Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (and how to make a Jack o’Lantern)

roasted pumpkin seedsIt’s almost Halloween. Have you carved your pumpkin yet?

The ghosties and goblins are gearing up, the witches are stirring their bubbling brew, and the jack o’ lanterns are grinning their crazy grins.

Our pumpkins are rarin’ and ready to go. That little skiff of snow on the ground won’t stop them – their grins may just be more spookily devilish, and of course the ghosties will camouflage in all that misty white stuff when the night of fright rolls around.

We’re rarin’ and ready to go, too.

On Sunday we hosted a proper Punkin Carving Party – complete with gingered pumpkin soup and a slew of pumpkin party desserts.

roasted spiced pumpkin seedsI tell you – all hands were busy and pumpkin guts were flying.

spicy roasted pumpkin seeds

roasted spicy pumpkin seeds

with 4 big bowls like this full of ‘pumpkin guts’ the pickin’s were good for roasted pumpkin seeds

And when you have pumpkin guts . . . you have pumpkin seeds . . . and when you have pumpkin seeds . . . you have to drizzle ‘em with oil, sprinkle ‘em with salt, and roast ‘em until they are crackly and crunchy and irresistible . . .

Roasted Spiced Pumpkin SeedsRoasted pumpkin seeds are that once-a-year reward for our pumpkin-carving efforts. We eagerly wait for them every October. It takes a bit of patience to pick the seeds out of the pumpkin ‘guts’, but it is so worth the effort.

They’re wonderful when they’re still slightly warm from the oven, either just lightly salted or with a hint of spice.

* * * * *

how to roast pumpkin seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

For every cup of pumpkin seeds you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika – regular, smoked mild, or smoked hot (optional)

Carve your pumpkin – see below.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Pick the pumpkin seeds out of the stringy bits you’ve scraped from the inside of the pumpkin. There’s no need to rinse them or meticulously pick off every bit of pumpkin flesh. Just remove any small, flat, undeveloped seeds and all the big stringy bits – the little stringy bits caramelize as they bake and add extra pumpkin flavour to your seeds. Don’t wash that goodness off.

Measure your seeds. Dump them onto a cookie sheet. For every cup of seeds, drizzle them with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the onion powder and/or paprika if using them. Use two spatulas or wooden spoons to toss the seeds so they are evenly coated with the oil. Spread them out into a roughly even layer.

sprinkle the pumpkin seeds with the spicesBake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring them every 10 minutes. When the bits of pumpkin stuck to the seeds turn a deep golden brown, the seeds are done. They will go quickly from golden brown to ‘oops – too dark’ so start watching them carefully around the 25 minute mark. If your oven runs hot, check them even earlier.

Let cool in the pan. You will hear small crackling sounds as the seeds cool.

* * * * *

how to carve a pumpkin into a jack o'lantern

How to Carve a Pumpkin to Make a Jack o’Lantern

It’s called a pumpkin until it’s carved – then it becomes a Jack o’Lantern – woooooo hoooo, wooooooo hoooo. . . .

Cut a circle (smooth or zig-zag in shape) into the top of the pumpkin, around the stem. Using the stem as a handle, pull out the cap you’ve just carved. Scrape any stringy bits off the inside of the cap with a large metal spoon.

Cut a notch out of the back side of the cap’s edge so you have a ‘chimney hole’ to vent the smoke when you put a candle into the jack o’lantern.

Scrape the seeds and stringy bits from the inside of the pumpkin using the spoon. Scrape right down to the pumpkin flesh to make a smooth interior. Save the the pumpkin ‘guts’ in a bowl so you can pick out the seeds to roast later.

Turn the pumpkin around to find the side of the pumpkin which ‘speaks’ to you and will lend itself best to the face or picture you’d like to carve. Use a small, sharp paring knife to cut out pieces to make eye, nose and mouth shapes for either a spooky or silly face. Triangles for eyes and nose are traditional, with either a zig-zag style of mouth or a toothy grin or frown.

You can also draw a design onto a piece of paper, tape it in place on the pumpkin, and use a toothpick, skewer, or darning needle to poke small holes through the paper all along the lines of your design to transfer it to the pumpkin. Then remove the paper and cut along the dotted lines you’ve created to carve your design into the pumpkin.

Remove the pieces you’ve cut. You can also just carve out bits of the skin, letting the pumpkin flesh show, to make lighter areas.

Place a lit tealight or short thick candle inside, and replace the lid.

