Easy Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

I honestly can’t believe it has been so long since I’ve posted on here, but so much has been filling our lives of late that sitting down at a computer is the last thing I contemplate in a given day.  It’s easy to just snap a picture and post on Facebook with a quick caption letting people gain a glimpse of what we are up to, but actually sitting down to write is right up there with “taking a vacation” in my book.  Haha!

Eli's Eggs FlyerSome of the biggest changes taking place is the fact that E started his very first business selling free-range eggs.  Tim and I have been helping him get things off the ground, but he is learning how to do a lot of the work himself.  People have been telling us that our prices are too low, but we feel that they are perfect.  The point of selling the eggs is to teach E about small business ownership, responsibility, math skills, stewardship and to provide good food at an affordable price.  The whole reason we started raising chickens was because we wanted to be able to enjoy the healthy eggs ourselves.  It’s actually cheaper to keep live chickens than it is for us to purchase the free-range eggs from a local farmer’s market or Whole Foods!  We go through eggs like water now a days, which brings me to the second big change in our lives….

Since the beginning of November I got completely fed up with my weight and failing health.  I never had energy and found that I was becoming more and more cantankerous as the days passed simply because of the constant fatigue and just feeling sick all the time.  I’ve been wanting to get rid of the extra weight for a LONG time now, but nothing I tried was working.  I was so hopeful that once my hypothyroidism was under control with the medication, it would help get my metabolism and hormones back in line allowing the weight to come off more easily.

Too bad it didn’t work! 😦  There are so many supposed “quick fixes” out there that promise to help you lose weight and feel better, but they all come with a pretty big price tag.  Tim assured me that he would support whatever direction I wanted to choose as long as I could stay within budget.  Well, to even supplement one meal per day with one of the health shakes would cut out half our monthly food budget.  I still had to feed five more people plus the rest of my meals for the month!  Looking at the cost of everything, I decided to go a different direction.  Instead of spending half our grocery budget on a miracle powder, I invested in a Ninja Nutri Blender (my birthday present!) and changed up how I cooked and grocery shopped.  No more processed food and majority of items purchased are raw fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts, etc.

The change in eating helped lower my blood sugars dramatically.  It got to the point where I wanted to quit eating the healthy stuff because I was having such an awful time dealing with hypoglycemia.  A friend in our Down syndrome group recommended a diet called the Ketogenic Diet.  The whole basis of the diet is to decrease the amount of carbs consumed in a day and increase the amounts of fats.  The body will eventually switch from burning carbs/glucose for energy and begin burning off the fat.  Fat burned for fuel produces 70 percent MORE energy than carbs/glucose.  It also requires a lot less insulin to control.

In less than 2 months, I am down 17 pounds with no extra effort other than eating a ton of butter, bacon, coconut oil, eggs, etc. Hahaha!  The biggest change but one that has made the most difference in how I feel healthwise overall is by going gluten-free.  It made sense to just do it because breads have the highest carb value and cause my blood sugars to spike more than eating a chocolate candy bar.  The more I’ve read about the negative affects of gluten, the more convinced I am to stay away from it!

So, finally….CONCLUSION. 🙂  This recipe is one that I discovered digging around online for good Keto cooking ideas.  My favorite part is that it can be made into a thin crust pizza or a deep dish Chicago-style pizza.  I’m posting the instructions for the deep dish.  The original crust recipe can be found over at Cooky’s Creation (thin crust pizza) and Eat Keto (deep dish pizza).  I did some adjustments to the crust ingredients as well as the meat in the deep dish.

Crust

  • 2 C. shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 C. shredded Mozzarella
  • 3-4 Tbl. cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. almond meal/flour
  • 1/2 C. coconut flour

Melt the cheddar and mozzarella cheese inside a glass bowl in the microwave stirring every 30-45 seconds.  When completely melted, dump into a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well until it forms a slightly sticky dough.

Spray a large springform pan and press the dough up the sides and bottom.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and fill with toppings.

