Kitchen / Garden / Sanctuary - Urban Homesteading to Nourish Body + Spirit

Month: November 2010

Going to Argentina on Friday!

We have a big trip planned!! We’re leaving for Argentina on Friday and will be there for a little over 2 weeks. We’ve been talking about this trip for a long time, but only last week did we actually bite the bullet and buy our tickets. And then only last night did we really begin hammering out an itinerary. We’re still working on that part! Guess that leaves the plane ride to brush up on my extremely minimal Spanish. F used to speak fluent Spanish but not anymore. Though I’m sure we’ll get by OK!

At first we were planning to wing it completely with the itinerary, but realized that not having a plan would waste a lot of precious time (and probably money) because we want to see many different places with only 2 weeks to do it! I think having a rough plan will cut down on stress, too.

We’re going down there primarily to scope it out as a possible place to live. We’d like to be in the countryside (with several acres), but within reasonable distance from a good-sized city. We like smaller towns, but with a progressive mindset. And preferably near a beach! So we’ll be looking around in the area south of Buenos Aires and north of Bahia Blanca. Any recommendations? Have you been there? Know of a good spot to visit? Leave a comment and let us know!

The rest of the trip, then, will be sightseeing and getting a feel for the rest of the country. We’ll see some penguins in the south, the Lakes District in the west, and possibly Iguazu Falls in the northern jungle. If you have any recommendations regarding these places, too, please leave a comment!!

It’ll be a whirlwind trip! I think we’ll both be glad when we’re finally on the plane. We’ve been in trip-plan mode pretty heavily these past couple days, and as F and I both keep remembering more and more things we need to do, it’s getting overwhelming! Trip planning stresses me out, and traveling often stresses me out, too. I love travel, but I’m also a homebody and get easily overwhelmed. But gosh, I do love being out in the world seeing new places!

Preparing for this trip has been a little easier than previous trips, though. I’ve done the solo backpacking thing through New Zealand and some of Australia, so I know what to pack…already have everything I need…and have done it before and know the drill. SO helpful!

Anyway, our itinerary will still be fairly open, so if you have any pointers about places to see, or travel tips for Argentina, leave a comment!

Check Out ‘Mystic Orb’ for Holiday Gifts!

A few months ago I discovered Mystic Orb, an Etsy store run by two wonderful people, Jeff and Taryn out in Oregon. Jeff is an incredible woodcarver; if you’re looking for a gift, definitely check them out. They do custom stuff, too.

I bought two gifts for myself and absolutely love them!

The necklace I got is a woodcarving of a tree silhouetted against a rising moon. Normally I like to wear small jewelery, so I was hoping this wouldn’t look “too big” on me, but it doesn’t. I totally love it! And it’s very lightweight; I don’t even notice it’s on.

The other thing I got was a set of 7 buttons made from deer antlers they found in the forest. I was so excited to see those buttons, because I had just the perfect thing to put them on! I have this beautiful vintage wool coat that I found for $15 at an estate sale. It was the last day of the sale and people had been oohing and ahhing over that coat, but nobody could fit into it. It had been custom-made for whoever had lived at the house — made probably in the 1940s. I loved it and tried it on, and it fit perfectly! Everyone insisted that the coat should be mine, except I didn’t have money with me, and they were closing down soon. A nice gentleman overheard the situation and wanted so much for me to have the coat that he handed me a $20 bill along with a business card with his mailing address, saying “just repay me when you can.” Since two of the coat’s original buttons were missing, I replaced them all with the closest match I could find — plastic imitations from the fabric store. The plastic ones weren’t too bad, but I’d been hoping to upgrade them…and I’m so happy to now have these antler buttons! I think they add a really cool look to the coat.

Here are the plastic buttons before I replaced them:

Old plastic buttons...

And here are the new antler buttons! Much better!

New antler buttons!

