It’s the Most Pumpkiny Time of the Year!

America’s annual love affair with pumpkin begins where Labor Day ends and soothes us all with it’s warm flavor through Thanksgiving and its weekend of yummy leftovers. I thought I’d share this recipe to give you just one more pumpkiny thing to delight in before the season comes to a halt and all our fickle hearts leave it behind in search of the perfect Christmas cookie.Zesty Pumpkin Soup with Billy's Biscuits www.midweststoryteller.com

Let me introduce you to Zesty Pumpkin Soup – a favorite of mine that I make at least a couple of times during the fall. Why I don’t make it year-round is a mystery because it’s so yummy. To go along with it, I’m going to give you my recipe for Billy’s Biscuits, because what’s better than a great bowl of soup and a light and airy, buttery biscuit?

I’ve had the Recipe for Zesty Pumpkin Soup for years and years and I’ve tried my best to remember the source so that I can give credit where credit is due. I think I’ve finally remembered where I got it! Years ago, at a local shop, I picked up a super-cheap set of four paperback cookbooks which I believe were called, “Home Cooks’ Easy Recipes”. The pages were printed on newsprint and other than the cover, there were no photos. I tried all sorts of recipes in those books, but eventually parted with them in a garage sale – I think. I’ve looked online and can’t find any such books to reference here, or I would be happy to do so.

The interesting thing about Zesty Pumpkin Soup is that it is savory! Almost all pumpkin recipes are some variation that requires brown sugar and reminds you in some way of the eternal favorite, pumpkin pie. This is really different, but absolutely delicious. The original recipe called for the finished soup to be pureed until smooth. However, I forgot to do this once and ended up discovering that I actually preferred the “bits”, as long as they are finely chopped.

Billy’s Biscuits?” you ask. “Who on earth is Billy?” I believe these biscuits began with a recipe known to some folks as “Southern Gal Biscuits”, but I got the recipe from my friend, Billy, after he served them up for breakfast when I was a houseguest. They were the best biscuits I’d ever had.

Here’s Billy –

Remembering Billy www.midweststoryteller.com

I miss Billy, but know that breakfast in Heaven has been kicked up a notch ever since he arrived. I admit to tweaking the recipe for my own use, because I steer clear of shortening and refined sugars, but I’m sure if Billy were here to taste them, he’d approve! Normally, I also steer clear of wheat, but I do have an occasional cheat day. I’d sooner cheat and have these biscuits than almost any other treat. They’re worth it!  Since I’ve never made these without thinking of Billy while I’m doing it, I can’t call them by any other name.

I see you shaking your head and muttering, “Soup – maybe. Homemade biscuits – no way! Where’s the can?” I’m about to take away all your fears about not having enough time or know-how to make these. They are lightning-fast and fool-proof, due to a few little tricks I’ll share with you.

And, best of all, there’s a FREE printable recipe.

Let’s get started –

Zesty Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup real butter

1 cup chopped onion (chop this fairly small)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 cups chicken broth or stock (sugar free) 

2 (14 ounce) cans pumpkin puree

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Sour cream

Chopped fresh chives

Saute onion in butter until soft. Add garlic, curry powder, sald, coriander and red pepper; cook 1 minute longer.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Step 1 www.midweststoryteller.com

Add broth; boil gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Ingredients www.midweststoryteller.com

Stir in pumpkin, milk and heavy cream. Cook an additional five minutes.

(As you can see in the photo, I tend to use my favorite ingredients from Aldi and Costco.  Finding broth without added sugar is sometimes more difficult than catching the chicken and making your own, so I really appreciate Costco carrying the Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock.)

Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

Makes a 3-quart saucepan of soup.

Now, before you nix the idea of making biscuits to go with this quick soup recipe, let me give you four fabulous tips that will make life so much easier!

  1. Mix your dry ingredients ahead of time! If you know you’ll be preparing the biscuits for breakfast (when you are not exactly wide awake and ready to read a recipe and fumble around for ingredients) or if you want them hot and fresh for company, but don’t want to mess up your kitchen and be separated from your guests, this can save time and temper! Just measure all the dry ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside until biscuit time.

  2. Grate the butter! I saw this tip somewhere gave it a try. I could kiss the hand of the genius who thought of it! Whether biscuits, pie crust or any other recipe, I’ll never “cut in” the fat again! All I do is grab a stick of frozen butter and my handy-dandy grater that catches all the bits and work fast. Peel back the paper on the butter and grate it against the grater with the small holes. Pop the lid onto the container and put it immediately back into the freezer! All those frozen little curls of butter will stir into your dry ingredients in about three seconds and you’ll be thanking me for passing on this grand idea. Seriously – always grate the butter!
  3. Invest in a large silicone countertop rolling mat. Oh my goodness! I still dust with flour, but nothing sticks! You can roll out and cut cookies, biscuits – whatever you like – directly on the mat and best of all, when guests arrive,  you can just roll it up, tuck it away and clean it later. No messy counters! I got mine at Aldi for a really reasonable price and the holiday baking season would be a good time to check there. Big name brands tend to be super expensive.
  4. A dough scraper. I mean – really – where have these been all my life? Also, I have a marble rolling pin and I freeze it ahead of time if I know I’ll be making biscuits, cookies, etc. Nothing sticks!

Billy’s Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all purpose non-GMO wheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder

2 Tablespoons coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

7 Tablespoons real butter, grated and re-frozen

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Quickly add the frozen, grated butter and stir to coat the butter with the flour mixture before the butter begins to melt.

GRATE the Butter! www.midweststoryteller.com

Beat egg in milk; stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead the dough 15 times by folding the entire ball of dough in half, giving it a quarter turn and folding it again. Roll out the dough to 3/4” thickness. Cut into circles with a large 3” biscuit cutter.

Biscuits Ready for the Oven www.midweststoryteller.com

Transfer biscuits to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Yield: About 8-10 biscuits.

Enjoy your quick and heart-warming autumn meal. If you’ve prepared your dry ingredients and butter for the biscuits ahead of time, you can whip up the biscuits while the soup is simmering and have them ready to serve!

Savor the Flavors of Fall www.midweststoryteller.com

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends! And…don’t forget your free printable recipes below.

Free Printable Banner www.midweststoryteller.com

Questions? Comments? If you make the soup and/or the biscuits, let me know how you liked it! Scroll back up to the title of this post and “Leave a Comment”. And why not SUBSCRIBE, so you’ll receive an email reminder each time Midwest Storyteller has something new.

 

 

5 Easy Mixes That Make Life Healthier and Easier!

When I look at the stats that turn all of you into a mass of numbers and bar graphs – my, that sounds so impersonal and unfriendly – I can tell that the fans of Midwest Storyteller really enjoy the humor. It seems like you need a good laugh and are quick to pass it along to brighten someone’s day.

I love it! That’s my favorite part of what I do!

However, when I’m out and about, chatting with people, it seems that many share a common request: RECIPES!

People don’t need to spend much time around me to know that I eat “clean”. Those who don’t know me very well assume that I live on wild hickory nuts and tree bark, something that they, unless they’re out of their ever-lovin’ minds, would never choose to do themselves.

Bowlful of Nature www.midweststoryteller.com

Those who know me well enough to get a taste of what comes out of my kitchen are surprised at the yummy-ness.

They (whomever the mysterious “they” are) used to call us health food “nuts” and it wasn’t because people like me sat around eating cashews and pecans. It implied that a certain degree of loopy-ness swirled inside the heads of those who didn’t think the world revolved around, and was made a better place by, granulated sugar and plenty of Crisco.

Reason is beginning to dawn for Americans at last. People are being advised by doctors, nutritionists and friends to feed their bodies the fuel it really needs and to avoid the stuff that they know is taking them down the same road of pain and ill health they’ve watched friends and family travel.

