Pumpkin gingersnap ice cream

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After I made a bunch of pumpkin purée yesterday, I realized I didn’t have any freezer bags in the house. Oh. Woe is me. Whatever shall I do with all this pumpkin. The horror.
I didn’t want to do the same old things I usually do: muffins; bread; cupcakes; pie. I then remembered we had a couple quarts of heavy cream in the fridge. Ice cream! I also still have a ton of gingersnaps from when I made pumpkin pie. (Speaking of pie, I know I owe you guys another pie for October. I made a mincemeat pie the other day that was delicious, but not exactly cohesive. So I’m working on it. I won’t make it this weekend, though, because then I’ll eat them all. I’m working on not shoving extra food in my face.)

So, I have a bone to pick with most pumpkin ice cream I’ve had before. It always ends up being heavy, spicy, and one note. Whenever I’ve eaten it by itself, I’ve been left with a coated tongue feeling. Most of the time, now, I won’t eat it without drowning it in hot fudge sauce. As I searched for a recipe, I had hope that I could find a recipe that didn’t have a custard base, (eggs) and that would help with the heavy taste.

Dude, seriously, this is the best pumpkin ice cream I’ve ever had. Like, smack you in the face good. Using the fresh pumpkin helped make the ice cream light and bright. It plays to the sweet and fruity aspects of pumpkin without actually being a fruity ice cream. The cinnamon and ginger add a kick without making it taste overly spicy. The cookies help give the ice cream texture, even after they begin to soften. (You’ll want to use thick, crispy gingersnaps so they won’t immediately disintegrate in the ice cream.)
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“No disintegration!”

Pumpkin gingersnap ice cream

Ingredients
16 oz heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk*
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup fresh pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely crushed gingersnaps

Whisk together all ingredients, except the cookies. Freeze the ice cream mixture in an ice cream maker according to your maker’s directions. (I churned my ice cream for about 17 minutes.) Add the cookies to the ice cream mixture during the last two minutes of churning. Transfer ice cream to a freezer safe container and freeze for at least two hours.

Note: The original recipe calls for straining the ice cream mixture before placing it in the ice cream maker. I didn’t do this and the consistency and texture was just fine.
If you want to get some paper board ice cream containers, I’ve used these with great success.

*You can use lower fat milk, but it will change the consistency of the ice cream depending on the fat content of the milk you use.

Slightly adapted from myrecipes.com

Fresh pumpkin purée

Today wasn’t a great day. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it externally, aside from the fact that it was overcast and rainy. I’m just really fatigued and feeling depressed. I don’t have anything to be depressed about; it’s just a sneaky bastard that decides to strike without reason or provocation. It makes me think poorly about myself, especially when I look at myself in the mirror and see all the weight I’ve gained from medication and general uncontrolled eating of all the things. Then you start arguing with yourself in your head to try and avoid drowning in the negativity.
You’re ugly and not worthy of love.
Depression lies. Depression lies.
Hey, no I don’t.
Yes you do!
Shut up!
No, you shut up! Wait, why am I arguing with myself?
This is going to end up in the blog later, isn’t it?
Probably.

Unfortunately, when I feel this way, I’m not the best of moms. I have a tendency to ignore my kids and withdraw. Now able to recognize that I do this, I was able to make a concerted effort to take some moments to connect with Zoë: hugs, kisses, and I love yous here and there; reading a book; having a snuggle.

In the midst of this fog, I decided it was as good a time as any to finally roast our sugar pumpkins and make purée. Rachael picked one pumpkin from the pumpkin patch on her school field trip just for me. When she brought it home she told me she wanted me to make pumpkin pie with it. One of the parents who was on the trip with her later told me that she carried the little pumpkin all around the patch with her. She refused to put it down and get a new one at the end.
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I hadn’t intended to blog about the purée, but decided to go ahead and just do it because, why not?

1) Start with sugar pumpkins. I’ve been told that some people have used the large jack-o-lantern type pumpkins successfully, but I’ve also heard they can produce weird flavors and textures. My feeling is that the sugar pumpkins make plenty of purée, are less expensive, are easier to break down, are less messy, and won’t send you to the chiropractor with a thrown out back. Lop off the top with a sharp knife. If a straight blade isn’t working, a small serrated knife will sometimes do the trick.
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2) Cut the pumpkin in half, and then cut each half in half again.

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3) Remove pulp and seeds. I usually run my knife in between the pulp and flesh to loosen everything up. Sometimes it will just lift right out. If not, I take a pointed serving spoon and scrape out as much pulp as possible.
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4) Roast at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until fork tender. Allow flesh to cool to the touch, and then peel off the skin. Sometimes I run a small, short knife between the flesh and skin.
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5) Place pumpkin in your food processor bowl with the center removed from the lid to allow steam to escape. You’ll want to break up the flesh a little to help the processor out. Turn the processor on and see how well the processor is puréeing the flesh. If it’s running rough and not breaking up much, add a little bit of water down the chute. Be careful not to add too much water. You’ll end up with thin purée, which can throw things off in later recipes.
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If you’re not able to use the purée fairly soon, it freezes really well. I suggest placing 1 cup of purée in each freezer safe zip top bag. This will prevent you from having to worry about measuring later. Press the air out of the bag and squish the purée flat for freezing.

Weighted blanket giveaway

My friend, Sarah, is doing a weighted blanket giveaway for children with autism.
http://hyenacart.com/sarahsstitches/mt/967/29114/Weighted-Blanket-Giveaway

She does great work. She actually made a quilt for Mike and me as a wedding gift, and it’s my favorite blanket ever. So, if you or someone you know has an autistic child, and this is something your healthcare provide recommends, check it out.

Centering and writing

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Duck Dodgers

Mike and I used to watch Duck Dodgers together because geeks. It was a slightly more grown up cartoon, one whose slapstick humor had carefully interwoven adult references and wordplay. In one episode, The Eager Young Space Cadet, (essentially Porky Pig) was flipping out about something. Dodgers replied, Find your center, honey-baked. Both Mike and I thought it was hysterical, and have since used the line on one another when we’re completely stressing out about something.

It has been nice, today, to be able to have a calm, centering day. Saturday, we had people over to watch our beloved Hokies lose yet another came. Sunday, Mike and I went to see Ender’s Game. Rachael was out of school on Monday and Tuesday for parent teacher conferences and the election. Seriously, watching election returns come in is really stressful when you feel like the fate of the privacy of your uterus and vagina is hanging on who will be your next governor. (And I still can’t totally relax because the attorney general race is still too close to call.)

But today. Today has been one of those quiet days where it’s warm enough to open the windows and let the breezy November air fill your house. I took Zoë for a walk so she and I could get some exercise. As we walked, I noticed something. I was absorbing everything: the colors; the sounds; the smells; how everything felt. I was mentally taking notes as I took the time to simply be in the moment. Maple trees were so red that they looked as though their color had been saturated in a photo editor. The wind created music through wind chimes and scattering dried leaves. The leaves covered the ground and beckoned Zoë to search among them for the beautiful ones, which she collected like jewels. Fallen, open pine cones mocked me for not having been patient enough to wait to collect them.

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Asshole

I have found, regardless of whether my writing is on par with classic literature or pure garbage, that writing has been very cathartic for me. (Classic literature probably used “fuck” much more artfully than I.) But I realized today that the writing process isn’t just sitting down to the computer and typing something out. It starts when I observe my world. Think about it. Savor it. Connect with it. Think about how I can share it with others so they may connect with it as well. When I think about those words and images, I become very calm and centered. It’s a feeling I can carry with me for awhile, like being enveloped in a warm blanket. But eventually the warmth cools, and I start to look for what is next.

Creepy creepy crawly crawly

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I finished Boris 2.0 yesterday. I had painted him and then set him aside since I was consumed with other things: Girl Scouts; the costume dance; laziness. But I had to finish him yesterday, not just because it was Halloween, but because Jill and Kevin were coming with their girls to trick or treat with us. We spent time carving pumpkins, eating food, donning glow stick bracelets as we tromped around the neighborhood on a mild, rainy night, and stayed up way too late talking and making up for lost time.

