Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Up until today, I had never tasted pumpkin soup.  So what possessed me to make pumpkin soup?  I think it has something to do with the crisp fall air.  Let me tell you, it has gone straight to my head.  So much so, that the other day I walked into the grocery, saw these cute little pie pumpkins, and thought…I can make pumpkin soup.  Not pie, but soup.  Fall air, straight to brain.  They were also pretty cute pumpkins.  I think that factored into their purchase as well.  I am a sucker.

Since I have never slurped one spoonful of pumpkin soup, I hadn’t a clue of what flavor to expect.  I don’t know what I was thinking it would taste like.  OK, I lie.  I thought it would taste like pumpkin pie filling.  No lie.  I did.  I knew it wouldn’t, but I wanted it to.  So, I was only slightly disappointed when it didn’t taste like a liquid pie.  But doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Dessert soup.  Pumpkin pie soup with whipped cream stirred in.  Good thing fall is just beginning.

So, since it didn’t taste like pie, what did it taste like?  Pumpkin, you know, squash like.  Apples and carrots provided a touch of sweetness.  A touch of warmth and spiciness from the hot pepper flakes and cinnamon.  Oh, and coconut milk made it all creamy and good.  Body and depth I think are the correct terms, but I like creamy and good.

Besides learning how to make pumpkin soup, I also learned that I prefer my pumpkin sweet.  I enjoyed this soup and it hit the spot when lunch rolled around, but I still prefer pie to soup.  No big surprise.  I am still curious and will be searching for pumpkin soup on every menu I come in contact with, now until … well, until I find it.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Pumpkin (about 2-3 lbs), seeds and the stringy innards removed (about 5 to 6 cups of pumpkin puree)
  • 1 Apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 Onion, Diced
  • 3 Carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, diced
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon, plus extra for roasting
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider
  • 3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Coconut Milk
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (garnish)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Once pumpkin is cut into half, seeds, and stringy stuff removed, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cinnamon.  Place flesh side down onto a baking sheet, cover loosely with tinfoil.  Roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until the flesh is soft.  When done, remove from oven and let cool.  Scoop out flesh once cool, set aside.

Melt butter in large dutch oven/pan.  Place apple, onion, carrots, garlic, cinnamon, and hot pepper flakes into pan.  Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are soft.  Stir frequently.  About 10 to 15 minutes.

Add apple cider to pan and stir to combine.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned tidbits.  Cook for about 5 – 7 minutes.  Add pumpkin flesh and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.

In batches, place soup in a blender and puree.  Be careful, soup is hot!  Place back into dutch oven over low heat.  Stir in coconut milk.  Serve.  Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Enjoy!

Tip: You can freeze soup once it is pureed, before the coconut milk is added.  You can substitute canned pumpkin puree, no biggy.  Half and half or heavy cream in place of coconut cream.  Give it a try. 

 

Granola Bars

These are not my first attempt at granola bars…

It is true.  My first attempt was not exactly a failure, as the end result was delicious and devoured.  However, we didn’t eat them in bar form.  More by the spoonful.  Oh and we didnt have a spoon.  We shoveled the granola into our mouths by the handfuls on said trip to the east coast….You know the technique.  Pour a bit into palm and then bring palm to mouth.  Quickly.  The poor New Jerseyans who witnessed my cave woman ways.  There really is no other way to eat granola while driving.  Shrug.

Do you suppose the difficulty of eating granola on the go was the reason for putting it into bar form?  Yeah, the bar was created exactly for the problem we encountered.  Quaker Oat Man was a genius.  I tried.  I wanted to be genius-like, with the Quaker hat and all.  I had good intentions, I sorta fell short.  I retried.  I succeeded.  I want a Quaker hat.  I earned that darn hat.  I wish, we as a people, would wear hats more often.  But, that is another discussion for another time.

If I become president (of anything)…hat wearing will become a law.  Just a warning.