At the top of the list of culprits, lurking everywhere, is –

Sugar Incognito www.midweststoryteller.com

If you are making the wise choice to get sugar out of your diet, I am on your side! The delightful-tasting stuff only makes your body more susceptible to inflammation, diabetes, cancer and other ailments.  I’m not picking on any particular brands here.  As you can tell, it’s not been eradicated from our house entirely.

The biggest challenge lies in how to avoid hidden sugars. Companies love to put it in everything. Is it really addictive?  Well, rats aren’t people, you might want to see a study in which rats, already addicted to cocaine before given the choice, preferred sugar to cocaine 8:1.  It’s difficult to read the details  and not be bowled over by it! 

The stuff is practically omnipresent.  If you don’t believe that sugar is in everything, I challenge you to purchase a bottle of salad dressing without any!

When I walked away from sugar, I spent two weeks in foul temper! Each time I got ready to prepare a meal, I examined the back labels of all my ingredients. Soy sauce, seasoned salt, chicken broth – why did any of these contain sugar in the first place? I would’ve have started a letter writing campaign if I hadn’t been so busy trying to find something to eat!

One particular group of convenience items really had me steamed! All those little packets we’re so accustomed to tossing into recipes and those little shaker bottles that we sprinkle over our food – almost every one of them had sugar.

Oh, but it’s gotta be such a tiny amount! That’s not going to hurt anybody.”

I hear your pathetic, whiny voice. Not only do small amounts add up if it’s in everything you eat, but these small amounts keep the cravings alive! If you remove all sugar from your diet, the cravings go away. Yep! I promise.

It all sounds like so much trouble when I can just grab what I need when I’m at the store. Who wants to mess with stirring up all this stuff?”

Oh, now you’re really sounding like you need me to send you to your room! It all seemed like a big chore to me at first, too. However, since I’ve pioneered the territory for you and am furnishing you with all the recipes, I’ll just stand here with my hands on my hips, tapping my foot, waiting for you to man up or pull up your big girl panties – whichever. 

I’m not perfect in my attempts to stay completely off the stuff.  Christmas does roll around and if I’m going to make cookies for everybody else, then by golly, I’m gonna eat a couple of ’em!  There are also some Belgian truffles that come into Aldi stores every year during the holiday season and, I mean to say – YUM!  One of my dreams is to develop a sugar free recipe for those, but I am wandering from the point.  Where were we?  Right – MIXES!

I’ve come to realize that making my own mixes is much more convenient, and cheaper, than buying the packets at the store! Once a few basic ingredients become a staple on your pantry shelves, you’ll no longer be running to the store, wasting gas and precious time, all for that silly (and expensive) little packet. You’ll either stir up the simple ingredients within a couple of minutes, or you’ll grab one of your pre-made packets because, yes, you are talented enough to measure all the ingredients into little snack baggies or mix up a whole jar of the stuff to keep on the shelf!

Spread the love! Mix up several batches in snack baggies, spice jars or other food safe containers, apply a cute computer or hand-made label and fill a basket for a thoughtful, homemade gift.

Ready for the recipes? Let’s have all the fun, all the flavor – and none of the sugar!

There are also a free printables below, so be sure to print those out.

I’ll post more mixes soon. Be sure to hop on over to the side bar and sign up for free. If you are on a phone or tablet, you can go to the “Contact Me” page to find the subscription form. IMPORTANT: You must confirm the subscription in your email or it will not work! 

Hopefully, my recent round of “technical difficulties” is over and posts will now be coming to you in a more timely manner.

Let’s mix it up!

Italian Salad Dressing Mix

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon dried flat-leaf Italian parsley

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

¾ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

¼ teaspoon citric acid

Measure all ingredients into a snack-sized re-sealable bag.

Make several packets up ahead of time, store in a freezer container and grab one whenever you have a recipe calling for a package of Italian dressing mix.

NOTE: The mixes you buy in the store also contain a small amount of dehydrated carrots. You might want to grate a little carrot into your recipe to give it those little flecks of color that are so appealing to the eye!

Taco Seasoning Mix

(for seasoning one pound of burger)

2 Tablespoons dried minced onion

½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

In a 10-inch skillet, brown the burger. Drain off any excess fat. Add the taco mix and ½ cup water. Simmer until onion bits are tender and excess moisture is absorbed.

Cream of Whatever (or “S.O.S” – Soup or Sauce)

2 cups powdered non-fat dry milk

¾ cup arrowroot powder

2 Tablespoons dried minced onion

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground savory

1 teaspoon dried flat-leaf Italian parsley flakes

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried tarragon

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning.

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Store in an airtight container.

One batch equals nine (10.5 ounce) cans of creamed soup.

For one can of cream soup:

Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 9 ounces COLD water in a saucepan. Whisk until well blended. Heat, stirring constantly with the whisk until thickened.

Add to casseroles or other recipes just as you would a can of soup.

Need Cream of Mushroom Soup: Stir in chopped mushrooms with the dry mix and water.

Need Cream of Celery Soup? Add 2 Tablespoons dried celery flakes to the saucepan.

Need other flavors? Use your imagination!

NOTE: I have seen variations of this recipe all over the internet, but I have changed it so much to eliminate sugar, wheat and corn products that I am calling it my own. However, I’d like to thank Jillie, over at One Good Thing by Jillie for all the tips I’ve received from her blog. She’s a great source for gluten-free recipes, safe cleaning solutions and more.

Seasoned Salt

½ cup sea salt

¼ cup paprika

2 Tablespoons ground tumeric

2 Tablespoons onion powder

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon citric acid

NOTE: If you truly feel that something is “missing” as compared to the seasoned salt you buy, it is, without a doubt, the sugar. If you like, you can add 1/8 teaspoon Sweet Leaf stevia powder to this mix. Sweet Leaf really lives up to their claim as the best-tasting stevia. I purchase my Sweet Leaf stevia at Natural Grocers, my local health food store.  It’s available in drops, a powder canister and individual packets.  I use whichever form I need, depending on the recipe.  If you’ve yet to make friends with stevia because you don’t like the taste, you probably need to switch to this brand. It’s a bit more expensive, but lacks some of the extra ingredients that cause that “off” taste. Another tip on stevia – USE LESS! It’s tough to get it through our heads, but it really is so much sweeter than sugar. Yet, we ignore the label and use too much, causing us to complain about the taste and the cost. How silly is that?

BONUS: Here’s a link to another great mix – Dry Buttermilk Ranch Mix – submitted by Scotdog on www.allrecipes.com I use allrecipes.com often.  It’s especially great when you have excess of a certain ingredient.  You can do a word search and see all the recipes that have that ingredient.

Back to the Buttermilk Ranch Mix:  We have found it to be absolutely yummy. You can print it out from their site. I have a few tips in preparing and using it –

  1. We had to cut the garlic powder in half. It seemed just a bit too potent when made according to the recipe.  Adjust this to your liking.
  2. For dressing, I mix it with ½ cup milk and ½ cup full-fat mayonnaise. I like a mayonnaise I found at Trader Joe’s. It has no sugar.
  3. For a dip, use ½ cup mayonnaise and ½ cup sour cream.  :

 

IMPORTANT: I found that “as is”, this worked great for mixing into a dip where you prefer to see all the wonderful little bits of herb and spices. However, when made into a dressing, they tended to make things separate and appear “not so lovely”. I solved this by putting all the ingredients except for the buttermilk powder into my small blender and turning them into a fine powder. Now, I have a smooth, herbed ranch dressing!

Recipe link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/214481/dry-buttermilk-ranch-mix/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringContentType=search%20results&clickId=cardslot%201

Printable Italian Dressing Mix & Taco Seasoning www.midweststoryteller.com

Printable S.O.S. and Seasoned Salt www.midweststoryteller.com

Comments? I’d love to hear how you use these simple mixes. Also, I’ll do my best to answer your questions.  Just scroll back up and click on “Leave a Comment” under the title of this post.