The Least I Can Do

October 7, 2008

Well, well, well. It seems you all are just not that excited about beef stew. A very delicious beef stew, I might add. Sure there was a comment or eight, but most people, according to my site’s analytics, stopped by, took one glance at the stew and clicked elsewhere (I feel sort of like a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain having access to that sort of information, but I can’t resist). Because I had such a fondness for the stew, I was kind of baffled. I posited several theories. Too old-fashioned? Jumping the gun with full-on winter fare when we’ve only just ushered in October? Many of you are vegetarians? All these hypotheses are plausible, I suppose. But I don’t think any of them gets it quite right.

No, I think you, like me, are still transfixed by the homemade pumpkin puree that I showed you last Friday—the plump folds of silken pumpkin flesh, vibrantly orange and full of promise. The photos of the pumpkin roasting and pureeing sat atop this page all weekend. And I bet you thought that, come Monday at the latest, I would deliver on my promise of bringing you, and I quote, “baked pumpkin goods galore.” And when I didn’t, you responded with a boycott of sorts. No pumpkin, you said, then no enthusiasm for a measly beef stew. Nada. Crickets! And, well done: the silence was deafening.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

So I come to you today to extend an olive branch. And a loaf of pumpkin bread too. And I really hope that will break the impasse. Oh, and I sweetened the deal with fat bittersweet chocolate chips, because that certainly can’t hurt. I think we can all agree that it’s time to forget the beef stew incident and get back to the pumpkin. (But, for the record, I highly suggest you re-visit the beef stew once you’ve had your fill of pumpkin.)

When I first made the pumpkin puree, my mind was awash with recipe ideas. They were mainly sweet: pumpkin scones, pancakes, blondies, cookies, cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. But some of your comments persuaded me that I shouldn’t have so quickly dismissed the savory directions in which the pumpkin could go: orange-bellied ravioli swathed in brown butter, a mashed potato-esque side dish (maybe enriched with a swirl of mascarpone and spiced up with a pinch of cayenne?), risotto. I’d made none of these things before and boy was I thrilled by the possibilities.

But … in the end I was lured in by the chocolate chip-pumpkin bread—so tender and gently spiced, its top split by a homey, rustic fault line—I’ve made the last couple autumns. For the past two Septembers, Octobers and Novembers, our usual banana bread has had to step aside in favor of this quick bread. Last fall, apparently finding myself with too much time on my hands, I even packaged up a few loaves and sent them across state lines to a couple lucky family members. And, this year, I decided it was time to share it with you. It was the least I could do after promising you pumpkin baked goods and giving you beef stew instead. Do you forgive me?

Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sour cream (full or low fat)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large (8-, 9- or 10-inch) loaf pan with spray.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

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22 Responses to “The Least I Can Do”

  1. Ginny Says:

    Delicious! I love pumpkin bread! :) Its always a sign that the fall has come!

  2. Grace Says:

    I just bought a can of pumpkin and would love to try this! Do you think low fat greek yoghurt could be substituted for the sour cream?

  3. Monica h Says:

    I actually thought your beef stew looked delicious- I book-marked even. But it is still so warm here most days that I’m not even thinking about making stew.


  4. Ginny: It sure is!

    Grace: Absolutely. I have done it before. Actually, I think I’ll edit the recipe now to reflect that either one will work …

    Monica h: One vote for the “full on winter fare” theory! Happy to hear you’re still basking in warmth. : )

  5. eggsonsunday Says:

    Pumpkin and chocolate is a match made in heaven, in my opinion. I thought the beef stew looked good too, though. Perhaps a slice of pumpkin bread as dessert after a beef stew dinner? It’s certainly cold enough here. :) -Amy

  6. Elizabeth Says:

    I think a lot of people already have a beef stew recipe that they love.

    Plus, yes, it’s still too warm here to think about cooking anything on the stove for that long.

  7. Rachel M. Says:

    Hmmm…

    Not a fan of pumpkin so this is not going to do it for me either…

    I was inspired by your beef stew and made a stew of my own with mushrooms and gnochi dumplings…thanks…

  8. GS Says:

    I could have used some stew last week because I caught the ‘flu from my nephew!!! By the way, I don’t have a favorite stew recipe and I’ve printed yours for a test run…after I stop sniffling!!

