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Archive for Thanksgiving & Fall

FOOD FUN: Pumpkin Soup In A Mini Pumpkin

Express your inner artist by turning miniature pumpkins into bowls for pumpkin soup.

The next fun part is garnishing them with whatever appeals to you. Some of our favorites:

  • Croutons: cornbread, pumpkernickel or sourdough
  • Dairy: crème fraîche, sour cream, yogurt
  • Heat: crushed red pepper flakes, red jalapeno (circles or minced)
  • Meat: bacon, frizzled ham or prosciutto, pork belly squares
  • Pesto: cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Sage Leaves: fresh or fried
  • Spices: nutmeg, paprika, pimenton
  • More: apple chips, cranberry relish, currants, pomegranate arils, pumpkin seeds, toasted pecans
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    Here are some recipes to start you off:

    PUMPKIN SOUP RECIPES

  • Pumpkin Soup With Chicken stock & Milk
  • Pumpkin Soup With Chicken Stock, Half-And-Half and Cocoa Croutons
  • Pumpkin Soup With Anise & Pernod-Flavored Cream Cheese “Sorbet”
  • Pumpkin Soup With Mint Pesto Garnish
  • Pumpkin Soup With Garnishes Of Fried Pumpkin Seeds & Sage Pesto
  • Roasted Garlic Sage Pesto Pumpkin Soup with Spicy Fried Pumpkin Seeds
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    THE DIFFERENCES: BROTH, CHOWDER, SOUP & MORE

  • Bisque: A thick, creamy soup that traditionally was made from puréed shellfish. Today bisques are also made from fruits, game fish and vegetables.
  • Broth & Stock: Liquids in which meat, fish, grains or vegetables have been simmered. The difference between a broth and a stock is that broth is made from the desirable ingredients; stock is made from “leftovers” such as bones and skin; thus broth is richer and more nourishing than stock. Both are used as a base for soups and gravies.
  • Chowder: Chunky soups thickened with flour. The main ingredient chowder can range widely, including chicken, corn, fish and seafood.
  • Consommé: A broth that has been clarification. This means that egg whites or other ingredients are boiled in the broth to coagulate the sediment, resulting in a clear, elegant-looking soup.
  • Gumbo: A dish that can fall into the soup or stew category, a strong stock of meat and/or fish/seafood, with pieces of the protein and a variety of vegetables, served over rice. Gumbo is traditionally thickened with okra or filé powder (from the sassfras tree) and vegetables. A gumbo is traditionally served over rice.
  • Gravy: Gravy is not a soup, but a sauce; although Americans have often turned canned soups into sauces. Gravies are made from the juices of cooked meat or vegetables after they have been cooked. Almost all gravies start with a roux (ROO), a mixture of flour and butter; and are thickened with starch (flour, corn starch, arrowroot, etc).
  • Purée: Some soups are puréed into smoothness. A purée can be considered a vegetable or grain/pulse counterpoint to a bisque. The technique also produces smooth apple sauce, whipped potatoes and puréed vegetables (carrot purée, broccoli purée, etc.).
  • Ragout: The French term for a main-dish stew. Note that in Italian, n Italian cuisine, ragù is a meat-based pasta sauce.
  • Soup: Any combination of ingredients cooked in a liquid base: fish/seafood, fruit, meats, starches and vegetables. Soups can be thick and hearty or thin and delicate. While cooked ingredients can remain in the soup, the objective of the ingredients is to flavor the liquid. Soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Fruit soups can be served for starters or desserts.
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    Mini Pumpkin

    Pumpkin Soup

    Pumpkin Soup

    Pumpkin Soup

    [1] Get a mini pumpkin for each serving (photo courtesy Tablespoon). [2] This recipe has a garnish of mint pesto (photo Annabelle Breakey | Sunset). [3] This recipe has a garnish of sage pesto and fried pumpkin seeds (photo courtesy Half Baked Harvest). [4] This recipe has a simple garnish of creme fraiche* and pimenton* (photo courtesy Noob Cook).

  • Stew: A hearty dish made from proteins, vegetables, pulses, etc., simmered in a liquid (water, broth, stock, wine, beer) and then served in the resulting gravy. Stewing is a technique to cook less tender cuts of meat: The slow cooking method tenderizes the meat and the lower temperature allows the flavors to combine. There is a thin line between soups and chunky soups; generally, stews contain less liquid. Sometimes the name is adopted for a soup. Oyster Stew, for example, is a thick soup with butter and milk or cream, like a bisque.
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    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOUP

    THE HISTORY OF SOUP

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Thanksgiving Chocolate Bars Or Bark

    Dark Chocolate Bar

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bark

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bar

    Thanksgiving Chocolate Bark

    [1] Turn a plain 3.5-ounce chocolate bar into a Thanksgiving bar (photo courtesy Livestrong). [2] You can present the bars whole, or break them up into bark (photo courtesy The Nutrition Adventure). [3] You can use your favorite chocolate, whether dark, milk or [4] white chocolate (photo #3 courtesy Chocolate Inspirations, photo #4 courtesy My Catholic Kitchen.

     

    We love to make chocolate bark, especially since we discovered this easy technique from Australian blogger Erika Rax. You can make bark almost instantly: for family, friends or gifting.

    In the conventional technique, the chocolate is chopped and melted, the inclusions mixed in, the mixture spread on a baking sheet to set and then broken up.

    Here, whole chocolate bars are topped with the inclusions, then placed in the oven so the bar melts and the inclusions set in.

    The result: chocolate bars with your favorite toppings, that can be broken into bark if you wish. Personally, we give them whole as gifts, and break them up when serving them with coffee.
     
    RECIPE: THANKSGIVING CHOCOLATE BARS OR BARK

    Use the chocolate of your choice—dark, milk, white—or make one of each. Just ensure that the toppings contrast with the color of the chocolate.
    You can use raw or roasted pumpkin seeds, as long as they’re hulled and unsalted.

    You can use as much topping as you like, from elegantly spare to voluptuously overloaded.

    You can place the toppings in an artistic pattern, or just toss them on.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Chocolate Bars

  • 2 3.5-ounce chocolate bars (Cailler, Green & Black’s, Guittard, Lindt, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Optional: 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped or golden raisins (sultanas)
  • Optional: 1/8 cup pecans halves or pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Optional: coarse/flaky sea salt or kosher salt (a great use for beautiful Maldon salt or alea red volcanic salt, actually a dark “harvest orange” color), to taste
  • Optional spice: 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 170°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on ends.

    2. SPACE the bars on the baking sheet bottom side up, with ample space between them (the pattern normally on top of the bar is on the bottom so the toppings have a level base). Arrange the toppings on top of the bars.

    3. PLACE the baking sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the chocolate just begins to soften. Don’t overheat or the bars will lose their shape.

    4. REMOVE from the oven, lift the parchment from the hot baking sheet and place onto the counter to cool. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. While bark will last longer, for gifting make it no more than 3 days in advance, and wrap it in plastic or foil before gifting.

    You can also make your own paper chocolate bar label on the computer.
     
    GET READY, GET SET, MAKE YOUR THANKSGIVING CHOCOLATE.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Cheeses

    Jack O'Pumpkseed Cheese

    Cranberry Chevre Goat Cheese

    Gouda With Pumpkin Seeds

    Pumpkinseed Gouda Cheese

    [1] Jack O’Pumpkinseed, a mountain-style cheese from Switzerland. [2] Cranberry goat cheese log from Montchèvre. [3] Pumpkin spice goat cheese log from Montchèvre. [4] Another Pumpkinseed Gouda from The Netherlands, at Sam’s Club.

     

    If you read our articles on Halloween Cheeses, you know that many of them are colorful representation of the Harvest Season.

