Archive for the ‘Fall Harvest & Thanksgiving’ Category

Thanksgiving Light

Thanksgiving is a favorite American holiday in which we give thanks for our many blessings, including our family, friends and delicious food. Recent studies show that the positive affects of gratitude are good for our health – we have more social connections, energy and happiness. A healthy diet is good for us too, even during the delicious holiday feast often referred to as a “pig out!”



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                          CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP IN A BOWL


This festive holiday pumpkin soup is also delicious made with 2 cups cooked butternut squash or Japanese kabocha squash. You can vary the flavor by stirring in a generous 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter OR the cooked, soft, diced pulp of two apples or pears. Enhancement for the top might include minced fresh chopped herbs like marjoram, cilantro or chives, or cinnamon-flavored croutons or a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream. Occasionally, I like to add an Asian flavor note in the form of either grated gingerroot, minced lemongrass, fine slivers of fragrant lime leaf or shredded shiso.  

This recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but if you would rather use fresh, which I often do, purchase a small sugar pumpkin. Rinse well, then cut into large pieces (or cut in half) and scrape out the seeds. (They can be roasted and lightly salted for snacking.) Place the pumpkin pieces, cut sides down, on a foiled-lined roasting pan. Add a little water to the pan. Roast at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) about 1 hour or until knife tender. Cool pumpkin pieces then cut away the outer skin. Put the flesh into the food processor with a steel blade and puree until smooth. Or push through a sieve or tamis for a silky consistency. 

The sugar pumpkin’s cooked flesh will be smoother and tastier than a regular Jack-o-lantern, which can be watery. The flavor and color of the fresh pumpkin will usually be lighter than canned pumpkin. If using butternut squash or kabocha squash, prepare it the same way.  Kabocha has a attractive marigold color and rich flavor.


  • Fresh cooked pumpkin purée is usually looser than canned, with a higher water content. You should strain off some of the water by putting it into the refrigerator overnight inside a lined strainer over a bowl, or concentrate the pulp by cooking it in a pot on low heat, stirring often. 
  • Use pulp within 2 or 3 days; freeze for longer storage. 
  • Some cooks like to combine fresh and canned pumpkin for pumpkin pies and other recipes. 
  • Small pumpkins or squash can be put into the microwave and cooked for 10 to 15 minutes.  
  • Any way you cut it, pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene (they’re orange), which may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.  They offer protect against heart disease.  


Curried Pumpkin Soup         

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion (1 small onion)
2 large finely chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (not pie filling) (preferable Libby’s brand)
3 cups homemade or canned chicken broth
1 cup half and half  
1/2 cup apple nectar or orange juice
Garnishes, as desired


Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic.  Cook 3 or 4 minutes until soft, stirring often. Add all the spices at once through the salt and pepper; stir and cook 30  seconds or until aromatic.  Stir in pumpkin then the broth. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cook about 15  minutes, stirring often. Add half and half and apple nectar; simmer on low 2 or 3 minutes or until hot.  For a smooth consistency, process soup in batches, in a blender or a food processor, using the steel blade.  Reheat soup; taste and add additional seasonings, if desired.  Serve warm in small bowls.


Photo © by Susan Fuller Slack


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  Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Capers over Grits  

Along with cooler fall weather comes a bounty of harvest foods and flavors.  This is the time of year when heartier and richer dishes begin to appeal. Think of chicken as a starting point for just about all of your fall favorites.  This new, delicious recipe was developed by The National Chicken Council and highlights the season’s herbs, spices and vegetables. Pre-sliced chicken cutlets cook quickly on top of the stove, along with a delicious sauce of  wild mushrooms, diced tomatoes, shallots and white wine.  The creamy, light-tasting grits, a Carolina favorite, is the perfect counterpoint.  Complete the menu with a crisp green salad.