How did we get on the subject of hats?  Sorry, it was me.  I have a bad habit of getting people off track, including myself.

Granola bars.

I suppose you could consider these nutritional.  Whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts.  Good substitute for any breakfast on the go or carb attack at 3pm.  You know, when you are sitting/standing at your work computer and you are hungry enough to eat your own arm or bite someone’s head off.  Yep, these might get you through the afternoon without any carnage.

 

Granola Bars

Serves about 10 to 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 + 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 Cup Wheat Germ
  • 1/2 Cup Flax Seed
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Slices
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans
  • 1 + 1/2 Cup Dried Fruit ( I used dried strawberries, cranberries, and raisins)
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Butter
  • pinch of Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

On a baking sheet, combine oats, wheat germ, flax seed, almond slices, and pecans.  Place in oven for 15 minutes, stirring half way through.  When toasting is complete, transfer dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Add the dried fruit, coconut, cinnamon, and salt.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring butter, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla to a boil and boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in almond butter.   Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 8 x 8 pan (or 9 x 13 for thinner bars) lined with parchment paper.  Press mixture firmly into pan.  Place in oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  I recommend cooling overnight in the fridge before slicing.

Wrap individually in parchment paper or place in sandwich bags.

Enjoy!

 

Molasses Pumpkin Cookies

 

I hate the week after a vacation.  For an entire week, you think, well this time last week I was at the beach getting my tan/sunburn on.  Or this time last week I was watching seals play just off the shores of the Cape.  OR this time last week I was eating my 7th lobster roll and millionth clam cake.  Ahh…last week.

What can soothe my post-vacation melancholy?  Baking. Ever watch Grey’s Anatomy – the early seasons.  I am like Izzy.  I bake to think, I bake to remember, I bake to forget, I bake when I need …So today I am baking.  Because vacations are like the day after Christmas.  Kind of a let down.  So, today I am baking because I need a bit of a pick me up.

And yes, the memories from vacation will always be able to transport straight back to where I was, be it a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago.  Memories, I am grateful for them.

Let’s talk cookies.  Molasses Pumpkin cookies to be exact.  These are slightly sweet, full of pumpkin, with a slightly spicey bite from the molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Its like pumpkin pie in cookie form.  Awesome.  And instead of whipcream…well how about cream cheese frosting!?!  Double awesome.  Yeah, thats how I roll.  Baking molasses pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting, while dreaming of sandy beaches, seals, and sunny afternoons.  Ahhh…last week.

 

Molasses Pumpkin Cookies 

Ingredients

Makes about 2 dozzen

Adapted from Petite Kitchenesse

Cookies

  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 2 + 1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Ginger
  • 1 tsp Nutmgeg
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 Cup Molasses
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar, plus extra for rolling.
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 1 + 1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven 350°F.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add both sugars, pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend until completely combined.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place extra sugar in a bowl.  Scoop out golf ball sizes of dough and roll into a ball, roll ball in extra sugar until well coated.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave plenty of room between each cookie incase of spreading.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  When done, remove from cookie sheet and place on wire cooling rack.  Let cool completely before icing.

While cookies are cooling, make the icing.  Beat cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.  Beat in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until well combined.

Ice the cookies once they are cooled.

Enjoy!

I wanna go back…I need the beach!

I might turn into a lobster

Well, I just packed up my mom, grandma, and aunt and sent them home.  Well, I didn’t send them.  I would have liked them to stay longer, but vacation can’t last forever.  That is right, we were on vacation.  Jealous?  You should be, it was fantastic.  7 glorious days, spent with 3 of my favorite ladies.  Three generations of women, in one motel room, with 2 double beds, and one bathroom.  Oh and the TV was non-HD.  But since there was no men on this trip – that whole TV thing didn’t matter.  Space was a bit crowded, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Plus, did I mention the ocean was just steps away?  Well, it was. 

