Friday, October 31, 2008

How to "Recycle" your Pumpkin!

Happy Halloween everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the day, hopefully preparing for a fun time tonight! After all the fun is done and November starts tomorrow, what will you do with your jack-o-lantern?

a) Let it sit out on the front step until it shrivels into "old man pumpkin"
b) Toss it in the garbage can
c) Turn it into a fall feast

Since this blog is all about turning "trash into treasure," I am going to share how you can do the same with your pumpkin! While it does sound like hard work, option "c" really is not as hard as it sounds and can be a great family activity, and a way to celebrate the coming of Thanksgiving!

My mom has always made pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving out of, you guessed it, our Halloween jack-o-lanterns. So, I have developed a taste for this REAL pumpkin pie and have never had another pie that was nearly as good. Then again, I've never met anyone else who makes pumpkin out of real, fresh pumpkin, not the canned stuff. I have concluded that it's because of the real pumpkin. That, and maybe every mom's secret ingredient of "love."

Don't waste your pumpkins this year!! Here's how you can turn it into delicious pumpkin pie, bread, and roasted seeds!

How to cook the pumpkin:
This takes a little time but you can freeze it, and bake yummy pumpkin treats whenever you're ready!
1) Cut your clean, hollowed out pumpkin into chunks, 6"-8" or so. (Best to do right after Halloween so you don't have a dried out pumpkin!) Leave the skin on.

2) Lay pieces, skin side up, in 2-3 layers in a large turkey roaster pan with 1" water in the bottom.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake approx. 1/2 hour at 350 degrees, until tender. (test, if knife slides into pumpkin easily. My Mom has some magical powers, because I find mine takes a LOT longer than a half hour this way. so I prefer to steam in a pot on the stove:

...or cook it in the microwave (also covered with water added):

Choose whatever method best suits the amount of pumpkin you have, and amount of time you have.)

However you choose to cook it, when you can easily slide a knife, fork, or spoon into the flesh, it is done. Here's what it looks like done...the skins get darker and the flesh gets a little more translucent:

3) With a large spoon, scoop soft pumpkin out of skins. Discard the skins.

4) Place pumpkin chunks in blender about 1/2 full (or 1/2 empty if you're pessimist!). Add water to fill blender. Puree.

5) Pour into colander and drain the water.

6) Move on to recipes below! Or, if you aren't going to bake your goodies right away, freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions. (1 cup = 1 pie or 1 loaf of bread) I like to freeze it labeled, in a baggie:

If you want to be more "green," you can even freeze it in empty food containers.

Gretchen's Mom's Pumpkin Pie (makes one 10", or two 8"-9" pies)

Crust for TWO 8" or 9" pies:
2 C flour, 1 tsp salt
2/3 C + 2 Tbsp shortening
4-6 Tbsp cold water

Crust for ONE 10" pie:
1-1/3 C Flour, 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
3-4 Tbsp cold water

Measure flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Add water. Shape into ball, roll out, place in pan(s). Do not bake or prick the bottom.

Pie Filling:
2 C cooked & pureed pumpkin
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 C milk

MIX pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt and spices. Add milk gradually to keep smooth.
POUR into unbaked shell. Mixture will be sloppy at this point. To keep edges of crust from burning, cover the edges with foil.
BAKE 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool, cut, top with cool whip, and enjoy the fruits of your labor! You can also do what my mom does, and freeze the pies to enjoy on Thanksgiving.

Gretchen's Mom's Pumpkin Bread: (makes 2 loaves)
Sift together dry ingredients:
3-1/3 C flour
2-2/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

Add 1 C oil and 2 C pumpkin.
Beat 2 minutes.
Add 2 eggs and 2/3 C water. Fold in 1/2 C chopped nuts if desired.
Pour into 2 greased, floured loaf pans.
Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool on rack.
Enjoy warm, sliced with butter, or freeze the whole loaf to enjoy later!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
Wash seeds and drain in colander. Melt 4 Tbsp butter and mix with 1/2 tsp garlic salt, and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Toss with seeds, coating well. Spread seeds on a foil lined pan. Bake at 275 degrees, stirring about every 5 minutes, until toasted and lightly browned. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Do not in a sealed bowl on the counter...if they last that long!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Trouble with Tribbles...and left-over yarn

I used to have so much fun making these pom poms out of yarn when I was a kid. Maybe it was because I was an artistic kid who like to make stuff...or maybe it's just because they remind me of the only Star Trek episode that I really remember as a little girl..."the Trouble with Tribbles!"

