Pumpkin Soup

Aside from pumpkin pie, I don’t eat or prepare very many pumpkin recipes because lets be honest, the flavor of pumpkin is very bland and boring and I’ve out grown it after everything pumpkin hit the markets and ruined it for me. This pumpkin soup that my husband made 2 years ago is still one of my favorite falls soups to enjoy and if you looking for a soup to include as an appetizer for dinner this Thanksgiving, this is a great choice.

Soups are classified into 2 groups: Clear soups that are made from a bouillon and thick soups that are made from a thickener such as cream. What I love best about this recipe is there are 3 ways you can eat it: A.) Plain, B.) with the addition of bacon and marshmallow, or C.) apple, ginger, and curry. Depending on the mood your in, you decide! What really makes the second version of the soup aside from the bacon croutons (that are made by coating bread in bacon fat, yum) is the toasted marshmallows that are pureed into the soup in the end to add a “campfire” smokey taste.

The last version of the pumpkin soup is an apple/curry addition, this is your healthier alternative. The garnish of fresh grated ginger adds a nice spice to liven up the pumpkin and the crisp sweet crunch from the granny smith apples blend excellent with all other fall flavors.

This soup is rich, with that said 1 bowl may be all you will need. Don’t worry though because you will definitely be going back for seconds later in the evening when you get that sweet pumpkin craving! I recommend adding fried sage to your soup as well. This soup only takes 15 minutes to make and is extremely delicious! Use caution when serving others 🙂

Active Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

-3 Cups Heavy Cream

-1 Can Pumpkin Puree

-1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Spice

-2 Ounces Maple Syprup

-2 Ounces Brown Sugar

-1/2 Cup Toasted Marshmallows

-Salt, TT

Preparation:

-Heat up cream to a simmer.

-Whisk in pumpkin puree.

-Add in pumpkin spice, maple syrup, brown sugar. Stir until incorporated.

-Season to taste with salt.

-Torch marshmallows like you would on an open flame with a pastry torch or by using the broiler in your oven.

-Once toasted, blend hot mallows with hot soup in vitamix or home blender until smooth.

-Top with bacon croutons and fried sage leaves.

Enjoy!

For the Croutons:

-2 slices of bread, I used potato

-1 tablespoon bacon fat

-Slice bread into small square pieces.

-In a small bowl, toss bread in melted bacon fat until coated thoroughly.

-Heat in the oven on 350 until golden brown and crispy. Approximately 8 minutes.

-Garnish on top of soup!

Another (healthier) alternative that also makes this soup delicious is:

Apple+Curry powder+Ginger

-Add in 1 tablespoon of curry powder  and fresh grated ginger to the soup pre blending.

-Blend in vitamix until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

-Garnish with small diced apples (I used Granny Smith).

-Stir and Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Creamer

As fall begins to develop, many seasonal cuisine and beverages are appearing all over the internet and in some restaurants. Starbucks addicts are tweeting and stating how its time for the pumpkin spiced latte, which might simply be the best Starbucks drink ever created. As for me, the only time I swing by a Starbucks is when I’m in the airport or absolutely really need some caffeine. I’m sure the pumpkin latte is as delicious as everyone makes it sound, however I’d rather make my own pumpkin drink at home that’s free of artificial flavorings and refined sugars.

Coffee is not an option in the mornings. I’ve been switching to tea as much as possible. Unfortunately there are still those days when I feel like I need an IV of coffee just to make it through a shift at work. I prefer my coffee black unless the brew is very strong then I will add in a dash of whole milk to soften the bitterness. If I’m going to flavor my coffee with anything its going to be my own flavored creamer from home.  Every now and then I’ll get a flavored roast to enjoy. With pumpkin spice this, and apple cinnamon that, I’ve made a seasonal creamer that you need to make and add to your average cup of Joe. Start everyday off delicious!


Active Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients:

-1 Cup Whole MIlk

-1 Cup Heavy Cream

-1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Spice

-4 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

-1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

-1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Puree (optional)

Preparation:

-Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice in a medium sauce pot on medium heat.

-When mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

-Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass jar or bottle, let cool and store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Apple & Honey Challah Bread

Rewinding back to the spring of 2007, I was in the last semester of my Freshman Culinary labs. I was in Professor Peemoeller’s  intro to baking lab. In this class we were taught the basics of baking bread, muffins, cakes, cookies and other confections along with how to decorate cakes. Due to the timing of this class being near Easter, one of the breads we were shown how to make was challah bread. This bread may be unheard of by many folks. Challah is  traditionally a braided Jewish bread eaten on sabbath and holidays. Challah bread is an egg based bread and also includes water, sugar, flour, and yeast. This bread is similar to brioche in texture and flavor. The only difference is brioche includes butter or milk.

I’m not Jewish but in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which was being celebrated last week, I found an excellent recipe through a blog I follow often in the interest of the food history this blogger writes about, called The Shiksa In the Kitchen. A shiksa if you didn’t know is a term for a non-Jewish woman. For an odd reason I wanted to make Challah bread again. It’s been years since I last made one, and with Rosh Hashanah approaching it was perfect timing. During Rosh Hashanah apples are dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. The addition of apples in this bread makes it even more enjoyable.

