Day 13 – Pumpkin three ways

Over the years I’ve shared at least three different pumpkin bread recipes on my blog. (Maybe more, but I can only locate three.) Based on a brief search I found Spiced Pumpkin Bread from September 2014, Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread from October 2015, and the first pumpkin bread recipe I ever tried, Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread, that I finally posted in September 2016. It’s one of my favorite seasonal treats, and most years I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of September so I can crack open my first can of pumpkin of the fall. Of course, this year is a little different. Until today I hadn’t done any holiday baking due to being on whatever you want to call this diet, and with as much as I love the holidays it’s been a real struggle. But when I found out that my Galloway running group was having an end of the season breakfast tomorrow morning I saw a golden opportunity. I could have the enjoyable experience of baking pumpkin bread without eating it! Genius!

I took the day off from work today for a few reasons, one of which being that I didn’t want to stay up late tonight making the pumpkin bread for tomorrow. Even with almost the whole day to work with, the process still look twice as long as it should have due to an error on my part. I was watching a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie while I was baking and I guess I got a little distracted because I completely forgot to grease the bundt pan before pouring in the pumpkin bread batter! I realized this omission when the cake didn’t easily release from the pan after it was done baking. I tried to salvage it, but the poor thing looked like it had exploded. Boy did I feel stupid. While the bundt pan was soaking in the sink to remove all of crumbs that were stuck to it like glue, I wallowed a little by cramming several small pieces of the destroyed cake into my mouth. Not a diet-approved snack, but it was so delicious. Luckily I had enough time and extra ingredients to make a second batch of pumpkin bread, this time liberally greasing the pan before baking. And as you can see in the above picture, the second time was the charm. My running group is going to eat well tomorrow!

Today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with hot dog slices (again!)
Snack #1 – Apple, mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios)
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, yellow bell pepper, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #2 – A little pumpkin bread, I admit it
Dinner – Pumpkin chili (a healthier pumpkin alternative), strawberries

Halloween recipe variations

On Monday we had our 5th annual chili cook-off at work. It’s a Halloween tradition! It’s also one of my favorite days of the year (maybe second to the annual holiday potluck) and I’m happy to say that even though it was a lot of work it turned out really well. Due to being on the Nutrisystem diet since Labor Day I didn’t get a chance to make any test batches of chili before the cook-off. What a shame! So on Sunday night I simply combined a couple of my favorite old recipes, crossed my fingers, and hoped for a decent outcome. I figured mixing and matching successful recipes couldn’t go wrong! In order to please several non-carnivores at work I promised to make something that was vegetarian friendly. I started with my vegetarian chili recipe, but substituted the spices from my Cincinnati style chili that I made for last year’s cook-off. To my surprise it was absolutely delicious, and actually came in fourth place out of 16 chilis in the popular vote. So in the spirit of Halloween, making a Frankenstein’s monster-style unholy mashup using pieces from different chili recipes can result in something better than the sum of its parts!

Speaking of unholy mashups, the pumpkin bread I made for the chili cook-off got a similar treatment. I originally planned to make a sheet cake, and I even bought some new Halloween sprinkles to decorate it, but some of my co-workers requested pumpkin bread instead. On the plus side it’s easier to throw together, and I already had a can of pumpkin puree in my cupboard so that’s one less ingredient I had to purchase! But which of my favorite recipes to use? The one I posted in September was the best pumpkin bread I’ve ever tasted, but when I tried something different a couple of weeks later I got even better feedback from the taste testers. What a conundrum! In the end I used the recipe from September (mostly so I could avoid buying buttermilk which I never managed to use all of before it spoils), but with a couple of key changes. First of all, I substituted half of the white sugar for light brown sugar for a richer flavor. But more importantly I used a different spice combination:

2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt

The result was absolutely incredible! Not only did my co-workers gobble it up, but I loved it too. I’ll have to remember that for next year. The moral of today’s story is that experimental cooking can sometimes turn out even better than you could possibly imagine. So be brave and try something new! I am going to try and keep that in mind with the rest of my holiday baking. ‘Tis the season to be bold!

Welcoming fall with pumpkin bread

When September rolls around it means that it’s late enough in the year for me to bake with pumpkin again, but somehow I waited eighteen days to take advantage of that freedom in 2016. What a shame! But I think this pumpkin bread was worth the wait. I first tried this Taste of Home recipe over a decade ago with great success, but one of the ingredients was a tad problematic. Finding cook-and-serve vanilla pudding in 3 oz packages was impossible! I had to buy a larger box and just roughly guess at the right amount to pour into the batter. It was annoying so I found other recipes to try instead. But this year I was browsing the grocery aisles and found the little 3 oz pudding packages! It was a sign that this tried-and-true pumpkin bread recipe needed to make a comeback this fall.

As I was baking today I did make a couple of minor changes to the Taste of Home recipe. Actually, they were more like augmentations. The original recipe called for just 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as seasoning, but one of my other go-to pumpkin bread recipes (see my spiced pumpkin bread recipe here) calls for a host of other spices as well. So I also included nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice in today’s baking endeavor. Similarly, I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla because it makes everything better. The result was absolutely fantastic. In spite of being on a diet I tried a piece this evening. This may be the best pumpkin bread I’ve ever tasted! The perfect fall treat to share with my co-workers tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS:
5 large eggs
1 1/4 c canola oil
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 packages (3 oz each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp baking soda
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Make sure it’s a really big bowl because this recipe makes 2 loaves which means a lot of batter! Add the canola oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla pudding mix and baking soda and beat until combined. Lastly, add the flour and sugar and beat until combined. Pour the batter (it’s pretty thin and easily pourable) into two 8×4″ loaf pans coated with cooking spray. (I only have one loaf pan at the moment so I used a 12 cup bundt cake pan instead. If you go this route make sure that every nook and cranny of the pan is coated with spray because you don’t want the cake to stick!) Bake at 325 deg F for 70-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting the loaves (or cake) onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread.

Foodie Friday – Buttermilk pumpkin bread

Fall officially started over a week ago, but we’re still waiting for it to arrive here in Los Angeles. But luckily according to my self-imposed rules I can bake with pumpkin again since it’s after September 1st! Until it finally cools off (although this week has been slightly more comfortable) at least we can enjoy pumpkin-flavored treats! Like this delicious pumpkin bread. Last year I posted a great recipe for spiced pumpkin bread, but I’ve been wanting to try a slightly different version for a while. This new recipe contains buttermilk which is always a plus. It does amazing things for banana bread so why not pumpkin bread too? I’m really glad I tried this recipe because it is delicious. Everyone at work loved it, and I ate a few too many pieces of it myself. This pumpkin bread was the perfect way to welcome the fall and celebrate the approaching holiday season.

INGREDIENTS:
1 c canola oil
3 c sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
2/3 c buttermilk
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (I mixed a homemade version since I was out)
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 c flour

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, mix together the canola oil, sugar, pumpkin, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. I usually use an electric mixer for this to make sure the batter is smooth. Add the pumpkin pie spice (or homemade mix of spices like I made), cardamom, salt, and baking soda and beat until combined. Add the flour to the bowl and blend until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Divide the batter between a couple of greased loaf pans. The original recipe calls for three small loaf pans, but since I don’t have any of those I used one 9×5″ pan and one 8×4″ pan instead. (There was actually some batter leftover in this configuration so next time I’ll try three 8×4″ pans and make slightly smaller loaves.) Bake at 325 deg F for at least 1 hour (mine took a bit longer to set in the middle), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Based on The Mommy Mess’s Buttermilk Pumpkin Bread.