Turn out the lights to see your spooky creation!

how to carve a pumpkin into a jack o'lantern

 Happy Carving and Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Gingered Pumpkin Soup with Creamy Crunchy Toppings

Healthy Fudge with a Wicked Alias

Pumpkin Pie Granola and How to Bake a Pumpkin

how to carve a pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds

it wasn’t long before the wet stuff on the pumpkins outside turned to white stuff on the pumpkins

Posted in Grains & Seeds, How-to-Basics, Miscellaneous, Snacks, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Versunkener Apfel Kuchen (German Sunken Apple Cake)

versunkener apfelkuchen, sunken apple cakeWhen you grow up in a German household on a Canadian prairie farm, daily coffee time is a non-negotiable ritual.

And there is usually cake involved. . .

. . . or homemade doughnuts, or cookies, or even a slice of rye bread with a thick slathering of homemade butter and honey.

Every day at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm sharp, dad came in from wherever he was working on the farm to have a cup of coffee with something sweet. Seeding time and harvest time were the only two times a year when this ritual wasn’t followed. Then usually, mom would deliver coffee to the field wherever dad was working, and he’d stop, leaving the tractor running, and have his coffee and cake sitting on the side of the seeder or combine.

You also knew that if you needed to contact a neighbour, you could drop in to any farm home on the Canadian praires at either the morning or afternoon coffee time and you would find the farmer having coffee, or at least ready to take a short break from the sun-up to sun-down farm chores. In the winter, we’d often come home off the bus to find mom and dad sitting at the table having coffee with one of the neighbours that had stopped by.

Life had a predictable rhythm and socializing was an important part of that.

We kids didn’t drink coffee (and weren’t interested in sitting around and visiting) so we weren’t involved in the daily coffee time, but the coffee-time cake was always available on the counter for us to cut a big slab off.

versunkener apfelkuchen, sunken apple cakeThe cakes varied, often a yeast-dough-based fruit streusel kuchen, sometimes a variety of German cheesecake, other times flaky poppyseed, nut, or apple strudels, and always delicious. My mom baked without recipes, using feel, smell and look.

When I saw the recipe for Versunkener Apfel Kuchen on the smitten kitchen blog, it brought me right back to the cakes of my childhood. We had just never had a proper name for them, calling them simply ‘Apfel Kuchen‘ (apple cake) if they involved apples. One of my German cookbooks also calls this cake ‘Geschlupfter Apfelkuchen’ (slipped apple cake). Whichever name you go by, it is wonderfully, simply, delicious. The apples, which have sunken partially into the cake, create pockets of tangy, saucy apple melting into the slightly sweet and dense cake batter – totally comforting (almost wholesome as far as cakes go!).

A bite of this cake makes me want to bring back the coffee time ritual (though it’s mighty fine with a good hot cup of tea, too). I’ve made it numerous times in the last few weeks, tweaking the recipe til it’s juuuuuust right – and each time the cake has disappeared from the counter by the end of the day. Even the ‘in progress’ versions were greedily gobbled up.

I tell you, there is definitely something special and very I need another piece about this cake. Dress it up with a snowdrift of icing sugar and it is special enough for company, or cut big slabs of it to pack in lunches or munch on as an after-school snack. The honey and applesauce help keep it moist for days – if it lasts that long!

versunkener apfelkuchen, sunken apple cakeKitchen Frau Notes: I’ve taken some liberties with this gluten-free version of the cake, using ground golden flax and water instead of eggs, adding applesauce and extra leavening to compensate for the heavier flours, and using apple cider vinegar to coat the apples for an extra layer of apple flavour.

The ground flax gives the cake the structure it needs when using gluten-free flours. Regular brown flax can be substituted for the golden flax seeds.

I’ve also made it with ¾ cup (100gms) oat flour instead of the buckwheat flour and it has turned out beautifully.

If you’d rather make the wheat flour and egg version, check out the link below.

versunkenr apfelkuchen, sunken apple cake

‘Versunkener Apfel Kuchen’ (German Sunken Apple Cake)

adapted from smitten kitchen blog and ‘Die echte deutsche Küche’ cookbook (by Sabine Sälzer and Gudrun Ruschitzka

gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

For the apples:

  • 1 tablespoon liquid honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 to 5 small apples (about 1 lb/450gms)

For the cake:

  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (140ml) warm water
  • 7 tablespoons (50gms) ground golden flax seeds
  • ½ cup (113grams) coconut oil or butter (use coconut oil for dairy-free)
  • ½ cup (180gms) liquid honey
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120gms) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons  (100 grams) light buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup (50gms) hazelnut or almond flour/meal
  • ¼ cup (40gms) tapioca starch or cornstarch

In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water and ground flax seeds. Set aside to gel.

