It’s Pumpkin Time

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Fall is my favorite season. The heat and humidity of Summer are gone and the words “Winter is coming” keep popping up in my head. Anything with cinnamon in it seems to be my spice of choice. All I want to do is bake. Pumpkin Bread is my go to quick bread for the season.

My father-in-law was famous for his Pumpkin Bread. He made it all year round. I asked him for the recipe and he told me it was on the can of pumpkin. Simple as that!

I could not leave well enough alone. I had to tweak the recipe just a bit to suit my taste. I juggled the spices a bit and added golden raisins that have been plumped in water. Easy as that.

Pumpkin Bread

Dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixed well:

3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Wet ingredients in a medium bowl, mixed well:

1 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2/3 cup water

1 15-16 ounce can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

optional: 1 cup of plumped golden raisins and/or 1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9″ x 5″ bread pans.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Stir in the optional raisins and nuts. Pour equal amounts of batter into the prepared bread pans. Bake for 60 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when the bread is done. Start checking every 5 minutes after baking for 45 minutes,

Cool on rack for 10 minutes then remove from pans to cool. Bread must be completely cooled before wrapping.

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A Sparkler for New Year’s…

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Just in time for New Year’s Eve night or New Year’s Day brunch or just a nice little something special, a sparkling wine from France. Cafe de Paris Sparkling Wine. It comes in two flavors: Pomegranate and Pear. Both are delicious. You know, since it is NOT from the Champagne region in France, it CANNOT be called Champagne. However, we call it champagne here at the Gravy Company. (did you notice the lower case C?) It’s all champagne to me!

The Gravy Guy, assorted neighbors, and I attend the monthly wine tasting at our local Hy- Vee. It is a wonderful thing. This was one of the sparklers we tried. Hello lover! I have a new favorite bubbly. This could, and I’m not saying it would, replace a Mimosa on any given Sunday brunch. It is also served regularly at The Little Cabin in the Woods.

cabin-champagneI especially love the fish stopper. Only the best at The Little Cabin in the Woods.

It is a sweet sparkler, but not cloyingly sweet. I love that word and have read the word more than I have ever used it. Cloying….cloyingly……great words! Everyone loves this little bottle of bubbles. Perfect, even for the grandmas, great aunties, and those who do not drink wine. <gasp>

The touch of pomegranate or the touch of pear lends itself well to offset the sweetness. Serve it well chilled. The best part…it is in the ten dollar range.  The alcohol content is 10%. The bottle is quite pretty and it would make a great host/hostess gift. Cheers!

pear-sparkling-wineThis is a picture of the Pear flavor. It is so good!

From the Gravy Guy and I, have a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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It’s Tomato Soup Season

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I know it’s been a while. Lots of life stuff happened over the last year. I was the caregiver for my husband’s parents for the last eleven years. This last year was the hardest for them and they required so very much of my time to insure a comfortable life to the end. They passed within six weeks of each other in the Spring. So, I have been working on finding a new normal. Rehabbing a cabin in the woods with my honey, hiking, meeting new friends, traveling, reading, painting, crocheting, hanging with the grands. I was not in the mood for cooking and baking. It was only on an “as needed” basis that I cooked. I knew, when my cooking mojo came back, I would be ready for the Gravy Company again.

Last night was a big football night. The Chiefs and Raiders….in Kansas City. They have been rivals forever.  Let me tell you, baby it was cold outside. They kept saying it was 22 degrees on the field. It was 17 degrees at my house. I was not at the game. I have many of those subfreezing games under my belt. Now, I watch the games from the comfort of my warm home. By the way, the Chiefs won.

I love tomato soup. I don’t mind the kind in the red and white can but the soup made from fresh tomatoes is pretty darn good. Since it is not the season for fresh tomatoes I decided to roast the canned tomatoes.