Working with Challah dough can be a bit challenging at first if you’ve never done it before. This recipe is a good one to start with if it’s your first time. There are many ways to bread the Challah, some loaves are braided with anywhere between 3 and 6 braids. The shape can vary between being football shaped or round. For the holiday I used the round method to represent the cycle of the Jewish calendar year. Here is a video on how to braid a 4 strand challah dough. The Shiksa included an awesome step by step tutorial with pictures and numbers for braiding that I used. It’s a lot easier than you think. Once you get the first two step down your basically repeating them until you’ve braided the whole dough. Keep in mind this recipe takes a good half of the day to make. You will want to make this when you have a free day. This is not a quick recipe but the end result is definitely worth waiting for!

Active Time: 2 Hours

Total Time: Approximately 5 hours

Recipe Source: The Shiksa in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

-1 1/2 Cups warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)

-1 Packet Active dry yeast

-1 Teaspoon Sugar

-1 Egg

-3 Egg Yolks

-3/4 Cup Honey

-2 Tablespoons Canola Oil

-2 Teaspoons Vanilla

-2 Teaspoons Salt

-7 Cups Flour

-3 Medium Granny Smith Apples

-1/4 Cup Sugar

Egg Wash:

-1 Egg

-1 Tablespoon Cold water

-1/2 Teaspoon Salt

**Please be sure to read the entire recipe and instructions first so you are careful not to make any mistakes!

Preparation:

-Pour 1/4 Cup of the warm water into a bowl. Add in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar, whisk to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes. The yeast should be activated meaning it will look foamy and begin to expand.

-Once The yeast is activated add the remaining 1 1/4 Cups warm water along with the egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil, vanilla, and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together.

-Begin adding the flour to the bowl in half cup fulls. Stir using a wooden spoon. When the mixture becomes to thick to stir, use your hands to knead the dough.

-Continue adding flour until the dough is elastic and not sticky. You may not need all 7 cups. Turn the dough onto the smooth surface and continue kneading a few more times.

-While doing this, bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove.

-Grease a large bowl with oil and place dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place bowl on the middle rack of the oven. Take the pot of boiling water and place under the bowl on the bottom rack. Close the oven, but don’t turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm moist environment for the dough to rise. Let dough rise for 1 hour.

-After 1 hour, take the dough bowl out and punch it a few times to release air pockets. Place it back in the oven and let rise for 1 hour longer.

-During the final rise, fill another bowl with cold water and dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in it. Peel the apples and dice them into very small pieces, place apples in the bowl of water and set aside. When you are ready to begin braiding the dough, strain apples from the water and mix in 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

-Remove the dough from the oven, by now It should’ve doubled in size. If it has not fully risen, return it to the oven and allow it to properly rise. Flour a smooth surface and take dough of the bowl. Knead the dough a bit and add flour as needed to keep it from feeling sticky. You will have enough dough for 2 medium sized Challahs.

-Divide the dough into equal halves. Place one half on a smooth floured surface, set the other dough aside. Cut the dough on the floured surface into 4 equal portions.

-Take one of the 4 portions and stretch it out into a rectangle. Use a rolling pin to thin out. Don’t roll too thin because you are filling it with apples.

<–I still don’t own a rolling pin :-/ Good thing I love wine!

-Sprinkles some of the sugared apple pieces across the middle of the rectangle. Do your best to shake off the excess liquid before placing the apples on the dough. Leave at least 1/2 inch border alone the sides of the dough clean with no apples.

-Gently pinch the edges together to seal the strand.

-Carefully roll the stuffed strand until smooth using gentle pressure with your hands on the center of the stand moving outward as you roll. Re-flour surface as needed to keep from sticking. If any apples poke through, repair the hole with your fingers.

-At the end of the rolling process, your strand should be about 16 to 18 inches long with tapered ends.

-Repeat the process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. You will end up with 4 stuffed strands of dough. Now you are ready to braid. Use The Shiksa’s diagram on how to braid. Scroll to the middle of the page where she begins showing you the steps. This diagram is extremely helpful. If you wish you can find a video off youtube and braid a different way.

-When you are finished your braided loaf with look like this:

-After the round has been braided, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350. Let the braid rise 30-45 minutes longer. While the Challah rises, you can braid the other half of the dough the same way, or you may choose a different braid.

-Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg in the water with salt until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the top of the challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.

-Each Challah needs to bake for about 45 minutes total. To get the best result, cook in stages.

-Cook for 20 minutes. Take the Challah out of the oven and coat with another layer of egg wash. rotate the loaf and place back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

-Keep an eye of the Challah during this last part of baking, it may brown faster than it cooks. If so, place a tent of foil over the top of the bread and continue baking until ready. Test the bread for doneness by tapping the bottom of the bread. If it makes a hollow sound and is golden brown all over… its ready. Let the Challah cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Enjoy!

**Note: You can use a mixer with the dough hook attachment when forming the dough if you want. I started out that way and found it easier just to form the dough on a clean floured surface.

