Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leader Enterprise - Nov. 2, 2011 - Pumpkin

Can't Leave 'em Alone Pumpkin Bars 

When fall comes rolling in, my mind just swirls with all kinds of recipes I want to make using pumpkin! As I skip through Blogland, I've been reading about shortages again this year. Mercy me!! How thankful I am that I cooked up some pie pumpkins last year and am happy to have it in the freezer.


Why do we love pumpkin? Well, not only because its tasty but it has some natural health benefits too!

The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene (B-C). B-C is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, (B-C) performs many important functions in overall health.

Pumpkins are: Full of fiber--High-fiber foods help to keep us feeling full and satisfied.

Loaded with nutrients--In addition to fiber, there are many other nutrients packed into this gourd. Carotenoids like beta-carotene are plentiful, as is vitamin A (each 1/2-cup serving has 300% the daily value!). Muscle-fueling potassium? Yep, that too. Horray for pumpkin!

Delicious yet neutral--Pumpkin is naturally yummy with a creamy texture, but it's not that sweet on its own. Its mild taste makes it an excellent base for all sorts of flavors: cheesy,spicy, maple-y..even chocolatey! This means you can use it in SO many different recipes.

"Pie pumpkins" are smaller, sweeter, less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual jack-o-lantern types. They're only about 6-8" in diameter. Just like selecting any squash, look for one that is firm, no bruises or soft spots, and a good orange color. You can usually obtain about 3 or 4 cups of puree per pumpkin, with less water.

You can bake pumpkins or you can microwave them. That's the method I prefer.

This is how to prepare a pumpkin or butternut squash for cooking: Remove stem; wash exterior in cool or warm water, then poke a few times with a sharp knife so steam can escape, going all the way to the middle. Place on microwavable dish and cook on high for about 12 minutes for a medium size, increasing time as the size enlarges.

You know it is done cooking when a knife goes into the skin easily. Allow to cool 10 - 15 minutes, then cut in half and cool another 10 minutes. Scrape seeds out with large spoon or hard ice cream scoop. Meat will come away from skin easily. Mash or puree with a blender or hand mixer, then season and enjoy, or allow to cool and freeze in user-friendly portions.

I've make my own pumpkin pies using 'homemade' pumpkin puree. To eliminate watery pumpkin, I strain the pureed pumpkin through a cloth overnight in the fridge. If I use frozen pumpkin I do the same again as it thaws. It works great for anything you bake.

You can also bake a pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash. Cut in half, scooping out seeds first. Put the prepared pumpkin upside down on a foil-lined cookie sheet, add about 1 cup of water to help prevent it from drying out and pop it in an 350 oven. It normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour; test it by sticking it with a fork to see if it is soft!

I have so many pumpkin recipes, it's very difficult for me to decide which ones to share. These are among my favorites.

CAN'T LEAVE 'EM ALONE PUMPKIN BARS

CRUST:

1 box yellow cake mix, reserve 1 cup
1/2 c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
Mix together and press in 9" X 13" pan

MIDDLE LAYER:

2 eggs
2/3 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-15 ozs. can pumpkin
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Mix well and pour over crust.

TOPPING:

1 c. reserved cake mix
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. chopped nuts optional

Mix together and spoon over pumpkin filling.

Bake at 350* for 40-50 minutes. (it will be a bit soft still)
Serve with whipped topping, warm or cold.

PUMPKIN DIP
1 (8 ozs) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
2 c. powdered sugar
1 (15 ozs) can pumpkin
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
In medium bowl, blend cream cheese, sour cream and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and orange juice concentrate until smooth and well blended. Chill until serving. Yield: 32 servings.Great for dipping apples, gingersnaps or graham crackers.



PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
Dry:

1-3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of cloves

Wet:
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2–1 c. chocolate chips (depending on how chocolatey you want them)
1/4 c. pecans


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Combine wet ingredients. Add pumpkin mixture all at once to flour mixture. Add chocolate chips. Stir until just moistened. Spray muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray (or line with paper cups). Fill 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle top of each muffin with pecans. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. (You can also use a toothpick in the center to check for doneness). Remove from pan and serve warm. If desired, top with cream cheese frosting.