Return of the Pumpkin

I mean, pumpkin is, after all, kind of like a Jedi of baking. Its Force pulls everybody in for a bite of cozy goodness and its seeds, roasted, are the lightsabers that ward off unsavory snacks.

Sorry, I’m done making lame food/Star Wars metaphors now. The point is, I still have pumpkin puree that I froze last fall, and I made somethin’ scrumptious. A friend pinned this pumpkin cheesecake recipe and I drooled just looking at it. You may be shaking your head at first glance – recipe from a website called “SkinnyTaste”?!

This recipe totally destroyed my skepticism about a “healthier” version of cheesecake. The vanilla greek yogurt made for a great thick yet fluffy cheesecakey texture, and I’ve never been able to tell the difference between full fat cream cheese and Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) stuff. My momma’s kitchen wisdom tells me that reduced fat stuff usually tastes just the same while completely fat free is almost always gross.

The only changes I made to this recipe were to the pumpkin butter to swirl in. I love pumpkin butter. It’s so smooth and creamy and cozy [I need to diversify my food adjectives…]. The combination of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon will always make me want to hunker down at home for the day, no matter the season.

I made just a cup worth of the pumpkin butter, instead of the 3 and some odd cups the recipe makes, so I only used 1 cinnamon stick and took it out after 10 minutes, which was plenty. If you’re outta cinnamon sticks, I think you could just put an extra dash of ground cinnamon in and call it good. Although it might be quicker to just buy pumpkin pie filling to swirl into the cheesecakes, I think the homemade goodness of the pumpkin butter would win. It’s a little smoother, thinner, and maybe not quite as sweet.

I’m callin’ this one a tri-yum-ph. Three little cheesecakes mysteriously disappeared right after I made these, and I was the only person around…hmm. I wonder whodunnit.

p.s. Here’s a little update on the mystery knit. A few hints: cotton yarn, cast on 306 sts. Any guesses yet?

Soup a L’Orange

If I could quit my jobs and just make people things all the time, I’d be one happy camper. I visited Wooster a few weekends ago [I almost said, “to see Noah and my sister,” but that’s a gross understatement – it was great to see everyone!]. Before I came, my sister, who’s been having a weird time sorting out how she deals with lactose and soy, asked if I could make some squash soup to bring to her. UH. YES. I’d been meaning to make pumpkin soup of some sort, and there was a soup I made a while back that I wanted to try to replicate, if only I could remember what I used…

The soup I’d made in the past was an amalgamation of a recipe-surfing session. I looked at recipes for carrot/orange/ginger soup, and ended up making something along those lines that was warm and bright, with a little kick from the ginger. I found some of the recipes I looked at again, but alas, I couldn’t remember all the details I changed. Leslie’s [my sister] soup was going to be a guessing game.

If the soup needed to be lactose and soy free, so I figured it might as well be vegan, too.  The key ingredients I used were carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, orange, and ginger. The bright colors and creamy warmth were perfect to combat the dreariness of a windy February day.

So here it is, my very own pumpkin-carrot-orange-ginger soup.

Disregard the amounts of ingredients here - I made a double batch when I took the pictures.

  • 1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree [canned or frozen, shouldn’t matter]
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed [I chose these for their sweetness and thickness instead of Idahos]
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 lbs carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 orange [juice and zest]
  • approx 2 ins grated ginger
  • 18 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1-2 c. almond milk [vanilla]
  • 1 rounded tsp. corandier
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic [approx 6 cloves]
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

I just really love orange zest.

In large pot, heat olive oil and add onion, carrots, garlic, and spices. Sautee until onions are translucent, about 3-4 mins. Add pumpkin, sweet potatoes, juice and zest of orange, grated ginger, vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about half an hour or until sweet potatoes are soft and easily pierced by a fork.

Transfer soup to food processor in small batches and puree. After soup is entirely pureed, put back in pot, add almond milk, and simmer for 5 mins. Enjoy! If you’ve got ’em [I didn’t], croutons make a great sidekick to this soup. Because clearly, sidekicking for salads would suck balls.

Please, lemme know how it turns out, should you decide to make it! All feedback is welcome 🙂

P(yum)pkins, part 1.

Pumpkin. Bright. Sweet. Some kind of wonderful. With sweet stuff or in savory stuff. YUM. Even the guts are fun to play with. Anyway, I don’t know how different canned pumpkin from the store is from fresh pumpkin you puree yourself and pop in the freezer, but I like to think that it’s yummier when it’s DIY.

Roasting pumpkins is simple yet somewhat time consuming, but it’s downright fun if you like to be elbow deep in pumpkin guts and seeds. So if you’ve got a lazy Sunday, why not revisit the squeal-inducing childhood indulgence of squishing pumpkin guts in your hands? [No one else was home while I did this, and I couldn’t help but feel a little like a mad scientist and fill the house with bellowing laugh…muahahahahahaha!]…we’ll come back to the seeds another day.

Roasting pie pumpkins (the lil guys) is just like roasting any other kind of squash.

Slice that sucker in half. Takes some serious elbow grease, at least if you’re like me and have toothpicks for arms.

Scoop out all the seeds (save these little dudes in a bowl and soak in water for later) and guts with a spoon.

Pop those pumpkin halves face down in a big ol’ casserole dish and add about a 1/4 inch of water. I can’t help but think the halves together kinda look like a baby’s tush – adorbz. Anyway, I snap off the stems so the halves aren’t quite so tight a fit, but if the pan you’ve got is on the smaller side, you can cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, just keep an eye on it because it won’t take as long to roast. When that’s all taken care of, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour at 350 F. Although if you’re roasting more than one pumpkin at a time, it might take longer.

While the pumpkins are baking, go ahead and separate the seeds from the stringy bits, rinse well, and spread ’em out on some tea towels to dry thoroughly for a day or two. If they’re not completely dry when it’s roasting time, they won’t get crispy like they’re supposed to. Avoid drying them on paper towels at all costs – they stick to the seeds when they’re dry, and no one wants to munch on roasted paper towels.

When the pumpkin’s done, it should be soft enough to pierce the skin with a fork. Unfortunately, sometimes the skin can be pretty stubborn – the smallest of the pumpkins I did this time had an almost brittle skin. When I took a fork to it after 45 minutes, it didn’t feel done at all. After an hour, I decided to try to use my toothpick arms again and take a running start to jab with a little more might. It turned out to be done on the inside, even though the skin was brittle and shell-like. What the what? No fair.

After the cooking part is finished and your pumpkins have cooled a bit, remove the skins and puree the flesh in a food processor or blender until smooth. Three pie pumpkins to yielded approx. 2 quarts. It all depends on the size of yo squash.

Divvy it up into whatever portions you’d like (I measure 1 and 2 cup amounts in tupperware containers) and toss it in the freezer. Fresh punkin puree allllll winter long. [Consider this foreshadowing for future kitchen (mis)adventures].

Verdict? Triumph. [a wonderfully messy one]