Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Home Grown Tomatoes: And the Winner Is...

Patiently Waiting...
Home Grown Tomatoes is a weekly Vegan/Vegetarian column written by Giovanina Bucci.

Well here we are, 53 Home Grown Tomato posts later.  One year has passed; I'm more in debt, busier, one year older, slightly wiser, my hair's a couple inches longer, my ass is a little bigger, best friends have become better friends, new friends have become great friends, I've painted canvases, taken a lot of pictures, traveled, watched dear friends get married, have had a handful of visitor's, fallen more in love with Flagstaff, cooked a lot, baked more, experimented with new ingredients, played music, enjoyed bon fires, listened to music really loudly, danced to Lady Gaga, drank great red wine, rode my bike all over town, learned more about life and love...still learning actually, walked to the Farmer's Market a number of Sunday mornings, recorded some music, laughed...A LOT, cried, joined the gym, shaken my rear at Zumba, hip-hopped with a bunch of kids who still have 18 year old metabolisms, fallen in love with collard greens, sat on my front stoop until wee hours of the morning with great company, saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, welcomed new babies into the world (other people's babies, that is), played a lot of scrabble and dominoes, enjoyed a two-week addiction to Julie and Julia, purchased new bedding, asked loads of questions in graduate classes...or in general, saw Toots & the Maytals, spent time with my rockstar of a family, and written this blog every single week.  

I've thoroughly enjoyed this journey of cooking, creating, and writing about it.  I've figured out how I like to write about and discuss food.  I've learned that I'm not a measurer.  I'm all about happy (somewhat informed) accidents in the kitchen.  I love stumbling upon a totally successful creative cooking process.  A little of this, a pinch of that, a taste here, a smell there.  That's the way I like to cook.  And I adore entertaining others (with food and wit :-D).  I'm pretty convinced that I'll never be someone rollin' in the dough, but enough cash to be able to have friends over at least once of week for a great spread of hors d'oeuvres, a nice dinner, or a killer dessert and a smooth cocktail to accompany.  I'm okay with that.  I can spend about an hour at the mall before I lose my shit.  But the grocery store?  I love me some grocery store.  I can spend ridiculous amounts of time in the aisles reading labels.  Putting items in my cart, taking them out, putting them in...you get the idea.

Before I get to the real reason you're here...the contest winner...I also want to thank you.  Thank you for coming to visit every week.  Thank you for leaving comments.  Thank you for your continuous support.  Thank you for sharing your love of all things food-snack-dinner-lunch-beverage-breakfast related.  And an endless thank you to Scarlet Lily for coming up with this idea.  For editing the post each week.  For brainstorming with me.  For sending me hilarious pieces of love and gossip.  And for being a wonderful cousin, for having a fabulous husband and an absolutely perfect child, and most importantly, for being my touchstone.  I heart you big time, mama! 

Ok, ok, ok...here we go!  Thanks to those of you for submitting your recipe ideas, pictures, etc.!  It was super fun to read them all.  I have to say, I was torn by the end and I've decided to be totally crazy and announce a grand prize winner and a runner-up!

 The Grand Prize Winner is...
Erin Wahl

Autumn Pumpkin Soup and Biscuits

Erin's submission:

My goal in creating these recipes was to make a complete pumpkin-inspired brunch fit for a lovely autumn day. A second goal was to make everything as easy as possible since I feel like many people think that brunch is something that needs to be complicated. Not so! Although I prefer to use real pumpkin for soups, I substituted canned pumpkin in an attempt to speed up the process for anyone who might want to make it. Obviously this would taste even better if you took the time to use real pumpkin.

My taste testers were my rugged Alaskan boyfriend Jake and our friend, fellow Midwesterner and history grad student Adam. Both Jake and Adam are taste testing experts, being boys and therefore able to eat large quantities of food. Jake and Adam were very involved with the process, frequently having spoons of pumpkin-y goodness shoved into their mouths and asked to comment upon taste.

The biscuit recipe works well as a biscuit recipe or as a muffin recipe. I’ve made it both ways, adapting it from an old Betty Crocker bread recipe and adjusting the amount of flour to make them easier to “drop” onto a cookie sheet. It is a heavy biscuit and goes very well with the suggested almond butter or apple butter, or dipped in the soup. The addition of chai gives the biscuits the perfect spicy flavor that goes well with autumn. These are not light airy biscuits, they carry the weight of autumn in their spicy pumpkin depths.

