Food & Drink

Positively pumpkin: From savory soups to sweet treats pumpkin is versatile in the kitchen

Pumpkin cheesecake brownie (foreground) and pumpkin monkey bread at the Robins home of Nina Swan-Kohler on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Pumpkin cheesecake brownie (foreground) and pumpkin monkey bread at the Robins home of Nina Swan-Kohler on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Celebrate the harvest season by cooking and baking with pumpkin — one of my favorite flavors of this time of year. With all the excitement and hype about pumpkin-spice in everything from specialty coffee drinks to who knows what, I thought I’d get back to basics with some savory soups as well as a couple of sweet treats.

Both of my soup recipes are fairly quick and easy to make. The Curried Pumpkin Soup begins by cooking the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil to create the first layer of seasoning for the soup. I’ve added curry powder to create more depth and exotic tastes as my next layer of flavor. I then used canned pumpkin, plus fresh ginger, salt and just a bit of brown sugar. The final ingredient that brings all the other ingredients together is whipping cream, resulting in a smooth and creamy soup to savor.

I developed another pumpkin soup recipe a few years ago when helping my friend, Nan Fowler, host a Guatemalan fundraising dinner. This Guatemalan-style pumpkin soup is quite different from the Curried Pumpkin Soup, but equally delicious and satisfying. It has lots of chunky vegetables, coconut milk and a variety of spices and herbs, plus fresh ginger — all enriching the soup’s flavor.

With the prompting of one of my great nieces, I developed a Pumpkin-Pecan Monkey Bread recipe.

My recipe is not the typical monkey bread recipe that uses canned biscuits. We make our own pumpkin biscuits, then coat them with a brown sugar glaze. It’s a perfect recipe to make and serve for a weekend brunch with your friends or family during the harvest season.

Or, start your Thanksgiving festivities with this pull-apart sweet bread.

It would be nice to nibble on this while you are prepping for the rest of the day’s feast.

CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

2 tablespoons extra light olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder (Tones or McCormick Brand recommended)

4 cups chicken broth (1 32-ounce carton)

2 cans pumpkin (15 ounce each)

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup whipping cream

In a 4-quart Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook and stir onion and garlic for about 8 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add curry powder; stir for 1 minute to release flavor. Add chicken broth, pumpkin, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into blender container; cover with lid, leaving small lid off or open. Cover small hole in top of lid with paper towel. Pulse pumpkin mixture until smooth. You can work in batches if needed depending on the size of your blender. Pour pureed soup back into Dutch oven. Add whipping cream. Cook over medium heat until heated through. Garnish with sour cream and fresh thyme.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

CHUNKY PUMPKIN SOUP

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

You may want to serve this soup in small pumpkins for a special dinner party.

3 cups chopped sweet onion

2 cups chopped celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup butter

5 cups chicken broth

2 cans pumpkin (15 ounce each)

1 can (15 ounce) coconut milk

1/2 cup diced canned or peeled and diced fresh tomatoes

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sour cream garnish

In stock pot or large saucepan, cook and stir onions, celery and garlic in butter over medium heat for 10 minutes.

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Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

PUMPKIN-PECAN MONKEY BREAD

Makes about 12 to 16 servings.

Make this pull-part sweet bread from now through the holidays. It’s sure to become a family favorite.

1/2 cup pecan pieces (2 ounce package), divided

3 2/4 cups baking mix (Pioneer Brand recommended)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray 12-cup Bundt pan or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray; sprinkle bottom with 1/4 cup pecans and set aside. In large bowl, stir together baking mix and 1/2 cup brown sugar; make a well in the center and set aside. In a 2-cup glass measure, whisk together pumpkin, cream and milk; pour into well. Stir to make a soft, but stiff dough.

Turn out onto surface dusted with flour. Knead 7 to 10 times. Divide into about 32 pieces; roll into balls; set aside. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough balls into cinnamon sugar and place half of them in Bundt pan over pecans. Sprinkle remaining pecans; then remaining dough balls, followed by any remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Meanwhile, in a 2-cup glass measure, whisk together butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar; Microwave on high for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth; drizzle over top of dough balls. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately invert onto serving platter and serve.  

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARS

Makes 30 to 36 bars.

2 cups baking mix (Pioneer Brand recommended)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs, beaten

1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin

3/4 cup canola oil

1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

In large mixer bowl, combine baking mix, 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, stir together eggs, pumpkin and oil; add to dry ingredients. Beat until thoroughly combined.

Spread batter in a 1/2 sheet pan (18x13x1-inch) lined with parchment paper. In small bowl, microwave cream cheese on high for 20 seconds; stir in 1/2 cup sugar until smooth.

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Place in heavy-duty resealable plastic bag; cut off 1/4-inch of one tip of bag. Pipe onto pumpkin batter, making 5 crosswise lines from one long side of the pan to the other. Drag a wooden pick or a knife through all the lines from one short side of the pan to the other.

Repeat at 1-inch intervals, dragging the pick in the opposite direction each time, to make decorative design.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in top comes out clean. Cool completely.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Nina Swan-Kohler is a home economist, culinary professional, recipe developer, cookbook author and cooking school director/instructor. She teaches cooking classes and team-building cooking classes in her Robins home. To get a copy of Nina’s cooking class schedule or for more information, email swankohler@cs.com or visit www.cookingwithnina.net

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