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    Pumpkins Are Food

    October 25, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    The recent front cover of Better Homes and Gardens was graced with piles and piles of beautiful pumpkins placed as decorative touches within the confines of a backyard. I thought the effect was absolutely gorgeous, but I was also quite mystified because around here pumpkins placed outside quickly go from attractive to moldy, mushy messes. And though pumpkin carving is a very impressive idea {a makeshift lantern fashioned from fruit always is}, once cut, a pumpkin disintegrates even more quickly.

    Maybe I just purchase the wrong sort of pumpkins, but around here, pumpkins are food. There are many meals and treats that can be made with pumpkin parts; the following is what our family does. By the way, we purchase only sweet pumpkins or pie pumpkins.

    Step One: Clean the outside of the pumpkin.
    A good scrubbing with the vegetable brush never hurt a pumpkin, and it makes sure one is beginning with a clean surface, as one would wish to with any cooking project.


    Step Two: Clean the inside of the pumpkin.

    This is the part that makes your hands “goofy,” as my son would say {he means goopy}. Since the pumpkin is food, cut it completely in half from top {stem} to base. Using a spoon, scrape out all the pulp and seeds and place in a bowl. Little boys are the best tool for separating the seeds from the pulp, but any coordinated human should work.


    Step Three: Make pumpkin puree.

    Cover each pumpkin half with foil and place them on a baking sheet foil-side-up. Place in preheated oven and bake at 325 for about one hour {until tender}. Allow to cool until it is bearable to work with, and then scrape the meat away from the shell and place in a blender. Usually, a lot of liquid has collected inside the pumpkin during cooking, and this is the perfect liquid to use in the puree because it will not water down the taste. Make sure all stringy pieces have been pulled out, and blend until the consistency is similar to commercial baby food or applesauce.


    Step Four: Decide on storage.

    Even a pumpkin on the small side will make as much as five cups of puree. A lot of recipes for pumpkin sweets only call for one cup, and we don’t eat things fast enough to make five batches of anything. So, divide any extra puree into freezer-safe bags, making sure the amounts are recipe-ready. Make sure to write the amount measurement on the outside of the bag. Freeze, and there might be enough puree to eat pumpkin goodies for the remainder of autumn.


    Step Five: Roast those seeds.

    Seeds in general are a good source of calcium, so there is no reason to waste them by throwing them out. Once the seeds have been separated from the pulp, rinse them clean and mix them in a bowl with some melted butter. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, salt to taste, and cook at 300 degrees for 45 minutes or so, stirring at least once during the bake time to prevent scalding. My little girl loves pumpkin seeds!


    Step Six: Bake the goodies.

    Before I give out the two recipes we make {both of which are modified from recipes I found on AllRecipes}, I want to note that infants starting solid foods usually love pumpkin puree straight from the blender. If there is a bit leftover, feed it to a baby.


    Pumpkin Bread
    2 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 Tb. non-aluminum baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 cup pumpkin puree
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1/2 cup butter, softened

    Grease loaf pan if needed and preheat oven to 350. Place oven rack in lower 1/3 of the oven. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Little boys are good at stirring this mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, eggs and salt. Mix well, and then add to the flour mixture. Blend in the softened butter one tablespoon at a time. Bake until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean, from 45 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before cutting and serving. Makes one loaf.


    Pumpkin Cookies
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup sugar
    1 egg, beaten
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 cup pumpkin puree
    3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    1 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. sea salt
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter, olive oil, and sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and pumpkin puree. In separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon. Combine with the pumpkin mixture. Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. I do not remember how many cookies it makes.

    A friend of mine tints white sugar-cookie frosting orange and frosts these cookies so that grownups and children alike can decorate them to look like pumpkin faces using candy corn. There are many options!


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  • Reply Brandy October 28, 2006 at 6:31 am


    Aw…your first comment here. Thanks! 🙂 I do not have a recipe for squares, but if you find one I’d like a copy. Anything with pumpkin and sugar goes around here!

    Hope your seeds turned out perfectly.

  • Reply Jennifer October 27, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    I can’t wait to try your pumpkin bread! Do you have any pumpkin square recipes? Last year, I made a Splenda-pumpkin pie with my pumpkin leftovers. It was very good. I just substituted Splenda for sugar in the recipe that came with our pumpkin-carving book. I also love making pumpkin smoothies with soy milk and vanilla! Yummy. We are carving our pumpkins tonight and I can’t wait to roast the seeds. I have never mixed butter in. I am looking forward to the better taste.

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