Trek to Fall Favorites: Fresh Pumpkin Kitchen Tips

The question was posed to me, What’s My Favorite Fall Recipe?  As I thought about my all the foods I love in fall, there was one common item:  Pumpkin.  Not pumpkin spiced.  Not pumpkin flavored.  Food with real actual pumpkin that’s baked, stewed, or souped.

As some of you may now, I’m not one for canned ingredients, especially when its in-season.  Sure, a whole pumpkin can be a bit daunting when your goal is food, and not a jack 0’lantern.  But breaking down a few small Sugar Pie pumpkins into the perfect ingredient for pies, cakes, soups, and stews in under an hour.  Here are simple steps to give your fall recipes the freshest taste of pumpkin.

How to make Fresh Whole Pumpkin


Tools Needed:

  • Sharp Chef’s Knife
  • Large Cutting Board
  • Potato Peeler
  • Large Pot
  • Strainer
  • Immersion Blender (or Potato Masher)

First, start with the right pumpkin.  The best one is the Baby Pam Sugar Pie Pumpkin.  Sugar Pies are the modern baking pumpkin. The skin is very thin, the flesh is sweeter, and you should be able to find it at your local farmer’s market or most grocery stores (Trader Joe’s, Harries Teeter and Whole Foods have them).

Cut the pumpkin into quarters.0151cb56cedae03d057c08e380dd7f3a5727bfe6ae


Remove all the seeds and save for later.  Pumpkin seeds are fantastic roasted with different seasonings and spices.

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Remove the pumpkin “guts”, technically called the fibrous strands, by scraping them out with a metal spoon.  Throw the guts away.

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Next will be the most difficult part.  To remove the tough, outer skin, use a common potato peeler across the ribs.  You may need to cut the pumpkin into small pieces to more easily get to each section.

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Cut the cleaned pumpkin into small chunks, about 2 x 2 inches each.

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Place all the pumpkin into a large part.  Add a few cinnamon sticks and 2 inches of water.  Heat on medium-high heat, periodically stirring.  You may need to do this in a few batches if the pot is not big enough.


Once the pumpkin is soft and mushy (about 10 -15 min), take off from the heat, drain the water, and remove the cinnamon sticks.



Place all the pumpkin in a large bowl, or back in the cooking pot.  Use an immersion blenders to puree the pumpkin.  If you don’t have one of these tools (which I highly recommend owning), you can also put some muscle into a potato masher or ricer.

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Please share with me the recipes you’ll be using with Fresh Pumpkin!

Posted in Fall/Autumn, Kitchen Tips, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Trekking to Advice: What my younger self needed to know.

As part of the DC Ladies Blogtober challenge, I’ve undertaken a commitment to Blog/Tweet/Instagram each day according to the direction provided by the Ladies.  Today was truly an interesting one for me contemplate:

What is one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

I instinctively thought about my mother’s constant advice to me, which was “Always Wear Good Underwear.”  But really, who in their right mind doesn’t do that?  Its like my dad reminding me to wear my seat belt, or to put on a jacket when its cold outside.  I think I did pretty good with these things without having to be reminded of them.

Then my mind shifted to my younger, safer self.  While I pushed a few boundaries, I generally did what was expected of me:  went to my family’s favorite college only a few hours from home, majored in consistent field, and took a comfortable job with the federal government.  Sure, life was pretty consistent and safe, but too predictable.

Opportunity hit me in 2004.  The safe and cushy government job asked for volunteers to deploy to Iraq.  After contemplating my grandfather’s WWII service, and a little self assessment, I decided it was something I had to do.  That first taste of the unexpected set me up for a lifetime adventure.

After that, I took vacations by myself, went on 6 or 7 more deployments, and went skydiving.  I think my craziest adventure was planning an entire wedding in 3 weeks.  Needless to say, its all turned out pretty well.  So, to the younger me, and all young women:

Day4 challenge

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Trek to my Fall Bucket List

Finally, I’ve turned the calendar to October.   I can now officially recognize the fact Autumn is here.  I know this sounds pretty mundane, given that Fall is an annual occurrence.  But for me, this year is special.