  9. pricklypearbloom Says:

    I think for me it was just a long history of bad experiences with beef soups. I’ve tried many times, and it’s never felt right. Maybe I’m trying too hard? Maybe I just don’t like beef soup, and lean in favor of chicken or a plethora of vegetarian soups like the potato corn chowder that stole my heart two weeks ago that I’m totally considering making again this weekend.

    But pumpkin bread with chocolate chips? Now we’re talkin.

  10. Julia Says:

    stew calls to mind my mom’s bland beef stew, nothing special there to me. and i’m also not a big stew/soup person. but wow the pumpkin bread looks great, especially with teh choco chips in there!

  11. molly Says:

    I just found your blog and LOVE it! What delicious recipes and great photography. We’re moving to a bigger house this fall with a larger kitchen so I’m excited to try out a lot of your recipes.

    Congrats on the law school graduation and the Bar being over. I’m a lawyer too and know how good it feels to be done with everything!

  12. Emily Says:

    This is my heaven! I love few things more than banana bread, but pumpkin bread is one of them. THANKS!

  13. Robin Says:

    Your beef stew was indeed delicious-looking, but ya know, it’s just that time of year for pumpkins!! ;)

  14. Tracy Says:

    I don’t remember how I found your blog, but I love the fact that cooking continues to happen through law school, the bar and now work. Gives me hope that I can continue to cook while I finish up this damn residency thing and I use your recipes on a regular basis. It is 90 degrees here today. Definitely not beef stew weather. But I do love chocolate pumpkin bread…

  15. ronnissweettooth Says:

    I’m not a beef eater, so even thought I read the stew entry (after a couple of days of ignoring it entirely. Sorry! :)) it’s not something I would ever make. But I enjoy reading your posts, so I finally read it.

    Now pumpkin bread? That’s something I can get behind.

  16. Dawn Says:

    It will be hard to give up my own banana/chocolate bread recipe long enough to give this a try, but the pics are awfully persuasive!

  17. holler Says:

    *hand in the air*
    I’m a vegetarian and I prefer this post :)
    Very yummy and ….. I am going to go back and look at the photos again!


  18. Amy: A celestial pair indeed!

    Elizabeth: I suppose that’s true. Everyone should have a go-to beef stew recipe.

    Rachel M: Gnocchi dumplings in beef stew? Now that sounds incredible.

    GS: Hope you’re feeling better!

    pricklypearbloom: Well, I’m glad this pumpkin bread is here for you, then!

    Julia: I couldn’t live without soup and stew and chowder and the like during the fall, winter and spring. But, then again, I’d have a hard time living without this pumpkin bread too. : )

    Molly: Thanks!

    Emily: You’ll have to let me know how it compares to the banana bread!

    Robin: I agree. We’ve got all winter for beef stew.

    Tracy: Thanks for your note! It made my day. And, no, 90 degrees is not exactly beef stew weather. But you can’t let pumpkin season slip by, no matter how warm it is.

    ronnissweettooth: Okay, I suppose that’s a good excuse! : )

    Dawn: It’s hard to give up a good banana bread, isn’t it?

    holler: Fair enough. : )

  19. Lizzy Says:

    How long would you recommend cooking these if I wanted to make muffins (or would it be cupcakes) instead?


  20. Lizzy: I have made this into muffins in the past but unfortunately didn’t take note of the baking time. I would bake them at 350 and check on them after 20 minutes. If they’re still underbaked, keep checking every five minutes. If you give this a try, let us know what baking time you discover.

  21. Polly Says:

    This recipe was quite yummy, but I am still partial to your Evolved Banana Bread! As for the beef stew, I was raised vegetarian and though I am not one now, I never really learned how to cook meat (though I’ve got a firm grasp on bacon) and often feel insecure about trying. Much to the chagrin of my meat n potatoes man…


  22. Polly: I’m glad ot hear you gave this a go. You’re right, nothing can displace the banana bread permanently. : ) As for the stew, it’s actually a really easy way to cook meat: just throw it in the pot and forget about it. Might be a good place to start?


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