Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Ginger Cranberry Walnut Bread

In my family it seems to be a tradition that when anyone makes a long trip to visit a relative, there is always some kind of food waiting for them when they arrive.  When I was growing up my southern grandmother always had a frosted cake on her kitchen counter, waiting for visitors to pounce upon it.  My California grandmother would bake this pie dough treat for my dad when we'd go to visit her.  I have no idea what the recipe entails, but she would roll out pie crust, fill it with brown sugar and nuts, roll it back up, cut it into little strudel-type bites, then bake it.  Since they are getting older neither of my grandmas really bakes anymore, but I'll never forget the effort they put into it.

My mom has taken on this habit of having things in the house especially for visitors when they arrive, whether it be the kind of milk they prefer or a certain kind of breakfast cereal.  I certainly appreciate the extension of hospitality and hope to do the same for our guests when they arrive.  And, of course, it gives me a good excuse to bake (not like I need one!) :)

When my MIL came to visit the other week, I wanted to bake something as a special treat for us to have during her visit.  The past two summers I went to meet and visit with Hubby's family in Wisconsin, I brought homemade banana bread with me to hopefully sweeten the deal :)  I was running short on time the morning of her arrival, so I figured a similar recipe would be something easy and delicious to make.  I had just bought canned pumpkin at TJ's, too, and my inner chef was itching to use it.

I found a great recipe in Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet.  Alicia became a vegan several years ago, and I love how she combines a healthy lifestyle with eating delicious, wholesome food that's good for the planet.  As a former vegetarian, one of my favorite things about cooking is being able to put my own healthy spin on recipes.  You can definitely eat well, eat delicious, and eat healthy all at the same time!

Enough talk, you came here for pumpkin bread :)  

First of all, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9" X 5" loaf pan with cooking spray.  

There are a lot of ingredients involved, but you'll be glad you made it, promise.  Yes, that is cottage cheese hiding in the corner over'll see ;)

Combine your pumpkin puree, sugars, egg, milk, cottage cheese and vanilla extract in a large bowl.

Mix it all up until it's nice and blended.  It's okay if there are cottage cheese bits left hanging out - you can't see them in the baked version :)

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cranberries, and walnuts.

Stir to combine.

Now comes the fun part :)  Sloooowly add your wet mixture to your dry mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour your batter into your loaf pan.  Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top.  Pop it in the oven to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top springs back when you press it with your finger.

Since you're gonna be waiting a while, take advantage of your wooden spoon to scoop out the leftover batter from your bowl, and eat it :)

When your bread is ready, remove it from the oven and...TA DAA!  Beautimous, no? :)

Allow to cool in the pan.  Alicia says you're supposed to turn it out onto a baking rack to cool completely, but I had to run to work right after it came out of the oven so I didn't.  It was fine :)

Enjoy a lovely slice (or two or three) with your loved ones until it's gone :)  The cottage cheese substituted for oil along with the pumpkin made for a super moist bread.  I lessened the amount of sugar because, well, you don't really need all that extra sugar.  However, I substituted half brown sugar to add that yummy molasses flavor :)  I also added more spices than called for in the recipe, plus some ground ginger for kick, just because I like things extra flavorful.  The cranberries and walnuts add extra sweetness and crunch.  Be warned...this stuff is tasty and you might not be able to stop eating it :)

Fall on a it!

Recipe: Pumpkin Ginger Cranberry Walnut Bread
Adapted from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet
Makes 1 loaf


  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin, or 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar + 1 tbsp., reserved
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup milk, your choice
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9" X 5" loaf pan.
  • Combine pumpkin, sugar, egg, milk, cottage cheese, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cranberries and nuts.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Fill your loaf pan with the batter.  Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. brown sugar.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top springs back when pressed with a finger, or when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow loaf to cool in pan for a few minutes, then flip onto a baking rack to cool completely.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Roasted Curried Butternut Squash Soup

The squash lover in me gets very excited every fall when the grocery stores bring them out before Halloween.  I was at Trader Joe's the other week and added a butternut squash to my shopping cart so I could try cooking it for myself.  Fortunately, it had a sticker on it with the exact cooking directions :)  Why didn't they do that sooner (especially for the random squashes that you don't know the name of if you've never seen them before)?

