Pumpkin Apple Bread

I hope it’s not too late to wave the flag for pumpkin spice one more time before we head into peppermint and eggnog season.

yo-dawg-pumpkin

Sounds good to me. 🙂

I recently discovered the joys of making my own pumpkin purée, which has gotten me busy finding new recipes in which to use it. My Pumpkin Spice Bars have gone from excellent to ethereal, and now I have added Pumpkin Apple Bread to my repertoire as well. I have to say, I wish there were a county fair contest going on somewhere that I could enter this bread into because it is surely worthy of a blue ribbon and maybe a grand prize.

This is adapted from Libby’s own recipe, which makes two loaves. I halved the recipe, except for the apple (I had a smallish Golden Delicious on hand so I used the whole thing, cut up into 1/4″ dice), and added more spices. Cardamom is my latest favorite taste, so I had to have that. If you don’t have all these spices on hand, substitute two or three teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Ingredients
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c sugar
1 c pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1/4 c apple juice or water (I used water)
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large mixer bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice (or water) and beat until just blended.
  4. Add pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the apple.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 65 to 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

I appreciate this recipe for three other reasons besides how wonderfully good it tastes: 1) it requires only two bowls and a whisk, 2) it uses oil instead of butter, which simplifies things because I don’t have to wait for the butter to soften or cream it with the sugar, and 3) it contains both a fruit and a vegetable so that makes it health food in my book. 😉

If you want to make your own pumpkin puree, here’s a quick and somewhat amusing tutorial. The only thing I would add is that the purée will be slightly watery when it’s first made, so place it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl for a few hours or in the fridge overnight to drain before using. Compared to any canned pumpkin, homemade is the clear winner in both taste and texture, so it is definitely worth the extra effort.

Vegging out

I am not a vegetarian nor was meant to be, but vegetables are a dieter’s best friend, and can be amazingly satisfying when properly prepared.

favorite-vegetable-is-pudding

Tonight I made Cauliflower Chowder from Damn Delicious, which was (mostly) all about the vegetables. Even with the addition of flour and milk AND topped with bacon bits, it was still only 4 Weight Watchers points per serving.

cauliflower-chowder

You can get the official recipe by clicking on the image or the link above, but here is how I made it.

Ingredients
4 slices bacon
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 c all-purpose flour (I used Wondra)
4 c chicken broth
1 c whole milk
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Fry bacon in a large skillet until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. When cooled, chop into 1/4-inch bits.
  3. Break up cauliflower into uniform small florets and spray or toss with olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil or a Silpat mat and roast for 30 minutes or to desired degree of crispiness (I roasted mine just until there was some color on the bottoms).
  4. Melt butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted cauliflower and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in flour and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and milk, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. (The original recipe says to “whisk” the liquids in gradually, but I couldn’t figure out how to whisk such a dense and chunky mixture and it didn’t seem to make a big difference.)
  6. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaf.
  7. Before serving, dip out 3-4 cups of soup and purée it in a food processor or blender. Return purée to the pot and stir thoroughly.
  8. Serve garnished with chopped bacon.

To lighten this up, you could leave out the flour and milk (and the bacon, too, of course, even though it is soooo good) and simply purée a larger percentage of the mixture to add thickness. Either way, this is a wonderful recipe, really a keeper.

I had two helpings for dinner and was stuffed to the gills. I sent the rest over to my neighbors and told them it was my best ever and that I wouldn’t be sharing it with them if I didn’t like them so much because it was just that good. In fact, I said, “if you don’t like it, just give it back to me so I can eat it.”

David texted me a little while later, “Awesome.” I texted back, “I know, right?!”

 

Trying new things

My weight loss journey has entered the hard phase, where nothing is going as I would like for it to, particularly the number on the scale. I’ve been actively, even somewhat feverishly, experimenting over the past several weeks with different foods and eating schedules and so forth to try to find a way that I can both lose weight and be happy.

I know what doesn’t make me happy:

  • Feeling hungry, ever, even for a short period of time. I get very cranky.
  • Eating “diet” food, such as fat-free and sugar-free foods that SHOULD contain fat and/or sugar (milk, cheese, salad dressing, etc.).
  • Eating high-carb, high-sugar foods, such as cookies, which give me tachycardia for an hour and a fuzzy head all day.

I also have learned, through trial and mostly error, a few things that are helpful.

