My dad’s (Don) birthday is coming up in a few days. Several years ago he died suddenly. Three months before he passed, my mind was filled with loving and joyful thoughts about my dad. He died suddenly so I had no idea at the time that in a few months he would be gone. These thoughts seemed to fill my mind, and I would call my sister Danette, to tell her that I could not stop thinking of how much I loved dad. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him before, but it was as if I could see clearly all the things in his life that had caused pain and why they had been meaningful to him. My dad had an infectious laugh and was one of the most joyful people I know, and he was smart as a whip. A self-learner, he had thousands upon thousands of books that he read and underlined with highlighters. After his death all of us girls got packages and packages of highlighters. He always wanted to remember the important parts in his books.
About three weeks before he died I called him on the phone. He lived with my mom in Virginia and I live in Kansas City so I didn’t see him very often. We had a conversation that we had often. We talked about the time when I was in second grade and he took me to a cheese shop. I will never forget that moment when I walked into that store and the smell of pungent cultured cheese hit me. Most people find this smell offensive but I loved it. I was little, so they propped me up on a stool and they gave me sample after sample of strong flavored cheeses. They were so shocked that a little 7-year-old girl would love these types of cheese so much. When we left the cheese store we went across the alleyway to the health food store. Once again the strong smell that accompanies most health food store filled my sinus and I was convinced that these two stores were the coolest places on the planet. My dad got me my first frozen yogurt from that store and the owners of that store were the youngest 65 year olds I had ever seen. Those store owners were so happy and hugged me a lot that day, and I never forgot how they made feel. I remember talking to my dad and telling him that I wanted to be like the owners of that shop when I was old. They were radiant and full of life, and so happy they couldn’t help but hug the people who came into their store.
You never know how experiences can shape our lives but I never forgot those two times. My favorite food on the planet is cheese and yogurt and now kefir has taken its place as number one food in my life. Interesting to me that they are both cultured foods and I have my dad to thank for these early experiences. I hope he is proud of me. I am thankful for the love of food, and good books that he instilled in me. But it is the joy of life he demonstrated everyday… that changed me the most.
Love you Dad. I know you can hear me. I am still your name sake and proud of that. This recipe was inspired by you. Hope you can feel my hug. ♥
Pumpkin Kefir Cheese Ice Cream
To make your own pumpkin purée, use 1 large or 2 medium Sugar Pie or other eating (not field) pumpkins. Cut out the stem and quarter the pumpkin lengthwise. In a preheated 400°F oven, bake the quarters, cut side down, in a shallow roasting pan with a little water in the bottom until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool, scrape out the seeds, cut the flesh from the peels, and force it through a medium-mesh sieve or the medium disk of a food mill. Freeze any leftover purée for up to 2 months.
- 1 cup fresh pumpkin purée or canned
unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- ¾ cup kefir cheese
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend for 20 seconds. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.
Top with cinnamon roasted pumpkin seeds.
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
- 2 tsp. sucanat
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 275 F
2. Wash pumpkin seeds by rinsing in a colander until the water runs clear, picking out any remaining pieces of pumpkin. Drain well and spread out on a cookie sheet and pat dry with a paper towel.
3. Pile pumpkin seeds on the cookie sheet and drizzle melted butter over the pile of seeds and sprinkle on the sugar, cinnamon and a pinch or two of kosher salt.
4. Gently toss seeds until evenly coated and spread the seeds out evenly on the cookie sheet.
5. Bake in 275 F oven for approximately 30 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring seeds every 10 minutes and checking for doneness each time.
6. Remove from oven and let the seeds cool for a few minutes.
7. Remove seeds from cookie sheet and serve!
Chances are there won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, store seeds in an airtight container for a few days to preserve freshness.