Vegan MoFo Day IV: Gratiné de coquillettes au potiron and easy béchemel

You’re not tiring of pumpkin yet, are you?  I’m truly not, and I am enjoying eating pumpkin daily.  In many industrialised countries, eating with the seasons has gone the way of the 8-Track.  Here in France, however, the seasons really dictate what we eat and when.  Thankfully the state of California doesn’t provide 80% of our produce (like, ahem, in some other countries), sadly however, imports are playing a larger role than before.

That being said, when I go to the local supermarché, the origins of all fruits and vegetables are clearly labeled, allowing people to make informed decisions about who they are supporting – multi-national food conglomerates, or local farmers.  I was wanting pumpkin so badly, and was frustrated that we wouldn’t have any fresh pumpkin a few weeks ago because it seemed that there was no pumpkin to be had.  Then, suddenly, a plethora of pumpkins appeared, and all of them grown in our village!

This is a very small village, so I’m guessing that the harvest came from more than one farmer.  I think it’s important to keep in mind that eating locally keeps the local farmers in business, in addition to local industry.  For example, about 10 minutes drive from here we have a company that makes candies, jams and other foods – and from local ingredients when possible.  Buying local means more local jobs, which means less economic uncertainty and unemployment, and this of course means happier homes, marriages and in turn, kids. Le boucle est bouclé.  All that from a pumpkin.  Wow.

So we’re eating pumpkin.  We’ll be eating pumpkin for quite a while, probably until we’re sick of it – and that will be at the end of the season.  We do the same thing for asparagus, cherries, apricots…even the figs that grow in our garden and grace us with two harvests.  Eating with the seasons means really getting your fill of vitamins, minerals and flavours, then going on to the next (ripe) thing. This was what nature intended, and why she allowed us to grow tired of our favourite foods – so that we wouldn’t miss them right away when they were gone, and so we would crave them when they were in season again!

I do realise that I’m preaching to the choir here, as most of my readers do follow the seasons, but I think it’s important to rationalise why I’m getting so crazy with the pumpkin recipes, after all, many of you are new here! Welcome! Of course I’ll be freezing some pumpkin, but my stocks never make it past New Year’s Eve.

Gratiné de pâtes au potiron or Baked pumpkin pasta au gratin

Sounds sexier in French, n’est ce pas?


1 recipe Easy Béchamel sauce

250g whole wheat pasta of choice (we used coquillettes, but any small pasta works)

1 large onion, diced

1 tbs olive oil

2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (we love garlic, but it might be too much, so use 2!)

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tbs dried parsley

2 cups fresh pumpkin purée (canned will work, but whiz it in the food processor with a 1/4 cup water before adding to pasta)

1 cup frozen peas, rinsed under warm water to get icky frosty freezer taste away

salt and pepper to taste

Set your water boiling for the pasta, and follow package directions.  Strain, return to the pot and set aside.

Heat a skillet and sautée onions until translucent, then add garlic and sautée for about 3 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Add cumin, parsley, pumpkin and peas and stir for about a minute.  Turn off heat, carefully taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the pasta and stir until combined, then pour into an oven safe baking dish.

Now make your béchamel! There are more béchamel recipes out there than I can count (and I can count really high!), so just google béchamel, or look in your favourite cook book.  Or use this recipe, one of the first recipes I learned to make. Ever.

Wait! Before you begin your sauce, pre-heat your oven to 200°c/395°F!

Easy Béchamel Sauce

2/3 cup non-dairy milk (I use soy)

1/4 cup non-dairy butter (I use St. Hubért Bio)

1 to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (AP works, too.  So does brown rice flour.)

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  When melted, lower heat and whisk in flour until it’s well combined.  Continue whisking while slowly adding the milk, a little at a time, to avoid making lumps.  Once it’s combined, continue stirring and turn the heat back up to medium.  The béchamel will thicken as you stir, if it’s not, turn the heat up a little more.  When desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Now gently pour béchamel over your pasta, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly browned in spots.  Let cool a little so you don’t burn your tongue.  Yippie!



Vegan MoFo Day 3 : Pumpkin Pie Pudding Bread (virtually fat free!)

Who wants some Pumpkin Pie Pudding Bread? I bet you do! It’s easy and delicious! And if my calculations are correct, almost fat free! People like fat free, right?

