Pumpkin & Bean Soup

Pumpkin & Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is over, fall is coming to a swift end, and I am so tired of only seeing sweet pumpkin recipes. So many holiday flavors are only used in sweet applications. I too am guilty of making more sweets than savory items.

I decided to challenge myself…and I also had some leftover gourds from my thanksgiving decorations. Why not try to take a commonly used sweet ingredient and make it savory. Who needs another pumpkin pie variation. Making a different recipe requires holding back on the addition of sugar and jamming in savory ingredients. The result is a super hearty and warming pumpkin soup with beans and chicken sausage.

My recipe is extremely simple and extremely flavorful. Perfect for the few chili nights we get here in Savannah. It is also a bendable recipe. You can use any type of bean you prefer. You can use canned or make your own. I used chicken sausage as the protein, but feel free to add in ham, bacon, or anything else.

Also, I added topped the finished soup with some toasted pumpkin seeds for good measure.

 

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Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

Part 1: Revamping Leftover Cheddar Popcorn

Part 1: Revamping Leftover Cheddar Popcorn

It snowed here in the low country yesterday (something as rare as hens’ teeth), and with the snow I found myself diving into the pantry to come up with a few delicious meals. Like many people, I was given one of those delectable buckets of flavored popcorn for Christmas; you know the ones with cheddar, caramel, and sometime kettle corn. If you have never received one of these, I suggest you ask for one next Christmas and, if not, find one at your local corner store. The trifecta of popcorn is the perfect treat for sitting around a weekend fire, watching Netflix, and snacking. Personally, I like to mix the cheddar and caramel for a sweet & salty treat.

This year I did not quite make it through the entire bucket, even with the help of my husband. So when searching the pantry for a lunch that would warm my soul after playing in the snow for a few hours, I spotted my popcorn tin. Further in the back I located a few cans of tomato bisque, and in my fridge a bit of leftover pesto. Warm tomato soup with a crunchy topping would make for the perfect lunch. I am of the belief that tomato soup should always have a topping; it is a blank canvas for so many things: cheese, sourcream, crackers, goldfish, and apparently popcorn.

First, I placed the soup on the stove to warm. Then, I coated some popcorn in my leftover pesto and heated it to bring the stale popcorn alive. The aroma of garlic and herbs filled my tiny home, very reminiscent of garlic bread. The flavor of the warm pesto popcorn is deeply savory with a tiny bite of garlic. Because pesto is a wet mixture, it is important to heat the pesto popcorn at a low temperature, which dries the pesto out without over-crisping the popcorn.

After success with the pesto coating, I figured my husband would enjoy a topping with little bit of kick to top his bowl. A couple of spices from the spice cabinet with a bit of butter to coat the popcorn, and I was left with a crunchy little ball of firey cheese. The smoke ghost peppar salt that is included in the recipe below is something I had in my pantry, but you can find it online or at a local gourmet spice shop. If you are unable to locate it at all, any spicy seasoning will work, curry powder, harissa, etc.

Spiced Cheddar Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of paprika (smoked or not)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked ghost pepper salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
  • 1.5 cups of leftover cheddar popcorn

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees farienhiet, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a medium Tupperware container, combine all of the spices. Next add in the popcorn, and pour over melted butter. Place a lid on the Tupperware and shake vigorously until all of the popcorn is evenly coated.

Spread into an even layer on your baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Immediately top your heated soup and serve.

Pesto Cheddar Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of leftover cheddar popcorn
  • 2 teaspoons of pesto (you can make it yourself or use store bought)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees farienhiet, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a medium Tupperware container, combine the pesto and popcorn. Place a lid on the your Tupperware, and shake vigorously until the popcorn is evenly coated.

Spread into an even layer on your baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. If the popcorn is still soggy, place it back into the over for another 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately top your heated soup and serve.