Curried Pumpkin Soup (spicy!!!)

I've already said in previous posts (also here and here) that squash is one of my favorite foods. Pumpkin is also a squash, and today I tried my hand at making pumpkin soup. I decided to try making a curried soup, and I definitely came out with something spicy! The soup goes great with crusty whole grain bread (see the photo). A few variations to try: for the liquid, try using vegetable broth, apple cider, or pumpkin ale (I used 3 cups vegetable broth + 1 cup apple cider); if you don't like your food too spicy, reduce the amount of curry and red pepper flakes in the recipe below.

Curried Pumpkin Soup (6-12 servings, depending on serving size)
1 29 oz. can pumpkin
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 ribs celery, fined chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
dash cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. chopped fresh ginger (or ginger paste)
4 cups liquid (vegetable broth, apple cider, pumpkin ale, etc.)
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (regular or nonfat)

1. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in olive oil until onions begin to turn clear and celery softens. Use a food processor to puree mixture.

2. Combine pumpkin, curry, black pepper, red pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger, liquid, and onion / garlic / celery mixture in a large pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add evaporated milk and continue to simmer (do not boil) for 10 minutes.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and serve!


In preparation for the aeblekage (Danish apple cake) I am making for next weekend's Danish food festival, I made a hug pot of applesauce today. If you happen to have a hand crank apple peeler/corer/slicer handy, preparing the apples is much faster and easier. You can vary this recipe by using different kinds of liquids (e.g., cider or other fruit juice), adding additional types of fruit (e.g., cranberries), or stirring in little red cinnamon candies instead of using stick cinnamon.

Applesauce (a lot!)
8 pounds of apples
2 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks, 2 1/2 inches each
1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste)

1. Peel, core, and slice apples and place in a large stock pot with water, cinnamon sticks, and sugar. Cover and simmer until apples are soft and can be mashed (30-45 minutes).

2. Remove cinnamon sticks and mash using a potato masher (for chunky applesauce) or process in batches in a blender or food processor (for smoother applesauce). If desired, continue to simmer uncovered to thicken sauce.

Danish Food Festival

Next weekend I am throwing a Danish food festival to celebrate the 100th anniversary of my grandfather's birth. Christian Rasmussen was born in Odense, Denmark (Hans Christian Andersen's hometown) on November 1, 1908 and emigrated to the United States as a young man. Chris settled in Detroit, MI and married Irene Petsch (the daughter of German immigrants) in July, 1933. They had three daughters - Ann Marie, Karen Lee, and Sallylou. By the time my mom came along in 1950, Chris and Irene had moved to Sandusky, MI, where they had a small dairy farm.

When my mom graduated from college, Chris and Irene sold the farm and moved to a small island in Caseville, MI year-round. The "house on the big water" is where I spent many a holiday, family birthday, or plain lazy summer afternoon. Their tiny house was always full of delicious smells - frikadeller, roasts, pies, cakes, or whatever else my grandma happened to be cooking or baking that day. When it was time to eat, Grandma would send me out to call folks to the table with "vaske spise!" (wash up and eat!)

I'm planning several of my favorite Danish dishes for next Saturday's party - so stay tuned for the recipes! I'll be making aebleskiver, rΓΈdkaal, frikadeller, vegetarfrikadeller (okay, my grandma would never have made vegetarian frikadeller, but I'm intrigued and will try it), and aeblekage.


Squash Soup

Squash is one of my favorite foods, and squash soup is one of my favorite autumn dishes. For this soup, you can use any of the hard winter squashes (e.g., butternut, acorn, etc.) - many grocery stores sell peeled and sliced squash if you don't want to do it yourself, or you can get frozen cooked squash in the frozen foods section. If you are using fresh squash, boil it until tender (10-15 minutes, or until a fork can easily be inserted), drain, and mash with a potato masher. Depending on what liquid bases and add-ins you have on hand and whether you use a food processor or not, you can play around with this recipe to make it more savory or more sweet and smoother or chunkier.

Squash Soup (4-8 servings, depending on serving size)
2 lbs. winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.), cooked and mashed
2 cups liquid (apple cider, vegetable broth, water, etc.)
1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large ribs celery, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large apple, cut into chunks
1 can (~ 14 oz.) whole kernel or creamed corn (drain if using whole kernel corn)
1 rind parmesan cheese
1 T. chopped fresh dill (or dill paste)
1 tsp. cinnamon
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk (optional)

1. Combine squash and liquid in a large pot; simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to combine squash and liquid.

2. Saute onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil until onions begin to turn clear and celery softens. Add apples and continue to saute for 5 minutes.

3. Add onion / celery / garlic / apple mixture, corn, parmesan cheese rind, dill, cinnamon, and pepper to squash mixture; simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. [If you'd like a slightly creamier soup, add 1 cup milk at this point and simmer - but do not boil - for an additional 10 minutes.]

4. Remove parmesan rind (if it has not completely melted). Use a potato masher or food processor to blend soup; ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh dill.

Simple Apple Pie

This weekend I was up in Syracuse to visit friends and go apple picking (one of my favorite fall activities). After a morning spent picking and tasting apples, drinking cider, eating donuts, and generally having fun, my friend Susana and I settled down to the (not too) hard work of making an apple pie. The recipe we used is very simple and quick to make - adjust the sugar and spices to your taste and to the apples you are using (we used jonagold apples - fairly sweet and crisp, with just a touch of tartness).

Simple Apple Pie (8 servings)
2 refrigerated pie crusts
6 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 - 2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 T. butter, cut into small pieces
a few pinches of flour

1. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Place one pie crust in bottom of 9-inch pie plate and trim to edge of pie plate. Sprinkle flour lightly on crust.

3. Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Spread a layer of apples in the pie plate, sprinkle sugar mixture, add another layer of apples and sugar, repeat until all apples and sugar mixture are used. Dot top layer with cut butter.

4. Unroll second pie crust and place on top of pie, fold edges under bottom crust and seal edge of pie. Cut 3-5 slits in pie crust to vent.

5. Bake for 10 minutes at 450F, reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 30-35 minutes more.

6. Enjoy warm or cooled!


Pumpkin Raisin Pecan Muffins

One of my favorite "bases" to begin baking with is Pillsbury's Quick Bread mixes. They come in a variety of flavors, each of which offers many possibilities beyond just quick bread. The mix that I use most often is pumpkin, and that's what I used today in making muffins to take into the office tomorrow. This recipe uses plain (unsweetened) applesauce instead of oil, so it cuts out some of the fat while keeping the muffins moist - and adds a nice apple undertone to this fall treat.

Pumpkin Raisin Pecan Muffins (12 muffins)
1 box (14 oz) Pillsbury Quick Bread mix, pumpkin flavor
1 cup milk
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp. fresh chopped ginger (or ginger paste)
2 eggs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease or line 12 cupcake cups.

2. In a large bowl, stir together quick bread mix, milk, applesauce, ginger, and eggs. Stir in raisins and pecans.

3. Pour batter into muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.

4. Bake 20 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Cool in pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.