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The original recipe said to just put the raw sausage in chunks onto the bottom of the crust.  Umm… I have a thing about mixing raw meat in a pizza.  That seems to just scream bacteria to me.  Instead, cook your sausage and drain off the excess grease.  I did one pound of Italian sausage and set it aside.

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Slice one onion thinly and throw into the hot pan you used to cook the sausage.  Oh yeah, it helps soften the onions just enough and gives them a little extra flavor as it soaks up the sausage bits from the pan. Oo lala!

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Place all the meat inside the crust.

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Layer thinly sliced red or green peppers on top of the meat.

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Add the cooked onions.  (Look at the lovely brown speckles!  That means FLAVOR!!!)

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Add 1 1/2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese (or more if you can get it to fit).

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Either use crushed tomatoes with a little salt or some pizza or spaghetti sauce.  I used my homemade spaghetti sauce for this one.  Sprinkle a good helping of Parmesan cheese.2015-01-13 17.31.17Place back in the oven set at 325 degrees and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes (or until cooked through and the center is hot).

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Remove from oven and gently remove the sides of the pan.  I would recommend gently running a spatula around the inside to help loosen any parts that might want to stick.

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So after eating two slices  of this delicious pizza along with a nice helping of Waldorf salad made with just apples, craisins and mayo, I didn’t take any insulin with the meal.  My blood sugars stayed between 78-96 the rest of the evening.  Again, this is very low-carb and EXCELLENT for maintaining good blood glucose levels without needing tons of insulin.  Another tid-bit is that my eldest son requests this pizza crust over any other.  And to think it’s GLUTEN FREE!!

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Canning Homemade Tomato Soup

Got a call yesterday afternoon from my sister asking if I needed any more tomatoes for my canning.  Turns out the Fishnet Ministries located in Jacksonville had received a shipment of 80,000 pounds of Roma tomatoes and had no way of refrigerating them.  A call went out to churches and the general public asking for help boxing up the tomatoes and getting them to those who could use them.  Wow!  FREE tomatoes (as many as you want)!  After ending the call with my sister I immediately started calling around members of my church who I thought would be interested in doing some canning.

E likes to go around quoting, “You don’t work; you don’t eat!” a lot of times, and today just proved the statement to be a solid truth.  In order to benefit from the free tomatoes, we had to go help box them from 5-7 a.m.  Up at 3:45 a.m. I headed out the door shortly after 4 to be at the Fishnet Ministries’ warehouse.  My sister and two older nephews met me there and we all dove right in to help empty as many crates as possible.  It felt like I had gone back in time and  was up to work the 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift at McDonald’s like I did during my high school years and summer/winter breaks of college. Oh the memories…. Haha!

The pallets were stacked three high and filled almost every available aisle inside the warehouse.  On the outside, they were stacked four high and lined the outside walls.

We’re talking a LOT of tomatoes!!!  In the short amount of time we were able to help, our small group was able to unload 4 1/2 crates which were the size of small swimming pools.

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Here is just a portion of the boxes of tomatoes we loaded up in our vehicles to take home to either can ourselves or give to friends from church.  Can’t beat free food!!!

The timing of this blessing couldn’t have been better since my mom is here visiting for a few days and was able to walk me through my first batch of tomato soup.  Yippee! 🙂  Not that I couldn’t do it on my own with her written instructions, but it sure is nice for this auditory and visual learner to be able to do it along side her so I don’t make any mistakes.

What you will need to can a single batch of homemade tomato soup:

SUPPLIES

  • 3 stock pots (or 2 stock pots and several large soup pots)
  • Canner
  • Quart jars (approx. 14-15)
  • Canning lids
  • Canning rings/bands
  • Funnel
  • Ladel
  • Long spoon for stirring
  • Knife
  • Juicer (used my KitchenAid with juicer attachment)
  • Long whisk

INGREDIENTS

  • 26 pounds tomatoes (1/2 a bushel)
  • Whole  bunch of celery
  • 14 T. onion powder
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper (more if you like your soup spicy)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 C. flour

Start by weighing your tomatoes to ensure you have the needed 1/2 bushel.  FYI, I looked it up online to find that a full bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.  Just thought you would want to know that little tidbit of info. 🙂  You’ll notice I’m not using a fancy kitchen scale – primarily because I don’t own one.  Instead a handy bathroom scale will suffice.

