Savory Pumpkin Apple Soup Recipe – Greetings Australia!

Halloween reminds me of Australia…more specifically our Australian daughter, Hayley.  Oh, you thought I only had one daughter…well, you’re right, but I adopted Hayley for a few weeks many years ago when we were lucky enough to have her as our exchange student.  So, whenever it’s time to go to the pumpkin patch, I think of her because that is the very first thing we did after picking her up from the airport that sunny fall day.

Going to the airport we were filled with anticipation…all we knew was her name and that she was about the same age as Dana.  Would she be nice?  Would they get along?  What would she like to eat? At the airport we joined a big group of other families from the school waiting to pick up their exchange students with signs and balloons.  Finally the plane landed and the young Aussies were coming out….which one was she?

We finally got to meet her!  She had a smile like a ray of sunshine and she couldn’t be nicer.  She and Dana started talking right away and we were thankful that she seemed comfortable with us.  We were instructed by the school to provide experiences that Australian children might not have had before…so…since it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon we headed straight to the pumpkin patch at Shaw Farm.

What we didn’t realize was that Hayley was very, very jet lagged…so we drove out to the country while she slept in the car.  She woke up once we arrived and she and Dana enjoyed picking out their pumpkins to carve for Halloween.

Australia does not celebrate Halloween so carving pumpkins was going to be a new experience for Hayley (sadly, she left right before she could go trick or treating).

In the brief time Hayley was with us we tried to pack in as many activities as possible.  One of her main goals was go to an American football game, which is quite different from Australian football.  We lived in Cincinnati at the time, so we arranged to go to a Bengals-Steelers game (quite the rivalry).  Somehow, the Bengals found out just how much ALL of the Australian students were interested in football and they invited the group to a special day at the stadium.  I’d never been on the field of a major league team myself and I can tell you it was very cool to be down there surrounded by 50,000. seats!

All to soon it was time for her to leave, but not before seeing local sights and taking part in a Thanksgiving dinner…(remember, they wanted us to show our visitors something that they would not see in Australia), so even though it was October, we had our first of two Thanksgiving meals that year.

One of the last activities was a performance given by the Australian students giving us a glimpse into their culture and traditions.

Hayley, Amanda and friends right before their performance

I wish that she could have stayed much longer, it seemed like she had just arrived when was time for her to go…a very sad day indeed.

We still keep in touch, now via Facebook , so we get to see her and her lovely family, yes, she has a family now…a handsome husband and two darling wee ones, a girl and boy.  Hopefully one day soon we will see her again, but in Australia this time.

When I asked Hayley what she would like to eat, she said that she liked to eat roasted pumpkin.  So, off I went to the farmer’s market and prepared the pumpkin for her… which was new for us because I had never served plain roasted pumpkin as a vegetable before.

I think that Hayley will like this recipe, it’s easy, and tasty.  I’m so glad that she was part of our family for awhile and got to share a few of our Sunday suppers.

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Savory Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

This pumpkins soup is perfect for fall. It's easy and tasty.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped - 1 cup
1 large sweet apple, cored and chopped - 1 cup
4 cups - 32 oz. canned or homemade chicken stock
3 15 oz. cans pumpkin puree or 6 cups roasted fresh pumpkin
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
9 fresh sage leaves, crushed slightly in your hand

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large stock pot. Add the chopped onion and apple and saute for about 10 minutes till onion is translucent and apple is soft.

Add the chicken stock, pumpkin, apple cider, half and half, salt, pepper, thyme and sage. (Tie the herbs together with kitchen twine, or wrap them in cheesecloth for easy removal from soup). Bring to a simmer on low heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove the sprigs of thyme and sage leaves.

In small batches, either in a food processor or blender, puree soup till smooth. Return to pan and heat to desired temperature.

Garnish with small cubes of apple and toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

Make it special, make it Sunday!

Enjoy!

Sunday Supper in Provence – Tomatoes Provencal Recipe

Ah, the romance of train travel!  I panic, I rush, I sprint!  Finally, stash the luggage and find my seat…whew!  For the next few hours calm prevails as I look out the window of the high speed train on our way to Provence.  I love peering into the countryside as the ancient villages, farmland and forests pass by so quickly.

It was raining buckets as we descended  from the train and got our bearings in Avignon…now to the car rental and then our long ride.    Luckily, we got a car with GPS that took us on a route we had never traveled which made the ride a new adventure.  We drove along the Rhone river and watched as couples walked hand in hand, babies were pushed in strollers and the elderly looked on with approval.

