Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Pumpkin Shortage


On a recent trip to Buffalo, NY, I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up some Lakeshore Pumpkin (I've only ever been able to find it in Buffalo!). I looked in the baking aisle and the vegetable aisles, only to find a complete lack of any canned pumpkin - at all! I stopped at the service desk to inquire about the missing pumpkin and was told that due to droughts, this year's pumpkin crop was almost non-existent. Go figure.

Last year the crop, I believe mostly grown in IL, was wiped out by heavy rains, and this year the crop was obliterated by the high heat and humidity. I feel bad for all those little pumpkins, the poor things never had a chance. This summer, at least here in the northeast, was one of the worst, in terms of heat and humidity, that I have ever experienced. It took it's toll on me, as well as the little pumpkins. I lost a lot of muscle tone, as I was not able to do much exercising outdoors and could not exert myself that much due to my pregnancy. So I feel for those pumpkins - they really didn't have a chance :(

On our way home from Buffalo we (Mom and I) stopped at Spoth Farms on County Road in Clarence and picked up a few pie pumpkins to cook and puree ourselves. Below you will find instructions on how to make your own pumpkin puree this season. I have yet to try my pumpkin as it has been too hot, still, to bake much here - but I am very much looking forward to tasting our little buffalo pumpkins in some cookies and muffins as soon as the weather cools down. I've been told that baking and pureeing your own pumpkin is much better than the canned stuff, but I'm a skeptic still - hopefully all the experts are right.

One last thing to keep in mind when setting out on this project. Keep in mind that not all pumpkins are meant for eating. Jack-o-lanterns are meant for carving, and fun things like that, but are not the ideal, sweet pumpkins meant for eating. When at the grocers or farmer's market, ask for a pie pumpkin, or a sugar pumpkin. They are typically smaller than you average jack-o-lantern, and a darker orange, in color. Also, they are not as small as gourds, so don't make that mistake - think somewhere in between a gourd and a jack-o-lantern. I'll try and follow this article up with a review of my own pumpkin, as soon as it cools down and I can make some yummy treats!

1 small pie pumpkin
A few cups of water
An oven-safe baking dish

Clean pumpkin with warm water, do not use soap.

Cut pumpkin in half and spoon out insides (seeds and stringy stuff). Cut off stem. Cut pumpkin in large chunks. Place chunks of pumpkin in baking dish and add a few cups of water (I added 3-4). Cover with tin foil. Bake at 375 for about an hour. Remove baking dish from oven and remove tin foil and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Peel, or gently slice off the dark pumpkin skin. Add chunks to blender or food processor and puree. Mixture can be frozen in ziplock bags until ready for use. Do not attempt to can, as home canning has not been found to be safe, according to my research.

A Baby Shower at Needmore Farm, Wilson, NY

On September 11th I had the opportunity to be in Buffalo with most of my family and friends to celebrate our soon-to-be newest family member, Michael.

The shower was held at the lovely farm of a long-time family friend at Needmore Farm in Wilson, NY. One of my favorite things to do when I am back home in Buffalo, is to go and visit our friends at the farm. It was certainly a special time for me; especially considering our history.

We met our friends while I was singing at St. Paul's Cathedral, in downtown Buffalo, about 21 years ago. I was about 7 when we first met Maureen, and her daughter Allison - also a singer at St. Paul's. When I was preparing to make my first communion at Sts. Peter and Paul in Williamsville, NY, Maureen made my dress and veil. 19 years later, I was honored when Maureen agreed to make my wedding dress. So, when Maureen offered to throw a baby shower in honor of our newest addition, I was more than thrilled. 21 years is a long time - and I find myself very lucky to have Maureen and Allison as friends.

The event was wonderful and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. We ate chicken salad sandwiches on fresh biscuits, and cucumber sandwiches as well. Fresh pasta salad, made with farm fresh produce was one of my favorite items on the menu. Delicious desserts were to be had as well, including lemon cakes, and cupcakes, and an adorable yellow ducky cake that Maureen had made the evening before.

All sorts of wonderful presents were given to Michael, and he is certainly a lucky little boy! I had been trying to control my spending before the shower, as I knew I would receive many gifts - so I only had purchased about 5 outfits (although my loving husband did not do such a good job controlling his "gifting" and purchased the crib, changing table and stroller, amongst other things, before the shower). However, I never realized that the outpouring of generosity would be so great! We received LOADS (or rather one VERY LARGE car load) of gifts for our little one. I cannot possibly list all of the wonderful things we received, but I am sure in coming months many of them will be pictured with baby Michael, so stay tuned!

While the presents were a wonderful part of the shower, the very best memory I have of this special day, is being able to spend time with, and see most of my family - especially those whom don't get to spend much time with, and ones who traveled great distances to attend the shower. Every day, not just the day of the shower, I find myself very blessed to have such a lovely family. I know that some families are not very close, and allow distances to come between their relationships. I'm very fortunate that this is not the case with my family, and am very grateful for such fortune.

When Mom and I arrived back in Brooklyn, we had some help from my husband in unloading our packed car. He was more than happy to help, and I was so happy to see him after being away for 2 weeks! We spent the evening showing my Mother-in-law all of our gifts and, regardless of the language barrier between us, I know she was so happy with all the lovely gifts, and happy to have us back home.

It was sad when I had to put my Mom back on an airplane to England, and I loved having her here with me - I wish we did not live so far away from each other. But, it was a wonderful time that we were able to spend with one another and I am very thankful for that time. In just a few short months she and Jim will be back for the arrival of our little guy, and we just can't wait! Soon thereafter, my sister will arrive with her boyfriend, and my brother and his girlfriend - the soon-to-be Godparents of our little one! We are counting down the short months until everyone is together again.