be added to the mulch pile.  Ground is turned.  Root vegetables not pulled from the ground are covered and mulched.  It is time to prepare for winter.

In a previous entry I wrote that we will be looking for a CSA to provide the fresh vegetables that we will not be producing in our garden.  Since the gardening season is winding down, now is a good time to contemplate what we would like in a CSA.  Without any reservations I will say that we would like a CSA that is local, organic and has a strong following.  We are not looking for any dairy, eggs or cheese so that eliminates some.  We would like some convenience.  There will be limits to convenience as I live in Baraboo and Tom lives in Madison.  We will be selling our homes and combining residences until the last house sells.  Flexibility is something that we would like.  We have to be flexible n our lives but there should be some flexibility in the grower as well.  Lastly, I would like to connect to the farm.  Be able to see and talk to the farmer.  Know first hand about the shares and possibly help in the production of the vegetables that we will be eating.

With this outline of what we would like to see in a CSA I am looking at Orange Cat community Farm located in Sauk County.  The farm is a certified organic farm located near Reedsburg WI.  The grower is Laura Mortimore.  Laura grew up in the area.  Growing vegetables is her passion and this farm the culmination of her love for farming and hard work by her and the people involved in the CSA,

Orange Cat Community Farm offers a variety of options for the person interested in a CSA share.  There is a standard share.  A weekly box of produce from the farm.  Perfect for the family weekly vegetable needs.  An every-other week share.  Once every two weeks a box is provided.  Ideal for the small family or single person.  A spring share. starting in May, the share will mainly consist of greens, radishes, scallion, herbs and salad turnips.  This will give you a taste of what is to come later in the summer.  A storage share.  Two boxes of potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, garlic, celeriac, beets, just to name a few.  Enough to keep you satiated through the winter months.

You can work on the farm in return for your share of produce.  Working for your share takes commitment.  You will work 4 hours each week rain or shine.  But the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that you played a part in your weekly share outweighs the sore back from pulling weeds on those cold rainy mornings.

There are a range of pickup sites.  Baraboo, Reedsburg, Portage, Lake Delton.  You can decide the most convenient for your deliveries.  You can also pick up your share at the farm.

There are community events at the farm.   Dinners, a garlic pick in summer and a pumpkin pick in the fall.  Enjoy a few hours of your day at the farm in the fresh air.  Meet others in the community and the people that work on the farm.  Learn about the growing process.  See firsthand the work behind what comes on your dinner plate.  Laura welcomes everyone that comes out the the farm.  The farm is not all work.  There are days to enjoy the harvest as well.

If you would like to know more about this farm you can contact Laura at


During the spring summer or fall come to the farmer’s market on the Baraboo square.  Laura is happy to provide information on CSA share with the Orange Cat Community Farm.  You can sample some of the veggies while you are there.

You can always stop at the farm.  You may see the orange cat surveying the work in the fields.

Frost on the pumpkin. It’s Soup Season.


I turned on the heat this morning.

I woke up to Jack Frost waiting outside my front door.  He was dusting the grass and fallen leaves in frosty jewels in the dusk of early morning.  An iridescence met my eyes as an early morning traveler’s headlights danced across the minute ice crystals blanketing each bland of grass.  I could just make out Jack Frost’s shape as he leapt over the grass and scurried under the new fallen leaves.  He seemed to be searching for something.  Perhaps a forgotten nut that the squirrels had left behind or a hidden gate that opened to a autumn pumpkin patch so he could paint their skin in frosty white splendor.  It was a cold morning.  Time for a hot cup of coffee to warm my stomach and start my day.

As soon as I finished the coffee I hopped on my bike.  Off to the farmer’s market to get some fresh vegetables.  The thought of soup simmering on the stove kept me warm as I rode through the cold streets.  A leek, some mushrooms and sweet carrots would be a nice start to the soup.  After chatting with one of the farmers at the market I purchased a leek, some red carrots,  some potatoes, a watermelon radish and some delicious looking red raspberries.  I hopped back on my bike and soon I was at home brushing away the cold of the morning.

The potatoes will be put into short storage toe be used in the coming weeks.  Potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, etc. cane be stored long term.  Just follow the link to a detailed winter produce storage site.

The Radish is a treat for me.  I slice it up and pickle it.  Yummy on sandwiches and great on salads or just to munch on.


Pickled Watermelon Radishes

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup watermelon radish sliced
2 tbsp sugar

Heat the fist four ingredients together until the sugar dissolves completely.  Refrigerate until cool.  Place the sliced radishes in a bowl and pour the two tbsp sugar over them.  Gently massage the radishes.  That’s right.  They have had a long hard season in the garden.  Actually, the sugar will pull some of the excess water from the radishes.  Drain the excess water from the bowl and rinse the radishes.  Put into a jar and fill with the cooled vinegar sugar mixture.  Cover and store in your refrigerator.

The leek will be for the soup.  I like soup on a cold day and this recipe is one of my favorites.  There are two versions to this soup.  The first is made with turkey the second is made without.  Either is delicious.