We arrived in Vaison la Romaine as the sun was setting and pulled up to the bastide (country house) that was to be our home for the next week. It was nestled amid vineyards at the top of a hill.  Mt. Ventoux was on one side and Les Dentelles on the other and the ascending moon in between.

The next morning the rain had vanished and we woke up to this bucolic vision.

It was right before the harvest and the vines were fully laden with their bounty.  Soon the labor would begin to pick the grapes and send them off to be transformed into a lovely Cotes du Rhone.

The house cat, Truffe, named after the black gold in the region, “truffles” would not let me take his picture, but you can see I managed this one.

The next day we loaded the gear and took off for another hillside where the legendary Patricia Wells was waiting for us to work with Jeff on her new cookbook.  We quickly settled in to our assigned jobs and began.

For the remainder of the week we had perfect weather..even the notorious “mistral” behaved…well, somewhat, and at the end of the week we had completed the first half of a book that is sure to be another triumph for Patricia…the recipes are fabulous.

It’s going to be very hard to go back into our normal studio after this one!

As much as I love Paris, it’s wonderful to visit charming, provincial towns and soak in the more “laid back” pace and atmosphere.

One dish that we were served many times in town was Tomatoes Provincal…it usually accompanied chicken or lamb dishes.  I like to serve this for our Sunday supper as a savory addition to the meal with another vegetable, so I don’t serve large tomatoes and I don’t serve 2 per person.  That is why this dish could serve between 4 to 8.

Make it special, make it Sunday!

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Tomatoes Provencal

Yield: 4 - 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

A savory side dish that is especially nice with chicken or lamb dishes.

Ingredients:

4 - medium tomatoes
1 cup bread crumbs (I let my day old French bread bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (try to grate your own, if you can...I like to roughly grate it for this recipe)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, removed from stem
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, removed from stem
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Drizzle quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wash and core the tomatoes, slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest together.
Oil the surface of your baking pan.
Place tomatoes on the baking pan face up and sprinkle with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Stuff the tomatoes with the bread/cheese/herb mixture.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then place under the broiler for about 5 more minutes till nice and golden brown.
Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

Sunday Supper in Paris – Easy, Lemony, Fromage Blanc with Fresh Fruit and Raspberry Sauce Recipe

What do you think of when someone says “Paris”?  Fabulous food?  Wonderful fashion?  Exquisite monuments?  Well, when I think of Paris, I think of our dear friend Eileen…she is chic, beautiful, a gourmet cook, and a great friend.

We met Eileen a few years ago at cooking class, and we hit it off right away.  She is vivacious, fun, and smart as a whip…oh yes, and did I mention… beautiful?  Men seem to snap their necks when she walks by…when I met her I thought that she was a fashion model  gone “culinary”.

When I e-mailed her and told her we were coming to Paris, she immediately wrote back inviting us to dinner.  I was thrilled!  So excited that we would get to see her beautiful apartment…and she was going to cook for us…but best of all, we would get to visit with her again.

That afternoon we scoured the shops around Rue St. Germaine for the perfect bottle of wine and the sweetest bouquet to bring to our hostess. Near her apartment an elderly French gentleman admired the bouquet and asked if someone had given it to ME…I guess because Jeff was taking pictures of me holding it!

We entered through very large, imposing, wooden doors into what I have to say is an inner sanctum.  All of the noise of the street ended as we closed the heavy doors behind us and walked into the charming courtyard.  We followed directions and found her building and the little elevator that took us  to her door.  We knocked, she answered, and it was if we were still back in Provence chatting and cooking.

Eileen has lived in Paris for years and is very familiar with preparing French food, but this night she decided that she would treat us to an Italian dinner…except for the dessert.  Our feast started with silky prosciutto and melon with her special twist of lime,  succulent osso bucco with risotto, and for dessert, fromage blanc with fresh fruit.

Her apartment is everything you might expect from a pied-a-terre in Paris… whitewashed beamed ceilings, interesting art work, the patina of mellow antiques, and French windows opening onto the sights and sounds of Paris.

Her kitchen was small, but arranged so that it was extremely efficient and she produced our dinner with ease.  We made ourselves at home, helping stir the risotto, and pouring wine.

