When I was growing up, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and any kind of squash were not part of meal-planning.
Every family has foods that never reach the table because of taste and history, I believe. No one in my family, as far as I know, ever ate pumpkin. I’m pretty sure my mother wouldn’t have known what a sweet potato looked like.
Even my grandmother, who liked to experiment when baking, wouldn’t touch either one. I think she and my mom couldn’t grasp the idea of a “vegetable” ending up in a dessert. They grew up never tasting them.
I first had sweet potato pie in college, when a friend took me to Nashville, Tenn., to meet his aunt. She served me a slice and I never looked back. I still think of it as a Southern dessert, much like chess pie. As a Northerner, I recognized what I’d been missing.
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As an adult, I embrace almost anything with pumpkin in it. I’ve made pumpkin dishes using meat from a fat little baking pumpkin (you have to look for them at the store), but I think the pure pumpkin out of a can is just as good — and much easier to work with!
A not-too-sweet sweet potato casserole (minus marshmallows) is mandatory at Thanksgiving.
So, I did a brief search for recipes using these brightly-colored foods and came across a pair of recipes worthy of attention. One is a sweet bread that blends pumpkin with chocolate swirls. The other uses sweet potatoes with carrots in a rich but healthy soup.
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Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Loaf
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch nonstick loaf pan.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt and stir together.
In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat butter until softened. Add sugar and continue beating. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add pumpkin, vanilla and finally the flour mixture, beating just until well-blended.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium-high heat until totally melted, about 5 minutes. Or melt in a glass bowl in microwave for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until completely melted and smooth.
Spoon half the batter into prepared loaf pan. Drop spoonfuls of half the chocolate on top of batter and then swirl chocolate into batter with a wooden skewer. Repeat with remaining batter and chocolate, making sure to swirl chocolate into pumpkin well (but leaving very visible streaks).
Bake loaf in preheated oven about 1 hour or until skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let loaf cool at least 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced. Makes 12 servings.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
For best flavor, make the soup several days in advance, and reheat over medium-low heat.
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 3/4 cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups chopped carrot (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup half and half*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown.
Add sweet potatoes, 3 1/2 cups water, broth and carrot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
2. Place half of soup mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.
Place a paper towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture.
Stir in half and half, salt and pepper. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream and 3/4 teaspoon parsley.
Yield: 8 servings, each with 173 calories, 7 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 18 mg cholesterol, 415 mg sodium.
*Editor’s note: I’d gently warm up the half and half before adding it to the soup.