Here in SD the weather has been super random.  Last week we had RAIN for a few days and it was unusually chilly for October.  I know, I know, I shouldn't complain about rain...but it NEVER rains in October so it was really out of character (of course it only lasted a few days and now we are back to our regular warm sunshine).  It actually FELT like fall, haha.  For me, fall weather calls for soup, so butternut squash soup it was!  It was a bit time consuming and my patience was more than tested, but the end result was pure deliciousness.

Okay, let's get going.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Make sure you have a very sharp knife to cut your squash in half lengthwise, because those suckers are hard to cut!  This is where my patience started to wear a little thin, but not before I placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet and scooped out the seeds and pulp.  Say a little prayer to the patience gods and keep going until you get this:

Next, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.

Turn those babies upside down on your baking sheet, and underneath each cavity place 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic and 2 sage leaves.  I did not have either one, so I used the equivalent of crushed garlic and some random seasonings.  No biggie.

Roast these puppies for 40-50 minutes until the flesh is tender and they look all wrinkly like they just came out of the tub.  Revel in the heavenly squash smell permeating throughout your kitchen :)

Here is where you must channel your inner patience mantra again.  Wait for the squash to cool before you peel it, because it is HOT.  I don't want you to burn your fingers.  Go turn on an episode of Glee or run around the block a few times while you wait.  I'll be right here when you get back.

Dum de dum dum.

How was your run? :)  Now, using a large spoon or vegetable peeler, scrape off the skin.  Enjoy the squash manicure you'll get from all the pieces stuck underneath your fingernails.  Come on, you're a real cook now - you can do this!

After you peel your squash, chop up 2 large onions and cook with some olive oil over low heat in your monster soup pot.

While you wait on the onions to turn opaque, chop up your squash into big chunks.  Save the garlic that was hiding underneath and cast it off to the side of your cutting board, 'cause you'll need it later.

Onions, are you done yet?

Okay.  Now add your squash, vegetable stock, seasonings, and salt.  Blend everything together, cover partially, and simmer 'em down for 20 minutes, stirring often.  Ya mon :)

Once everybody is nice and mellow, remove from the heat and blenderize the heck out of 'em with your awesome immersion blender.  Thanks Lindsay and Will! :)

Return to the heat, taste and adjust your seasonings as you wish.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with some crumbled goat cheese.  A perfect soup for a chilly fall evening!

On the side we enjoyed insalata caprese - layers of fresh basil, sliced tomato, and sliced fresh mozzarella drizzled with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, and freshly-cracked salt and pepper.  Super simple, easy, healthy, and fresh - all my favorite things :)

Recipe: Roasted Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook (not this edition, but I couldn't find the one we have on Amazon)


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, or your choice of dried herbs
  • 4 small unpeeled cloves of garlic (I used the equivalent of crushed from the jar)
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • crumbled Feta cheese
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scrape out the seeds and pulp with a large spoon.  Coat the cut surfaces with 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Place the halves cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Slip 2 sage leaves (or spices) and 2 garlic cloves under each cavity.
  • Roast the squash until the flesh is tender to the touch, 40-50 minutes.
  • Let squash cool completely.  Peel off skin and discard.  Chop squash into large chunks and set aside.  Squeeze the roasted garlic from its skins and set aside.
  • Heat remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a soup pot over low heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent (about 15 minutes).
  • Add the squash, garlic, vegetable stock, curry powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.   Whisk until the soup is blended.  Cover partially and simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender, process soup until it is very smooth.  Add more water or vegetable stock to thin to the desired consistency, if necessary.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crumbled Feta.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Caramelized Onion, Carrot, Zucchini, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Whole-Wheat Pizza

Oh jeez blogger friends.  Life has once again gotten the better of me and kept me from sharing with you all.  I hope the recipes to come in the next few days will have been worth the wait!

