Thai Pumpkin Soup

Happy Autumn!  Last Sunday Matt and I celebrated the arrival of Fall by making pumpkin soup.  And this wasn’t just any pumpkin soup… it was THAI pumpkin soup with fresh ginger, coconut cream and jalapeños in it… yum!  We topped it off with a dash of hot Sriracha sauce, a few salty peanuts and some sprigs of fresh cilantro and it was delicious!!

Thai Pumpkin Soup

I discovered this recipe in the cook book that came with our glorious Vitamix blender.  The Vitamix (predictably) made quick work of pureeing the soft ingredients for this soup but you certainly don’t need a Vitamix to make this… I’m pretty sure that an immersion blender would allow you to whip up a pretty tasty Autumn soup as well.  🙂  Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Thai Pumpkin Soup (adapted from the Vitamix ‘Create’ Recipe Book)

You will need…
Olive Oil
1 Onion, choppedThai Pumpkin Soup
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
2  1/2 cups Canned Pumpkin
2 tablespoons fresh Ginger, chopped
1 clove Garlic, chopped
3 cups Chicken Broth (or vegetable broth, for vegetarian soup)
1 teaspoon Green Chiles, chopped (we used Jalapeños)
1 cup Lite Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Cream of Coconut
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Optional Garnishes:
Chopped Peanuts
Cilantro
Sriracha
Sour Cream

Directions:
In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent.  Add the tomato paste, pumpkin, ginger, garlic and broth and stir well.  Bring the mixture to a slow simmer then remove from heat.

If using a VItamix or other high-powered blender, pour the pumpkin mixture into the blender and add in the green chiles, coconut milk, cream of coconut and lemon juice.  Blend on high power for 25-30 seconds, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

If using an immersion blender, add the green chiles, coconut milk, cream of coconut, and lemon juice to the warm pumpkin mixture.  Use the immersion blender to puree the mixture into a smooth soup.  (Note:  I did not use an immersion blender so I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m sure it’s doable!)

Transfer the pureed pumpkin soup into bowls and garnish.  Our favorite combination of garnishes was a dash of Sriracha with a sprinkling of peanuts and a few sprigs of cilantro.  The Vitamix book recommended a dollop of sour cream with peanuts and cilantro… choose whatever sounds good to you!

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Above: Our favorite garnish combination of Sriracha, peanuts and cilantro.
Below: Garnished according to the cook book with sour cream, peanuts and cilantro.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

What’s your favorite Fall pumpkin recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments or post a link!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

This week’s WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Changing Seasons.”  I recently decided that my favorite time of year is in fact the transition period between seasons so I think this topic is fantastic!

Matt and I have lived in our house for nearly two years now and I often find myself taking photos of the view from the north-facing edge of our tiny deck.  I have amassed quite a collection of photos throughout the changing seasons so I’ll use this Photo Challenge as an excuse to share some of them!

Changing Seasons: Looking out over Willistown Township

Do you have any favorite photos that illustrate “Changing Seasons” ?  Please feel free to link to them below or link to your blog if you are also participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Turkey Sausage

Fall is officially underway in southeastern PA.  The temperatures dipped below freezing last night which means that our bedroom was a balmy 58° when we woke up.  That’s right, 58°.  We haven’t turned the heat on yet and Matt likes to sleep with the window “ajar” so, as you might imagine, it’s a bit chilly in the morning.  But, I digress…  The real point of this post is that cold Fall weather means that it’s time to eat root vegetables!

Root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, beets, and carrots taste delicious when they’re tossed in garlic and olive oil and roasted in the oven.  It’s amazing how the flavors of these veggies change after being cooked at 425° for 40 minutes: the parsnips become soft and nutty, the carrots are sweet, and the potatoes are crispy… YUM!  If you want to turn your root vegetables into a complete dinner, add some sausage or chicken to the mixture and voila! the perfect Autumn meal is born.

For tonight’s dinner I used an assortment of root vegetables along with cauliflower and brussel sprouts.  You might also want to try using turnips, rutabagas, asparagus, broccoli, butternut squash or zucchini.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Turkey Sausage

You will need…
2 Red Potatoes
1 Purple Potato
1 Sweet Potato
1 Parsnip
2 Carrots
1/2 Yellow Onion
1/2 Beet
1/2 cup Cauliflower
4-6 Brussel Sprouts
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
4-5 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary (or Thyme or Italian Seasoning… whatever you want!)
3 Hot Italian Turkey Sausages

Directions:
Cut up the vegetables into large bite-sized pieces.  Try to cut the hard vegetables like the beet, sweet potato, carrots, and parsnip into smaller pieces and cut the softer vegetables (cauliflower, brussel sprouts) into larger pieces to ensure that the soft veggies don’t overcook.  Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and add the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Stir well to combine.  Transfer the vegetables onto a large baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.  Place the sausages on a second baking dish.  If your veggies are a bit crowded on the first baking sheet you can add a few of them to the sausage dish.

Cook the vegetable and sausage in a preheated 425° oven for 35-40 minutes.  Check on the vegetables every 15 minutes or so and flip them with a spatula.  After about 30 minutes, remove the sausage from the oven and slice it up into bite-sized pieces.  Return the sausage to the oven for the remaining time so that the cut edges will crisp up while it continues to cook.

