Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin bread (or cake)

What to do, what to do with that pumpkin puree.... I've got the perfect thing - pumpkin bread. It tastes great, it's perfect for autumn, it makes a wonderful gift, and it travels well. Let's get to it!

Whip up all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl. (I like how the non-oily ingredients are suspended in the oil. It looks so trippy, similar to a lava lamp.) Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. It's best to sift or whisk the ingredients together so you can avoid little flour balls in your finished loaf. You can see said flour balls in my loaf. *sadface* Add the dry to the wet, and be careful not to over mix.

Pour into greased bread pans or a baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center to check for done-ness. If it's clean, your bread is ready to come out of the oven.

  • Pumpkin Bread

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to make pumpkin puree - no cans allowed!

Have you been searching desperately for pumpkin puree on the grocery store shelves? Due to the pumpkin crop casualty of last growing season, we're still seeing the effects. Although some stores have a few cans to offer, you won't find canned pumpkin-y goodness as easily. I say quit searching, head over to a farmers market or pumpkin patch, and pick an eating pumpkin to puree yourself. It's easier than you think. Here's how it goes:

Picking a pumpkin: ask your vendor for an eating pumpkin. You can cook and eat all pumpkins, but only a "pumpkin pie" pumpkin or an eating pumpkin will taste good. Don't feel like you have to get a gargantuan gourd like I did. After eating one of these, I now prefer the little pie pumpkins. They are small, round, and vibrant orange. One small pie pumpkin will be enough for an average recipe, but if you're going through the motions to make your own puree, it's better to pick up and puree two. It's not that much more work.

Now wash your pumpkin(s), slice them open, scoop out their guts, and cut into manageable pieces. (If you have a pie pumpkin, cutting them in half will be manageable enough.)

Place them in a deep dish or oven-safe pan, cut side down. Don't over crowd your pan like I did. (It will take longer and then you'll have to cover the pile with foil.) Pour an inch of water into the pan with the pumpkins. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees), uncovered for an hour to an hour and a half - just until the pieces are soft and the skin peels easily.

When the pieces are soft, let them come to room temperature or until they are cool enough to touch. They will look sad and wilty, but the skin will peel easily. Peel them...

...and place the pieces into a food processor, food mill, or potato ricer to achieve a nice, smooth puree. It's better to work in batches so that you don't bog down your machine.

If not using your puree immediately, I like to line a cupcake pan with a layer of thick plastic wrap (don't use the cheap stuff, it tears) and measure out 1/2 cup portions. Freeze it, pop out the portions, and transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. When you need pumpkin puree, just take out a few pumpkin-sicles and thaw in the fridge. Use them in your oatmeal, put them in cookies, make pumpkin pancakes or muffins, make a fancy risotto, put it in a soup.... It's pumpkin season! Enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating St. Louis

A few weeks ago, my fine friend, Natalie, and I drove to the good ol' city of St. Louis to sell cookies. We participated in the Strange Folk Festival again this year. To prepare, we baked and baked and baked our little hearts out, in attempt to keep up with the demand from last year. Despite our efforts, we sold out - yet again! - around the same time, even though we brought many more cookies. Hurrah! We were very pleased to supply our faithful customers with cookies. Next year...double the cookies! (I hope.)

So during our down time, Natalie and I ate. It's our favorite activity and what a fantastic city in which to indulge! Though we didn't get around town like my mom and I did last year, we ate the hell out of Grand boulevard!

First stop - dinner at Al Waha Restaurant. They serve Bedouin and Afghani cuisine. I'm beginning to think that Middle Eastern cuisine is my favorite ethnic food. Man, it's a close call. I do love Caribbean grub, too.

At Al Waha, they serve you a complementary, traditional coffee as a sign of welcome and friendship. We had a great eggplant dish, a creamy yogurt dip, and a pan-fried fish that melted in our mouths. This was my favorite meal of the trip.

Dinner number two - Lemon Grass Restaurant. Here, we had Vietnamese food. I ordered a tasty curry veggie dish, and Natalie had her favorite sweet and sour soup. It contained a few vegetables I had never eaten before. One was reminiscent of Styrofoam. I stuck to my curry.

Breakfast on the last day - City Diner. This was a really fun place. It was decorated with vintage art, records, posters, chairs, tables, etc. Our waitress was very sweet. Natalie was good and ordered an omelet. I needed some feel good food - biscuits and gravy. They were exactly what biscuits and gravy should be.

St. Louis, we love you. See you again next year!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soup Season! Corn & Carrot Bisque

Soupy Sunday is commencing. What's Soupy Sunday? Well, back in my college days, a few Art-Kid friends and I would take turns making soup for each other every Sunday. When it was your time to cook, you just cooked and people came over, bringing their own bowls, spoons, and drinks. No extra dishes for the cooks. This event was wildly popular amongst the Art-Kids. I miss it, so I declare an encore. For this week's Soupy Sunday, I made a corn and carrot bisque adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe.

This is a two pot soup, but I think it could be turned into a single pot dish. Just sauté the onions in a heavy bottomed pot until transparent, then toss all of the other ingredients in after. The veggies can steam/cook in the simmering broth and milk.

Red onions, I'm partial to them even though they sting my eyes and make my noes run.

At the end, you get to choose what kind of soup you'll eat. A bisque is a soup that has been pureed until velvety smooth. You can leave it chunky or partially chunky if you like. I suggest that if you don't have a good stand blender or immersion blender, don't attempt the bisque. The corn can be hard to puree, leaving a texture to be desired. As with any soup or stew, heat and time can help create a whirlwind of flavors.

Corn & Carrot Bisque

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced or diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed OR 1 tsp of garlic salt
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock/broth
  • 2 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring milk and corncob halves (not kernels) just to boil in heavy medium pot. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep while sautéing vegetables.

    Melt oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes (do not let onion brown). Add corn kernels, carrot, celery, and garlic; cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth/stock, herb sprigs, bay leaf, and milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

    Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, and bay leaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth.

    Yields about 5 servings. Can be made a day in advance.