Wild Rice with Leek and Mushroom Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek sliced
2 carrots sliced thin
2 cups portabella mushrooms sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
small bunch of sage chopped (choose the amount you would like for flavor)
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups of water
3 cups of vegetable broth (turkey broth if you are making the non-vegan version)
1/2 dry vermouth
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
3 cups water
1/2 cup rolled oats

(for non-vegan version 1 cup  chopped turkey and substitute three cups evaporated milk for the 3 cups water and 1/2 cup rolled oats)


Saute the leeks, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic until the leeks are tender.  Add dry vermouth, sage and salt.  Cook for two more minutes.  Add water, broth, brown rice and wild rice.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 90 minutes or until rice is tender.  Add three cups of water and 1/2 cup of rolled oats to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add to soup and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add more salt if needed.  I like to serve this with crusty bread to dip into the soup.  Also great over roasted potatoes.

Raspberries.  What am I to do with the raspberries.  They are going to make a wonderful dessert.


Raspberries and biscuits.

In a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups  flour, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cut in 12 tbsp butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp cream and stir until the dough is evenly moistened. With a large spoon, scoop the dough into 8 loose mounds and place on a wax paper–lined baking sheet.

In a large, deep, ovenproof saute pan, combine 3/4 cup of granulated sugar with 2 cups raspberries, 1 tbsp lemon zest, a cinnamon stick and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Arrange the dough on top of the berry sauce.  Cover and simmer over very low heat until the biscuits are springy and cooked through, 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the biscuits with granulated sugar, cinnamon and broil for 5 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  The biscuits are soft and compliment the berries.



When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kind o’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’, and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries — kind o’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The straw-stack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below — the clover over-head, —
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it — but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me —
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em — all the whole-indurin’ flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

By James Whitcomb Riley


My Date with a Pumpkin

Video courtesy of Blame Society Films Youtube

It is October.  Large orange pumpkins can be seen on many a dimly lit doorstep hiding from devious children whose desire is to smash them on cold hard pavement and scream with pleasure at their great success.  Grown in summer fields for our autumn delight.  Carved with ghoulish faces, baked into delectable pies, cakes, muffins and the sort.  It is October.  The season of the pumpkin is upon us.

Yesterday I happened to stop into the local coffee shop.  Coffee Bean Connection.  Friendly place.  Great coffee and food.  I was intent on satiating my pumpkin latte craving.  Yes, I am one of those people that take delight in things pumpkin.  I like pumpkin muffins and pumpkin in my stir fry.  I freeze pumpkin so I can have it early spring when the snow melts.  So pumpkin latte is not anything out of the ordinary.  As  sip on my latte and the caffeine travels through my brain waking long forgotten synapses, I decide that it is time to try my hand at baking a vegan pumpkin cheesecake.  Pumpkin cheesecake would be a good fit.  The heavy flavors of the pumpkin would enhance the taste of the vegan cream cheese and tofu.  So tonight I would bake.  I would have my date with a pumpkin.

Pumpkin Night 2

Being a pastry chef I learned long ago that the best baked goods are made from real dairy and eggs.  They do not contain artificial sugars.  Yet, my non-vegan half wanted cheesecake…my vegan half said not.  I decided on a compromise (unlike the current government).   I would use vegan cream cheese and tofu, also cornstarch instead of eggs.  A good cheesecake would be pumpkin if I was going to be successful.  The flavors of the pumpkin would have to be complimentary to the vegan cream cheese.   The cinnamon, ginger and clove should not overwhelm the pallet.  The hint of cream cheese should still come through the flavors of pumpkin and spice.  This is the vegan version that I created.

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 cup ground roasted pecans
1 cup ginger cookies ground
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar

16 oz Tofutti Non-Hygrogenated Oil Vegan Cream Cheese
16 oz soft tofu
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (dewatered), you can use canned if you prefer.
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp cornstarch

Mix the ground pecan, gingersnap cookies, vegetable oil and 1/4 cup sugar. Pat into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan.  Set aside.  In a Kitchenaid type mixer cream the tofu, Tofutti cream cheese, corn starch, half cup sugar, and half cup brown sugar until smooth.  Add the pumpkin and spices. mix until just incorporated. Pour on top of the crust in the springform pan.  Wrap the bottom and side of the pan with a single sheet of tin foil.   This must be waterproof as the pan will be in water and it will leak and give you a soggy crust if there are more than a single sheet of foil.  Place this into a large pan filled with one inch of water. Put into a 325 preheated oven.  Bake for one hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven and crack the door.  Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for one hour.  Remove the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.  I like to serve this with maple encrusted pecans.

The cheesecake was delicious.  It was just enough spice and the vegan cream cheese provided just enough richness to the dessert.  I hope that you to will find your date with a pumpkin tonight.


Local Food in Peril?

I have been researching the FSMA Food Safety Modernisation Act. This may put extra stress on some small local growers. This posts is a great reference to the FSMA and how it may effect these small farms.

Organic Matters

Local Food and FarmsIn late September, I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite farms in rural Maryland. This family farm, in organic production since 1983, was teaming with life, fertility and biodiversity. Rows of lush broccoli, colorful chard and hearty blood red beets flourished despite the autumn chill.

As we walked near hooped raspberry bushes and succulent Roma tomatoes vines, we discussed modern life on the farm. The local farm to restaurant trend is flourishing in upscale Baltimore restaurants that literally purchase tons of in-season produce from the farm to grace their menus. Several nearby farmers markets sell the bounty from these rolling fields each week. The community supported agriculture (CSA) program allows hundreds of families to receive weekly cartons of gorgeous homegrown vegetables with a community connection. In this idyllic setting what could possibly go wrong? 

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