If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s cheap food. I admit it. I’m a dedicated Food Snob. Perhaps it’s my French heritage. Perhaps it is all those years I actually ate cheap food and suffered the inevitable consequences of dodgy health and a crabby disposition much of the time. I remember some years back when the French farmers were picketing McDonalds for bringing cheap food to their land. I was cheering so loudly, I’m sure they heard me across the Atlantic. You GO Froggies!
Truth be told, I would rather go hungry than actually stoop to eating fast food – even in a pinch. I’ve found through painful experience, that it is infinitely better to drink some water, chew some gum or whatever I have to do to get to a decent restaurant or, better yet, simply go home and get something quality to eat than succumb to the temptation of the drive through only to suffer the inevitable stomach ache, headache or worse a few hours later. I’ve found very few places that beat my own kitchen for quality, lip smacking, “wow, that was amazing” food. It’s just not worth it to settle for less. The really ironic and highly amusing part of my Food Snob confession is that I couldn’t even boil an egg when I first got married. My husband was the chef; he was, and still is, an excellent cook. He taught me the basics, and when the kids came along, I determined to learn everything the best that I could so that my kids would really learn to appreciate, and love quality food. It is, after all, one of the finer things of life!
That being said, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, you can imagine my dismay at all the processed versions of the classic dishes that abound in the grocery store. Most folks just don’t seem to get the concept of “homemade” anymore. A can of Libby’s pumpkin pie filling is not a satisfactory stand in for a fresh from the field, seasonal pumpkin, baked in your own oven, and pureed to the perfect degree of smoothness in your food processor. Most standard pumpkin pie recipes also call for a can of evaporated milk. What is that stuff anyway? Brace yourselves. Evaporated milk, “also known as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk” (Wikipedia).Evaporated milk is even more processed than pasteurized, homogenized milk, if that’s possible. Evaporated milk is processed at such a high temperature that the final product is sterilized to the point where the canned version is shelf stable for months or even years. Could one take canned, evaporated milk, add back the appropriate amount of water, add yogurt cultures and ferment into yogurt? Absolutely not! The stuff is DEAD. It is a nutritionless, highly allergenic version of the fresh from the cow variety. Avoiding it in your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie recipe would be a favor to both you and your guests to say the least.
You’re probably now thinking that making a decent quality pumpkin pie would take at least a week and cost the equivalent of what you’re spending on the turkey. Not at all! Quality can always be convenient and taste fantastic too. Try this recipe on for size:
2 cups of baked, pureed, seasonal pumpkin (check your farmer’s markets, pumpkin is a Fall crop and you can get one fresh from the field if you just ask. Any variety will do. Really. Don’t get hung up on the color or type of pumpkin. They all work fine in my experience.)
9 oz organic, whole coconut milk (this is a wonderful, healthy stand-in for evaporated milk. Your pie will NOT taste coconut-y at all. Use only the thick white portion of the coconut milk and not the coconut water.) (sources)
2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar (sucanat or rapadura work great. 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar and 4-6 drops of stevia may be substituted to make a lower sugar recipe) (sources)
The best way to bake a pumpkin is to first, cut it in half, then remove the seeds and bake, skin side up, in a glass pan filled with 1 inch of filtered water at 400F for one hour). Scoop out the thoroughly softened pumpkin and puree in a food processor. Do this a few days in advance and store in the refrigerator, so making the pie on Thanksgiving morning is a 5 minute snap. Make enough so that you already have enough pumpkin puree for Christmas too. Freeze in 1 pint or quart containers for easy thawing/baking later.
Whip together pumpkin puree, sugar, coconut milk and spices in a large, glass bowl with a whisk. Add lightly beaten eggs. Mix until just combined.
Pour into 2 standard pie crust shells. Bake in a 375F oven for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool. Serve with real whipped cream or enjoy on it’s own.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist