Category Archives: Reviews

The Theory of Everything

Listening to one of my favorite soundtracks, written by one of my favorite “new music” composers about one of my favorite scientists, and feeling a bit mournful.

Johann Johannsson died February 10. I had discovered him earlier than the ToE soundtrack, but when Q2 started playing excerpts from the soundtrack, I realized that there was more to his music than I thought. I quickly scooped up nearly all of his albums. While ToE is probably his “prettiest” album, IBM 1401, A User’s Manual is probably my favorite. We were lucky to get a full lifetime of genius out of Stephen Hawking, but Johann was only 48 when he died.

I have heard that when we lose scientists, it is not as devastating to the science community because often there are others doing the same work, and discoveries are then made by others. (At least, this may be true these days.) However, when we lose an artist, we lose all the art they may have made because no-one else makes precisely that art.

Stephen Hawkings may well be one of those scientists that individually made a difference in the field; at least, I know he did in the lives of millions of children who grew up to be scientists or at least scientifically literate. We were lucky to have him for over 70 years.

But Johann…all the music we will never have.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I really wish I had taken photos of these steps, but honestly, making your own homemade pumpkin puree is so simple, you won’t need photos! However, simple as this may be, it is a long-ish process, so I recommend reading these instructions thoroughly before starting. Also, while you could probably get this done in one long day, I find it easier to start in the morning or afternoon of one day and finish up the next morning.

First, get a pumpkin, but don’t carve it. We usually get them the weekend before Halloween and put them outside, as is. Once you’re thinking about making the puree, bring them in so they have time to get to room temperature.

Put the entire pumpkin in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees (F). The best way is to put it on the highest rack that it will fit on if it’s a big pumpkin, otherwise, middle ones are okay. Put a piece of tin foil underneath to catch any juices. I don’t recommend putting it on a cookie sheet because it won’t bake evenly.

Depending on the size of the pumpkin, it will take anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours to bake the pumpkin. The pumpkin will be ready when you can stick a large chopping knife in and out with ease. Real ease too, where you can do it with one hand and don’t have to wiggle the knife to get it in. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and place it on something that can take the heat and is big enough.

Be careful here, because the pumpkin is hot and will release a lot of steam. Peel off as much of the skin as you can. Use the knife where it doesn’t just practically fall off. Then, cut the pumpkin in half at the middle and push the top half over so the two halves are next to each other. Scoop out the seeds and darker orange stringy stuff and set aside in another bowl for pumpkin seeds (rinse, get rid of the stringy stuff, salt, and broil on a cookie sheet until they’re done to your taste; stir them every 10 minutes or so).

While the pumpkin is cooling, set up your blender or food processor and a bowl for the pumpkin to drain in. I use a fine mesh stainless steel colander clipped to a large bowl and lined (the colander) with an old tea towel. You can use cheese cloth or even coffee filters; just make sure there’s some room on the bottom for the water to drain into.

Cut the pumpkin into small enough chunks so they fit in the blender or food processor. If the chunks don’t mix into a puree easily, or only the bottom part is mixing, add water. You’ll know when it works when it comes out fully pureed and as creamy as baby food.

Of course, since we’ve added water (or even if the pumpkin pureed without it), we need to drain the excess water back out. We want the puree to be thick, more like mashed potatoes, than the baby food consistency we have now.

When done making the puree, cover the bowl (a towel will do) and put the bowl in the fridge to drain overnight.

The next morning, your pumpkin will be just as thick and as tasty (or more!) than the puree you get from a can! About two cups of the pumpkin is equal to one 15-oz can of puree. You can freeze it or use it immediately. I freeze mine in 2-cup batches in small bags that I then put into a large freezer bag.

We had two medium-large sized pumpkins this year, and I got the equivalent of 14 cans of pumpkin puree! Let me know if you need any.

Whipped Cream Recipe

One of my favorite dessert treats is whipped cream. Yum! I could eat it straight, especially if it’s frozen. Here is my recipe:

1 cup whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Set up your mixer and measure out the sugar and vanilla. (Keep the whipping cream as cold as possible until you are ready to make it.) Whip the cream until it starts to get thick; be patient, this could take minutes. When it thickens, add the sugar and vanilla, and mix a bit more to stir. Don’t keep mixing  or you’ll end up with something like butter! Refrigerate; lasts about a week (if you can manage to not eat it all). Freezes great, too!

And remember: you can whip cream but you won’t get whipped cream unless you start with whipping cream.