Yep, that is the one I am talking about. 

Where did we go?  Rhode Island.  I love Rhode Island.  I didn’t know I loved it until we started going there 3 years ago, but my mom, grandma, and aunt were hip to its wonders.  And grandma knew long before my mom and aunt.  You see, grandma was born and raised in Providence.  However, 63 years ago she married my grandfather.  My grandfather, who was a farmer from Ohio.  So my grandma, got hitched, packed up, and moved west.  City gal gone farmer’s wife.  That’s the short version.   So we go to the east coast.   Makes sense. 

Let me show you what made me fall in love with this tiny little state. 

Scarborough beach.  We were tossed in its waves and numbed by its frigid waters.  Crazy?  Yep.  People stared.  We laughed.  We found random bruises and scabs at weeks end.  Extra Motrin was needed.  I still have sand in my ears.   I’d say boogie boarding was a success. 

Narragansett, Rhode Island is close to the fishing community of Galilee and Jerusalem.  It smells a bit,… well fishy, and that is putting it nicely.  But each boat is full of fisherman, whom I bet also smell like fish.  These fisher of men spend their days catching lobster and swordfish and flounder so hungry gals can feast upon it in the evening.  I LOVE these men. 

What intrigues me most about this community is the boats.  Not just the boats, but the names inscribed on the hulls of the boats.  Who are these women?  Are they wives?  Long lost loves?  Or like the one above ” Hopeful” , is it just a plea with sea.  Here are a few more. 

I bet she was a bombshell in the 50′s. 

Wendy Lee, she has strawberry blond hair and moved to the sea, escaping the fields of the mid-west.  She found herself a fisherman.  At least that is what I like to think. 

Who is Martha Porter, Helen or Lois Virginia?  Oh my curiosity is killing me!  I’d love to hear the story behind Foxy Lady. 

We took a day trip to the cape.  Cape cod that is.  We meandered along the southern coast, driving through one small, quaint, old town after another – turning off at any mention of a beach or harbor.  The above is Bowman’s beach. 

This is Truro.  This is what I hope heaven looks like.  Seals were floating in the chilly water, just off shore.  When I retire or win the lottery, this is where you can find me. 

We eventually made it to Provincetown.  Tip of the world.   Last year, we took a whale watching tour, but this year we decided just to eat like whales while in Provincetown. 

Lobster Pot, the home of my 4th lobster roll, out of 9.  In case you were wondering.  Anthony Bourdain got his start here.  Great food, great views.  Oh and their lobster bisque, well I could swim in it.  Fact. 

Wednesday, we spent playing in the surf and sand, but Thursday we travelled up to Newport.  The International Boat Show was starting.  Oh Boy!  We decided to take a little sailboat ride.  And by little, I mean it was a 4 sail, 80 foot schooner.  And I raised a sail.  Learning to sail is going on the list. 

Clingstone.  Smack dab in the middle of Narragansett Bay.   This house was built in 1905 by the Wharton family.  It is said that Mr. Wharton built it as a get away from his wife and children (they have another mansion up on the coast).  First man cave?  Its rather stunning.  Albeit, eerie as hell at night. 

I have a thing for blue sailboats. 

Warning - this here fact may make you sick.  This is Jackie Kennedy’s childhood doll house.  Its four stories and has an elevator (for her dog).  It was first intended to be a guest house for the mansion, but since the mansion had fifty rooms, there really was no need…so Merry Christmas Jackie!  Holy Moly.  Her and John exchanged their vows in Newport and their wedding reception was held in that front yard.  Kinda cool. 

We spent our last full day at Point Judith.   I grew up with this lighthouse.  It is all over my grandparent’s home.  I like it better in person. 

When the tide is low and the surf is not as strong, we like to go poking through the rocks.  Star fish, crabs, and snails are what we normally find. 

But no poking around on this day … a tad bit rough. 

Amazing.  We don’t have this in Ohio. 