After you’ve weighed your tomatoes, place inside a clean sink and fill with water to give them a good wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut each one in half to ensure there are no bad spots then throw them into the stock pots (dividing the tomatoes between the two pots).

Wash your celery then divide into two sections.  Cut off the bottoms and the ends if they are bad.  Cut the celery into pieces no longer than the length from the tip of your index finger to the knuckle.  You don’t want them too big because they will get stuck inside your juicer.   Leaves and all get thrown into the pots.

Add three Bay Leaves to each pot (more if the leaves are small and broken).

Add 7 T. onion powder to each pot then cover and place on medium-high heat to cook.  As the tomatoes begin to cook down, you can begin mashing them to release the juices then turn up the heat.  Don’t increase the heat until you have enough juice otherwise the tomatoes will burn!

Check your pots and stir the contents every 15-20 minutes or so to ensure that nothing starts to burn at the bottom.  This part of the recipe takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!! 🙂  You’ll know it’s been cooked through when the celery is tender.  To help it cook faster, push all the pieces of celery under the liquid.

After the tomatoes have cooked down, scoop out a cup at a time and press down into your juicer.  It helps to use the mixer bowl to catch the soup in because the handle makes it easier to pour into the larger pot.  Don’t forget you are working with hot, hot stuff!

Pour the juice into the third stockpot or smaller pots/containers until all the tomatoes have gone through the juicer.  If you don’t have a third stockpot, wash out one that you finish emptying and pour the soup into it.  All the juice will fill one stockpot when you are done.

As soon as you finish juicing all the mixture, get your water canner on the stove to start heating.  Remember to have something on the bottom of the canner to prevent the jars from coming into direct contact with the metal.  I used the inside piece from my pressure canner, but you can use some butter knives, canning lids or canning rings.  Just anything that will elevate your jars.

Whisk in

  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper

and bring to a boil

The original recipe called for 2 sticks melted margarine mixed with 1 C. flour but this is what it turned into….BLAH!  Scratch that one!

Instead I used 2 sticks melted BUTTER and 1 C. flour and got this instead.  Success!  So if you think you can cheat and use the cheap ole’ margarine, DON’T. You will certainly regret ruining your batch of soup.

Slowly add the flour/butter mixture to the soup whisking the entire time.  (Now I know why my mom was so happy we bought her an immersion blender for Christmas this past year. Wow!  Talk about an arm workout when using a whisk!)

Prepare 7 quart jars (need to be really hot – like straight from the steam setting on your dishwasher), lids (boiled inside a small saucepan), and canning rings/bands.  Fill each jar leaving a 1/2-inch head space, clean tops with a clean, damp cloth ensuring there is no food or cracks along the surface, then place a hot lid on top and tighten down with a band.  For more step-by-step instructions on the canning process, head over here.

Process in a hot water canner for 20 minutes then remove and let rest for 24 hours before removing bands and storing.  If the lid pops up after you press down on it, it means the jar didn’t seal properly so place inside your refrigerator to eat in the next couple of days.

Didn’t have quite enough to fill a whole quart jar, so that one will be Tim’s lunch for tomorrow. Perfect for a stormy day! 🙂

Final Price = $0.31/quart…. Wahoo!!!

Lemon-filled Olive Oil Lanterns

After a recent conversation with Tim regarding our winter preparations, I started doing some research on inexpensive types of homemade candles or lamps.  Last year we had a horrible snow and ice storm dumping over a foot of snow on the roads and power lines.  Our property is at the end of the line, so any power outages means that we will be the last ones to have our power restored.  This all boils down to us needing to be more prepared for a long power outage.