    They certainly work for Thanksgiving. But for a smashing Thanksgiving-specific cheese plate, check out these holiday-themed cheeses: a blue, a goat, and semihard cheeses (Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss).

  • Blue Cheese. No cranberries or pumpkin seeds here, but blue cheese lovers will appreciate the hot chiles mixed into Carr Valley Glacial Wildfire Blue, an artisan cheese from Wisconsin.
  • Cranberry Cheddar, Jack, Stilton and Wensleydale: different retailers will carry one or the other. Seek them out: They’re sure to be a hit.
  • Swiss-Style: Jack O’Pumpkinseed. This washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland has chopped roasted pumpkin seeds in both the paste and the rind. The paste is very smooth with a creamy mouthfeel. Bonus: tiny eyes. Available at iGourmet and elsewhere.
  • Goat Cheese. A number of cheese factories make fresh goat cheese logs rolled in dry cranberries. The Cranberry Chevre Log at Trader Joe’s is just $3.99.
  • Gouda-Style: From The Netherlands, Kaamps Gouda-Style Cheese With Pumpkin Seeds is a popular item at Sam’s Clubs (more information).
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    The semi-hard cheeses are great for a seasonal cheeseburger.

     
    SEASONAL ACCOMPANIMENTS

  • Apple chips. Our favorite brand is Bare Fruit.
  • Breads. cranberry orange, cranberry walnut, herb, nut, semolina
  • Fall fruits. apples, figs, pears, persimmons, pomegranate
  • Plate garnish. Decorate with cinnamon sticks, fresh sage, pomegranate arils, star anise
  • Pumpkin butter.
  • Seasonal crackers. We especially like the Oat Cakes and Rye Cakes from Effie’s Homemade.
  • Spiced pumpkin seeds. You can buy them (our favorite is Superseedz or season and roast your own.
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    HOW TO ROAST PUMPKIN SEEDS

    You can bake raw, hulled pumpkin seeds at 300°F for 45 minutes until golden brown, or roast them in a skillet on the stove top.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Spices of choice
  • Fine sea salt to taste
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    Preparation: Oven Technique

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Toss the seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a baking pan.

    2. BAKE for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

     
    Preparation: Skillet Technique

    1. PLACE the seeds in a dry heavy skillet, 9- to 10-inches, over moderate heat. Stir constantly until the seeds are puffed and golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

    2. TRANSFER to a bowl. Stir in the oil and seasonings; toss thoroughly until all seeds are coated.

      

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    PRODUCTS: More Favorites For The Season

    White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf La Brea Bakery

    Cranberry Walnut Loaf La Brea Bakery

    [1] White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf and [2] Cranberry Walnut Loaf, delicious additions to the holiday table from La Brea Bakery.

     

    Two more recommendations from our ongoing nibbling of limited-edition seasonal flavors:

    LA BREA BAKERY: ARTISAN BREADS, READY TO EAT OR READY TO HEAT

    La Brea Bakery, a brand of artisan breads available at select grocers nationwide and from Amazon Fresh, is an asset for home munching or serving guests. All are in the SRP range of $3.99-$4.99.

    You can have seasonally flavored breads in different forms—some actually emerging warm from your oven.

    With the Take & Bake options, the bread is partially baked when you purchase it, requiring just a few minutes in the oven to yield a warm and fragrant loaf.

  • White Chocolate Cranberry Loaf. We love this for breakfast toast and luncheon Brie sandwiches. Creamy white chocolate and tart dried cranberries pair beautifully with the sourdough (photo #1).
  • Take & Bake Cranberry Walnut Loaf. Sourdough with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries is delicious from the oven or toasted the next day for breakfast. We used it at lunch with ham and blue cheese from the fridge. It works with any cheese you’d use for a grilled cheese sandwich. Cut small slices to serve with cheese (photo #2).
  • Holiday Stuffing Loaf. Our friend Linda (a beast in the kitchen) bakes her own bread from scratch, just to make her stuffing. You can save the time and effort with this special loaf, seasoned with sage, thyme, celery, black and white pepper. You can brag that you baked your stuffing from fresh bread.
  • Take & Bake Holiday Stuffing Rolls. The same recipe as the Holiday Stuffing Loaf is available in roll form. Heat them up the day after Thanksgiving for a memorable turkey sandwich.
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    We also had a bite of La Brea Bakery’s:

  • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Loaf Cake. This spiced pumpkin loaf—cinnamon and nutmeg—has a cream cheese swirl, and a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds. It can be enjoyed any time of the day. We turned it into dessert with a side of mascarpone.
  • Gingerbread Loaf Cake. Moist spiced gingerbread cake with hints of ginger, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and topped with a candied ginger streusel. Gingerbread was a cookie before it was a cake. It started as a holiday food because the spices were too costly to be used for everyday cookies. Check out the history of gingerbread.
  •  
    The only problem with these two loaves: They disappeared far too quickly.

    For more information visit LaBreaBakery.com.
     
    PUMPKIN TORTILLA CHIPS

    Another treat we look forward to each fall are pumpkin tortilla chips.

    There are many brands. bit we’ve grown to prefer Food Should Taste Good and Way Better Chips.

    You can enjoy the chips with your favorite salsa, or get some of Mrs. Renfro’s Pumpkin Salsa or Frontera Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa, which is sold out on the Frontera website but available at retailers nationwide.

    For $3.95 a jar (Frontera’s is $4.95), these delicious salsas can be given as Thanksgiving favors (so much better for guests than a chocolate turkey) or stocking stuffers.

    The lucky giftees can wake up the day after Thanksgiving and have the pumpkin salsa with their breakfast eggs.
     
    DON’T TARRY: THESE ARE ALL LIMITED EDITIONS…

    …and they won’t be back again until next fall.

     
    DID YOU KNOW…

    YOU CAN BAKE OR FRY ACTUAL PUMPKIN FOR CHIPS!

    Make your own chips from pumpkin slices with this recipe from Hojiblanca and this artsy-looking chip recipe from Savvy Naturalista.

    Make them as a real surprise for your guests, or for your Thanksgiving hosts.

     

    Way Better Pumpkin Cranberry Chips

    Skillet Fondue

    Real Pumpkin Pumpkin Chips

    [3] Try pumpkin tortilla chips (photo courtesy Way Better Chips) with [4] a skillet fondue (photo courtesy La Brea). [5] You can also make solid pumpkin chips (photo courtesy Hojiblanca).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Spiced Tea

    Spiced Tea Spices

    Constant Comment Spiced Tea

    Spiced Rooibos Tea

    [1] It’s easy to make spice tea without special tea. Just blend your own (photo courtesy Republic Of Tea). [3] Constant Comment, America’s favorite specialty tea (photo courtesy Yankee Magazine).

     

    Many tea lovers buy spiced tea as a fall and holiday favorite; gift tins are popular holiday gifts.

    For home, perhaps the most popular spiced tea is the first major commercial brand, Constant Comment. A longtime favorite of ours (and the most popular specialty tea in the U.S.), the original black spiced tea bags are now available in decaffeinated black tea and green tea. It’s also available as loose tea.

    But if you’re home and hankering for a cup of spiced tea, with none in the house, the solution is simple:

    Just make your own with the tea and spices you already have in the kitchen.

    In addition to black tea, you can make green spice tea or white spice tea, or rooibos (caffeine-free red tea) spice tea, exactly as Ruth Bigelow did when she created Constant Comment Tea in 1946.
     
    SPICE TEA VS. SPICED TEA (IT’S SPICED!)

    A bit of a grammatical note on spice vs. spiced:

  • Spice tea would be an infusion of spices in boiling water, with no tea leaves. It’s analogous to herbal tea, where herbs are steeped in boiling water with no actual tea (Camellia sinensis). We know of no spice teas, however. While herb leaves steep into a liquid like tea leaves, spices do not.
  • Spiced tea is tea with added spices; the tea is spiced—the correct adjective.
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    EASY SPICED TEA RECIPE

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tea bags or 3 teaspoons loose tea
  • Optional: 3/4 cup sugar
  • Garnish: lemon wedge
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    Variations

    You can keep playing with the spice mix until you have your perfect recipe (see more ingredients in the section below).

