Our great chums and fellow culinary addicts, Shanti and Steve, came to visit for Halloween. A beautiful zebra named Jessica also stopped by. In good spirit, the centerpieces for our dinner were pumpkin and apples. We didn’t carve or bob the way one might expect, but it was certainly a treat to have fresh creativity and skills in the kitchen!

Cayenne-Maple Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Domino Potatoes & Parsnips
Maple-Braised Greens with Apple and Ham
Baked Apple Dumplings

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Steve tending to the soup.
Steve tending to the soup.

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The Grand Finale a’la Shanti: Bake Apple Dumplings



Cayenne-Maple Pumpkin Soup

Follow these instructions, adapted from the Sous Chef Series:


  • 1 (2 lbs) pumpkin
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 yellow onions or about 2 cups, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots or about 1 cup, chopped
  • 1 parsnip or about 1/2 cup, chopped
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 cups chicken stock, or replace with vegetable bouillon
  • ½ cup milk
  • apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced into matchsticks
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, from my frozen stock


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Skin the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp and sest aside in a bowl of water. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks. Brush with olive oil and season with salt. Roast the squash on a baking sheet until tender and lightly caramelized, about 45 minutes.
  2. (For extra large pumpkins: instead of roasting all of your pumpkin, boil half of your pumpkin pieces on the stovetop in a large pot, until tender. Set aside to cool. When cooled blend until smooth, and store in your freezer in a ziplock bag for making pumpkin pie in the winter!)
  3. In a colander, rinse the reserved seeds and dry with paper towels. Place on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, and half of your sea salt and cayenne. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Set aside.
  4. In a medium stockpot set over medium heat, heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the onions, carrots, parsnip and jalapeño, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and cook, stirring frequently, until the syrup is reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes. Remove the stockpot from the heat and set aside.
  5. When the pumpkin is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool briefly. Remove the flesh from the skin and mix it into your stockpot with the onion and carrot mixture. Return the stockpot to the stove. Turn the heat to medium, add the chicken (or vegetable) stock and milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Season with the cider vinegar and salt. Serve soup hot with apple, cilantro and toasted seeds.

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