Zucchini “Pasta” & Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Zucchini pasta, Is that even possible?? I asked the same question when I first skimmed across the idea for a quick dinner recipe. I reckon anything is possible in the culinary world if you challenge your imagination. I had to try this recipe out and see if it was a good as it looked. I didn’t actually follow any recipe on how to make the “pasta” I just played around with the last of my summer squash until I formed a conclusion with how to go about making this dish.

For a while now I’ve been wanting to make pumpkin seed pesto. This is my favorite way to eat and make pesto. The difference you will see in my recipe is there is no Parmesan, or lemon juice added to it. I feel the cheese adds too bold of a flavor and covers up the nuttiness and herb taste. I didn’t add lemon juice due to the fact that usually when I cook pasta, that is when I add the acidity is during the pasta stage.

This idea lead me to have  a solid dinner and a wonderful recipe to share. This is perfect for anyone who is gluten free, or vegan. This is a very light meal and is meant for 1 person. Just double up on the recipe to feed everyone else. 🙂

Active Time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 20 Minutes

For the Pesto:

Ingredients:

-3/4 Cup Evoo

-1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds

-1 Cup Basil Leaves

-1 Garlic Clove

-S&P, TT

Preparation:

-In a food processor, add the garlic clove and pumpkin seeds. Blend for 20 seconds.

-Add in ½ cup of basil leaves and half of the evoo. Blend until a smooth puree forms.

-Add in the remaining basil and olive oil. Continue to puree until smooth or texture of your liking.

-Season with salt and pepper, taste, adjust oil or other ingredients if needed.

-Enjoy!

For the Zucchini “pasta”:

-1 Zucchini

-1 Lemon

-1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Seeds

-2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Seed Pesto (See above)

-vegetable peeler

Preparation:

-Using a peeler begin to peel the zucchini on the same side until you reach the seeded area.

-Slightly turn the zucchini clockwise and continue peeling. Do this all the way around until all you have left is the middle.

-Pick through the pile and discard the skin and seed layers. Keep the remaining scraps.

-Turn stove to medium heat and heat a frying pan until hot.

-Once pan is hot toss in zucchini and squeeze lemon juice on top. Be sure to remove the seeds from the lemon.

-Season with salt and pepper and toss in pan for 3 minutes. You don’t want to cook the zucchini all the way. Keep a little crunch left in it or it will become too mushy to enjoy.

-Once zucchini is hot, you may either add 2 tablespoons of the pesto to the pasta and toss with it, or as I prefer place noodles in a bowl and spoon pesto on top.

-Garnish with pumpkin seeds and cheese of your liking.

<–I sprinkled a wee bit of shredded mozzarella on top.

Enjoy!

**Note: The texture of many peoples pesto’s vary depending on their liking. I prefer mine smooth. My awesome little food processor doesn’t give the the best smooth consistencies on many of my sauces so I used my small immersion blender instead to smooth it out. You may need to add more oil during this stage if you choose to not have a chunkier pesto. Also you may choose to add in parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to your pesto..go right on ahead I wont judge! Feel free to toast the pumpkin seeds to for an extra bonus in flavor.

Ginger Dressing & Cucumber Salad

If you’ve gone to eat sushi or been to a Hibachi steakhouse you’ve probably had the option of choosing between a soup or salad for your first course. The Salad is more than undoubtedly going to have some form of a ginger dressing in it.

I don’t know about you, but I love ginger dressing and for a long time I’ve been searching for the best ginger dressing to have at home for my salads. Instead of buying it from the store I gathered up a few simple ingredients in my kitchen to make a version of this dressing to keep on hand in the refrigerator.

Asian cuisine is basically a staple in mine and Brandon’s diet, as a result we have many Asian ingredients in the pantry. Nothing goes better with our General Tsao’s chicken than a first course salad with ginger dressing.  This recipe may not be as gratifying as the kind you get in the restaurant, but its close enough. If you are a ginger glutton You will enjoy this dressing!

I’ve also included a recipe for my personal twist on a cucumber salad including this dressing. Very delicious and makes a great lunch option.

Active Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients:

-1/4 Cup Soy Sauce

-Juice from ½ an Orange

-1 Garlic clove

-1 Tablespoon Fresh ginger

-Canola Oil

-Splash Rice wine vinegar

Preparation:

-In a food processor, combine ginger, garlic, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. Puree until smooth.

-Once smooth, begin to slowly pour in the oil allowing the sauce to emulsify.  You will only need about ½ a cup for this dressing. Add until consistency on the back of a spoon is nappe.

-Season with a little bit of salt, taste. Adjust ingredients if needed.

Enjoy!

Take pleasure in this cucumber salad with ginger dressing. Healthy, quick, and delicious.

Cucumber Salad:

Serves: 1 Asian influenced epicurean

Ingredients:

-1/2 Cucumber, sliced ½ inch thick and cut in fourths

-1/2 Carrot, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick, cut small

-1 Teaspoon Black Sesame seeds

-1 Tablespoon Ginger dressing (see recipe)

-1 Scallion, sliced thin

-Segments from ½ an orange

Preparation:

-Cut up all vegetables and place in a small mixing bowl.

-Add ginger dressing, and a pinch of salt, mix to combine.

-Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Enjoy!