This isn’t ordinary pumpkin bread, it’s more like a British pudding in both texture and density.  What I was going for was basically a crustless pumpkin pie in a “cake” form (here in France we call anything, savory or sweet, baked in a loaf pan a cake).  It’s almost like a custard bread.  Still haven’t decided on a name.

The impetus of this creation was from talking with my newly vegan Auntie J (I’ll tell you more about her soon. Let’s just say she’s a rock star.) who was shocked at all the fat in the vegan and vegetarian cookbooks she’d seen. I agreed. And we were both craving pumpkin.  This was a few weeks ago, before I actually had pumpkins in my possession.

After giving things some thought, and thinking of ways to replace oil and give a dense, pumpkin custard sort of texture, I opted for apple sauce.  I tried puréed prunes, but they really changed the flavour.  The flaxseeds add some fat I suppose, but it’s pretty low as this makes two “cakes”.

I want to repeat – this is not your typical pumpkin bread!  Please don’t email me telling me that your bread turned out more like pumpkin pie than a loaf of bread. I know.  That’s what it’s so many kinds of awesome.

Now that you’ve got your pumpkin purée, nothing is holding you back, so let’s go!

Pumpkin Pie Pudding Bread

3 tbs ground flaxseeds

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. brown sugar*

1/4 c. sugar*

1 1/2 c. unsweetened apple sauce

1 1/2 c. pumpkin purée (about 400g fresh)

3 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

(*This is plenty sweet for my family, but if you like boost it up to 1/2 cup.)

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c/350°f and spray two loaf pans (I used 20cm)

Mix the flax seeds with the water until frothy, then add the sugars, applesauce and pumpkin and mix well.

In another bowl, simply stir together the remaining ingredients until combined, then combine with the wet ingredients.  Stir until just mixed and don’t fret it there are little floury spots.  Have faith!  It’s going to be fine!

Pour into the prepared pans and bake for about an hour, probably more.  Test for doneness after about 45 minutes with a toothpick just to be sure, though.

Here is the most important part – wait! Do not cut into this right away, in fact, for optimum pumpkin pie deliciousness, I would lightly cover in tinfoil or in a sealable container over night.  I know it’s a long time, but the results are worth it!

Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding : Sweet Freedom Saturdays

I have a love/hate relationship with breakfast. Breakfast foods are some of my very favourites – tofu scrambles, hasbrowns, pancakes…you get the idea. The problem is, I don’t really like eating breakfast when I get up. I’m not hungry, and I often need to get out the door for a run (well, that’s happening again, baby steps…) and when I get back I often don’t have time to prepare anything more complicated than fruit or cereal or a smoothie. I’m a mid-morning breakfast girl, or better yet a weekend brunch chica…give me yummy A.M. foods when I have both the time to make them and properly enjoy them.

Spiced Pumpkin Millet

Ok, it’s not a sexy picture…but sometimes life is more about fuzzy pajama pants and sweatshirts than bustiers, ok?

This creamy and delicious Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding is actually in the “Pudding” section of Sweet Freedom (hence the name), but as the recipe points out,

This pudding is rich and creamy enough to serve as a dessert, but nutritious enough to eat for breakfast as a cooked cereal.

Taking Ricki’s suggestion to heart, I thought Saturday morning breakfast would be both leisurely and delicious. Was it ever!

This was like eating pumpkin pie – I mean it. The taste replicated to a “T” the Pumpkin Pies I loved as a kid, but was nutritionally superior. I sometimes make plain Millet and add a little cinnamon for breakfast, but this blew my humble little peasant porridge out of the water. I actually subbed a sweet potato for the pumpkin (I need to wait for the Autumn to make a new batch of pumpkin purée – my stocks have been eaten), but with the addition of just the right spices, I’d have sworn it was pumpkin had I not made it myself. I also skipped the sweetener, because my sweet potato was so very sweet I didn’t need it. I did add raisins, and I tossed in some sesame seeds for a little calcium boost. I enjoyed my bowl with a splash of pain soy milk- yummy.

What I loved the most about this dish was that it tasted like a luscious, decadant week-end brekkie, but was full of delicious, healthy goodness.

Have you made anything yummy from Sweet Freedom this week ? Let me know! I’ll add a link to your post here. And stay tuned next Saturday for another installment of “Sweet Freedom Saturdays”.

And happy birthday Cheryl!