The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge: Week 4

I can not believe that October is already over! Where did it go?! My favorite month is also always my busiest month of the year, which is both a blessing and a curse since time flies when you actually have a social life. Anyhoo, Halloween was a big success and the costumes turned out great (pics coming soon!). I made two pumpkin entrees last week: Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup and Thai Pumpkin Soup. I felt that the Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup was in desperate need of starchy carbs, so I would recommend putting it into a bread bowl (which would also make for a pretty presentation). The Thai Pumpkin Soup was wonderful and we will definitely be making it again, although it’s really more of an appetizer than a main meal. Dessert this week was Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing, which I made into individual loaves so we could eat them for breakfast, because pumpkin-y desserts pair beautifully with a big cup of coffee :)

Week Four Entrée/Appetizer: Thai Pumpkin Soup



  • 2 cans regular (not light) coconut milk
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • pinch of chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • thinly sliced onions
  • chopped tomatoes

Put all ingredients (except tomatoes) into saucepan, bring to boil and stir to dissolve curry paste. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes just before serving.

P.S. The pic has cilantro in it…but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Week Four Entree: Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup (Recipe by Rachel Ray)


  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive 
  •  1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • 20 blades fresh chives, chopped or snipped, for garnish

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 and salt, to taste. Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve garnished with chopped chives.

Week Four Dessert: Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing/Glaze (Recipe by Martha Stewart)


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup warm milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment, and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour, and tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture; beat on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 20 minutes.

 Brown Butter Icing:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

 Melt butter on med/high heat until nut brown (~10 min). Pour into bowl (leaving burned bits in pan) and add remaining ingredients. Stir to mix, cool. *Note: I used more milk to make a glaze since I made individual loaves instead of a cake.*

Week Four Fall Seasonal Beer: Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

I would just like to say how happy it made me to hear that people were trying my recipes from the pumpkin challenge!! I have enjoyed this challenge so much that I doubt I’ll quit now (especially considering that I just got an e-mail full of Martha Stewart Pumpkin recipes!!!), and I will share any other exceptionally scrumptious pumpkin goodies that I discover in the upcoming month :)

The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge: Week 3

The mighty pumpkin was truly the star of the show this week (with a little help from Jamie, of course *wink, wink*)! I am genuinely overwhelmed by all of the wonderful feedback I got from my pumpkin homage! I had no idea it would make such a splash, but I am absolutely thrilled to have made so many of you giggle with mirth at the absurdity of a naked man carved onto a pumpkin :) All of your kind words and compliments made my day, thanks so much!!

Foodwise, week three was a mixed bag. We made Pumpkin Chili, which was a big disappointment since it didn’t taste like pumpkin at all, but we also made Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting, which are officially my new favorite fall dessert. Oh. my. gosh. If you like the flavor of maple, please take my word for it and GO MAKE THESE CUPCAKES RIGHT NOW!! Absolutely amazing. Trust me, they will be a new holiday staple.

Week three dessert: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting (recipe by Ina Garten)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 coarsely chopped Heath bars (sprinkled on top of cupcakes)

Maple Frosting:

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon Natural Maple Extract/Flavor
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Divide the batter among tins and bake 20 – 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

To make frosting: Cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With mixer on low, slowly add confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Did I mention how SCRUMPTIOUS these cupcakes are?  :)

Week three entrée: Pumpkin Chili

Ummm, yeah, I’m not going to post the recipe since it wasn’t even good as a regular chili :(

Week three fall seasonal beer (s): 

  • Starr Hill “Festie” Oktoberfest
  • Dundee Oktoberfest
  • Saranac Pumpkin Ale

The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge: Week 2

Week two of the pumpkin challenge brought pumpkin lasagna, pumpkin creme brulee and lots (and lots) of fall beers! The hubs helped out and made the lasagna when I was running late at work one evening. I got a panicked phone call saying we didn’t have any of the ingredients for said lasagna and “what was he supposed to use in place of this or that?!?” I was confused by this call, because I knew that I had bought everything I needed. Anyhoo, I got home and discovered that he was using a different recipe than I had planned for…so that explained a good deal of the confusion ;) We accidentally created our own recipe! Substitutions and all, it turned out pretty good.

Week two entree: Pumpkin Lasagna


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed *we used veggie Italian sausage*
  • 1 large zucchini, cubed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red wine *we used Muscadine wine ( because I forgot to get red), which added a sweetness that was actually pretty good*
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and spices (oregano, basil, parsley)
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded romano cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 pound cooked lasagna noodles


In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add zucchini and cook for 5 more minutes. Set aside.

In a medium pot combine tomato sauce and red wine and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste. If desired, add dry oregano, basil, and parsley. Reduce heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheeses. Add eggs, pumpkin puree and salt and pepper, to taste. Mix very well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Build your lasagna in a large 9 by 12-inch pan starting with a layer of sauce, a layer of pasta, a layer of half the sausage and a layer of half the filling. Add another layer of pasta, sauce, the remaining sausage and the filling. Finish with a layer of pasta and a layer of sauce. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.


I spent the weekend in Chattanooga visiting my dear friend, Jessica. For years, she has been asking me the same question:

Jessica:  “Hey, have you ever made a creme brulee?”