Hubby and I LOVE pizza.  Seriously.  I could eat it for every meal, hot or cold, every day.  There's just something about the hot, melted cheese, gooey sauce, and chewy crust combo that gets me every time.  We have several local pizzerias nearby, but being on a budget I've been trying to come up with creative meals at home that mimic our favorite restaurant dishes.

I found Loves to Eat's super-easy (and healthy!) whole wheat pizza dough recipe and couldn't wait to add my own mix of seasonings and toppings for our dinner pizza.  Having an array of random veggies in the fridge, I ran with 'em and threw together something crazy...and it ended up being delicious :)  It also created one heck of a difficult time for me trying to come up with a name for it that wasn't a mile long.  Oh well :)  Let's get cookin'!

Have your carrot, zucchini and onion make friends on the cutting board.  They don't know what's coming next ;)

Shred your zucchini until it looks all purty like this:

And chop chop your onion into small pieces.

Melt a tablespoon or so of buttah (I used Best Life spread to save on cholesterol) in a saucepan over low heat.  Look at that beautiful melting action :)

Now your onions are going to take a little buttah bath for about half an hour.  Add them to your saucepan...

...and keep a-stirrin' and a-cookin' until they start to look like this.  Don't let them get out of the buttah bath yet, though.

Show your carrot friend some shredding action until you get this:

And join up Carrot and Zuke again for their Pyrex playdate before dinnertime.

While your veggie children are doing their thing, round up your dough ingredients.

Be a good veggie parent and check up on the buttah bathin' onions.  They should be close to finished by now...

...but wait until they are good and caramelized just like this before you take them out.  YUM.

While the onion children are drying off from their buttah bath, take your yeastie for a five-minute warm water bath.  There's a lot of bathing action going on here, isn't there?

In the meantime, mix up your whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt in a large bowl.

After Yeastie is good and bathed, pour it and Warm Water and Honey (I substituted agave since that's what we had) Friends in with the dry goods.

Then take the kids to Knead Town until they're one big baller shot caller.

Preheat your food sauna oven to 350 degrees, and flour your pizza pan.  I love this thing - proof that I actually do use all the random kitchen things we put on our wedding registry :)

Spread out your dough on the pan...

...and sprinkle with lots of za'atar.  Can you tell I love using this stuff? :)

Add some delicious sauce...

...and all your veggies.  Don't forget crumbled goat cheese, a little Parm, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and freshly-cracked salt 'n' peppa :)

Bake for 15 minutes until this thing of beauty appears out of your oven.  Hello, deliciousness!

Um, wow.  Best. Homemade. Pizza. Ever.  Who needs CPK? :)  The veggies and whole wheat crust are super healthy, and the caramelized onions are sweet and savory together with the sun-dried tomatoes.  Goat cheese is a perfect, creamy addition, and the spices add just a little kick to round everything out.  SO good!

Recipe: Caramelized Onion, Carrot, Zucchini, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Whole-Wheat Pizza


  • Everything to make 1 recipe of Clean Eating Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, grated (equals ~ 1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, grated (equals ~ 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp. za'atar
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pizza sauce, depending on how much you like on your pizza (Hubby and I like a lot!)
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 sundried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • freshly-grated salt and pepper
  • Melt your butter or oil in a large saucepan over low heat.
  • Add chopped onions and cook until they caramelize and turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, grate both your zucchini and carrot, and set aside.
  • While you're waiting on your onions to finish cooking, prepare your pizza dough.  Set onions aside when they're done.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spread your dough onto a floured pizza pan.  Sprinkle dough with za'atar.
  • Spread pizza sauce over your dough.
  • Add your veggies, cheeses, and top with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy!
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