We all agreed that our best times with our family and friends happen around the dinner table.   That is why Eileen is embarking on a project that I think is absolutely wonderful…she is going to write down and photograph 40 of her family’s favorite recipes and make books for her children.  What a wonderful legacy that will be!  Since Eileen is an accomplished cook and photographer I’m thinking that this is going to be one great book!

Not all of her family favorites are her own recipes…like the recipe she shared with me for this post.  It’s a great recipe from Ina Garten, and the following is my adaptation of it.  We thought that is was the perfect ending to our meal…light, fresh and flavorful…I think you’ll agree.

Fromage blanc means “white cheese” in French.  It’s a soft white cheese that is low in calories because it is made with milk instead of cream.  If you can’t find fromage blanc (it’s a bit difficult, I found mine at Whole Foods) you may want to substitute a mixture of  1 cup of Greek yogurt (not 0% or 2%, go for the whole milk version) added to 2/3 cup of mascarpone.

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Easy, Lemony, Framage Blanc with Fresh Fruit and Raspberry Sauce Recipe

Yield: 4 - 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Light and fresh, just the dessert for warm weather or after a heavy meal!

Ingredients:

For Fromage Blanc

16 oz. (2- 8 oz. containers) fromage blanc (try to find made with whole milk and not 0%) OR use 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt mixed with 2/3 cup of mascarpone
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup of honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (use an organic lemon, if you can)
Vanilla seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (optional)

For Fresh Fruit

I used raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, orange segments and sliced peaches, but you can let you imagination go wild here...stone fruit, berries...

For Raspberry Sauce

2 - 6 oz. packages of fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Frambois liqueur (optional)

Directions:

For Fromage Blanc

Stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. If using a vanilla bean, be sure to stir well so the seeds from the vanilla bean can become fully integrated into the mixture.
Cover and put into the refrigerator 3 hours or overnight.

For Raspberry Sauce

Put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and mash the berries with the back of a wooden spoon. Let mixture come to a boil and cook down by half (about 10 minutes). Take off heat and let cool. I strained the mixture twice and served the strained liquid, but you could put cooled mixture into a blender or food processor and blend, if you prefer a thicker sauce.

Assembly

I used individual bowls for this dessert. Evenly distribute the fromage blanc into shallow bowls. Arrange the fresh fruit on top and pour on a bit of the of raspberry sauce. I served the raspberry sauce on the side for those folks who might like an additional amount.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Steve Jobs!

 

This week in a special post, I’d like to honor Steve Jobs.

Thanks to him, I have embraced technology and in a round about way he is one of the people responsible for this blog…without him, I would not have attempted anything so tech savvy.  So here I sit on my Apple computer with my I-Phone plugged into it and the I-Pad not far away.  He has changed my life, and probably your life in some way as well.

In the speech that he gave to Stanford graduates in 2005, he said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your head and intuition.”  That’s what I’m doing, Steve…thank you!

It was reported that in his final months all he wanted to do in the evenings was to go home and enjoy dinner with his family…not galas in his honor, or fancy restaurants…with just a little time left, he wanted to focus on what was really important.  We have all been following his ideas for years…let’s follow this one also.

 

 

Things You Should Know About the Benefits of Figs!

We were ducking under these beauties all week. The tree was not pruned so that we could pass under it easily. We had to stoop to their magnificence. The leaves were so big compared to the fruit…small, but mighty.

Cleopatra ate these…maybe she fed them to Caesar! They originated in Egypt and quickly spread to Cyprus, Greece and Rome and eventually to our table. They have been a domesticated crop for 11,000 years…one of the oldest,  along with rice.

Being native to the Mediterranean region, we saw them every day in Provence…green, purple, yellow.  They were featured at almost every meal because they were at the height of their season.

The main benefits of figs are that they are high in fiber, potassium, calcium and manganese. The ancient Romans fed them to the Spartans to make them strong for battle and they didn’t even know the chemical breakdown.

So what does that mean to you since you aren’t a Roman soldier?  Well,  a cup of figs delivers 1,013 mg of potassium (29% of your daily requirement),  241 mg of calcium (24% of your daily requirement), and 0.8 mg of manganese (38% of your daily requirement). Because of their fiber, they have a mild laxative effect and fig juice is thought to have a soothing effect on the bronchial passages.

When you choose figs, please make sure that they are not mushy or bruised and put them in the fridge immediately and eat them within 2 – 3 days…I don’t have to worry about that…they don’t last long at our house!

Enjoy!

Please note: The information presented is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease.  Please consult your physician if you are having any medical problems.