We also don’t have lobster rolls or clam cakes in Ohio.  Ridiculous if you ask me.  Just not fair.  I had 9 lobster rolls in 7 days.  I never looked at a menu.  I would do anything for lobster rolls or clam cakes.  Anything.  Test me.  I dare you to.

OH! and oreo coffee ice cream.  Well, this is what I hope heaven tastes like. 

Narragansett Beach.  Surfing was popular on our last day.  I must learn.

Here are a few tidbits that I learned this week.  New Englanders, nicest people in the world.  Seriously – they are genuinely lovely people.  They are also dog people.  Well behaved dogs everywhere.  I am thankful for yoga pants ( 7 days of lobster rolls and clam cakes doesn’t do the waistline good).  George’s of Galilee has the best lobster rolls.  Brickley’s has the best coffee Oreo ice cream.  Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes are amazing.  I love cedar sided houses.  I want a New England accent.  Oprah was right…Moscow Mules are delicious.  I can’t wait to go back next year.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon and Raisins…

They were made for each other.  In bagels, cookies, breads, oatmeal,  etc… When these two forces combine…magic happens.  Serious magic.  No other way to explain it.  There actually might be little elves in my oven.  It is possible.  Anything is possible. 

I love cinnamon raisin swirl bread.  Guess what I love almost more than the bread itself?  The aroma that fills my house when its baking.  Oh yeah, magic is happening in my oven.  I hope this is what heaven smells like. 

This is a yeast bread.  I know what you are thinking – no thanks, it looks good – but yeast is scary.  Guess what?  Its not.  And I don’t know where this thought/fear originated from.  I have never feared yeast.  Its intriguing actually…its tiny itty bitty living organisms, that eat sugar and give off carbon dioxide, therefore giving lift or rise to your bread.  Kinda gnarly right?  Nerd alert! 

The only problem that I can forsee when playing with yeast would be maintaining/finding a warm, draft-free place for the bread to rise.  Yeast enjoys warmth, not hot, but not cold.  Warm. I have solved this problem.  You are welcome. 

Turning the oven light on will create a warm, not hot, atmosphere and its draft free since its a closed environment.  See, problem solved.  So now you have no reason not to make this bread.  And even if your bread doesn’t rise properly or look ‘right’, that’s OK.  It will still taste fantastic and the sense of satisfaction you will get from eating a slice of bread that you made, with your own two hands…well, it doesn’t get much better.  I like it, and I bet you will too.

So let’s bake some bread! 

Start by warming milk to 110°F.  Too cold and the yeast remain dormant, and too hot, well, you kill them.  Be nice to your little yeast guys and keep them warm and cozy! 

Add the warm milk to a mixing bowl and sprinkle with the yeast.  Whisk to combine.  See the bubbles, its alive!  To this you will add the flours, butter, a bit of sugar, an egg, and salt.  And with a dough hook attachment, mix until, well it looks like this…

A lump of kinda sticky, smooth dough.

Pat dough into a round like shape ( mine was no where near round, more like USA shaped).  Sprinkle with raisins and cinnamon and knead dough until the goodies are just evenly distributed. 

Raisins and cinnamon done mixed in.  You will lose a few raisins and bit of cinnamon.  There are always casualties. 

Next, place your happy dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap/tea towel and place in a warm draft-free space. Go jog or watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  Let it proof for about 1 to 1+1/2 hours or until it nearly doubles in size. 

Once proofed, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat out into a medium/large round.

Fold it in threes.  Like a letter.   Remember writing letters.  I miss getting letters in the mail.  If you know my address, send me a letter.  I’ll send one back.  It’ll be fun. 

Once folded in threes, fold in the sides, flip over so it looks like above.  Place this bad boy back into its oiled bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel cover and place it right back in its warm and cozy home.  Go catch another episode of Grey’s Anatomy ( I am re-hooked by this show).  Check in on your dough in about 40 minutes to an hour.  Looking for a near doubling in size again.