While Tim works on solving the water and heating problems including installing some different insulation strategies and hand pump, I’m working on lighting and cooking.  Thankfully we have a wood-burning stove and some cast iron skillets so cooking won’t be too difficult. 🙂  The lighting was tricky because we are doing all of our updates on a tight budget.  Hense the idea of making my own candles.

Using what I already had inside the house along with some lemons given to me at church this past Sunday, I was able to spend just a few dollars on some very economical (and pretty) oil lanterns.  Yippee!

For this project you will need:

  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • Lantern wicks
  • Floral wire (or paper clip)
  • Container
  • Lid (optional)
  • Fruit or herb filler

Loosely twist your wire around the wick leaving a small portion at the top in order to light on fire.

Center your wick inside your container then bend the wire over the side to anchor it into place.  You can buy special oil lantern wicks specifically to use with converting canning jars into lanterns, but this way is WAY cheaper. 🙂

Next, slice your lemons to your desired thickness and place them inside your container arranging them in a way to cover the sides without taking up the bulk of room inside the container.  You want to fill it with as much oil as possible.

After you’ve arranged your lemon slices the way you want, carefully fill the container with your oil.  Not only are the lemons pretty but they also help scent the oil so it will give off a soft lemon fragrance the longer they soak in the oil.

Let your wick soak up the oil for at least 15 minutes before you attempt to light it.

The great thing about these little lamps is that they can burn smoke-free for many, many hours.  If the oil starts to get low, just refill.  Also, you can continue to reuse the container and just add a new wick.

Stay tuned for my candle-making experiment!  I’m going to attempt to make some medicinal candles using Eucalyptus Oil and Tea Tree Oil and possibly a bug repellant peppermint candle.  We’ll see…. 🙂

Cloth Diaper Cleaning

This past month I made my first purchase of cloth diapers to see if they would work on the two boys in preparation of using them with the new baby when she arrives.  I just couldn’t fathom having to dish out $100/month on disposable diapers for three little ones when every penny is needed to go toward grocery inflation. 

For less than $100 I was able to purchase a set of 20 solid-colored diapers with a 3-layer bamboo insert for each from an online site I read about on a blog I follow.  The same company is still selling the solid diapers for $4.79 each and offer free shipping when you spend a minimum of $49.  My goal is to save up so that I can purchase at least another 20 diapers for baby girl before she arrives this summer.

Since then I’ve been testing out different systems to see if I could make using cloth diapers just as convenient on my schedule as disposable.  I researched the different cleaning methods online but found the simplest one works best.  The first cleaning experiment was rinsing the dirty diaper immediately after changing and placing in a bucket filled with cold water.  A tight, locking lid is kept on top to prevent smells from leaking out or little boys from getting in. 🙂  The diapers were kept in the water until I had enough for a full load (or I ran out of clean diapers to use).

My second cleaning experiment was rinsing the dirty diapers immediately after changing but this time I placed them in a dry bucket with a locking lid between laundry days.

Although I read online that you can add baking soda to your water to cut down on the ammonia smell, you would need to add vinegar to your extra rinse cycle in order to restore the pH level in the diapers.  Failure to do this would cause the baby to get diaper rashes very easily.  Makes sense to me, but I wanted to see if I could get away with using NO extra cleaners and still get clean diapers with a regular washing.

In the end, the diapers that were stored in a wet bucket came out smelling fresh and clean after a regular wash using ordinary detergent and a normal setting with no extra rinse cycle.  The diapers that were stored in the dry bucket between washes came out stinky after the first wash cycle.  I ended up having to wash that load THREE times before I was satisfied that they no longer smelled.

