Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sweet Potato, Apple and Pumpkin Soup

This recipe just screams autumn to me.  I recently made this after volunteering at an Octoberfest event in downtown Macon, GA.   The event boasted several local home-brew beer  recipes and the unveiling of Macon Beer Company's Macon Progress brew.  I was not able to sample the selections since I was working and have a small child to look after, but my husband had a blast tasting all that the local Middle Georgia talent has to offer.  

It was a chilly, windy day and there were pumpkins everywhere.  I knew we had to have soup for dinner to warm up after spending the day outside and how could I ignore the muse of pumpkin all around me?  The apple cuts through the heavy combination of the sweet potato and pumpkin very nicely, bringing a tart sweetness. 

This is my adaption from a recipe in the fun and wonderful cookbook, "How it all Vegan" by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer.

1 medium onion (4 ounces) roughly chopped 
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2 cups vegetable stock + 2 cups of water
2 cups sweet potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and diced
1 large or 2 medium apples (22 ounces total), cored, peeled and diced
2 cups Pumpkin Puree 
1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
A few turns of fresh black pepper 
2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce

1. In a large soup or stock pot, saute the onion in coconut oil on medium heat until the until is translucent and beginning to brown.  
2. Add about ¼ cup of the stock to the pan and scrape up any browned bits of onion. 
3. Add the rest of the stock, water, sweet potatoes, apples, pumpkin and spices, excluding the tamari or soy sauce.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
5. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth.  Alternatively, transfer the soup in batches to a regular blender and blend until smooth.  
6. Before serving, stir in the tamari and portion out servings.

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve with your favorite crusty bread or rolls.  

Makes about 7 cups

Pumpkin Blueberry Smoothies

Even though sharing a smoothie recipe feels silly, I think it's necessary because smoothies make up about 30% of my daughter's diet.  Somehow, "throw a bunch of stuff in your blender" doesn't feel like much of a recipe suggestion.  Just in case you were looking for ways to add veggies to your smoothies and still have them be delicious, here you are.  This recipe is designed to fit in a pint sized mason jar, which I have found is the perfect serving size for my two year old.  Plus, I really like using a mason jar for my blender jar.  It makes all the ingredients stay really close to the blade and blend well.  Feel free to double or triple the quantities to suit your needs or better fill your favorite blender.  

1 large banana
¼ cup fresh or frozen Pumpkin Puree, (2 ice cubes worth)
¼ cup frozen blueberries
½ cup plain yogurt

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Curry Powder

If you find store bought curry powder to be overwhelmingly strong, please try this recipe!  It has a complex curry flavor without being super stinky and lingering.  You can use this in traditional curry dishes, but it's also wonderful sprinkled on popcorn or used to flavor pumpkin seeds.

Spread out and
stir to prevent burning
Spices Toasting

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger

1. Lightly toast the cumin, cardamom, coriander and mustard in a dry skillet over medium low heat.  Stir frequently while toasting until fragrant.  Transfer seeds to a plate and let cool until you can easily handle them.  
2. Place seeds into a spice grinder and process until powdered.  Transfer ground seeds and remaining spices into a small container and shake to mix evenly. 

The Easiest Way to Make Pumpkin Puree from a Real Pumpkin

When I was a young child, my favorite pie was pumpkin pie.  For some reason, I referred to said pie as "buttabutt".  I distinctly remember my Aunt Marion baking this pie, specifically her removing it from the oven, the filling looked so shiny and beautiful golden brown, the smell was fantastic, the cooling period was torture.

I took over the pumpkin pie baking duties as a teen.  I always despised making the crust, so I'd often go with store bought.  I used the recipe on the can of "Libby's Pumpkin Puree" with fantastic results.

At some point in adulthood, I decided to ditch the can and make pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin and always make my crust from scratch.  This is by far the easiest way that I have found to process a whole pumpkin and use all that the pumpkin has to offer, flesh, seeds and even pumpkin juice!

This recipe uses a pie pumpkin.  You can tell the difference between a pumpkin whose intended use is decoration and one whose intended use is eating.  Pie pumpkins are generally smaller and a deeper orange color than carvers.  They will also be labelled as such in the store or at the market.  I use this method for cooking any kind of winter squash that I plan to use in puree form or spaghetti squash.

The Pumpkin
Playing with the pumpkin,
one last time

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

1 large or 2 small pie pumpkins
Butter and seasoning for the seeds
Pumpkin Pie Spice for the syrup

Part I-Cooking the Pumpkin

1. Preheat your oven to 400and move rack to lowest position.
2. Thoroughly scrub the outside of your pumpkin using a vegetable brush, soap and water.  Dry thoroughly. 
3. Place pumpkin or squash on a rimmed baking sheet, the squash will release a lot of juice while roasting, so a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan is essential.

To make the best use of oven heat and space,
I also roasted a spaghetti squash for dinner.

4. Move squash and pan to the oven and roast until the flesh easily gives way to gentle pressure.  This will take an hour or longer.  The pumpkin I used for writing this recipe was 6.5 pounds and took 1.5 hours to cook.  It was a chilly day so I was grateful to have the oven warming up the house with the smell of roasting pumpkin.

Notice the squishiness of the squash.

5. Once the pumpkin is tender, turn off the oven.  You may let the pumpkin cool in the oven.  It will take some time to cool enough so that you may handle it.
6. Once it's cool enough to handle, cut the pumpkin in half.  

The seeds are delicious too.

Scrape out the seeds and membrane holding the seeds and transfer to a large bowl.  

Scoop out the flesh into a food processor.  Process in batches until you have a smooth puree.
7. Transfer the puree to a strainer or colander set over a bowl and let drain for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Reserve the juice if you wish to make Pumpkin Syrup.

Holding period before meeting the food processor.

Use the strained puree just as you would canned puree.  My 6.5 pound pumpkin yielded 3.5 cups of puree.  If you have extra, no worries!  Pumpkin freezes wonderfully.  I divide mine between ice cube trays to use for smoothies and quart size freezer bags in two cups portions.  

Part II-Roasting Those Delicious Seeds

1. Fill the bowl with seeds and membranes with cool water.  Take a handful of seeds and rub between your hands to separate from the membrane.  Continue until you have cleaned all the seeds.  Drain and transfer seeds to a rimmed baking sheet.  Press dry with a kitchen towel.  At this point, you may leave the seeds overnight to ensure they are very dry.
2. Preheat oven to 275 .
3. Combine 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 2 teaspoons of the spice mix of your choice.  I used 2 teaspoons curry powder and ½ teaspoon of salt for a curry roasted pumpkin seeds.  
4. Toss the butter and spice mixture with the seeds until they are well coated.
5. Transfer baking sheet to the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until seeds are golden brown and crunchy.  You will want to check the seeds at 10 minutes intervals and stir to prevent burning from hot spots in the oven.

Part III-Pumpkin Syrup

Pumpkin Syrup
1. Collect the juice strained from the puree and add to a saucepan with 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar and ¼-½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.  The variation in measurement is due to the inability to know exactly how much juice your pumpkin will yield.  I used 2 Tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of spice to flavor 4 cups of juice, which made ¾ cups of syrup. 
2. Bring juice to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce to low and simmer until juice is reduced by ½-¾, depending on how you like your syrup.  

Use the syrup to flavor coffee by adding 1 to 2 teaspoons to your cup.  You may also make flavored whipped cream, soda, mixed drinks, anything you'd like, really!  

How did I use my puree?  
I made:

Sweet Potato, Apple and Pumpkin Soup garnished with Curried Pumpkin Seeds

and Pumpkin Blueberry Smoothies for the Little One

A nice variation from the
berry-banana blend