    You can fill jars with your signature tea blend and give them as gifts to tea-loving friends. For friends who don’t use loose tea, add these unfilled drawstring tea bags.

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE water, cinnamon and cloves in a medium pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

    2. ADD tea bags; steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and spices.

    3. SERVE the tea hot or iced with a lemon wedge and choice of sweeteners, although the spice flavors are so exciting that no sweetener is necessary.
     
    TEA INFUSIONS

    You can also infuse the tea with:

  • Fruits: apple, citrus peel/zest, lemon, orange, pear or other fruit, fresh or dried
  • Herbs: basil, fennel (licorice flavor), mint, sage, rosemary*
  • Spices: allspice, anise/star anise, black peppercorns, cacao nibs, cardamom, chopped dried chiles, cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger (fresh, ground, crystallized), nutmeg, vanilla bean, turmeric
  • Sweeteners:Agave, honey, flavored syrup
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    Just look around your kitchen for things to infuse.
    ________________
    *Here are 10 herb choices from Garden.org.
     
    WAYS TO INFUSE TEA

    1. With a spice ball. We prefer the new twist-and-lock spice ball style. The closure is less likely to loose with continued use.

    2. Loose. If you don’t have a spice ball, just infuse all of the ingredients in pitcher or a large measuring cup, ideally one with a pouring spout. Then pour the tea through a strainer, into the cup.

    There are many devices for steeping loose tea, from simple infusers to more complex devices; for example, travel mugs and electric tea pots with built-in infusers.

    IngenuiTEA is our favorite device. Tea steeps in the unit, then easily dispenses into the cup.

     

    RECIPE: MASALA CHAI

    Masala chai is Hindi for spiced milk tea (masala = spice, chai = tea). It’s a strong black Indian tea infused with spices—commonly cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn, clove and nutmeg (chocolate or licorice are sometimes included)—with milk and sugar.

    Traditionally, the milk and tea water are boiled together, then infused. This ensures that both liquids are hot. In the era of the microwave, you can infuse the tea in boiled water and then add heated milk.

    While masala chai is traditionally made from black tea, green tea chai and rooibos chai have become popular in the West, where it is often simply called “chai.”

    There is no one “best” chai recipe. As with any other recipe, the best version has the seasonings you prefer, in the proportions that you want.

    Here’s a basic masala chai recipe that makes eight cups of tea. Take it as a starting point and adjust the ingredients and the proportions next time.

    If eight cups is too much for you, cut back the recipe. Or, refrigerate the remainder, store it in the fridge and and heat it as needed. You can also drink it iced.

    TIP: Some recipes (and store-bought blends) are pre-sweetened. If you may be serving the chai to people who prefer unsweetened tea, or use a noncaloric sweetener, omit the sweetener (the last ingredient) and provide sweeteners at the table.
     
    Masala Chai Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups whole milk (or substitute a lower fat or nondairy version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped fine
  • 4 teaspoons black tea leaves: Assam or other strong tea
  • 8 ounces honey or 4 ounces agave
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    Masala Chai

    Masala Chai Blend

    [1] Masala chai means milk tea. In its country of origin, India, it’s black tea steeped with spices, with added milk (photo courtesy Charles Chocolates). [2] You can mix your chai spices ad hoc, or keep your favorite blend in an airtight jar (photo courtesy Foodie Underground).

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the water and milk to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the remaining ingredients except honey and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and strain into another pot or bowl. Add sweetener and blend thoroughly.

    3. SERVE from a conventional teapot or a pitcher; or bring pre-filled cups the table.
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA

    Check out our tea Glossary: the different types of tea, with beautiful photography.

      

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