Friday, October 30, 2015

Sourdough Pumpkin Bars

While this should've been a no-brainer Sourdough Surprises due to the easy theme (anything pumpkin) and an extended deadline (the 30th of the month instead of the 20th), truth be told, I struggled with this one. Maybe it was the fact that there are so many great pumpkin recipes I could have gone with. Pumpkin pancakes, sourdough pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pie with sourdough crust, sourdough pumpkin snickerdoodles, pumpkin bagels, sourdough crepes with pumpkin mousse... the extra days just gave me more time to vacillate between them all.

Whatever. When push came to shove and the clock started ticking down those final days, I picked a lane and kicked it into high gear. I always knew it was going to be something sweet. Though there were some false starts along the way. 

The pumpkin bread made with roasted butternut squash came out pretty delicious. I brought it to work, everyone agreed and I might just be blogging that some time soon! The pumpkin doughnuts, not so much. That one's gonna need work. After those adventures, I double-downed on the sweetness and arrived at pumpkin bars with orange cream cheese frosting. Sourdoughafied of course!

sourdough pumpkin bars

1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice*
6 tablespoons oil
1 cup canned pumpkin (or any cooked squash)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 teaspoon fresh orange rind
1 cup sugar
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup raisins 

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh orange rind

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and set aside. 

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In another large bowl whisk together oil, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, sugar and starter. 

Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fold in raisins. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center of bars comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack.

While bars are cooling, prepare frosting. Cream together butter and cream cheese. Gradually  add confectioners sugar. Add vanilla and orange rind; beat until creamy.

Top cooled bars with frosting and cut in 18 or 20 servings.

 *I used 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 tablespoon each nutmeg and ginger, and a pinch of cloves.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Autumn Vegetable Soup

It's Saturday, so of course I went to the Farmer's market. I saw the work of a wonderful crafter who makes mobiles out of felt birds and twigs. The one with a cardinal flying around a beautiful handmade nest stole my heart. Just the sweetest thing ever! I got a basket of honeycrisps, 'cause I'm crushing on them right now. And I bought a bunch of organic celery replete with a plume of luscious celery leaves. The celery leaves became the reason d'etre for my rich and flavorful, not to mention, kick ass nutritious, autumn vegetable soup.

Celery is one of those things I love but usually never buy. It's best to purchase only organic celery, which I find too expensive, since most of the time I buy organic celery I use two stalks and the rest goes to waste. I was able to buy a small bunch of celery today, organic and as I said, with those showy leaves still attached.

Most people don't know it but celery leaves are totally edible, delicious and full of nutrients. You can treat them as you would any other leafy green and add them to smoothies, saute them or toss them in salads. Or just make this soup.

autumn vegetable soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup butternut squash (I roasted mine first and added it in at the very end)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dired)
2 bay leaves
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 to 1 cup water
1 can great northern beans, drained and rainsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
celery leaves.

In a large pot add olive oil and butter. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash (unless roasted before hand), oregano and thyme. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add stock, bay leaves, beans and water. 

Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste, adjust the seasoning and add more water, if necessary. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with a chiffonade of celery leaves. Make 4 servings.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Butternut Bisque

Cooler weather is moving in, just as one would expect for the first week in October, and sexy butternut squash are turning up at Farmer's Markets. However special and seasonal they may be, I passed on a beautiful specimen that was going for $7.00! $7.00?? I love shopping local and supporting small farms, but that seemed a bit steep to me, even with my extravagant tendencies.

None the less, the seed had been planted and I started to get a hankering for some squash goodness. Luckily I found a perfectly serviceable organic squash at my neighborhood supermarket for a fraction of the cost. It was delicious simply cut in half, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and tossed in a 350 degree oven.

But I had bigger plans for my squash and it involved apples and fresh thyme, which is still growing nicely on the deck but won't be for long. I'm talking about butternut bisque, people! Mmmmmm, so good and tastes much richer and creamier than it really is. Did you see that picture? I bet you wish you could taste it! I'll sell you a bowl for $7.00!

butternut bisque

2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups roasted butternut squash, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups veg stock
1 cup milk 
coconut milk and more fresh thyme for garnish

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add onions, apples, carrots, thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one more minute.

Add butternut squash, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Add milk and transfer to a blender to puree. Return to pot, adjust seasonings (if you like more herbs and spices now's the time to add them in); cook just to heat through. Garnish with a swirl of coconut milk and a sprig of fresh thyme. Makes 4 servings.