Not only are they fun to make, but they are a great way to use up the yarn you have left-over from past projects.

Check out this great rug on the ReadyMade blog made entirely out of yarn pom poms! I just want to dive into it, it looks so cozy!

There are many, many cheesy projects online that use pom poms, but this is by far the coolest. I don't think I have enough extra yarn in my stash yet to make something this big, but maybe someday I will give it a try! I often see whole aisles of left-over yarn at thrift stores as well, which is a great way to get a bunch of colors for small projects.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DIY - Make snack storage cans out of old formula cans

Since having to switch to formula lately, I've been wondering what to do with the cans once it's all used up. Here's my first project, which has used up a couple, turning them into snack canisters!

First, take off the labels. Mine came right off:

Next, cut some paper to cover the cans. I wrapped mine in construction paper first, although you could just leave them as-is and glue on the snack name or picture if you like the metallic finish. I just cut the Cheerios box down to just the name:

Then, glue to your canister, and voila! A snack storage can! Here's a tip if you are glueing something like the Cheerios box cut-out...curl the cardboard a little so it takes the shape of the can more easily before adding glue, and put a couple rubber bands around it to hold it down while the glue dries.

For the Goldfish Cracker can, I just did a Google Image Search for "goldfish cracker," found an image, and printed it out. You could use the packaging too, or just make your own label.

One very simple way to use your empty formula cans to store other baby stuff! I like these because it's better than having to roll and unroll a bag of snacks...the lid makes it easier to keep them fresh and access them quicker. Plus, they are more customized than just using a Tupperware. I also stored my bottle nipples, rings, and caps (before I switched to Adiri) in a paper-covered Crisco can.

So, I only have so many baby snacks around...what else to do with future empty cans? There are many other ideas out there on the web...

How about a cool gift box?

Or a pencil holder?

These are great ideas and you can cover the cans with all kinds of other recycled materials...old maps, gift wrap, photos, or even junk mail of course!

There are some more ideas here, and here! Get creative...there are so many more "things" we buy that we could actually make, quite easily, out of recycled materials that we already have around! I just need to come up with some creative ideas for recycling the little plastic scoops that come in the formula...

DIY - Make your own tote bag out of recycled fabric!

I have accepted the fact that my cool little seatbelt purse must be stowed away for the rare occasions that my hubby and I go out by ourselves, and that I must now sport the "giant mommy bag." So, the other day I was online trying to find a cool tote bag-slash-purse to function as both a diaper bag and my purse. I found several cute bags, although they were all pretty pricey.

So, I thought I'd go on a search for a pattern to try and make my own. I found a perfect little free pattern with a nice downloadable tutorial here. If you're not a sewer, then they have some really cool bags you can purchase on their site!

I headed out to the fabric store, and decided why not go to the thrift store instead, and pick up some fabric there to recycle?! Here is what I found:

The wine colored fabric on the left is actually a tablecloth, the one in the middle is a pillow sham, and on the right is some cool patterned corduroy that was sold as raw fabric. I've never really explored these aisles of the thrift store before, so it was very eye opening seeing how many cool fabrics you can find and what you can re-use!! They have aisles of placemats, tablecloths, towels, blankets, sheets, pillow shams, and even raw fabric remnants that can all be turned into something new! Many places even organize them by color, so it makes it very easy to find several patterns/colors that go together.

The only other things I had to purchase were some interfacing, which I got at the fabric store. I also bought a zipper, which is not shown in the instructions, but was something I wanted to add. You could even recycle a zipper from another piece of used clothing or old purse.

I cut out all the pieces one night while watching tv with my hubby, started sewing that night, then finished it the next morning. It really didn't take that long, although you will need to know how to operate a sewing machine. Here's my end result:

I ended up getting the wrong kind of interfacing, but it seemed to work out okay. I think if I make another it'll turn out better. I found some great canvas-like hand towels with wine glass illustrations on them that I might try making into another bag.

So, check out the tutorial...make a trip to your local thrift store, and turn something old into something new and one-of-a-kind!
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