Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pumpkin Apple Soup

Pumpkin Apple Soup

It seems I'm always off season with my pumpkin posts :). The problem is I go crazy when they are in season and I roast and puree lot's of pumpkin to use through out the year, thus the off season posts (be on the look out for some pumpkin scones). I was also very pregnant when pumpkins were in season this year and was not up to posting...
If you don't happen to have fresh pumpkin puree in your freezer I would substitute with some other squash puree like butternut or kabocha squash. With such a simple soup, canned pumpkin won't do this soup justice (but can be used, especially in a hurry). To roast the squash, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Put the squash cut side down in a pan with a little water in the bottom of the pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 until tender. Let it cool and scrape out the squash. Measure out three cups and if you have any left over you can always freeze it for later.

Pumpkin Apple Soup

3 cups pumpkin or squash puree
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium sized carrots peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium apple peeled and chopped (any flavorful cooking apple)
1/2 tsp red thai curry paste*
28 oz chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2
3 TBS sherry
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper

*optional, provides a nice hint of spice

In a large pot, saute the onion, carrots, and apple in olive oil and add salt and pepper. When the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent add the thai curry paste, cook for one minute (if using) then add the stock, squash, and bay leaves and bring up to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, (make sure carrots and apple are very soft, simmer longer if needed) turn off the heat and add the 1/2 and 1/2 and sherry. Puree in a blender until smooth. Check for seasoning adding more salt and pepper if necessary. A nice garnish is toasted pumpkin seeds and sauteed apple (or just pumpkin seeds).

This soup freezes well.

Monday, March 22, 2010



I was never a huge cheesecake fan... if given the choice of cheesecake or something else I would usually pick the something else. That was until I had met my husband, who is a huge cheesecake fan and would always pick cheesecake over anything else. I discovered this recipe, which is called Three Cities of Spain cheesecake (from Three Cities of Spain coffeehouse in New Mexico that closed in the 70's) and it converted me into a cheesecake fan! What sets this cheesecake apart is after it's baked it gets a thin layer of lightly sweetened sour cream on top, and briefly baked in the oven to set it. The addition of the sour cream helps to balance the sweetness of the cheesecake. I also prefer to use cinnamon sugar graham crackers, or add some cinnamon to a regular graham crackers crust, for an extra dimension of flavor.

Three Cities of Spain Cheesecake

5 oz (1 1/2 cups) graham crackers finely crushed- you can also use gingersnaps, chocolate cookies, vanilla wafers
1/3 cup of sugar (you can adjust the amount or leave it out completely if using cookies that are fairly sweet)
5 TBS melted butter
1/8 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cinnamon (optional, but if using regular graham crackers I highly recommend it!)

Mix everything together in a small bowl and press into the bottom of a 8" or 9" greased springform pan (if you use a 8" pan the cake will be a little higher).

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the crust in the oven for 5 minutes, long enough to dry out the crust. Once the pan is cool, wrap the outside in plastic wrap and then a layer of foil, using the top of the pan to help hold up the plastic and foil, make sure all the plastic is tucked inside the foil. Set aside and turn the oven down to 300 degrees.

24 oz of SOFTENED cream cheese
4 lg room temperature eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla

16 oz sour cream
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

It is very important that the cream cheese is softened so you don't end up with lumps. I like to use a mixer to mix the filling, but this could easily be done by hand as well. It is important that the sugar and cream cheese is creamed together really well so there aren't little lumps of cream cheese left. Once you start adding eggs it is important to not over mix or incorporate too much air (so the filling remains dense and creamy).

Cream together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed, scrape down continually to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Turn the mixer down to low and add the eggs one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape after each addition. Add the next egg only after the previous one is completely mixed in. Add in the vanilla and any other desired flavors at the end. Pour into the par baked crust and put pan into a larger pan and fill it with hot water that goes 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Mix the topping while the cheesecake bakes and set aside until the cheesecake is done. To test the cheesecake for doneness, gently tap the pan (the actual cheesecake, if you tap the outside pan it will make the water slosh and possibly go up into the cheesecake) and if you see it wiggle all together then it's done (as opposed to sending a ripple through the batter). After the cheesecake is done, let it sit for 10 minutes and then carefully spread the sour cream topping evenly over the top. Put it back into the oven for 10 minutes. Pull it out, let the cheesecake cool and then once it's room temperature, put it into the refrigerator and let it cool completely. Unmold and cut with a hot clean knife...
Fresh strawberries or strawberry puree make a wonderful accompaniment!

Baking options- I recently tried two other ways to bake cheesecake:

Cupcakes: Use paper liners, and press some of the crust into the bottom and par bake the same way. You don't need a hot water bath and the cooking time will be dramatically reduced (check after 20 minutes). Once the cheesecake is done, take it out of the oven and put the sour cream topping on and return it to the oven for 5 minutes. You can either leave the papers on (if letting people serve them selves, it might be easier) or you can peel the paper off before serving. It helps if the cheesecake is completely cool and thoroughly chilled.

In the pressure cooker!
Follow the directions as stated in the recipe above, but you don't need to wrap the outside with plastic and foil, instead raise it off the bottom of the pressure cooker and put 2 cups of water in the bottom, and then cover the top of the pan instead with foil. Once the pressure has been reached in the pan, cook for 25 minutes (cooking time will vary from brand to brand), take it out, and spread the sour cream on top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 (make sure to leave the oven on after par baking the crust) and you're done! I like that I don't have to mess around with the water bath and the cheesecake turned out wonderfully creamy and perfectly cooked!

Thursday, March 11, 2010



Granola can be made from so many different things, you can use different kinds of flakes (not just oats) including barley flakes, triticale flakes (both of which are in the picture). It can be made with or without coconut, it can have a number of different nuts or seeds, or none at all. There are many different dried fruits that can be added, or left out completely. The point is you can make granola how you like it, don't feel too confined by the recipe given here. The oats, nuts, coconut, fruit are all considered "garnish" and can be substituted for whatever you want... only like oats and nothing else? Substitute everything else for oats. Only like nuts and oats but nothing else? Leave the rest out and increase the amount of nuts and oats... all you have to do is add up the amount of total garnish (except the dried fruit which is added after cooking) and divide up however you desire. The total amount of garnish is 10 cups.

Granola (makes approximately 13 cups)

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup nonfat dried milk
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 cups unsweetened large flake coconut
1 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped pecans
6 TBS honey
6 TBS maple syrup
1 TBS cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used a coconut palm sugar instead)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup raisins
1 cup cranberries

Pre Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl mix together the honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, brown sugar and butter. Once it is well mixed, stir in everything else but the dried fruit (if the dried fruit is baked it will become too hard). Once everything is well mixed and coated, spread the granola out on 2 large baking sheets and put into the oven. Stir every 10 minutes making sure to that everything cooks evenly. It will take approximately 30-40 minutes. The granola is done when it is a golden brown. Take the mix out and let cool on the sheet pan. Once everything is cool, mix in the dried fruit and store in an air tight container to prevent the granola from getting stale.