Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkins...if you can't carve 'em, eat 'em

This year, for the first time, we are actually going to try carving a couple pumpkins. I recall how hard this seemed for my mom when I was growing up & I've therefore never attempted it. I am (perhaps wrongly?) thinking that sharp knives might be the trick.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE going to the pumpkin patch. So cute & fun to let the little guys pick out a perfect pumpkin & they get a little farm experience. So, what have we done with pumpkins you might ask? We eat them! They are so easy to roast. Just cut the top off (like you would to make a jack-o-latern), scoop out the "junk", put the top back on, put on a pan & put in the oven at 350 for about an hour. You know its done when it is soft-like squash. When it is cool enough, the "pumpkin" will very easily scoop right out of the skin. You can stick it in the food processor to puree (just to make it all smooth) and use it or freeze it. If it seems a bit watery (compare to canned pumpkin), you can put it in a sauce pan & cook it down a bit, but I rarely need to do this.

Cooking ideas: pumpkin pie, pumpkin dip (below) and sometimes, I just "hide" a 1/4 cup or so in something I know my family won't notice (chili, spaghetti sauce, etc.) in order to get a few extra vitamins in them. Note that it doesn't hide well in dishes that don't have a decently strong flavor of their own.

Also, the pumpkin seeds are supposed to be very nutritious! After you scoop them out of the pumpkin, get off as much of the "junk" as you can, put them on an ungreased pan in a single layer, salt with kosher salt & place in the oven on 325 for 20 minutes. Stir halfway through. Let them roast a few more minutes if you like them crispy. Add more salt at the end. These things need salt to be tasty!

Pumpkin Dip 
(This makes a lot! Unless you are serving a huge group, I recommend cutting in half.)
8 oz. softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
15 oz pumpkin
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese & sugar until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the spices. Chill until ready to serve.

I've served this with pretzels for dipping & graham cracker sticks. Yum!

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