After Halloween: Cooking Your Pumpkin and Roasting Its Seeds

I hope you had a happy Halloween! Mine was uneventful, but I did go on a wonderful bike ride through the neighborhoods on Halloween night to see the decorated houses, carved pumpkins, and kids trick-or-treating. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. To boot, it was an unusually mild night with a few diehard crickets still going (usually it’s snowing here on Halloween!), and people were sitting out on their front porches, candy bowls beside them.

Anyway, last year I cooked our Halloween pumpkin and I wanted to share the process if you’re interested in doing the same thing. One thing to note about the generic jack-o-lantern pumpkins is that they’re very lacking in flavor. Bland! And watery! But after draining out the excess water (which we’ll address below), the blandness can be a good thing because you can then sneak the pumpkin puree into your cooking (or baking) without affecting the dish’s flavor very much.

Here’s what to do:

With a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin in half, then cut off the stem.

Cut off the stem

Scoop out the seeds and SAVE THEM! We’ll be roasting them while the pumpkin cooks.

Scoop out the seeds and save them for roasting.

With a spoon and some elbow grease, scrape out the long stringy fibers. You have to really get in there with your spoon; attack that pumpkin!

Scoop out the stringy fibers

Set pumpkin cut-side down into a large baking pan with sides to contain the juice. If you don’t have a pan with sides large enough, then just bake them on cookie sheets, cut-side up. Or be creative and set them on something else, like a muffin tray to catch the juice!

Bake at 350* (or 375* — the temperature isn’t too important). You’ll bake it until the flesh is very soft, which usually takes about an hour, maybe more.

After you put your pumpkin in the oven, put the seeds into a colander. Rinse them and remove as much of the stringy orange stuff as you can.

Wash seeds & remove orange fibers

Spread them onto an un-greased cookie sheet and sprinkle them fairly liberally with salt. Bake them until they’re a very light golden color; you don’t want to over-bake them, but you do want them dry to the touch, and crunchy. This seems to take about 15 minutes for me, but the times may be different for you.

Spread on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt; cook till dry and crunchy


Now, back to the pumpkin.

When the flesh is very soft, remove from the oven and let the pumpkin cool until it’s handle-able.

Bake till very soft

Scrape out the flesh, and discard (or compost) the skin-shell. Run the pumpkin flesh through a food processor or blender to improve the texture and break up stringiness. If it’s too dry to run through the blender, add a little water and blend; you can drain the water out (or cook it off) later.

Blend till smooth, adding a little water if needed

Since these pumpkins generally have quite a bit of water in their flesh, you’ll want to drain the puree after blending it. I like to dump the pumpkin puree into a colander and let that sit over a bowl overnight. You’ll be amazed at how much water drains out! Alternatively, you can just cook the water off instead of letting it drain away; just simmer the pumpkin puree, uncovered, in a pot over low heat until you’re satisfied with its consistency.

That’s it! Measure your puree into ½- or 1-cup portions and freeze into ziploc bags; I like to stack my bags neatly on a plate and freeze them so that they freeze into stackable shapes, like this:

Measure, stack, and freeze!

Free Shipping Today Only (Nov 8) at Tropical Traditions!

Hello! Life has been a little crazy the past couple weeks and I’ll be back to blogging soon, but just wanted to let you know that Tropical Traditions has free ground shipping today only, Monday, November 8th, through Midnight EST. A good time to stock up on Christmas gifts! To get free shipping, be sure to choose ‘ground shipping’ and enter code 81110 at the checkout page.

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know that I love Tropical Traditions! You can check out my favorite products here and as always, if you buy anything and you’re a new customer, you can also get this Virgin Coconut Oil book for free (any time, not just today) by entering my User ID, which is 6032410. When you’re going through the checkout process and you’ve added your shipping address and phone number, you will see the question “How did you hear of us?” Just choose “Referred by a friend” and then a new “User ID” field will appear below that where you can enter my User ID. (screen shot below)

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