 

Once it has risen again, turn it out one last time onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll it out into a long rectangle – no wider than the loaf pan that it will bake in.  Butter it up. 

Evenly spread the filling mixture over the  buttered dough.  It looks like a lot of filling and well it kinda is, but I hate wimpy cinnamon raisin swirl bread.  Ever since I discovered CRSB, I always want more swirl.  So when I make my own, I make it my way.  More swirl does a girl good.

Fold in your edges and prepare to roll.

Start at the far end and roll towards you.  Keep it tight.  It should look like a log when done. 

Place it, seam down, in a liberally buttered pan.  Butter is calorie free, right?  Phew…I was worried!  Guess what?   Yeah we are going to let it rise again.  Just a short while.  About 30 to 45 minutes.   Long enough for maybe another Grey’s Anatomy, if you ffwd through commercials.

Once the final proof has taken place.  Well, its finally time to bake the darn thing!  Woohoo! 

And after about 40 to 45 minutes…it should come out looking like this.  Pretty amazing. 

Here is a closer look at the cinnamony, raisiny, sugary goodness. 

 

 

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Adapted From Honey and Jam and Pioneer Woman

Makes one loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 + 1/8 tsp Active Dry Yeast ( 1/2 envelope)
  • 1 Cup Warm Whole Milk ( 110°F)
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 + 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature.  Plus extra for greasing pan and filling.
  • 1/4 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2/3 Cup Raisins
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • egg and milk  for wash

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted butter, room temperature (very soft)
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Walnuts, finely ground/processed (optional)

 

Directions

Turn oven light on.  Or find another warm draft free area.

Bring milk to 110°F ( I microwaved in 20 second bouts until it read 110 on thermometer).  Place milk in mixing bowl and sprinkle with yeast.  Whisk to combine.  Add both flours, 1/2 stick of butter, 1/4 Cup white sugar, 1 egg, and salt.  Using a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated ( few minutes).  Increase speed of mixer to medium, and continue to mix until doughs texture is smooth and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl (2 to 3 minutes).  It will be sticky to the touch.  ( resist the urge to add extra flour, wetter is better).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

Pat out into a rounded disk and sprinkle with 2 tsp cinnamon and raisins.  Knead cinnamon and raisins into dough until evenly incorporated.  Place dough into a lightly oiled ( I used a cooking spray) bowl and cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and place in your warm space ( i.e. oven with ONLY the oven light on).  Let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1 + 1/2 hours. 

Once doubled, turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a round-like shape.  Tri-fold the dough (like a letter) – top third down, bottom third up.  Fold the left and the right sides to the middle and press down to seal.  Place, seal side down, into the lightly oiled bowl and place back in warm space.  Let rise again, until dough nearly doubles in size, about 40 minutes to an hour. 

Mix together filling.  Combine 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 brown sugar, 1 + 1/2 tbsp cinnamon, and ground walnuts.  Set aside.  Liberally grease loaf pan. 

Once risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a long rectangle (about 18 to 24 inches).  Use the loaf pan to determine length of loaf.  Smear 2 tbsp of butter over dough.  Sprinkle dough evenly with filling.  Fold over the edges of the long side of the dough ( about 1/4 inch fold).  With short end facing you, start at the far end and roll the dough into a tight log.  Pinch the dough together at the seam.  Place seam down in greased loaf pan.  Set in warm place and let rise for another 30 minutes or so, or until loaf rises slightly above pans edges.  Whisk together milk and egg for wash.

Brush top of loaf with milk and egg wash (you won’t use it all).  Place in oven, preheated to 375°.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  If top of bread starts to brown, tent with tinfoil ( I had to do this about 25 minutes in).  Remove from oven and place on wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely before slicing. 

To store, wrap in plastic and is good for nearly 4 days….if it lasts that long.

Enjoy!