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October 5, 2013

Culinary Conversation: Use pumpkin to make more than jack-o-lanterns

NEW CASTLE — A true sign of fall for me is when “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” airs on television.

Its popular counterpart is the Christmas version.

Let’s not jump ahead, though. We’re accustomed to seeing Halloween decorations in stores before school starts, Christmas promotions in September and end-of-summer sales in June. But that’s retail. In our kitchens, we can savor each time of the year, making best use of what the seasons have to offer.

Right now, it’s pumpkins.

Across the country, there are festivals in honor of the round, orange gourd. It’s so versatile — both for decorating and cooking.

My interest peaked when I discovered Pinterest on Facebook. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s like a virtual scrapbook with different categories including home decor, photography, fashion and cooking. On the cooking site, my cousin, Tina, pinned to a recipe called pumpkin cake. She does lots of baking and I bookmarked it for future scrutiny.

Through the years, I’ve made muffins, jelly-roll type desserts with cream cheese filling, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies and fritters — all from pumpkin. And of course, pumpkin pie seems to be the favorite with just about everybody. One year, I did a variation that included a fudge type topping that hardened when it set. The vote was 50/50 in popularity at the Thanksgiving table.

The point is — there isn’t much that can’t be done with pumpkin. Recipes are plentiful using pumpkin, which despite being a member of the squash family of vegetables, is mainly used in desserts.

The canned version of pumpkin is generally preferred, but the gourd can be cooked, drained and mashed to use in recipes. Just quarter the pumpkin, cut into pieces, pare and boil until tender (but without seasoning) for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain well. One 5-pound pumpkin, cooked and drained, yields about 4 1/2 cups.

Fall is here and with it, good things arrive. Pumpkins are just one of those.

While I forgot to return to the Pinterest site and get the pumpkin cake recipe, I did retrieve one from my wonderful, 800-page, go-to-for-everything cookbook.

The website for one of my favorite magazines, Better Homes & Gardens, has a wonderful selection of recipes including marbled chocolate pumpkin brownies.

And where would we be without our wonderful contributors to Culinary Conversation? We can’t wait to see what pumpkin recipes you have to share with us.


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