Remove both baking trays from the oven when the vegetables are starting to crisp and enjoy!

More Comfort Food… Smothered Pork Chops!

Last Friday Matt sent me an email that said “Let’s make something blog-worthy this weekend.”  Ha!  I guess that means we were eating really boring meals last week, right?  🙂  I immediately agreed to Matt’s proposal and Matt spent the better part of an hour paging through our voluminous The Best New Recipe cookbook on Saturday before settling on a wonderful Fall feast:  Smothered Pork Chops.

Despite being a Fall “comfort food” recipe, we were still able to use several ingredients fresh out of our summer garden including thyme, parsley and garlic.  The rest of the ingredients are mostly standard pantry items which meant that we only had to go out to purchase the bacon, pork chops and onions.  This meal takes a while to prep and cook, but I guarantee you that the smell of the simmering pork chops and onions in a thyme-garlic broth will be MORE than worth every minute!

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon (adapted from The New Best Recipe)

You will need…
3 slices Bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
2 tablespoons Flour
1 3/4 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons Peanut Oil
3 Thin-Cut Bone-In Pork Chops, patted dry with a paper towel
Ground Black Pepper
2 medium Yellow Onions, halved and sliced thinly
Salt
2 tablespoons Water
2 Garlic Cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon minced fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh Parsley
1 package Egg Noodles, cooked accordingly to package instructions

Directions…
Fry the bacon in a small pot or saucepan over medium heat until the bacon is browned and the fat has rendered, approx. 8-10 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon bits and set aside on a paper towel lined plate for later use.  Whisk the flour into the bacon fat over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is light brown.  Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and then bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the Oil over high heat until smoking.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper over the pork chops and then transfer them to the skillet and allow to brown – approximately 3 minutes per side.  (Watch out – the oil will splatter so use a splatter guard!)  Remove the browned pork chops and set aside on a plate.

Reduce the skillet heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon oil, onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and water.  Scrape up the browned bits of pork with a wooden spoon.  Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and are turning brown around the edges, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant for about 30 seconds.  Return the pork chops to the skillet, cover with the onions and add in the reserved sauce and bay leaves.  Cover and allow to simmer over low heat until the pork is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a serving platter and tent with foil.  Increase the heat of the onion mixture to medium-high heat and simmer, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Remove the bay leaves, stir in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the finished sauce over the pork chops.  Sprinkle each smothered chop with the reserved bacon bits and serve over a bed of egg noodles.

Shepherd’s Pie (Fall Comfort Food)

The weather in southeastern PA is starting to cool off and that can only mean one thing… comfort food!  Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh summery pasta dishes and salads, but after a hot, humid August I am ready for Fall and all of the warm, hearty foods that come with it!

On Friday we kicked off our Fall food season with a delicious shepherd’s pie.*  We didn’t feel like grocery shopping after work so Matt searched around on the internet until he found a recipe on Food.com that used ingredients that we already had on hand.  The result was an all around solid dish.  It wasn’t amazingly gourmet and didn’t really have any “wow” factor, but it definitely satisfied my craving for a solid, comforting meal.  After all, how could you go wrong with ground beef covered in creamy, golden mashed potatoes?  🙂

*Shepherd’s pie is technically made with ground lamb, but we had ground beef so that’s what we used.  I think that a Shepherd’s Pie made with beef is called a Cottage Pie…?

Shepherd’s Pie (serves 6) (from Food.com)

You will need…
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
15-20 Baby Carrots, chopped into small discs (or use “real” carrots!)
1 Yellow Onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
3-4 sprigs Fresh Thyme, chopped
1 lb. Ground Beef – we used 93% Lean
1 cup Frozen Peas
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons Butter, divided (or Butter Spread like Earth Balance)
1 glass Red Wine (we used a Pinot Noir)
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup Beef Stock (we only had chicken broth; would be better with beef stock!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
8-12 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1/4 cup Fat Free Half & Half
1/2-3/4 cup Skim Milk
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped carrots and saute for a few minutes until they start to become tender.  Add in the onions and saute for another 1-2 minutes, then add in the black pepper and thyme and stir well.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.  Drain the beef if there is excess fat (there wasn’t with our 93% lean beef).

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the peas and stir.  Sprinkle with flour, stir, and then add in the wine, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and stir again.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, allow to reduce for a few minutes, and then add in the stock.  Simmer the mixture for several more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture takes on a thick, meaty consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While you are waiting for the beef mixture to thicken, add the potatoes to a pot of boiling water and allow to boil for 10-12 minutes (or more, depending on the size of your potatoes) until fork-tender.  Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, add in the half & half, milk, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and mash with a potato masher until creamy and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the meat mixture into a 13 x 9 casserole pan and spoon the mashed potatoes over top.  Spread out the potatoes carefully to complete cover the meat.  If desired, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the top of the potatoes.  Cook the Shepherd’s Pie for 30 minutes in a preheated 400°F oven.  In the last 3-5 minutes of cooking switch the oven to broil and put the Shepherd’s Pie until the broiler to give the potatoes and nice golden crust… yum!