  • Rice is a really diet-busting food, for me. So is pasta. Both cause nearly instant weight gain, and neither delivers any real satisfaction.
  • Exercise, even the low-intensity little bit that I do, is essential. Neither the dogs nor I have benefited from skipping our walks.
  • Eating meals while I’m fixing them, standing at the stove or counter, is not really in my best interests.
  • I can’t control what I don’t track, and careful measuring works better than guessing every time.
  • Three substantial and balanced meals a day eaten at regular intervals works better for me than several small meals and snacks scattered haphazardly around the clock.
  • Trying to think of something to eat at the end of the day and then having to cook it when I’m hungry leads to bad choices (see first bullet point in list above). Prepping a variety of healthy foods in large quantities at the start of the week makes it easy to put together a good meal quickly.

In addition to trying to find the right balance of when and where and how much to eat, there is the fundamental question of WHAT to eat. I am seeking the Holy Grail of healthy, simple, inexpensive food that tastes fantastic and is good for me (meaning, won’t bust my diet). So far, I have found two recipes that show tremendous promise, and am actively seeking new ones as well as developing my own.

First, chia seeds. These are kind of a trendy thing now, and I’m not usually a fan of trends, but now I’ve tried them and I think they are actually really great. They look like poppy seeds, and have the quality of creating their own gelatin when wet. A one-ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 5 milligrams of sodium, 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese. Whether they’ll help you lose weight is still an open question, but they make a delicious and filling small meal or snack. You can get them in most supermarkets, sometimes in the bulk food section.

chia-pudding

Coconut Mango Chia Pudding from The Peach Kitchen.

There are a thousand variations on the basic chia pudding recipe, all of which can be found on Pinterest, I’m sure. My recipe is very simple:

1/2 c milk (you can use regular, 2%, skim, almond, coconut or soy; I use almond)
2 Tbs chia seeds
1 Tbs agave syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
1 tsp unsweetened coconut

Mix well and refrigerate overnight in a covered container. Serve topped with any fresh fruit.

You’ll be picking the seeds out of your teeth for an hour and the slick texture can take some getting used to, but I really like this recipe, which tastes great both before and after the pudding “sets.” You can, of course, adapt it with any ingredients you like. My version adds up to 5 Weight Watcher points.

The second great thing I’ve discovered is sofrito, which is a salsa-like flavor base used in Latin American cooking much the same way that mirepoix is used in French cooking. Everyone has a unique recipe and you can buy it bottled as well (Goya is one brand I’ve seen), but making it from scratch is a snap, especially when you have all the ingredients already prepped in the fridge.

cooked-sofrito

Cooked sofrito (unpuréed) from The Chef Within.

My recipe for this is pretty simple, too:

2-3 Tbs olive oil
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 c white or yellow onion, diced
1 c green bell pepper, diced
8-10 peppadew peppers, roughly chopped
2 c tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

Sauté the garlic and onions in the oil over medium heat for a few minutes until onions are translucent before adding the rest of the ingredients. Cook, stirring, for about 5-7 more minutes until tomatoes soften and mixture turns orange. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, or other seasonings to taste if you want to use it as-is, or leave the seasonings out altogether and use as a flavor base in other dishes.

Purée in food processor to desired level of smoothness. Makes about a quart.

I mix this stuff with rice and beans, put it on scrambled eggs, pour it over grilled chicken, even use it as a sandwich spread. I’ve made it with a bunch of cilantro added to the food processor (not cooked), and that was pretty good, too, but I don’t always have cilantro on hand and it’s still plenty good without it. The best part is, it’s all vegetables (which have no point value in WW) but it tastes fantastic! The fat content in a quarter-cup serving is hardly worth worrying about, and it’s a healthy fat anyway, so I don’t worry about it.

My guiding principle right now is that I want to eat what I like and like what I eat, every day, so having a recipe for a delicious, healthy, low-point snack, as well as a recipe for a delicious, healthy, versatile condiment that makes everything it touches taste better, has been very helpful to me in getting a handle on my eating plan so that I can, I hope, start turning things around. It’s been so frustrating to keep crossing and recrossing the same ground, never going beyond the familiar old boundaries and not (yet) able to make peace with my body so that I can finally lose this weight and keep it off.

i-have-not-failed

 

 

Spotlight on Super Tonic

Undetectable to the casual reader, we have a hit storm going on behind the scenes here at Going Forward that rivals—heck, far exceeds—any we’ve seen since we got Freshly Pressed around this time last year.

My post about making Dr. Schulze’s Super Tonic at home from August 2012 was linked on NaturalNews.com yesterday, and the spike in my stats today is bonkers.

11-1-stats

The flat part of that little graph indicates my typical daily viewership. The mountain represents, as of right now, more than 2,600 hits just today. And what’s really sweet, from my perspective, is that the number of visitors is only about half that, which means people are not just hitting that one page and leaving. They’re taking the time to look around a bit, at a whole bunch of posts that haven’t seen traffic in months.