Whisk together the 1 tablespoon honey and the apple cider vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Peel the apples, halve them, halve them and cut out the cores. Lay each half flat in your hand and with a paring knife, make shallow cuts close together across the whole half. I find that rocking the paring knife from top to bottom gives me more control so I don’t cut the apples right through (but no problem if you do – you can fit them back together when you place them on the cake). Move each apple half around in the vinegar mixture to coat all sides of it so it doesn’t discolour. Set the bowl of apples aside.

versunker apfelkuchen, sunken apple cakePreheat the oven to 350°.

Line a 9 inch springform pan with a circle cut to fit out of parchment paper and grease the sides and paper with cooking oil spray, butter, or coconut oil.

Cream the coconut oil or butter with the honey. Add the vanilla, applesauce and flax gel. Beat until combined.

Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix slowly to keep the starch from flying into the air. Beat until you have a smooth batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the cut apples on the top, pressing them down slightly into the batter.  Drizzle with the honey/vinegar mixture remaining in the bowl.

versunkener apfelkuchen,  sunken apple cakeversunkener apfelkuchen, sunken apple cake

Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springs back when touched in the middle.

Let cool in the pan, remove the sides and sprinkle with a lovely drift of icing sugar if you like (place the icing sugar in a small sieve and hold it over the cake, scraping the sugar gently with a spoon).

versunkener apfelkuchen, sunken apple cake

Serves 8

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Apple Buckwheat Crumble Cake

Apple or Rhubarb Crisp

The Great Baked Apple Experiment (and Two Delicious Fillings)

Luscious Lemon, Almond Flour and Olive Oil Cake

versunkener apfelkuchen

there are still a few sweet and crisp apples left on our ‘Red Sparkler’ apple tree

Posted in Cakes, German Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Kale Salad with Cranberries, Pear, and Sesame Seeds

Fruity, Tangy Kale Salad

Most of our garden is looking pretty sad and spent, but the kale is hanging in there with glorious gusto.

It’s standing tall and bright and vibrantly green. Those crinkly leaves have not let cantankerous old Mother Nature get the best of them. An early September snowstorm and several killing frosts did nothing but strengthen its resolve to be more vigourously green and ‘kaley’ than ever.

kale salad

Kale’s got spunk.

And that spunk translates to some wonderful robust salads. Raymond’s favourite salad is kale, and I make many different versions, but this simple fruity one is a regular in the kale-salad-rotation.

I have found two little tricks that really make my kale salads shine: I cut the kale into fine grass-like ribbons, and massage the heck out of it with oil before adding the dressing and other ingredients. The massaging process softens the kale, but doesn’t take away its texture – just makes it much easier to eat than trying to chow down on big leathery chunks of leaves. Try it this way and you may make kale-lovers out of your family, too. (Or try light and crispy kale chips!)

The heft and strong flavour of über-healthy kale is balanced beautifully with the tang of dried cranberries and juicy pears. Toasted sesame seeds add a lovely crunch, and red onions add the zip. . .

kale salad with a fruity zipI think I need to get me a passel o’ them thar greens!

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I like to prepare my kale ahead of time and have it ready in the fridge, especially when using garden kale because it can have a bit of dirt or friendly little critters hiding in the leaves. I tear the leaves off the the thick central stems, then submerge them in a sink of cold water and swish them around well. Store-bought kale can usually just be rinsed well under cold running water, then torn off the stems. I shake off the excess water, then lay the torn leaves in a roughly single layer onto a clean dry tea towel. I roll up the towel tightly, then put it into a plastic bag in the fridge overnight. The towel absorbs much of the water off the kale, and it doesn’t need much drying.

kale salad with cranberries and pear, how to wash and dry the kaleTo toast sesame seeds, place them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often. In 5 to 10 minutes they should be turning golden brown and fragrant. You can also buy ready-toasted sesame seeds at most bulk food stores.

