pumpkin soup

I made this soup in a crock pot - in the morning, slow and steady. You can also whip this together faster in a pot on the stove. There are also a TON of variations to the flavor of pumpkin soup - so use some the optional ideas below, depending on your craving!

2 Tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped finely
3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 pumpkin (take seeds out, peel & dice) OR about 1 kg (4 cups pumpkin puree)
1-2 med. potatoes (skinned & diced)
1-2 carrots (peeled & diced)
3-4 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
vegetable (or chicken) bullion (2 cubes) with 3-5 cups water (about 1 liter+)
OR 3-5 cups vegetable broth/chicken broth

½ tsp black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup cream (or use half & half)

Optional – spicy alternatives!!

1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
sweet potato, peeled, diced
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sugar
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped coarsely

This was SO EASY to make!!
Put butter in the bottom of your crock pot (on the highest setting). Add the onion & garlic while you chop your pumpkin/veggies. Add diced pumpkin, then layer other veggies. Close the lid to allow the ingredients to begin to heat up. Soon add ½ the vegetable broth to allow the veggies to steam well. Turn the heat to low after about 30-40 minutes. Add the rest of your veggie broth with spices, until the veggies are almost covered. Allow everything to simmer for as long as you want – on low heat. I blended about 2/3 of the soup, so there was still a chunky feel to the soup. Return everything to the crock pot – and stir in cream. Add any extra seasonings to taste. Dollop with sour cream/plain yogurt, and/or garnish with fresh parsley, fresh chives, or roasted pumpkin seeds if you have them!
For some extra flare:
serve it inside a hollowed out pumpkin, with fresh bread.

Chinese porridge - Congee

CONGEE (稀饭 xīfàn) - is basically rice cooked in water/chicken broth, eaten for breakfast! There are many variations to how this can be cooked & served - but here is the basic gist:

Combine in a saucepan, and bring to a boil:

1 cup white rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped/shredded chicken (some people use tuna/fish)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peanut oil
water as needed

1 inch of ginger, cut into long thin strips/threads

Optional Toppings:
ginger, cut in small slivers
2 tsp soy sauce
white pepper
sesame oil
green onion, chopped fine

Rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. Put the rice in a large sauce pan and stir in the salt and oil. Add the water & chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir the rice to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cover (with the cover ajar) and boil gently for about 5 minutes. Cover and reduce the heat to low - simmer, stirring occasionally until the rice is soft (the consistency of porridge). Add ginger. Simmer for about 1 hour. Porridge is ready when the rice is soft with a mushy appearance. Add water if needed. Serves about 6. Ladle the hot porridge into bowls and sprinkle with desired toppings. Serve hot!

Some interesting facts about Congee too
: It is always recommended to eat when you are feeling sick (similar to chicken noodle soup). Some of the oldest Chinese imperial records have mentioned it being a health food. It was also eaten most often by the poor, or during times of drought and famine - when food was hard to come by. Legend tells us that during the time of Emperor Yong Zheng (Qing dynasty), a famine broke out. He ordered his officials to serve & distribute Congee to the starving people. Corrupt officials would skimp on the rice and serve watery versions. When the Emperor heard about this, he set a standard that the porridge must be so think that a pair of chopsticks would stand upright! Any officials who failed this standard were beheaded. Congee is also served during funerals - because it is plain and simple, and suits times of grief and mourning.