Roasted Cheese Pumpkin Soup

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

A few weeks ago, my mom and I shared a memorable trip to a north shore Long Island, family owned farm. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day. I went with the goal of finding a good cooking pumpkin to make this soup with. I found a lovely cheese pumpkin, which has been decoration until now (it has a shelf life of up to 1 year!) Today is Halloween, and although I really don’t care for it, it felt like the perfect day to cook my pumpkin. With my husband at school preparing for an exam, I found myself with some quiet time. I finished a few house chores (naturally, my reward is cooking) prepared candy for the trick-or-treaters, put on some old-timey Christmas tunes (don’t you say a word) and lit tea lights around the house. It was so serene. This is how I cook happy.

I learned that the cheese pumpkin is slightly sweet with a firm flesh, making it lovely for roasting, soup making and pie baking. It gets its name for the exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Basically, it makes a wonderful puree. On a Saturday or Sunday when you have a little more time, it is actually very simple to make your own! Trust me. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it practically falls apart. All the good stuff comes right out. And once you’ve made it into soup, the flavor of the final product is subtle, rich, but not overwhelming– it has the smoothest, velvety texture. It is worth every effort. The addition of the coconut milk swirls and roasted seeds adds another layer of texture and interest to the bowl. You’ll also be able to say that nothing was wasted! Those seeds… they are a seriously delicious snack all by themselves. Do not be intimidated! Bask in the glory that is autumn and give this one a try! Sweet November, you are almost here.


(Gluten free… paleo… and vegan!)

Yield: 4 servings — Prep time: 5 mins — Cook time: 60 mins — Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small cheese pumpkin (about 3 – 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon chile powder
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half, discarding the top stem and scooping out the seeds (don’t throw the seeds out!)
  2. Rub 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil on a baking sheet and place halves of pumpkins cut side down on pan. Roast for about 35 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Don’t be alarmed if the pumpkin looks deflated when it comes out, it gets very soft.
  3. Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out the flesh, about 3 cups. Discard the skin. Once cool, I pureed the 3 cups of flesh until very smooth.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the pumpkin flesh, thyme, sage, pumpkin pie spice, chile powder, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each). Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and roasted pumpkin seeds*.

To roast pumpkin seeds, first boil the seeds in a small pot of water for 10 minutes. Strain, so you lose any strands of pumpkin, and dry. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. When they roast, they turn from a grayish color to a lighter browned color. Crunch away!

79All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Soup recipe adapted from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

A little lesson on other pumpkin varieties good for cooking and baking:

Cinderella Pumpkin: Looking much like the pumpkins that Cinderella’s fairy godmother magically transformed into a carriage, the Cinderella — with a flattened shape and striking red color — carries a strong and sweet flavor.

Long Pie Pumpkin: Also known as “Nantucket Pie,” the five to eight pound Long Pie looks nothing like a standard, round pumpkin. As its name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its bright orange flesh is smooth and nearly string-less.

New England Pie Pumpkin: Known for making delicious pumpkin soup, the New England Pie has a superior consistency — string-less and slightly less sweet than the Baby Pam — that also makes for a thick filling in pies.

Pumpkin varieties via The Daily Meal, www.thedailymeal.com.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut. Butter. Cups. Three words that get me excited for this time of year! I don’t do Halloween but I DO do chocolate. As a kid, I remember getting the “king sized” Reese’s cups and savoring every bite. But, never mind Reese’s: these homemade cups are 10x better. Here’s the secret: graham cracker crumbs mixed into the peanut butter filling. It adds the BEST texture and flavor. Combine that with silky, smooth chocolate and… you get the idea. Crunchy peanut butter enveloped in the lusciousness that is your favorite Halloween treat. This recipe is especially dear to me because my mother came up with it after years of trial and error. This makes 4 dozen cups (THAT’S RIGHT!) so you’ll be everyone’s best friend as you share these with family, co-workers, friends, and trick-or-treaters alike. Feel free to sub in your favorite nut butter!

Makes 48 cups

  • 1/2 stick salted butter
  • 1-1/2  cups all-natural crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (only add if your peanut butter does not already contain salt)
  • 1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (process in food processor or purchase pre-made crumbs)
  • 1 and 3/4 (12 oz) bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup all-natural smooth peanut butter
  • 48 small baking cups
  1. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. When melted, remove from heat and add finely pulsed graham cracker crumbs, crunchy peanut butter, salt (if using) and 3/4 cup of the powered sugar. Mix well and taste. If it is not sweet enough, add more powdered sugar. The consistency needs to be that of your typical cup– you should taste more peanut butter than any other ingredient. You want consistency that allows you to form into balls.
  2. Roll into 3/4″ – 1″ round balls.  Flatten slightly. Place baking cups into mini baking pan. If you don’t have a pan, a cookie sheet will work just fine.
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt chocolate chips. Add smooth peanut butter and stir until silky. If it’s too thick, add 1 Tablespoon or so of coconut oil to smooth out. To fill your cups, spoon about a half-teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of each baking cup. One at a time, place each peanut butter ball into the pot of chocolate to coat.
  4. Place coated ball into each paper baking cup. Fill the rest of the cups with about a tablespoon of the chocolate mixture. Tap the pan to spread chocolate evenly. Place your pan of cups into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up. Store in the refrigerator. These are best enjoyed chilled!

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