The pumpkin soup was entirely of my own creation and modeled after a jasmine pumpkin soup I used to eat when I lived in China. I worked with it for a long time to give it the correct balance of sweet and earthy. The addition of the jasmine green tea keeps this from merely being something like pumpkin pie in a bowl by giving the soup an earthy, raw aftertaste that goes really well with the pumpkin biscuits.

In the end I have emerged triumphant with a rather impressive and easy pumpkin brunch. I recommend serving this with a cup of deliciously sinful dark coffee or perhaps a lovely light white wine, champagne, or a delicious recipe for an Apple Drink with Absolut Vanilla that got from the New Scandinavian Cooking show (sadly cannot take credit for this, you can find the recipe here) if you want to go fancy and alcoholic.

Erin’s Autumn Pumpkin Biscuits

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 tablespoons applesauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup Tazo Organic Chai Mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 1-2 cookie sheets or muffin tins (works in both). Set aside.

2. Stir together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla, chai mix and applesauce in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. (If you’re going to make these as big biscuits then add in extra flour till the mixture is thick enough to drop like biscuits.) Poor into muffin tins or put large oblong dollops onto the cookie sheet.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes.

Serve with apple butter or almond butter and the soup below.

Congratulations, Erin!  You can chose from the following prizes and email me (giovaninabucci@yahoo.com) with your pick!  (You can also catch Erin's other tasty recipes over on her blog.)

1 16x20 painting inspired by any food, garden, or kitchen item of your choice. I have tons of pictures to choose from or you can send me one of your own or

3 8x10 vegetable paintings based on your choice of veggies or color scheme or

5 framed and matted 8x10 food pictures of your choice selected from my collection of photographs. (I will send you a link and you can choose whichever ones you'd like)

The Runner Up is...
Nicole Walker

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Nicole's Submission:

Erin told me about your recipe contest and I had to enter because first, pumpkin bars happen to by my 'signature recipe', ya know the one everyone requests and talks about for weeks following the sampling. Case in point, last year at the Flagstaff Olive Garden we had a visiting manager from one of the Phoenix restaurants. I asked the visting manager, Jim, if he knew my favorite manager from the Tempe Olive Garden, Bill, and small-world-style, he said yes. I asked Jim to tell Bill hi for me, and when I said my name he replied "As in the Niki who makes pumpkin bars?". Jim didn't really remember me, but he well remembered the pumpkin bars I made for Bill during the holidays. My second reasoning for entering is that I am desperate for some of your art. I have already mentally decorated my future kitchen and the imagined versions of your 8x10 vegetable paintings are the perfect additions to an aesthetic symphony of yellow and green. Third and finally, I've been talking with Erin about eliminating meat and animal products from my diet and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out a switch-a-roo.

Seriously these things are *good*. Moist and pumpkin-y, and the spice combination perfectly compliments the pumpkin and apple flavors. I did happen to see a close version of my recipe on the Martha Stewart website about a year ago, and I think that fact that I am being plagiarized by the queen of all things homey and home-made, says something about how good these are. I haven't been able to find the Tofutti's cream cheese substitute, so unfortunately I can't vouch for the vegan version of the frosting; however, the non-vegan version is so good my friend Tyler swears that it contains actual love and crack as key ingredients. Also, if you're a choco-lover like me, feel free to add some chocolate chips to the bars; it only makes them better. Hope you like!

With love (and crack),

“Martha Stewart Stole My Recipe” Pumpkin Bars – Vegan Style

2 c flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter OR Earth Balance
1 ¼ c sugar
¼ c applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
1 small can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 9x13” baking dish with foil (this helps the bars cook more evenly and they lift right out of the pan for super-easy cutting and then you don't have to wash the dish. yes, yes, yes!). In medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.

With mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in applesauce and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined (don't overmix or you'll get flat bars and will be quite sad).

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away and inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean (about 35 to 40 minutes). Allow to cool completely. Frost and cut into bars.

“Made with Crack and Love” Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz Cream Cheese OR Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese
1 c powdered sugar
¼ c butter OR Earth Balance
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 c powdered sugar

Combine first four ingredients. Mix in remaining powdered sugar until desired consistency. Spread over cooled pumpkin bars.

Congratulations, Nicole!  I wasn't planning on a runner-up, but you convinced me :)  You can chose between the following prizes and email me (giovaninabucci@yahoo.com) your pick!

1 8x10 vegetable paintings based on your choice of veggies or color scheme or

3 framed and matted 8x10 food pictures of your choice selected from my collection of photographs. (I will send you a link and you can choose whichever ones you'd like)

Again, thank you to everyone for submitting such awesome recipes! 

With much love, and until next time,


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