Taking it easy

November 1, 2009

Last week was sort of a blur, which is mostly to do with the thin film of fatigue that settles over me whenever we move from one season to another. It’s been particularly strange this year, with the “it’s fall, it’s winter, it’s fall, it’s summer, it’s winter, it’s fall, now it’s summer again” thing we’ve had going on here in Kansas, and my body has been protesting any kind of activity beyond work and non-negotiable errand-running. But, hey, we got an extra hour today. Which means that now it’s going to be dark when I leave work, more or less without fail. So that should help.

Anyway, I try to push through these quirky seasonal changes in my energy levels so that I can actually cook decent food, which theoretically should be helping. And it does. Kind of.

I go on auto-pilot, really, and cook the things that I am halfway done making before I realize that I have put 0 seconds worth of thought or mental effort into them. Vegetable soup is good, what with the methodical chopping and the various “exciting” spice blends I can use to take it from one cuisine to another. This was an Indian-inspired one, with a little rice thrown in. For fun. Just because I’m in cruise control mode doesn’t mean I can’t be a little crazy, right?

curried vegetable soup with rice

curried vegetable soup with rice

And the most automatic meal of all is some version of pasta with beans and greens and something red. This time it was french lentils, spinach, and a ridiculously overpriced (but shrewdly unlabeled) red pepper, with a quick lemon-garlic sauce.

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go-to pasta

Tonight, though, in a sudden burst of energy (the extra hour, perhaps?), I set out to try something new. I grabbed two pie pumpkins at the last farmer’s market of the year yesterday, and tonight I baked one and pureed the flesh to use in another pumpkin bread, and to try in something savory: pumpkin and black bean soup. I started with the smitten kitchen recipe but diverged quite a bit. Maybe that’s why my soup looks approximately 0% like hers.

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vegetarian black bean pumpkin soup

I’m going to work on this recipe more before I post it, but for now I’ll say it was certainly passable, and even good, if not what I was actually going for. See, the pumpkins I’m getting are just not orange inside. Maybe they’re past their prime, or haven’t even reached it yet. I have no idea. I have yet to farm pumpkins. They taste just fine, but aren’t terribly pumpkiny, which seems, well, strange. While I did tweak the proportions here, I think the pumpkin I used just blended in, both taste and color-wise. It did add a little body to the soup, as well as a bit of creaminess, both of which I appreciated. Plus, I put the bowl of soup on a orange plate so that makes up for the lack of color in the soup itself.

I was going to roast some pumpkin seeds but I decided to use my energy to bake bread instead. I thought cornbread would be a great fit for this soup, but apparently Matt is some kind of cornbread-hater. Instead, I found an easy recipe in How to Cook Everything for whole wheat quick bread. I’m afraid of real bread baking, what with the yeast and the 110* water and all of the other nerve-wracking elements of it, including kneading and “turning out on a floured surface.” I’ll get there. Eventually. But for now, I’ll stick with this one, which was quick and easy and hearty and doughy with a little hint of sweetness from molasses. That Mark Bittman and his cooking of everything. It never ceases to amaze me.


The world’s slowest quickbread

October 25, 2009

Today at the co-op a tiny little pumpkin caught my eye and I was so enchanted by its cuteness that I guess I picked it up and carried it around the store and eventually bought it.

So then I got home and had a pumpkin to deal with.

My new issue of Vegetarian Times came on Friday, and one of the features is on baking with natural sweeteners. I went right to it and saw a recipe for a maple pumpkin bread that sounded pretty awesome, and I thought of that today when I came home with my wee little pie pumpkin.

The pumpkin was probably 2 or 3 pounds, and I wish I had taken some “in-process” pictures because I actually split a pumpkin in two for the first time in my life. There’s so little flesh, it’s kind of ridiculous, and the pulp was so opposed to being scraped that it probably took me a good 15 minutes to clean it out.

I baked the two halves for about an hour at 350*, until the skin was brown and easily pierced. Once the halves cooled, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it in the food processor. All that effort, and the entire yield was only a little over a cup. Luckily, that’s all I needed, but next time I’ll know that cuter isn’t always better when it comes to pumpkins for roasting and pureeing. Live and learn.

At least I have a bag of roasted pumpkin seeds now.

Oh, and this killer loaf of bread.

its awesomeness could not be fully captured

its awesomeness could not be fully captured

So, let’s total up the time this (admittedly delicious) baking project took:

Cutting and cleaning: 20 minutes
Baking the pumpkin: 60 minutes
Cooling, scooping, pureeing: 20 minutes
Recipe prep: 15 minutes
Baking the bread: 55 minutes
Grand total = 170 minutes

Yes, that’s right. Almost 3 hours of my Sunday.

But, it was actually pretty fun. And it gave me a chance to cook some black beans. And a great excuse to skip out on cooking dinner.