Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

This is our “Halloween Soup.”  We make it every year on October 31st before our ghouls head out for the night. It’s a delicious combination of fall flavors, and there’s no reason to sequester it to just one night of the year. If you have a food processor, this soup whips up in a flash. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender, or transfer the soup, once cooked, to a blender and puree in batches (if you’re using a traditional blender, just add the beans and tomatoes whole at the instructed time). I like to leave some texture to it, rather than having it come out completely smooth.

It’s a great crock pot recipe as well, and I’ve included some tips at the conclusion of the directions for those of you who will be utilizing your slow cookers.  Toast some pepitas with salt and a little olive oil before serving and pass the cheese and sour cream at the table.

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Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

3 Tbsp butter
1 ¼ cups onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/s tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (one 16 oz can)
3 to 4 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 cup chopped ham, optional (I almost always leave this out)

In food processor, finely chop onion and garlic.

Cook onion and garlic, in butter in a 6 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat till softened and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, puree beans and tomatoes in food processor.  Leave a little texture to the beans, rather then letting them become totally creamy.

When onion mixture is ready, add cumin, salt, pepper and smoked paprika ad stir for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add bean puree, broth and pumpkin.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally about 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat back of spoon. Just before serving, add ham, if desired (I never do).

Serve with salt, pepper, grated cheese, sour cream and toasted pepitas.

Changes For Slow-Cooker:
Brown onions and garlic, toast spices as instructed and add to slow-cooker. Decrease broth to 3 cups and cook on low 4 hours.

Five-Minute Fajitas

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Those of you with little people home during the lunch hour know that it can be hard to balance the desire for cheese quesadillas (or other kid fare) with the want of a salad or something a little more grown up.

Fajitas are a quick adult lunch (or dinner!) concocted from humble quesadilla beginnings.  No matter where you are geographically, peppers should be abundant this time of the year.  So, go grab some and dress up your next lunch!  Maybe the kiddos will even try a bite of the veggies!

Don’t be frightened off by the smoked paprika.  It’s neither spicy nor strange.  It is probably my favorite spice after salt, pepper and garlic.  It lends a smoky flavor even in small amounts.  I love to add it to rubs, marinades, soups, and all my southwestern dishes.  It really is key to the deep flavor here.

Cutting down on carbs?  No problem!  I often eat this same fajita mix over two scrambled eggs, for a protein packed southwestern lunch or dinner.

Five Minute Fajitas
makes enough filling for 4 tortillas or  2 large scrambles

1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into strips
1 can black beans (or other protein: a handful of shredded cooked chicken, a few strips of cooked steak.)
1/4 tsp granular garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
dash cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp good quality olive oil

4 whole-wheat or other variety tortillas (or a couple of scrambled eggs)
4 slices cheddar cheese  (or jack or pepper jack).
Optional extras for topping: salsa, sour cream, avocado, sliced black olives

Directions:
Heat a saute pan on medium for half a minute and then add a little avocado or olive oil.  Add your sliced onions and saute 3 minutes until starting to brown.  Add peppers and saute 1 more minute.  Add all spices and allow to toast 30 seconds while stirring.  Add lime juice, olive oil and beans or other protein.  Stir around until everything is coated nicely.

Gently melt a slice of cheese on each tortilla in the microwave.  If using eggs, grate the cheese and add it at the end with the other toppings.  Top each tortilla with a scoop of fajita filling and any additional toppings.  Enjoy!

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