Calabaza Squash Pie (with homemade evaporated milk)

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I know I tend to talk about my Sunday cooking sprees but I don’t want to give the impression that Sunday is the only day I cook. I find right now that all my free time is spent either cooking or looking at recipes. Whereas before I tended to read books now I cook and if I am reading it tends to have some relation to food. For example, I just today finished reading “Under the Tuscan Sun.” It’s about a woman remodeling an old Tuscan villa and her experiences building and exploring the cuisine in a foreign country. Hmm, wonder why that appealed to me. I think it probably inspired me to make the No Knead 5 Minute Rosemary Artisan Bread that is rising right now. Probably the herb infused Olive Oils I plan to start when I finish this blog.

However this blog post is not about Rosemary Bread or Infused Oils. Nor is about the cheese I made yesterday. (I finally got some milk fresh from a cow and made some Queso Blanco- a vinegar cheese common in Central America.) I’ll save cheese making posts for another day. Today is about Squash Pie. So down here they have all kinds of crazy squash. I’ve mentioned this before in my posts about pumpkin and other side dishes I’ve made. One of the squash we have here is Calabaza. It looks a lot like a Butternut Squash but bigger. Tastes a lot the same too. The big difference is that the skin is much harder to cut on a Calabaza. Anyway, I roasted some the other night with a Rum Balsamic Glaze- super yummy, but I still had over half the squash left. So I decided to turn it into Squash Pie.

This Squash Pie was a bit bigger of an under taking than I initially expected. First I had to roast half the squash. I did that earlier in the week and it had been taking up space in my fridge for a couple of days. So yesterday I finally made the pie. Unfortunately the only recipe I had open on my computer yesterday (and the internet wasn’t working) required evaporated milk. Having just completed my first cheese making experience I dove right in to evaporating the milk. That took a bit longer than I anticipated. I also had to puree the roasted squash which I accomplished, despite the erratic power outages, with my trusty immersion blender. There is also the pie crust, which is always a pain in climate this hot. In the end the squash pie was made. And it’s super yummy. The recipe I used is calls for butternut squash, so it would be a great alternative to pumpkin pie for the holidays if you can’t find a pie pumpkin (I never managed in the states) and don’t want to use canned pumpkin puree. I’ll also include how to make evaporated milk so you don’t have to buy the can stuff of that either. I figure if you’re cooking “from scratch” it should be from scratch. Can’t wait till the squash come from my garden. Hopefully next year.

Evaporated Milk

For 3/4 cup evaporated milk slowly simmer 2 cups of milk of low heat using care not to scald the milk. Stir continuously to prevent the milk from burning to the pan. Takes approximately 30-45 minutes. Canned evaporated milk has had 60 % of the liquid evaporated.

Basic Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 stick (1/2 c) frozen butter

1/4 ice water

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in frozen butter with pastry cutter. When mixture resembles small peas slowly add water 1 TBSP at a time mixing until mixture forms a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes or over night. Make one 9 inch pie crust. Double recipe for a closed crust pie.

Calabaza Squash Pie

(adapted from About.com Southern Food)

1 9 inch Basic Pie Crust

1 1/2 c Pureed Calabaza Squash (Roast Squash at 450 degrees for 45 min – 1 hour, puree when cool)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

3/4 evaporated milk

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger

2 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat pureed squash and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, spices, butter and vanilla and beat until well blended. Pour into chilled pie crust and bake 45-55 minutes until filing is set.

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I recently got my hands on a loaf pan and I have been dying to use it. I’ve had for about a week and a half now and haven’t had the time to do any serious baking since I bought it. In fact the only time I’ve used it so far is with some left over batter from some Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes I made using my Pumpkin Puree. ¬†Let me tell you that was delicious. Anyway, this week has been a nightmare of transportation problem and I just haven’t had the time (or gas for my stove) to do much cooking. However, knowing that our car won’t be fixed before Monday at the earliest, Friday we stocked up on lot’s of fruit and vegetables and all the stuff we’d need to get through the weekend without leaving the house. I might have been a little over zealous in my shopping. I’ve had a bunch of bananas sitting around for a few days now. We’ve eaten a few but they’ve begun attracting the fruit flies. Perfect for making banana bread, which is also super easy. And seeing as we planted over 50 banana trees on the property I figure I will need something to do with all those bananas.

Banana Bread

3-4 Bananas (I used 6 Bananitas they are much smaller than the standard stateside banana)

80 g butter melted

3/4 – 1 cup of sugar

1 egg beaten

1 TBSP rum

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 c flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash bananas leaving some chunks. Melt butter. In large bowl combined mashed bananas and melted butter. Cream in sugar. Add beaten egg, rum and spices. In med bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir with wooden spoon until mixed well. Pour into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour or until skewer comes clean.

Book Review- Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

So lately when I’m not cooking I’m reading about food. Sometimes I’m reading other food blogs, hunting down a specific recipe and other times I’m reading books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan about food politics. I’ve certainly learned a lot about food, where it comes from, how it’s grown and how it should be grown. All of these things influence the current course that I’m on in my life. It influences where I choose to live and how I plan on living that life. I have to say, in general while I’ll read just about anything I’m not the kind of girl who can sit down and read a cookbook. Maybe I’ll read the table of contents, possibly the introduction to each chapter but certainly not the cookbook.

When I say I sat down the other day and read the entirety of “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” it is no exaggeration. Ok, to be honest maybe I skimmed some of the the recipes but I did read the book. Which I don’t normally do with a cookbook. However, this is not just a cookbook. Reese examines whether or not you should make or buy many traditional comfort foods. Not only does she do a cost analysis on which is cheaper homemade or store bought (almost all things are cheaper to make), she also gives a fair run down of the hassle involved. This is perhaps where it differed from your ordinary cookbook. I felt there was a bit of narrative. You really get the feel of how her knowledge increased as she experiments with making different foods and going so far as to raise her own chickens, ducks, goats etc.

Reese has a great sense of humor and it really comes through in her tales of animal husbandry. I particularly enjoyed her Thanksgiving turkey experiment. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a cookbook that had a cast of characters both human and animal with such strong personalities. Heck, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a cookbook with characters period. By the end of the book I felt that I had been allowed a small glimpse into her home and her family. And she shares not only her successes but also her failures with a refreshing honesty different from the ordinary food blogs out there that present everything as easy.

So, anyway- if you have an interest in cooking from scratch I highly recommend this book. I can’t say I’ve tried any of her recipes but her experience make me feel less alone in my quest to do it all by hand.

You can order the book from Amazon.com.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should (and Shouldn't!) Cook from Scratch to Save Time and Money