I’ve gotten it down to a science with the steps to cleaning and storing.  After changing the soiled diaper, I pull my bucket of water over to the sink and open the lid.  Then I dump any solids into the toilet before heading to the sink to give the diaper a good rinse.  As each diaper component is rinsed, I ring it out good and throw into the water bucket making sure it is immersed in the water.  Finally, I wash my hands and sink with soap and water, lock the lid back on top of the bucket and slide it back underneath the shelves out of the way.  When it’s full and ready for the laundry, I take the entire bucket to the washing machine and ring out each diaper before throwing into the wash.  Then I take the bucket of dirty water back to the bathroom where it is drained and cleaned before refilling with cold water.  Again, no extra cleaners or chemicals are needed for cleaning the diapers!  There is a slight ammonia smell to the water bucket, but NOTHING compared to when the diapers are stored in a dry bucket.

As a side note, the manufacturer recommends washing in cold water with NO fabric softeners added and hang drying.  I’m sure that process would prolong the life of the diapers, but washing on warm and drying on a gentle cycle have been working fine for me so far.  Haven’t had them long enough to really say if it is adding more wear and tear on the diapers.  I just know it saves a lot on time.

Chocolate Banana Bread

I’ve been feeling guilty lately for all the baking I’ve been doing since I still want to lose more weight.  My baking ban was lifted by Tim when I reached my first goal of 15 pounds, but I don’t want to lose my momentum and end up gaining any of it back after working to lose it all simply by going back to eating things I shouldn’t.

However, in the back of my brain I’ve been justifying my actions by reminding myself that when comparing a packaged toaster pastry to a slice of homemade banana bread, the homemade bread is still much healthier.  Not the “healthiest” – just “healthier.” 🙂  It’s all about baby steps, baby steps…

Banana breads are great to bake up one day and place in the freezer for future breakfasts when you are short on time.  This is a wonderful way of helping you curb that desire to pop upon those pre-packaged bad boys you have hidden inside your pantry or to run through a drive-thru. 

Another reason banana bread is so practical for our family is – well let’s face it – much cheaper.  Have you noticed the spike in fresh banana prices lately?  In just the past two weeks bananas went from $0.52/lb. to $0.79/lb.  We all dearly love fresh bananas but not at THAT price.  Gulp!  Instead, I’ve been curbing the family’s banana cravings by purchasing the $0.39/lb. over-ripe ones found in the discounted produce section at the store.  You know, the ones that are already really brown and mushy?  Not so great for eating as is but WONDERFUL to use in baking.  You can even freeze these bananas whole.  Just remove the peels, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, place in a freezer zipper bag and place inside your freezer until you need them.  So the next time you see a bunch of discounted, brown bananas SNATCH THOSE BABIES UP!!!  Your family and wallet will thank you later. 🙂

So enough rambling… Here is the recipe for a great chocolate banana bread that tastes sooooo yummy whether you are eating it fresh or after pulling from your freezer and thawing.  You can find the original recipe plus a Youtube video over at JoyofBaking.com.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 C. flour
  • 1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed well
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.  With a rubber spatula or spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spray and flour one 9x5x3 inch loaf pan and fill with batter.  Place pan inside a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean),

Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan.  Serve warm or let cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer zipper bag and place inside the freezer to be used at a later time.

Enjoy! 🙂

Preparing Dried Beans

The other day I picked up a package of sausage on the manager markdown for $1.50 and decided it would be perfect in a beans and rice dish.  I had yet to experiment with any type of “bean” recipe unless you count chili or soups and since my mother-in-law had given me several bags of dried beans to use recently, I decided I had enough incentive to dig around for some new recipes.

Although using canned beans is extremely convenient and quick when throwing dinner together in a pinch, it does hit your wallet pretty deep over time.  One pound of dried beans cost around $1 each.  This is roughly the equivalent of 4 15-ounce canned beans which cost anywhere from $0.75-1.00 each.  So one bag of cooked beans would save you approximately $2-3.  If you continued to replace four cans of beans with dried beans every week you would save $104-156/year!  That’s crazy!!!  With the way all the grocery prices are going up, I’m sure your savings will actually increase over time.  It is worth the extra little effort in order to save the family more money and cut out all that extra sodium you get when eating the canned beans.