For the first time in many years, I will not be deploying to a war-zone during Fall.  In their wisdom, the powers that be have historically chosen me to spend so many of my Autumns in a dusty Middle Eastern desert.  I’ve missed out on all the wonder of changing leaves, cool breezes, corn mazes, and pumpkin spice lattes.  So this year is pretty special for me, as I have a lot of Autumn to make up for the last few years.


What I Want to Accomplish this Autumn (ie:  The Fall Bucket List)

Finish the Army 10 Miler:  This is my first and foremost MUST.  The #ArmyTenMiler is a well-organized and motivating race featuring some of the military’s best athletes, wounded warriors…..and me!  A few years ago, my husband and I finished it in under 2 hours, which I consider a huge accomplish for me.  We are signed up, and ready to tackle this run again on Sunday.

Use Whole Pumpkins:  There is nothing like the flavor fresh Pumpkin gives to pies, cakes, breads and soups.  While this is definitely more laborious, its worth the effort.  Plus, I’ll have Pumpkin Seeds available for roasting. (Stay tuned for a blog post on breaking down whole pumpkins).


Go Apple Picking:  In addition to pumpkin, Apples are my other go-to fall flavor.  The bargains I can get right at the source make it much easy to justify the apple strudels and pies I’ll eat all season.

Canning and Preserving:  Every year at Christmas I give friends and family a variety of homemade canned goods.  These include pickles, applesauce, cranberry sauce, and a variety of salsas.  I want to keep up this tradition, and try a few additional care package add-ins, like homemade granola and a few cookies.



Have a GREAT Thanksgiving:  This is specially important to me, as we are hosting a foreign exchange student from Germany.  Thanksgivieng is one of the truly Americans holidays our student has never experienced.  I want her to understand the origins of the holiday, stuff herself silly on the traditional feast, laugh at the parades, and be confused by American football.

I think I’ve set myself up with some great (and obtainable) goals this Autumn.  Although there are many more things I want to accomplish, I really just want to enjoy the season.  What else is on your list!?!

Posted in Fall/Autumn, Musings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Trek to Oktoberfest: Bavarian Schnitzel

Oktoberfest.  The annual German event celebrating the Autumn tapping of the previous Spring’s märzen beer brew.  Many images come to mind when one thinks of Oktoberfest; beer is usually the first on any list.  For me, I love the sight of little girls in dirndl dresses, and grown men in short-pant lederhosen.  And as a good German girl myself, married to a proud Bavarian, the bright blue diamond flag of Bavaria is the trademark I recognize most.

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While Munich hosts THE Oktoberfest for the planet, many communities throughout Germany and more, host their own version of the fall festivities.  While no other can be quite like the one in the Bavarian capital, its easy to enjoy the celebrations publicly or privately.

Beer, yes real Munich märzen beer, is the foundation for any individual’s homage to Oktoberfest.  But food also plays a large role. Food musts include giant Pretzels, white sausage (Weisswurst) and lots of sweet, grainy mustard.  A great addition to any Oktoberfest menu should include piles of chicken schnitzel.

Hähnchenschnitzel (Chicken Cutlets)

Special Tools:  Mallet, Large Frying Pan

Time Needed:  20 minutes


  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts or Tenderloins
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Fondor (German chicken flavoring, optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lemon Wedges


Chicken Preparation

Chicken Breasts are the traditional cut used in schnitzel, but I find boneless, skinless Chicken Tenderloins are an easier piece to work with.  Trim the fat from the Chicken and place in a large plaster zipper bag (Ziploc).  Leave enough spare room in the bag.  Then use the mallet (flat-side) to pound the Chicken in flat, even pieces, about 1/4 inch thick.


The Breading Line

What makes schnitzel….schnitzel, is the crispy breadcrumb coating.  This similar procedure can easily also be adapted to eggplant parmesan or chicken fried steak.  The key is setting up each breading station.  Coat or dip the chicken (using a fork or tongs is easiest) in each station.  As you move from one station to another, shake off the excess.  When you are completed with each piece of Chicken, set it aside on another plate.