This is the place to use one of those lovely, nutty, specialty oils you’ve been saving, since kale’s robust flavour stands up well to a strong-flavoured oil. If not, a good extra-virgin olive oil will also do well here.

kale salad with cranberries, pear, and sesame seeds

Kale Salad with Cranberries and Pears

  • 1 bunch kale (5 – 6 large leaves)
  • 3 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil (or a good extra-virgin olive oil)
  • ¼ of a small red onion (about ¼ cup thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup (35gms) dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 pear
  • 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • a sprinkling of coarse ground pepper

Tear the kale leaves from the coarse middle stems. Wash them and pat them dry, or spin in a salad spinner (or dry in a tea towel overnight as in the Notes, above).

Stack a handful of torn kale leaves on top of each other and roll up into a cylinder. With a sharp knife, chiffonade them – which is a fancy word for cutting them in very thin slices to form ribbons.

how to chiffonade the kale for kale salad

chiffonade of kale for kale salad with cranberries and pear

doesn’t it look like a pretty bowl full of Easter grass?

Place the chiffonade of kale into a large wide bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Get the bottle of dish soap out onto the counter, or have a sink with soapy water ready, because once you have oily, kale-speckled hands you don’t want to be decorating your cupboard knobs with them.

Now comes the fun part! With your hands, massage the oil into the kale. Really get into it – rub it and roll it between your hands. Make it feel good. Your kale will thank you. It’ll become lovely and limber (kale won’t get all wilty on you like regular lettuce would) and much easier to eat.

Now go wash your grubby green hands.

Slice the onion very thinly – paper thin slices are what you’re after. If you have a mandoline, it’ll make it easy, but a sharp knife works, too.

Add the onions, cranberries and sesame seeds to the kale.

kale salad with cranberries, pear and ssesame seedsDice the pear into roughly half-inch (1.5cm) cubes and add them to the bowl.

kale salad with pear, cranberries and sesame seedsIn a small bowl or cup, stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the vinegar, and the salt and pepper, with a fork.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients, and toss well to coat everything – go ahead and use salad tongs this time!

Serves 4.

kale salad with cranberries, pear and sesame seeds

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Kale Chips

Eggplant, Kale, and Cannellini Bean Sort-of-Ratatouille with Poached Eggs

Poppyseed, Pomegranate, and Pear Salad

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

kale salad with cranberries, pear, and sesame seeds

it’s a beautiful autumn day


Posted in Salads & Dressings, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Cashew Milk

how to make homemade cashew milkI’ve discovered an exciting new world – and it involves a whole lot of nuttiness.

I’m talking about making my own nut milks. They are so quick and easy to make . . . dairy-free, tasty, and convenient. I’ve experimented with different nuts, but cashew milk has become my go-to, everyday, milk that’s just as good cold from the fridge with a fresh-baked warm cookie as it is stirred into tea, whizzed up in a smoothie or creamy drink, or used in pancakes, crepes, puddings, and biscuits.

A dizzying variety of commercially-produced nut, seed, or grain milks parade across store shelves lately. Many of them contain a host of unpronounceable and unnecessary ingredients, including carageenan, which you want to stay away from. And they cost a whole lot more than making your own.

There is conflicting evidence as to whether nuts need to be soaked. Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors to keep them from sprouting until they are placed into the ideal conditions for growth (like a heavy rain or damp earth, which moistens the nuts and starts the sprouting process). These enzyme inhibitors may make it harder for us to digest the nuts. Soaking them releases and removes these substances, making the nuts more digestible, taste better, and quicker to process.

Cashews are soft nuts which only need twenty minutes to two hours to soak (but can be soaked overnight for convenience, too). In a pinch, I’ve used them without soaking, and the milk only had a bit of grittiness that wasn’t even too noticeable. The milk from cashews is so much nicer than the somewhat watery, and often odd-tasting different nut and seed milks available on store shelves.

A quick soak, rinse and whirl in the blender – and you’ve got a great basic nut milk. Other kinds of nuts produce delicious results too, but need longer soaking times and either squeezing in nut bags or repeated straining to separate the nut pulp from the milk.

So, nuts for the nutty – here you are: Simple Homemade Cashew Milk. Ta-Da!!!!!!

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I have a high speed blender, so the cashew milk whizzes up to a creamy milk in a relatively short time (1 to 2 minutes). If you have a regular blender, it may take a little longer – experiment to see what works for you. (Soaking definitely helps the creaminess with a regular blender).

A ‘pinch’  means how much salt you can pick up between your thumb and index finger, usually a bit less than 1/8 of a teaspoon.