So in terms of sheer numbers, this is better than either of my Freshly Pressed experiences, but on the other hand, my visitors are coming from the general public rather than primarily from the WP community, which means almost no new likes or comments on the post because I have limited commenting to registered WP users. Nevertheless, I am pleased that my little blog is getting seen more by the larger world. I also hope it will encourage more people to try making Super Tonic at home because it’s great stuff!

Speaking of which, I finally harvested the rest of my batch a couple of weeks ago, and am now probably set for tonic for the rest of my life.

super-tonic

This is the final, decanted, filtered product that resulted from the 17 jars my mother and I filled last August. Too bad I’m not selling the stuff by the ounce; I could get rich. 😉

Thanks so much to writer Paul Fassa (who blogs at Health Maven) and NaturalNews.com for bringing me into the conversation about natural remedies, and thanks to everyone who has stopped by Going Forward since yesterday. I hope all y’all will come back again!

Fry together for gold

I haven’t been doing much cooking lately because, you know, the dieting thing.

diet

So I satisfy (to some extent) my food cravings by looking at recipes on Pinterest. Today I found this lovely pic of “Cream of potato soup served with fried mushrooms in butter” on the Neatorama page.

Cream of potato soup served with fried mushrooms in butter

Doesn’t that look yummy? I promptly clicked through to the original link, which is to a page written in Polish. I asked the browser to translate it (you can try this yourself) and it produced a passable translation that I might actually be able to follow. I don’t have the faintest gloss of Polish vocabulary or syntax, but I find some of the phrases in English quite charming:

  • They [frozen mushrooms] are ideal for frying. Just then a little butter and the smell of the forest rises from the pan.
  • Fry together for gold.
  • You can add cream if you like, we decide.

I am stumped, however, by the ingredient duże pory. Every translation resource I’ve tried says it means “large pores,” and that sounds not only inedible but also gross. Anyone out there know what it actually means in the context of a soup recipe? I sent an email to the blog author and maybe I will get an answer back at some point. If I do, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I might just have to make this soup tonight and improvise a little.


Update, August 12, 2013: Mystery solved! The blog author says the mystery ingredient is leeks.
 

Super tonic harvest

Last fall, the mothership and I made a huge batch of our own recipe for Dr. Schulze’s Super Tonic, which I have been faithfully agitating every week since as the bottles ripen (or, um, whatever they do) in a dark kitchen cupboard (I have all kinds of strange things in my cupboards, as we know).

Tonight I decided to harvest a bottle because, although I think this batch needs at least another month or two to fully mature and achieve a nice amber color, my supply from a couple of years ago has finally run out. I need this stuff, what can I say? That’s why we made such a big batch!

As I noted in the original post, I chose tonight to decant the solution because the trash gets picked up tomorrow and overnight is about as long as I want to leave the discarded vegetables in my trash can. Longer than that and the smell pretty much never comes out.

So, I pulled a bottle at random from my stash of 12 quarts.

quart-of-super-tonic

After dumping it in a sieve and draining off the liquid, I got almost 3 cups of super tonic, enough to last me at least until the rest of the batch is ready.

straining-super-tonic

The sediment in the solution is certainly harmless, but I prefer the aesthetics of a clear liquid, so I am straining it overnight through a coffee filter. This gives the clearest result and is also the slowest–one drop at a time, literally.

filtering-super-tonic

I wish I could put this stuff under a fume hood overnight because I know my whole house is going to smell like vinegar in the morning. I’ll have to open all the windows and burn some incense or something because it will be pungent.

This is great stuff–delicious and nutritious (or at least medicinal) and made by loving hands at home. Food just doesn’t get any better than that!

Red velvet cookies

Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven, or so I’ve heard, so today I made a batch of Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies to distribute judiciously for Valentine’s Day. They use two ingredients with which I never cook, food coloring and Crisco, but I liked the result very much and can recommend this recipe.

I used the second, updated version of the recipe at the link because I wanted nice, red, plump cookies. I even added an extra quarter-cup of flour, but I should maybe have added another whole cup to really plump them up and cut down on the sweetness a tad. These cookies are really, really sweet.

cookies

My problem with following cookie recipes is that I just can’t for the life of me grasp what they mean when they say “drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.” Seriously, a spoonful? Who wants a cookie that tiny? So I used an ice cream scoop. The recipe said it would make three dozen cookies. I got only 14 out of it, but each one is practically a meal in itself.

This was the first batch of cookies I’ve ever baked on parchment paper (the recipe also suggested a Silpat mat, which I’m not quite enough of a foodie to own), and I love the results–I could just slide the entire sheet of paper off the tray to the cooling rack while the cookies were still warm without having to worry about breaking or squashing them with a spatula, plus I didn’t have to wash the tray. Very cool trick.