Archive for November, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

November 15, 2008

This year I decided to cook my Halloween pumpkin rather than relegating it to the compost heap. I was particularly excited to share the pumpkin with the chicks and give them a little variety in their diet. They love leftovers and kitchen scraps—it’s one of the great reasons to keep chickens—they’re better than a garbage disposal.

Wielding my foot-long chef’s knife I hacked the pumpkin in two. Instead of cutting it up I decided to offer the girls a little excitement on this chilly gray day by letting them have the entire half pumpkin to peck at during the afternoon. I proudly carried it out to them and placed it on the ground with a flourish. They didn’t jump up and down with excitement as they often do. They acted like I had just offered them a Halloween trick in the form of a Trojan pumpkin. With suspicion they walked gingerly around it, being careful not to get too close. Apparently they’re well versed in Greek mythology. Being aware of the Trojans’ fate, they decided not to open their gift and risk attack. Hoping to entice them, I sprinkled their favorite cracked corn inside, but to no avail. Their attitude said “You can’t fool us with the attack pumpkin trick.” The poor pumpkin sat there all day without a single peck.

The Trojan Pumpkin

Would they would have been more interested if I had shared some of the Spiced Pumpkin Soup I made with the other half of the pumpkin? Probably. I think I’ve created little gourmet snobs out of my chicks. See the Italian Chicks blog.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
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This rich creamy soup is made without cream! Rice is the secret ingredient that creates the smooth richness in this soup as it’s blended into a silky consistency. It’s delicately flavored with the Indian spices of garam masala and saffron. Garam masala is a spice blend fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, cumin and black pepper. It can be purchased in the spice aisle or the ethnic section of well-stocked supermarkets, Indian markets or you can create your own. The tastiest pumpkin to use is a sugar pumpkin, also called a pie pumpkin. They’re smaller than the large jack-o-lanterns. Butternut squash and other squash are tasty alternatives for the pumpkin.

1½ large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1-inch)
1 (32 oz.) container lower-sodium chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garam masala or ground cinnamon combined with pinches of ground cloves and cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of saffron threads, crushed
¼ cup basmati rice or white long grain rice
¼ cup plain yogurt (nonfat is fine)

Stir the onions and oil together in a large pot over medium heat until the onions are coated. Cover and cook 5 minutes to sweat the onions (the onions will glisten and be slightly softened). Uncover and cook 5 to 8 minutes or until the onions are golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring continually. Stir in the pumpkin.

Pour the chicken broth over the pumpkin and stir in the thyme, garam masala, salt, pepper and saffron. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice and reduce the heat to medium-low or to the point where it maintains a gentle boil. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin and the rice are tender, stirring now and then.

If you have a hand blender (also called an immersion blender), use the hand blender to blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Otherwise, cool the soup to lukewarm and blend it in batches. Fill the blender container half to three-quarters full and pulse until the soup is smooth.

Whisk together 1/4 cup of the blended soup with the yogurt. Stir half of the yogurt mixture back into the soup and reserve the remaining mixture for the garnish.

Serve the soup warm with a dollop of the yogurt mixture swirled in the center.

Serves 4 (1½ cup servings)

Chickens are Good for Your Health

November 05, 2008

I knew it; chickens are good for you! Certainly their eggs are. A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who ate 2 eggs at breakfast lost 65 percent more weight, on average, than those who ate the same number of calories in a breakfast of bagels. Plus, egg-eaters had higher energy levels and didn’t experience an increase in “bad” cholesterol.

Free-Range Eggs from the Swingin’ Chicks

For more information, check out the following article from the National Health & Wellness Club newsletter for November 4, 2008 Eggs Help you Lose Weight:

Now, if only someone would do a study confirming my theory that holding and petting a chicken in your lap decreases blood pressure, then the Backyard Chicken Revolution really would take off.