*NOTE:  I cooked a total of 4 pounds of beans and ended up getting exactly 20 C. equal to 10 15-ounce cans.  The calculations above are if 1 pound equals 4 cups.  Mine only made 2.5 cups per pound, but it still means I saved $7.50-10.00 total since the beans were given to me at no cost.  At cost I still would have saved $3.50-6.00. 🙂

Here’s how to prepare your beans for the freezer instead of relying on the convenient canned variety…

1)  Rinse and pick your beans.  You will need to remove any pieces of gravel, grit or even rotten beans from the bunch. (I found the most pieces of gravel in the black beans!)   After you’ve done that, place beans inside a colander and rinse all the processing dust off of them.

2)  Quick Soak.  Bring beans to a boil for 4-5 minutes, then let soak, covered, for 1 hour.  This cooking time will make them more tender when you get them out of the freezer.  Kidney beans need to boil for a minimum of 5 minutes to kill naturally occurring toxins!  Use plenty of water and DON’T add salt!

3)  Drain beans.  After soaking the water will probably take on the color of whatever bean you are cooking.  Remove all the beans that float to the surface then drain water.

4)  Package in quart-sized freezer bags.  One 15-ounce can of beans contains approximately 2 C. of beans.

5)  Put your beans in the freezer.  Try to lay them flat, so they’ll stack easily and also so they’ll break up easily when you want to get them out of the bag.

6)  When it’s time for a meal – use the frozen beans just like the canned beans.

Pumpkin Puree

After yesterday’s pumpkin patch outing and experimenting with a new method of preparing pumpkins for homemade puree, I knew I would have to blog about it because the savings and benefits are quite vast!

For starters, I ended up getting three medium-sized pumpkins from the pumpkin patch for an additional $2.  It turned out that the group rate included a free pumpkin for each of the boys.  Yippee! 🙂  Instead of making dreaded Halloween jack-o-lanterns with those precious gourds, I instructed E to pick the nicest ones he could find so we could make breads, pies and cookies out of them.

E got a kick out of actually picking the pumpkins right off the vines then helping me prepare them once we got home.  We even had enough time to use two cups of the fresh puree to make two loaves of pumpkin bread for breakfast the next morning.

While at the store today picking up a few needed items for the week, I picked up two more pie pumpkins for a total of $2.98.  In the end, I paid a total of $4.98 for 5 pumpkins and made 24 cups of puree equal to 12 cans of pumpkin at the store.  Based on the average cost of $1.79/can that is the equivalent of $21.48 w/o tax.  So I not only ended up getting my 12 cans worth of pumpkin to use in baking, but I also saved $16.50!

Here’s how you too can accomplish this feat….

Lay out your needed tools.

Cut your pumpkins in half.

Use a heavy spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and strings from the insides of the pumpkin halves.

Place skin-side down on a cookie sheet and fill the pan half way with water.

Cover with foil to keep tops from burning.  Place inside a preheated oven at 350 degrees and bake for approximately one hour (longer if needed).  You know they are done when it is the texture of a baked potato when poking with a fork.

Remove tray from oven and let pumpkins cool for a few minutes before using a spoon to scrape out the insides.

Place the pumpkin pulp inside a blender and add a little water.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the blended mixture into a large bowl until all of the pumpkin batches have been pureed.  Use a measuring cup (preferably 1 C. for size) and pour into freezer zipper bags in either 1 or 2-cup quantities.

The finished result! (5 medium pumpkins = 24 cups puree) *2 C. not shown since I used it to bake two loaves of bread. 🙂

When getting ready to put inside the freezer, place the bags on a small cookie sheet so they will freeze flat without falling through the gaps in the freezer shelves.  This will make them easier to store inside the freezer once frozen since they will stand up like file folders.