First of all, I used a can of Italian grown whole tomatoes and a can of good old, on sale at the local Price Chopper, American grown whole tomatoes. I wanted to figure out if the price and origin of the tomatoes really made a difference. Actually, it did not. The Italian tomatoes were bright red, a bit crushed, and not as firm as the American tomatoes. They roasted up quicker. The American tomatoes were very firm and roasted up just fine. They both tasted incredible after roasting. I would say, use any brand of tomatoes you like.

I gave measurements for the seasonings as a guideline. I always taste as I go and add my seasonings a little at a time. Waiting a bit after each addition in order to get the flavors evenly dispersed. Some may prefer more or less of the garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Lots of wiggle room to get the soup to your taste. After all, isn’t that why we cook?

First of all, you will need to use non-reactive cookware. That means, materials that do not react to the acidic nature of tomatoes. This would be glass, enameled cast iron, stainless steel. Basically, avoid aluminum and cast iron. That is why I used parchment paper on my aluminum baking sheet. Plus, the tomatoes don’t stick and it’s easy clean up.

tom6sI drained the tomatoes and reserved the juice for later on in the recipe. Then, I cut the whole tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and squeezed out more juice. Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet along with the onions and carrots.

The photo shows whole carrots. I found if you slice them in half lengthwise and place them cut side down they cooked much faster.

Drizzle all of the vegetables with olive oil.

I lightly salted the onions and the carrots since the tomatoes were canned with salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour and fifteen minutes.  Check after an hour to make sure they are not getting too done. I poked the carrots with a knife to determine if they were done.

tom7sYou want the carrots soft but not mushy. You want the tomatoes dried out a bit and a little bit of dark on some of the edges. The onions are always fine.

In a medium pot toss the roasted vegetables and add the reserved tomato liquid. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, basil, and heat the mixture over medium heat for about five minutes. Stir frequently. You just want it to simmer not boil.

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After the soup is heated through I used the immersion blender to blend. You could use your blender. Take care to do it in small batches in the blender due to it being so hot.

You can strain it after you have blended, if you want. Use a spatula to push the soup through the strainer. I like to strain it because I like my tomato soup a bit smoother. You may like it unstrained.

 

I took the leftover pulp and put it in a container and tossed it in the freezer. It will go in my next pot of chili or vegetable soup or tomato sauce.

Don’t forget to write what it is and to include the date. If you are like me, you won’t remember what was in that frosty container in the freezer.

 

 

Put the strained soup back into the pot and taste for any needed additional seasonings. Keep the heat on med/low. When the soup is to your liking, this would be the time to add the optional choice of creaminess.  I opted for a little less than 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Mainly because it is what I had in the fridge. You could even finish it with a pat of butter. Whatever you like. After adding the creaminess factor do not boil the soup. It could curdle. It is now ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Tomato Soup using Canned Whole Tomatoes

Serves 6

2  28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, halved and liquid reserved

2  carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

1  medium onion, halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices

3-4 Tablespoons Olive oil, you can use more or less

3  cups low sodium chicken stock

1  Tablespoon tomato paste

1  Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

Optional Additions:

2  Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

a pat or two of butter

Creaminess Factor: cream, milk, half and half, sour cream, unsweetened nut milks, whatever you like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid for later in the recipe. Cut the whole tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place the tomatoes, sliced onion, and carrots on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for about one hour and fifteen minutes. Checking after an hour for doneness.

In a medium/large non-reactive pot add the reserved liquid from the tomatoes, the roasted vegetables, chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, optional chopped basil. Simmer over medium heat for about five minutes. Do not boil. Stirring frequently.

Blend the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender. Take care when blending hot liquids. If using a regular blender make sure you blend in small batches due to the heat. It may be strained at this point if you like your soup smoother.

Return the pot and taste for any needed additional seasonings.  Keep the heat on Med/Low taking care not to boil.  After additional seasonings add your creaminess factor.Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil or a dollop of sour cream.  Enjoy.

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