What’s the most appropriate vegetable for Halloween?

31 Oct

Pumpkin, of course!

One of my favorite people, Patti, asked me last week about pumpkin recipes and cooking with fresh pumpkin. I admitted to her that I had never cooked a fresh pumpkin before. I don’t know why, because it’s not difficult — same as cooking a butternut or acorn squash — but the puree in the can is so convenient, it has no added sodium or other ingredients, and I guess I just never thought about it. While at the pumpkin farm last Friday, I picked up four medium “pie pumpkins” to give them a try. This morning I put two of them in a 400-degree oven for an hour and, voila! Roasted fresh pumpkin, ready for a recipe.

In honor of Halloween, I decided to brew up a cauldron of Creamy Pumpkin Soup. Most pumpkin soup recipes lean toward the sweet side with seasonings like brown sugar and cinnamon. Yummy, but I decided to spice it up a bit.

I used fresh pumpkin, but you can substitute a 32-ounce can of pumpkin puree. If you use fresh pumpkin, just roast it in the oven until it’s soft. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, then scoop the flesh into a food processor and puree it. You need about four pounds of pumpkins to get two pounds of puree. Also, I had planned to season this with dried thyme, but I was out. I ran to the grocery store and grabbed a container of thyme, only to discover at home that it was ground thyme. It’s powdered and has a bit more intense flavor than dried thyme that’s just crumbled. I’ve never seen it before, but the flavor came out nicely.

We’ll be warming our bellies with this soup just before heading out for trick-or-treating tonight.

You can serve this straight up, or you can jazz it up a little. Put some vegan sour cream and a little almond milk in a squeeze bottle and shake it. Then use it to “decorate” your bowl of soup. You can go romantic for a loved one…

or make it spooky and fun for your kids.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup
makes 8 cups

2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup apple cider
32 ounces pumpkin puree
1 cup plain almond milk or soymilk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat a stock pot over medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add celery, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in vegetable broth and apple cider. Increase heat and bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer until celery and onion are tender. Whisk in pumpkin. Simmer soup 10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly pour it into the soup while stirring. Add nutmeg. Simmer until soup is thickened. Add more crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Me with my three little monsters!

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