  • Plate/Bowl 1:  Flour, Salt, and PepperIMG_0427
  • Bowl 2:  Egg and 1-2 tablespoons Water, beaten with a forkIMG_0430
  • Plate/Bowl 3: Panko Breadcrumbs, Fondor, Paprika, Salt and Pepper 010c694a38483898a85dacff832f060e25d6807f0f

Heat the large pan on Medium-High.  Add Oil and Butter and heat for 1-2 minutes.IMG_0426

Add the breaded Chicken carefully to the hot oil.  Make sure the chicken is evenly spaced in one layer.014201329608e8d4ded92f00eb00c0efb6d3ae1b1f

When the edges of the chicken begin to brown, carefully turn the chicken over.  This should take 3-4 minutes for each side.01555e1539406d6ac0d0e8b3b317b400aff44c22da

When the chicken has finished, place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Serve hot and garnish with lemon wedges.  The acid from the lemon cuts the buttery flavor of the breading.IMG_0417

Great Bavarian Chicken Schnitzel will definitely up-your-game for a personal Oktoberfest celebration.  Plus, its pretty good the rest of the year with some French Fries or homemade Spaetzle.

As for the other versions of Schnitzel, this recipe is easily adaptable to classic Wiener Schnitzel (Vienna style made with Veal cutlet) or the common Schweine Schnitzel (made with Pork Loin or Chops).

Posted in Chicken, German, Holidays, Oktoberfest, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trek to Fresh Summer: Peach Cobbler

Cobbler, Crisp, and Crumble.  Much like hoagies, heroes and subs, we all have our own label for this fresh-fruit baked good.  Technically they each have a slightly different twist.  Cobblers have a biscuit-type dough, while crisps may have an oatmeal crust topping.   I won’t even get into Brown Bettys, Buckles, and Sonkers.  Regardless, I’ve always called mine cobbler.

As summer is ending, so is peach season here on the East Coast.  What better time than to share my version of a Peach Cobbler.  So get yourself down to the Farmer’s Market and grab a bagful of local peaches.  This Peach Cobbler-Crisp-Crumble recipe is sure to make every type happy.


Fresh Peach Cobbler (or Crisp!)

Special Tools:  Baking Pan, MicroPlane (Zester), Peeler

Time Needed:  45 minutes


  • Filling
    • 4-5 large Peaches
    • 1/2 cup Blueberries
    • 1/2 Lemon (Zest and Juice)
    • 1/2 cup Sugar
    • 2 tablespoon Flour
    • 1/2 tablespoon Cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Topping
    • 2 cups Oats (rolled, old-fashioned)
    • 1/2 cup, packed light Brown Sugar
    • 2 tablespoon Flour
    • 1/2 tablespoon Cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
    • 1/2 stick of Butter, melted
    • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

Pre-Heat Oven to 375 degrees.



Peach Prep

Halve the Peaches with a sharp knife, and remove the pits.  Once the Peaches are cut, it is much easier to remove the skin with a common potato peeler.  Finally, slice the Peaches thinly and place in a large mixing bowl.

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Add to the Peach bowl the Blueberries, the Lemon Zest (using the microplane grater) the Lemon Juice, and the rest of the “Filling” ingredients.  Again, use the microplane to grate the Nutmeg.  Gently stir the Peach mixture.

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Evenly spread out the Peach Filling mixture in a Baking Pan; I use a square 8 inch x 8 inch pan.IMG_0396

To prepare the “Topping”, gently mix all of the dry ingredients, minus the butter.  Once mixed thoroughly, incorporate the melted butter.



Evenly spread the “Topping” mixture over the Peaches in the baking pan, and gently press the “Topping” with the back of a spoon.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  You will see the top brown and the fruit begin to bubble.  Let cool for a few minutes.

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Once you see the fruit bubble, you won’t wait long before digging in.  I prefer the comfort of a big bowl of Peach Cobbler with a scoop (or maybe two) of Vanilla Ice Cream.


Posted in Desserts, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment