Saturday, October 26, 2013

Banana Pumpkin Bread

This is a lovely Fall take on the banana bread recipe I posted earlier this year. I used a homemade pumpkin purée, the recipe for which I've included in case you have a spare pumpkin or two. You can very easily freeze any extra purée in small batches and thaw out and use as needed. If you prefer the canned variety, that works just as well.

The original banana bread recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil. In this recipe, the pumpkin purée replaces the oil. As a result, there wasn't a popping pumpkin flavor, but rather a minor change in consistency. Maybe, if you want more pumpkin flavor, try scaling back the bananas and add more pumpkin purée 1/4 cup at a time. This recipe is worth experimenting with in multiple batches because the odds of each loaf turning out delicious are pretty high. 

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

For the Pumpkin Purée:
For the pumpkin purée: Difficulty: Easy; Makes: 4 (1/2 cup) servings depending on the size of pumpkins; Total time: 50 mins
Barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 2 small to medium sized pumpkins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the top off of each pumpkin and cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and slice the pumpkins into quarters. Place the pumpkin quarters on a baking sheet. I put them skin-side down, but they can go on the pan any way you'd like. 

Roast pumpkin pieces in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender.

Once the pumpkins are cool enough to handle, gently peel back the skin with a knife and slice the roasted pumpkin into chunks.

Purée the pumpkin, a few chunks at a time, with a blender or food processor, adding water as needed to make the purée smooth. If storing the pumpkin purée, measure out 1/2 - 1 cup at a time into freezer bags and store in the freezer.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
For the Banana Pumpkin Bread:
For the bread: Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 1 loaf; Total time: 2 hrs 20 mins
Adapted from *Food Network: Flour's Famous Banana Bread

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)
  • 3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (opt. - I left them out)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 

Whisk together sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin purée and add mashed bananas, crème fraiche or sour cream and vanilla extract.

Pour into lined loaf pan and bake about 45-50 minutes, up to one hour. Test doneness with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Poke the middle of the loaf and make sure no batter sticks to the toothpick or skewer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Basic Beef Stew

Fall is in the air. It's my favorite season. There's just something about the cooler weather that adds an extra bounce to my step. So, I've been up and bustling about since the crack of dawn. Yesterday, we went pumpkin picking and while my husband carved a pumpkin as our 15-month old son looked on, I cooked up a pot of delicious beef stew.

In the past, I've tried different variations of beef stew. There have been some that added crushed or diced tomatoes or tomato paste to the base. Other recipes instructed searing the beef on such high heat that the outsides would char and burn and stick to the pot. Needless to say, I haven't had much luck with finding the right beef stew recipe.

This time, instead of trying to find the perfect beef stew recipe online and in cookbooks, I decided to take the knowledge learned from past mistakes and combine it with my general knowledge of cooking gained over the past few years of experience. I also read a lot of comments posted by reviewers of recipes until I came up with a recipe of my own. I got just what I wanted: a simple, hearty beef stew that my whole family, especially myself, could love. And we all loved it. Even the 15-month old.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 8; Total time: 45 minutes 

Taste in Bloom Original
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 lbs sirloin steak, chuck roast, or London broil chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 - 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp herbes de Provence or oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced 
  • 5oz frozen peas
  • 4 cups beef stock


In a large Ziploc bag, combine the pieces of meat with  flour, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Shake the bag until all the meat pieces are thoroughly covered with flour and seasonings.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, melt one tablespoon of butter in the pot.

Sear half of the meat pieces, stirring frequently, until they are completely browned, about two to five minutes. Remove the seared meat to a plate.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil and another tablespoon of butter to the pot. It will get hot quickly, so be prepared to add the other half of meat pieces to the pot. Sear the meat as before.

Once the second batch of meat is seared, add the first batch back to the pot and add the beef stock. Bring to a boil and add all of the vegetables. Reduce heat to medium-low, bringing the broth to a simmer.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. Serve hot.