pumpkin, tomato + squash soup

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You have to know that I tossed all of my delicious cherry + raspberry bars in the bin because binge. Because sugar addiction–even when you hardly consume it, even when you do and it tastes acidic–is real. I met with my nutritionist yesterday (yes, on my birthday because masochist), and after reviewing my food diary and my BBB challenge, she delivered some news. The good news is that I’m the strongest I’ve ever been with a great deal of lean muscle (YAY!). I’m finally starting to make a dent in my midsection, and can I just tell you that is the WEAKEST part of my body, and I’ve never felt more endurance in cruel, sixty-minute workouts. So fist pumps and orange kittens for everyone. Until the bad news…

Not really bad, per se, but I’m 8 pounds from my goal weight and the scale is just sitting there, all tra la la, unmovable. After recovering from a holiday spent with someone who was unhinged, it took a while for me to reintroduce positive, warm energy back into my days and eat like a normal person. And while my meals have been fine, just fine, I’m on a maintenance diet (more fat) rather than one that induces weight loss.

So, for the next few weeks, I have to say farewell to coconut peanut butter (this particular loss is palpable, people), nuts (awesome since I JUST spent a pile of $ on herbed cashews), and macaroons (not the sugar, multi-hued gross cookies, rather the lovely chewy coconut delights). I’ve let me veggie game slip a little in favor of fat (fat isn’t bad, btw, we’re just talking about balance here), so for the next few weeks I’m getting vigilant, focused, and I need every ounce of good protein and veg to help me survive my month-long BBB challenge.

But can we talk about this soup and how I couldn’t stop eating it? This soup is on the OK list because it’s packed with nutrients and it completely fills you up. You feel as if you’re consuming a creamy, rich soup, while it’s just great veg and solid carbs. You can serve this solo or fry up some sausage–savoring this luscious dish for DAYS.

INGREDIENTS: From The Paleo Kitchen Cookbook, with slight alterations
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
diced coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce/425-gram) can pumpkin puree
1 (15-ounce/425-gram) can squash puree (if you can’t rock squash, you can simply add more pumpkin or more tomato)
1 tsp dried sage
1 (14.5-ounce/411-gram) can diced tomatoes (or fresh, if in season)
2 cups (480 ml) chicken broth
1 tsp cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup (120 ml) full-fat coconut milk
½ cup (60 grams) toasted salted pumpkin seeds, for garnish
1/4 cup organic honey

DIRECTIONS
Heat the coconut oil in a medium stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, squash, sage, tomatoes, chicken broth, nutmeg, and honey and bring to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick and add the coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer in small batches to a blender to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and blend once more. Garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.

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recipe makeover: chocolate chip pumpkin loaf

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What an odd thing it is to travel back in time. All you need to do is insert a few words in a search toolbar and, voila!, a slew of posts from five years past greet you like old friends. Only your friends are blurred around the edges, harsh, your eyes squint as if you’re walking into the sun.

I’ve been baking this chocolate chip pumpkin loaf since 2007, and believe me when I say that the photos I’ve taken of this loaf, and its many incarnations, made me wince. The cringe-worthy close-ups {every novice food photographer starts with a close-up, because the need to get the detail in a chip or a piece of cake is critical. And the novice tires of this perspective and pulls back, in time, in need of the larger picture.} and errors in recipe writing put me to thinking that yesterday’s post is pretty apropos of this moment.

The past serves as a piece of information, context. The future is merely conjecture, and what we have, most definitively, is the present. Right now I like my food photography minimal, without ornamentation and styling. Right now, I like my loaves a little more virtuous so I can eat more of them, and allow for the taste of the pumpkin to come through.

In this latest incarnation, I’ve replaced 1 1/2 cup of white flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve nixed 3/4 cup of sugar from the original recipe, and have mixed in almond extract for a note that cuts through the density and added in white chocolate chips for color and texture.

The result? A loaf that truly sings. Earlier versions were a bit too sweet and oily for my taste, while this loaf is full of flavor. Try it out + let me know how you score!

INGREDIENTS: Makes 3 loaves
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup safflower or grapeseed oil
4 eggs, room temperature
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups white flour
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 standard 8½ x 4½ inch loaf pans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, beat the oil and sugars until combined. Beat in the eggs, puree, water and almond extract. You want to mix all of the ingredients until completely combined.

In a medium bowl, sift the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda + salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones until the flour mixture has been completely absorbed. The batter may look a little lumpy, don’t worry, and don’t overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter equally between the three pans, and smooth out the batter with an offset spatula. Bake the loaves for one hour, rotating the pans midway through the baking process. The loaves will be done when the a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

Rest the loaves in their pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Then turn out the loaves to the rack and cool completely. The pumpkin loaves are good for up to a week in an airtight bag/container, and can be frozen for up to a month.

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pumpkin spice rolls

pumpkin spice rolls
Happy New Year, friends! My mini respite is coming to an end as I’m back in the office tomorrow {insert wails}, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fruits of my holiday labor. I’ve been on a bit of a bread bender lately, so after scoring a jarful of yeast I decided to go wild and make loaves of bread. And ever since I spied these lovely terracota rolls on Pastry Affair, I knew these needed to be introduced in my repertoire. Not quite savory and not quite sweet, these rolls straddle an androgynous flavor profile that makes them perfect for everything from nutella to savory, pungent cheeses. Last night I smeared cold French butter on these hot rolls and it was EVERYTHING.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from A Pastry Affair, with slight modifications
1/2 cup (118 ml) barely warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 cup (245 grams) canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups – 3 cups (318 grams) bread flour

DIRECTIONS
In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, sprinkle the yeast over the barely warm water and allow to sit about 5 minutes until activated (during this time the yeast will start to bubble and look frothy). Stir in egg, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, butter, spices, and salt. Gradually add bread flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable; however, do not add too much flour or the bread will become dense. Now replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and start to knead your dough on low speed.

Knead the dough for ten minutes, or until elastic. The dough will feel slightly sticky, but don’t worry — it will firm up as it rises. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 2 hours. Punch down the dough before turning out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal portions (I did this by rolling the dough with my hands into a log so I can get ball-sized cuts) and shape each portion into a round ball. Place in a pan (or on baking sheets) coated lightly with cooking spray. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Serve hot.

To reheat buns, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Bake rolls for 5-8 minutes, or until hot.

pumpkin spice rolls
pumpkin spice rolls
pumpkin spice rolls