Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Hearty Chicken Soup and Pumpkin Cran-Apple Walnut Loaf

When I saw the first cranberries of the season arrive in grocery stores, I got so excited I bought a big container of them, and proceeded to leave them in the refrigerator for weeks. I’d notice them from time to time, and briefly consider what I could do with them, but it wasn’t until the season’s first blizzard a few weeks ago when I was stuck inside all day that I finally forced myself to put them to use. Very uncharacteristically, I found a vegan bread recipe (originally Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Pecan Bread from Joy the Baker) that sounded incredible – so I decided to give it a try. Admittedly, I added a couple of eggs to bind the bread and keep it from crumbling, but apparently it’s just as good without!

This bread incorporates a lot of really delicious and hearty seasonal ingredients — pumpkin and cranberries and chopped applies and walnuts. It’s a seriously satisfying loaf, and definitely a little bit healthier than your average quick bread! The pumpkin is very subtle, and simply adds a measure of moisture and silky texture to the bread. The chunks of applies and bursts of tart cranberries really complement each other so well. The walnuts add the perfect crunch. I absolutely fell in love with the bread, and proceeded to eat it for breakfast and snacks every day until it was all gone, which wasn’t really long at all.

I halved the recipe, but still used an entire chopped apple, and substituted walnuts for pecans — all such good choices! Otherwise I stuck to the recipe, and I’d recommend you do the same — this bread needs no tweaking.

Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Walnut Loaf

makes one 9×4×3-inch loaf

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 of a 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • scant 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • scant 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 heaping cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored and cut into small pieces

1. ) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease and flour one 9x4x3 loaf pan and set aside.

2.) In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.

4.) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, incorporating any stray flour bits to mix in.  Fold in the chopped walnuts, cranberries and apple chunks.

5.) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle loaf with cinnamon and granulated sugar if you’d like — I used turbinado sugar.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven.  Let rest in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

6.) Cool completely before slicing.  Slice into thick pieces (this part is key) and serve.

After I made the bread, I was still stuck inside, and it was only mid-afternoon, so I decided to try my hand at some homemade soup. A few weeks prior I made some chili for the weekend boyfriend that was incredible, so I decided to try again! This time: project Chicken Soup. But I don’t ever like to do things the normal way, so I added in some butternut squash and diced red pepper! And that was a very good decision.

I consulted several recipes before putting this soup together, and was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was. Somehow I had it in my mind that soup is more time consuming, but this didn’t take long at all, and the result was really fantastic. I boiled my own chicken and made my own  broth, which I definitely think made a big difference, and added tons of yummy herbs to create layers of flavor. The end results was a flavorful, light, and healthful soup — I kept the sodium low, and kept the vegetable count high, so I didn’t feel guilty consuming bowl after bowl… in one sitting. I’ll definitely give this a try again, and hopefully many more soups as well!

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 – 2.5 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1” cubes (you can substitute potatoes here)
  • 3 cups rotini (or your favorite kind of pasta)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: your favorite dried herbs

1.)  In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Sauté celery, carrots, onion and pepper until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes.

2.)  Add in the chicken stock, butternut squash, pasta and chicken, and bring to a simmer.  Allow soup to simmer until the pasta is cooked through and the squash is tender, about 15-20 minutes (depending on what kind of pasta you use).

3.)  Serve immediately!

And there you have it. I have been dying to cook and bake all week, so much so that it’s been consuming my thoughts way more than usual. What gives? On the agenda for today: planning my weekend menu. I’m headed home, which means I’ll be cooking for 3 days straight, and I can’t wait!

With love, and sugar. Enjoy!

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