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The perfect pumpkin bread – dense, sweet, slightly tangy, and perfectly pumpkiny.  I adapted it from this recipe.  I baked it the day before our team retreat to Mala Duba, and when it had cooled, removed it from the pan and wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap.  Four days later, it’s still perfectly moist and delicious.

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
3/4 c. dried cranberries
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan (or mini loaf pans).  Chop dried cranberries, place in a small bowl and submerge in boiling water to soften for a few minutes.  In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, salt, spices and whisk to combine.
In large bowl beat oil, butter and sugars until creamy until lightened in color and texture, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Add pumpkin puree and beat until combined. Add milk and vanilla and beat until combined.
With mixer on lowest setting, add flour mixture just until barely combined.
Drain cranberries and fold cranberries and walnuts into batter.  Pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake about until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour for regular loaf and 35-40 minutes for mini loaf.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.
Turn out onto wire rack and let cool completely.

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I was a little overly-zealous in my quest for a pumpkin, and ended up with two pumpkins to roast and make pumpkin puree out of. The two pumpkins produced about 8 cups of puree to work with, and I made a pie, two batches of pumpkin bread, and still had more puree left over. So I thought a soup would be a nice way to use up some of the pumpkin, and would be a culinary adventure for me, since I’ve neither made nor ever eaten pumpkin soup. I found this Rachael Ray recipe on the Food Network website, and made a few changes.

The original recipe called for two cans of pumpkin, but I just used two cups (about one can), based on reviews suggested by other people who had tried the soup. I also used about two and a half cups of black beans instead of just one can’s worth reduced the curry powder from 2 tbsp. and a palm full, to just one teaspoon; used half cream and half milk instead of a full cup of cream; used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth; and added the apple cider vinegar and garlic powder, which I think added a nice kick to the soup.

I ate it with the corn bread that the bakeries sell here (similar to a loaf of French bread, but more dense, with a slightly softer crust, and made with corn flour instead of wheat flour), and the combo was delightful. I think a regular cornbread (like the kind served with chili) would be great with this soup as well. The best part of the soup was how quickly it came together (or would have, if I had used canned black beans instead of having to soak and cook my own).

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
adapted from Rachael Ray, via Food Network

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 turn of the pan 1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
2 1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add onion. Saute onions 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in cream, curry, cumin, cayenne, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt, to taste. Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve garnished with chopped chives.

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