Chicken with Wild Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Capers over Creamy Garlic Grits



6 chicken cutlets (breasts sliced thin)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 ounces mixed mushrooms (chanterelle, baby bella, shiitake), about 6 cups chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 cup dry white wine

1 can (14-ounces) diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon capers

4 tablespoons chopped basil, divided

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary


Creamy Garlic Grits

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup water

2 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked grits 

Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.


In a large sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium until butter is melted.  Add chicken and sauté for 2-3 minutes per side, until browned.  Remove from pan to plate and reserve.

Add chopped mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally.  After two minutes, add garlic and shallots.  Continue to cook for another two minutes.  Add wine to pan, bring to a boil and reduce until almost gone, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes and juice, continue to boil until slightly reduced, another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons basil and rosemary.  Turn heat to low.

Make the grits by bringing the stock, cream, water, garlic, and butter to a boil.  Slowly whisk the grits into the liquid.  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes or until grits thicken.  Turn heat to low and stir occasionally while finishing chicken.

Add chicken and any accumulated juice back to pan with mushroom tomato sauce.  Turn heat to medium and cook chicken for about 5 minutes until chicken is heated through.

Divide grits into soup bowls then place two pieces of chicken on top of each bowl.  Spoon the mushroom-tomato sauce on top.  Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve. Serves six.


Nutritional Information, Per Serving:

510 calories; 24 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 480 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 4 g sugars; 32 g protein

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Did you hear the news from Morton, Illinois, the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World?” 

It seems we’ve just been through the Great Pumpkin Crisis of 2009. Excessive rains and a bad harvest season created a shortage of pumpkins in Morton, where Nestle grows them for Libby’s brand of 100% pumpkin packed in 15- and 29-ounce cans. Nestle controls 85 percent of the pumpkin crop for canning. Libby had announced that it would not be canning anymore pumpkin this year.  

Actually, I hadn’t even noticed. I prepared my own fresh pumpkin for baking this year. 

Whole large pumpkins are wonderful for carving into jack-o-lanterns around Halloween and medium-size ones become charming flower containers during the fall (above photo). Pumpkin pulp can be used in a variety of recipes for pie, cake, pumpkin butter, cookies and soup.


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Sweet Potato Casserole


Ben Franklin was so fond of the American wild turkey, he lobbied to make it our national bird. The bald eagle won that coveted distinction.  I love turkey as much as Ben did, especially during the holidays, but with all due respect, the side dishes can really grab the attention during a Thanksgiving meal!   We take for granted our traditional favorites will be there: dressing (called stuffing if it is served inside the bird), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, winter squash, green beans and mashed potatoes  – a must for holding the gravy.  These are only a few dishes that make the list each year. 

Here are two more recipes to add to your collection. One is for a tangy cranberry sauce with dried cherries and the other is for a casserole of sweet potatoes topped with caramelized apples. Both can be done two days or more ahead, so there’s still time to run to the store today and start cooking in advance. Do-ahead recipes are a huge bonus on Thanksgiving Day. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! 


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pumpkin mochi 

I learned to appreciate mochi when my family lived in Japan, a land where the chewy rice cakes are an important food and symbol of happiness.  Mochi is made from pounded, cooked short-grain rice called mochi-gome. Part of its appeal is  the soft, chewy texture.   Mochi is best eaten soon after being made  because the texture begins to harden by the next day. The Pumpkin Mochi Cake shown in the photo is a softer, Hawaiian-style variation, made with cooked pumpkin, eggs and milk. The snack bars stay soft for several days. (more…)

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Author Robert Pelton



Happy Thanksgiving! My last post, Pilgrims, Pumpkins and Plymouth, brought to mind the wonderful historical cookbooks of Tennesee author Robert W. Pelton who is married to Dr. Kristie Lynn. Dr. Lynn practices medicine in the mental health field and is also an expert in the arena of historical cookery. Last summer I had the privilege of meeting the couple at a family gathering. Keep reading to learn more about Pelton’s cookbooks. You will also find several recipes.


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