How to make homemade cashew milkHow to: Make Homemade Cashew Milk

  • 1 cup raw cashew nuts
  • 4 cups (960ml) filtered water, plus enough to cover the nuts, if soaking
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar*
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Soak the cashews: (optional, but I like to do it to make the nuts softer and the milk creamier). Place the cashews into a glass jar or bowl, cover with filtered water, then cover with a lid or towel, and leave to soak for 2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. Even a 20 minute-soak is better than no-soak. You will often see the drier nuts floating at the top of the soaking liquid.

Drain the nuts, and rinse them well in a strainer under running water.

soaking the nuts for homemade cashew milkrinsing and draining the nuts for homemade cashew milk

Place into a blender, add 4 cups of filtered water, the sweetener of choice, and pinch of salt.

*If making the cashew milk for use in a savoury recipe, you can omit the sweetener altogether. If using the milk for drinking, I find a bit of sweetener makes it taste more like regular dairy milk, since dairy milk has a slight sweetness from the natural milk sugars.

cashews in the blender for homemade cashew nut milkwhipped up cashew nut milk in the blender

Whiz in the blender until smooth and frothy, anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. If you are using a regular blender and there seems to be a bit of grit in the milk, pour the milk through a fine mesh strainer or clean muslin or tea towel to separate out any bits of nut pulp.

Pour into a container, cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. Shake or stir before using.

Makes about 4½ cups (1 generous litre)

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Banana Milk

Nutty Monkey Smoothie

A Trio of Warm Milks to Curl Up With

Baked Oatmeal



Posted in Dairy-free, Drinks, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chicken Bake with Apples, Onions, and Horseradish

fall chicken bake with apples, onions and horseradish

It’s a glorious fall day, and I feel like roasting something in the oven – something savoury and full of fall flavours.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradishautumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradishautumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Mmmm. We have onion braids drying in the garage, and the apple trees are laden with rosy-red jewels. The purple onions and sweet apples combine beautifully in this lovely fall bake. A touch of horseradish adds a tangy counterpart, and the tender chicken and fluffy rice soak up the delicious juices.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradishautumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

It’s a perfect meal baked together in one pan.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

And I think the day is still warm enough to eat supper out on the deck!

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: I use prepared horseradish in this dish. If you can only find creamed horseradish you could substitute it, but the recipe would no longer be dairy-free. Prepared horseradish can be found in the condiment aisle of the grocery store.

And of course, white onions would work equally well here – they just wouldn’t look as pretty.

I use converted, or par-boiled, rice here as it keeps its shape much better than regular rice during baking or long slow cooking. Converted rice is actually healthier than regular white rice. It contains 80% of the nutrients found in brown rice, because the par-boiling drives the nutrients from the bran into the rice kernel before milling. Plus, the texture is much nicer – the rice grains stay separate and don’t get mushy.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Autumn Chicken Bake with Apples, Onions, and Horseradish

  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 kg (2.2lbs) chicken thighs with skin-on and bone-in (6-8 thighs)
  • salt  (about 1 teaspoon total)
  • pepper
  • 3 medium red onions
  • 2 medium apples
  • ¼ cup (60ml) prepared horseradish, from a jar
  • 1 cup (190gms) converted (par-boiled) rice
  • 2 cups (480ml) water

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Liberally sprinkle the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Saute in the oil, skin-side-down first (to release the fat in the skin) til golden brown, about 6-8 minutes per side.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

While the chicken is browning, cut the onions into wedges and the apples into 1 inch (2cm) chunks.

Remove the chicken thighs and arrange them in a 9×13 inch pan. Drizzle with the drippings remaining in the skillet (that’s where all the umami flavour is). Use a rubber spatula to get out every last delicious bit. (You can strain the drippings through a small strainer if you don’t want the chunky bits.)

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

don’t waste the precious, flavour-loaded pan drippings

Tuck the onion wedges, cut-side-down, around the chicken thighs. Tuck the apple chunks, also cut-side-down, in the remaining spaces. Sprinkle with more salt, to taste.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradishautumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Dollop the horseradish in small spoonfuls over the meat, apples and onions. Sprinkle the rice evenly over everything, then pour in the water.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradishautumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Cover the dish tightly with foil.

Bake for 1½ hours, or until all the water has been absorbed by the rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

autumn chicken bake with apples, onions, and horseradish

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Grilled Chicken with Romesco Sauce

How to Cut Up a Chicken

Butter Chicken with Scented Basmati Rice

Seared Duck Breast with Braised Apples and Cabbage


Posted in Chicken & Poultry, Dairy-free, One-Dish Meals, Rice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments