Halloween Pumpkin Carving and Recipes

I just adore Halloween. I’ve enjoyed America television and associated Americana since I was little and Halloween was always a big part of that being such a commercial event in the states. It has come over to the UK but if you’ve ever walked through an American suburb recently or even more than gone out in the evening in a city you will see the amazing array of costumes and decorated houses. My favourite experience was the town of Celebration in Orlando where they have light projections covering their entire houses showing Halloween scenes such as ghosts or bats circling the house.

 

Pumpkin flavouring is another item you cannot get away from in the states. Everything is flavoured from coffee; branded cookies through to candles and fabric softener.  I think it helps that ‘Thanks Giving’ is at a similar time of year and the tradition for Pumpkin Pie (which I find glorious) must only have help drive the desire for pumpkin flavoured things.  Pumpkin flavoured items are not very present in the UK and you really have to struggle to find anything but you do find Pumpkins for carving. The first thing I will say therefore is be careful when you buy a pumpkin. A lot of them in the UK are grown just for carving and not eating. Check the label as it normally states this in the small print. Try to find a farm to pick your pumpkin from a patch or pick up an organic one if you can. I’ve grown pumpkins in the past and will put up a guide to growing them in the next spring time as it’s so much fun.

 

So you’ve picked; grown or bought your pumpkin, how do you carve it? My advice would be to search the internet for designs that you like mean something to you. I’ve seen some great Mickey Mouse designs and it’s more interesting than just a wobbly mouth and triangle eyes.  This year I’ve been playing a game on my mobile called ‘Pokemon Go’ which has some spookily themed character so ‘Gengar’ seemed like a great idea.

 

I started my looking at a picture of what I wanted to carve and drew it in ‘Sharpie’ marker on the flatest side of my pumpkin. I coloured with lines the bits of pumpkin to cut away where the line would come through. Then using a really sharp knife I cut the top off my pumpkin. Using a metal spoon scrape the insides of the pumpkin so all the loose fibres and seeds fall in a pile at the bottom. Keep doing this and emptying the contents until you have smooth sides of pumpkin flesh inside.  Then using a small sharp knife cut the coloured pieces away leaving you design. Scrape the back of the design so you don’t get any fibrous bits hanging down in front of the light. If your pumpkin is organic you’ll have quite a lot of fleshy insides that you can scrape away and put into a bowl separately. If there isn’t much just leave it to allow the pumpkin to keep its integrity. A real word of warning though don’t leave a pumpkin with fleshy insides intact as it will rot within a couple of days and literally dissolve making a major mess.

 

For the light itself I use the cheap battery powered ones as they are much safer if you put your pumpkin in a window or anywhere near children. They also help preserve your pumpkin for much longer as the candle heat can melt the insides and help it rot faster. Trust me I learnt this the hard way when even after a week the pumpkin had dissolved to mush all over my window sill and down the wall. Also, if you use a candle and your cut outs aren’t very big put a couple of holes in the roof/top of your pumpkin to allow air in or your candle will melt the roof thus again creating a big pile of mush or the candle goes out shortly after you put it in.

 

Finally using some wet kitchen paper and some form of cleaning product like washing up liquid give the front of the pumpkin where the design is a bit of a wipe down to remove any pieces of residual marker pen.

 

And voila!! Happy Halloween!!

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But what about that pumpkin flesh… I have two things I like to do. The first is to mix it with a can of prepared pumpkin that can buy in the supermarket. This is generally a bit sweeter as it’s been canned immediately after picking. Cook the flesh for about 20 mins in a pan and then add a can of condensed milk; 2 beaten eggs, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon and some salt. Mix. Grab some pre-made short crust pastry (frozen stuff) and line a cake tin or flan/pie dish. Fill with the mixture and bake for 20 minutes at about 180 degrees. Serve with vanilla ice-cream.

 

The second thing I like to do is add the pumpkin flesh to homemade soups. Add to cauliflower or any vegetables you like in a pan with some vegetable stock and boil for about 20 minutes. Add a dash of cream; salt and pepper and blend with a blender. Perfect vegetable soup!

 

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Pizza dough base using Soy flour

This recipe came from the ‘verywell’ website when ‘Googling’ best low carb pizza dough recipes so what an advert to be at the top of those listings. Now one of the reasons I’ve put weight on is my recent trip and engagement in New York on which almost every day we ate pizza. If you ever go to New York please try the local pizza restaurant across the street from the World Trade Centre monument or there’s an immense one in Penn Station underground. Also, try a white. Now I’ didn’t know what  white was but apparently it’s just a plain cheese and tomato pizza with no tomato. It was amazing!!! I think it was more like a deluxe cheesy garlic bread but so good.

 

Ingredients

1 cup soy flour

½ cup protein powder (try Holland and Barrett or online health food shops)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

2 eggs beaten

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup water

1-2 tsp sugar substitute (use the natural ones)

 

Method:

  1. Combine spread onto a pizza plate or baking sheet. Grease really well as mine stuck a bit too much
  2. Cook at 180 degrees c for about 12 minutes

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For the toppings remember don’t use pre-bought pizza sauce as it contains sugars but make your own with softened onions and garlics; can of chopped tomatoes, oregano and any Italian style spices you like. Cover the base with sauce and coat with lots of cheese. Cook again for about ten minutes until brown. Always allow pizzas ten minutes after cooking to settle down or they don’t slice well. That’s why takeaway pizzas are always more formed that home cooked.  I always like my pizza’s with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or chilli flakes dependent on my mood.

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Now the base isn’t soft doughy bread so I couldn’t pick mine up but eaten with a knife and fork it was as close to pizza as I’m going to get I like. My next step is to experiment with hybrid flours by adding Almond etc.

Atkins Diet

Low carb coconut bread

Engagement Announcement

Low carb coconut bread

This recipe came from ‘The Atkins’ website and variations are widely shared in communities online. It’s super rich so when I say cut it into 16 slices do not feel tempted to make these larger as they look small but are so heavy to eat (in a good way). Also, although it’s described as bread it’s a bit like the bread you had on holiday in the late 1990’s in European resorts so it’s half bread and half cake like. You’ll know what I mean if you ever went to the Algarve.

 

Ingredients

1 cup coconut flour

6 eggs whisked together

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp salt

1 tbsp sweetner ( do not use Aspartame based but the natural sweeteners)

½ cup butter melted

 

Method

  1. Butter a cake/bread tin and set oven to 180 degrees c
  2. Mix together and pour (yes pour it’s really liquid) into a bread/cake tin
  3. Cook for 35- 45 mins
  4. Slice into circa slides. Each slide is 1.6 net carbs
  5. Server toasted coated in butter

 

Bearing in mind I’ve not had bread for a couple of weeks and I’m really missing it as prior to this diet and I normally eat two pieces of white Warburton bread toasted with butter a day, I really liked it! It maybe a tiny bit too sweet though so I’m next going to be exploring Almond Flour and Soy Flours as a substitute.

Atkins Diet

I’ve started doing ‘The Atkins’ version of a low carb diet initially as it’s something I’ve done before and I know works. Have a look at ‘The Atkins’ website for a great summary and recipes. I’ve an older paperback version of the original guide which I bring out every couple of years. The premise which never made sense to me until I saw the weight come off the first time is that you can only eat meat; fish, cheese and fats. You can also have vegetables but only the non-starchy (woody) ones so no potatoes. They however need to make up your net carb daily allowance which is 20 net carbs. Net carbs are the carbohydrate value you see on the side of the packet minus the carbohydrate fibre.  Now there are also minor exceptions to the meat; fish and cheese lists but there are very specific such as cottage cheese . A core tip would be to not ignore the fats. Actually eating fat on this diet really helps. Sounds weird but true! Also, make sure you eat more fresh foods rather than pre-packaged especially in the first weeks which is known as induction as trying to work out carbohydrate value hidden in things like sausages or breading even lightly on meats is difficult and can really ruin your diet.

 

Other key tips I tell anyone starting the diet is to buy some ‘Ketostix’ from eBay or health food store as they measure the amount of ketosis you are going through which is a true indicator of whether the fat burning is working. It also helps if you’ve eaten something and then you test yourself you can really know whether that tiny bit of ketchup knocked you off your diet or not and trust me it does. Do not so much as lick a boiled sweet, especially in induction. I’m not kidding! I’d also recommend you take a multi-vitamin; buy full fat cream as you end up using it for everything and a lot of eggs.

 

So I’m about two stone heavier than I’d like to be. I mean I’m not big at all at a size 14 but as I’m getting married I’d like to be in best shape I can be.  I actually don’t  eat that badly normally but I’ve been on some big holidays recently and eaten a lot of pizza in New York for examples. It was worth though.. lol.

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I’ve lots more meal plans; tips and recipes to share so I’ll add these as the weeks go on. Good luck if you are trying low carb and please contact me if you want to share or discuss anything.

https://uk.atkins.com/

https://www.ebay.co.uk/

http://www.youandyourwedding.co.uk/

Engagement Announcement

Firstly I’d like to say I’m so sorry for the absence in the past few months but I’ve been very busy and had some major life altering events. I got engaged! That means I’ve lots of lovely crafts to blog about over the next year. Also, linked to that I am doing the inevitable diet before getting married so that means I’m in a crazy state of trying and amending low carb recipes at the moment. Some of these recipes at moment are not going incredibly well so I’ll share my mistakes but more importantly how I improve them to make them more edible.

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If you want to know about the proposal I’ll share the key moment which was a very romantic picnic in Central Park, New York on a warm afternoon. We’d picked up some sandwiches and these gorgeous canned cocktails which I know sounds awful but they ice cold flavoured Margarita mixes so for lazy about people watching on the grass they were just perfect. A little tip for people planning on engaged in Central Park is not to do it on top of a hill unless however you love the spectacle of everyone clapping and cheering around you! I still can’t decide whether I loved or hated it but I think in the end it was a combination of both.