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Trick or treating was a set of wonderful memories that will last forever. Rachael and Ella, our goddaughter, held hands as they walked from house to house as different versions of Rapunzel. Ella made sure to inform homeowners, in her adorable, proper British accent, that she was a fairy princess Rapunzel. Zoë knew exactly what to do and trotted up to each house without prompting. We only had to retrieve her once after she decided to invite herself into Rachael’s friend’s house. Lucie, almost 13 and only mildly angsty, ambled along with the little ones in her zombie attire. I was proud of my girls as they bravely approached the “murder house”. Zoë didn’t seem to notice the dismembered body on the bloody slab in their driveway. Rachael was really nervous, but I gently coaxed her along, reminding her that none of this was real. My small, sometimes shy girl clearly and audibly said trick or treat to the ghostly princess and masked murderer who held her sugary prize for braving the darker side of Halloween. Later, Mike told her that she didn’t have to walk up to any house she didn’t want to. She replied, But I really wanted the candy. Overcoming fear for candy. She has priorities! Next door to the murder house, spooky organ music played from a stereo system through their second floor speakers. Lit tiki torches illuminated, (auto correct tried to make that “ill unitards”. I should have left it alone) skeletons hanging from trees. Rachael was frightened again by the homeowner answering the door as a Crypt Keeper. But can I just say, that was my favorite house of the night. The CD for the music kept skipping, stealing all of its spooky thunder. It was the musical equivalent of The Albino coughing in the middle of scaring the crap out of Westley.

How to make Boris 2.0

Boris wasn’t difficult to make, but he was pretty time consuming. This isn’t really a project you can knock out at the last minute. You’ll need:

Two balloons
White all purpose glue
Brush of choice (I used a foam wedge brush)
Newspaper cut into approximately 1, 2, and 3 inch rectangle strips
Black paint
Googly eyes
Large chenille pipe cleaners

Determine what sort of spider you want to make. That will determine the size to which you will blow up your balloons. I used this little guy, who was hanging out on our neighbor’s deck, as inspiration.
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Tie your balloons together.
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Pour glue into a disposable cup and add some water to dilute it. The ratio is about 4 parts glue, 1 part water. You’ll want something around the consistency of whole milk or heavy whipping cream. Paint the glue onto newspaper and where you will place the paper on the balloon. Putting it on the balloon as well will help the paper adhere to the balloon a bit better. Use the larger strips for the larger areas and the smaller strips for the smaller areas. If your strips are too large, they will pucker when placed on the balloon. As you place the next piece of paper on the balloon, make sure you paint some glue on the piece of paper already on the balloon and slightly overlap the pieces of paper. Continue until everything is covered.
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You’ll want to repeat this process for at least two more layers, letting each layer dry before applying a new layer. Try to place the paper on the next layer in a different direction than the previous layer to ensure maximum coverage and avoid seams. I found it’s pretty easy to get lost as to where you’ve been when placing new layers. To avoid this, use a dark marker to divide the balloons into quadrents, clearly marking the intersection. Once you’ve finished all the layers, paint your spider however you choose. I just used washable black tempera paint. Allow paint to dry. Depending on the paint you use, you may need to paint a few coats to hide the newsprint.
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Now you’re ready to make your spider as silly, scary, or anatomically incorrect as you’d like. Use scissors to punch a small hole in the spider’s abdomen. The balloon will pop and your head will pop off.
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Do not freak out. Trim some of the popped balloon off. Pull out your hot glue gun and smother the tied off portion of the head in glue and insert it back inside the hole where the abdomen and head separated. Hold the head in place until the glue cools and the head is secure, just a couple of minutes. Place chenille pipe cleaner inside the hole you’ve created and repeat 7 times.
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Boris wants to give you a hug!

I also placed shorter pipe cleaners in the head for his chelicerae. Glue on googly eyes in whichever pattern makes you happy. Check out close up pictures of spiders before gluing on the eyes. It will scare the shit out of you and make you check behind your toilet before sitting, but you’ll have a great idea for placing the eyes.

Mounting
I chose to use cheesecloth. I know it was realistic for spider web because in the few seconds I spent going inside for tape, a small spider had taken up residence in the cheesecloth I had already hung from the plant hanger. I used hot glue to attach the cheese cloth to his abdomen, and then tied the cheesecloth to the plant hanger.
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