Me:  “Nope.”

Jessica:  “Hmmm. I really want to make one.”

When this conversation faithfully made it’s annual appearance, I saw an opportunity to combine my pumpkin challenge with Jessica’s unfulfilled creme brulee obsession.

Mmmmm, mmmm!

Week two dessert: Pumpkin Creme Brulee


  • 3 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, additional
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 can (15-ounce) pure pumpkin (not pumpkin-pie mix)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In 4-quart saucepan, with wire whisk, mix cream, spice, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove saucepan from heat.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, with wire whisk, beat egg yolks and pumpkin until well combined. Very slowly whisk warm cream mixture into egg mixture until well blended.

Place eight  broiler-safe ramekins or custard cups in large roasting pan. Pour cream mixture evenly into ramekins. Place pan in oven. Carefully pour enough boiling water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake 40 to 60 minutes or just until set (mixture will still be slightly soft in center). Transfer ramekins to wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Up to 4 hours before serving, preheat broiler. From remaining 1/4 cup sugar, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons over top of each custard.

Place ramekins in jelly-roll pan for easier handling. With broiler rack at closest position to heat source, broil custard 2 to 4 minutes or just until sugar melts and browns. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours.


We also took a doomed road trip to the famed Ellijay Apple Festival and planned on picking some apples at one of their 18 orchards. To make a loooong story short, we got LOST. What should have been a 1 1/2 hour drive turned into a 2 1/2 hour drive and when we finally arrived, the festival did not live up to its reputation. And to rub salt in the wound, we didn’t get to pick any apples.

We spent the remainder of the day waving our fists in the air and yelling “EEEELLLLIIIIIJJJJJAAAAAYYYYYY!”

And then we sampled lots of fall beers. We sampled so many, in fact, that I’m not sure there will be anymore new ones left to finish out this challenge. (But I’m sure we’ll manage.)

Week two fall seasonal beer(s):

  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier
  • Shipyard Pumpkinhead
  • Red Hook Late Harvest Autumn Ale
  • Shiner Oktoberfest
  • Heineken Dark
  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  • Victory Festbier
  • Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen (not a fall beer, but new to us)
  • Highland Brewing Co. Cattail Peak Wheat (again, not a fall beer, but new to me!)
  • Beck’s Oktoberfest
  • Atwater Bloktoberfest
  • Point Oktoberfest
  • the fall house brew at the Tavern in downtown Chattanooga

Wow…that list sort of makes us look like alcoholics…but we were only sampling! Jessica really liked the Shipyard Pumpkinhead, but I didn’t much care for it. The overall winner was Shiner Oktoberfest!

Who knew a pumpkin challenge could be so much fun?

The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge: Week 1

In my house, October is the undisputed favorite month of the year and we welcome fall with open arms. The leaves are turning colors, the weather is turning cool and crisp, Oktoberfests and fall seasonal beers abound, bad horror movies are everywhere you turn, and of course, it’s all building up to the best holiday ever: Halloween.  It also puts me in the mood to cook hearty stews and bake delicious fall-inspired treats with our old friend, the pumpkin. What’s not to love?

I decided to start a new tradition this year: for each week of October, we will have (at least) one meal and one dessert with pumpkin as an ingredient. We must also try a new fall seasonal beer each week. My husband has deemed this challenge “The Month of the Pumpkin.” I will chronicle our pumpkin exploits each week on the blog and share recipes for what will hopefully be some new and delicious goodies!

I was off to a great start, I had done some searching and discovered quite a few tempting recipes. We had our first meal, Penne Wise Pumpkin Pasta, and it was delicious. We followed that up with some Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest beer, and I was all ready to make our first dessert that weekend. To make a long story short, my car “broke down” and a major fiasco ensued. (To my embarrassment, it turned out to only be a dead battery.) In an attempt to show my gratitude to all the kind people who came to my aid, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and bake them pumpkin-y desserts. Well, one of my rescuers didn’t like pumpkin- he wanted peanut butter- so alas, my plan was thwarted and I had to make peanut butter cookies. Epic fail for the first week of the Month of the Pumpkin Challenge? Fear not my friends, I shall continue on undaunted!

Week one entrée: Penne Wise Pumpkin Pasta ( from, with our minor adaptations)

You know you want some!


  • Salt
  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 cups chicken stock *we used vegetable stock*
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup cream *we used whole milk*
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste *we used 2 tbsp*
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste 
  • 2 pinches ground cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 7 to 8 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced plus more, for garnish * we used 1/2 tbsp dried sage*
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat water for pasta, salt it and cook penne to al dente.

Heat the oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to the pan, saute 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and combine with pumpkin, stir in cream then season sauce with hot sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 to 6 minutes more to thicken. Stir in sage, toss with pasta with grated cheese, to taste.

It was quite tasty and look how easy it is! It literally takes 20 minutes max to put together. The sauce is orange and you expect a strong pumpkin flavor, but it is very understated so I think this would be a good recipe to put any reluctant pumpkin-eaters at ease.

Week one dessert:  er…peanut butter cookies… next question…

Week one fall seasonal beer: Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest

Now I’m off to work on one of the many Halloween costumes I am responsible for this year. Stay tuned for more tasty morsels during Week 2!