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Pumpkin time: Pumpkins are for more than just decorating

 

From left, June Hendrix, 9, Mikaela McCollum, 10, and Memory Smithy, 9, marvel at the variety of pumpkins at Country Pumpkins in Caledonia Monday. Hendrix is the daughter of Justin and Jessica Hendrix of Amory. McCollum is the daughter of Mike and Tina McCollum of Amory. Smithy's parents are Joel Smithy and Brooks Williams of Nettleton.

From left, June Hendrix, 9, Mikaela McCollum, 10, and Memory Smithy, 9, marvel at the variety of pumpkins at Country Pumpkins in Caledonia Monday. Hendrix is the daughter of Justin and Jessica Hendrix of Amory. McCollum is the daughter of Mike and Tina McCollum of Amory. Smithy's parents are Joel Smithy and Brooks Williams of Nettleton. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff

 

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This pumpkin crostini only requires about 15 minutes of preparation, 40 minutes to cook.

This pumpkin crostini only requires about 15 minutes of preparation, 40 minutes to cook.
Photo by: lazycatkitchen.com

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Few things convince us that autumn will eventually make an appearance more than pumpkins. Whatever color, shape or size they are, pumpkins put us in mind of crisper days ahead, leaves skittering across the road and holidays to soon celebrate. They also evoke aromas of pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice everything. 

 

Pumpkin is a type of squash, one with a rich, fresh flavor that lends itself to soups, stews or risottos, pumpkin muffins, fries, French toast, even pumpkin Alfredo. They can be grilled, baked, roasted, broiled or steamed. There are more ways to incorporate this fall staple into breakfast, lunch and dinner than we can count.  

 

One trip to Country Pumpkins on Spruill Road in Caledonia will help illustrate the vast variety of pumpkin and squash that can be grown. Dwight and Jean Colson open their pumpkin patch and family fun agri-tourism activities from mid-September to early November each year. It's always a visual reminder that not all pumpkins are created equal in appearance -- in taste, either.  

 

"I love seeing these beautiful pumpkins," says Heather Cowell of Columbus, a visitor to the pumpkin patch. "We tend to grow up thinking there's just one kind, the kind we put on our porch for fall decoration or carve up for Halloween. But when you start thinking about cooking with them, there's a lot more to pumpkins." 

 

First and foremost, your standard fibrous jack-o'-lantern pumpkin isn't the pumpkin you want to cook with. Recommendations for cooking pumpkins fill the internet, but common to most lists are Baby Pam pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, Cinderella, Jarrahdale, Blue Hubbard, and many more. 

 

Look for deep, rich, uniform color -- no green or light tan spots where the pumpkin rested on the ground. You want a healthy, stiff stem; avoid pumpkins with soft spots.  

 

If you're opting for canned pumpkin, be sure not to accidentally pick up sweet, spiced pie filling. Look for the can with one ingredient, says cookinglight.com: pumpkin. 

 

While we often think of pumpkin in sweets, it is equally at home in so many other foods. Here are a few quick, easy ones: Stir 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree into the morning oatmeal before cooking, then season with cinnamon and sugar. For lunch, add a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds full of fiber and protein to your salad, says cookinglight.com. At dinnertime, add peeled or cubed pumpkin to a stew for a hint of sweetness, not to mention extra nutrition and texture. 

 

When you pull out the slow cooker, make up a batch of pumpkin butter. The recipe from delish.com today makes up about 4 cups that you can store and use for a while. 

 

It's October. And sooner or later, we'll experience an invigorating cool spell. We have to believe. Go ahead, pick up some pumpkins to cook with, to decorate with -- it may speed autumn on its way.  

 

 

 

PUMPKIN CROSTINI WITH ROCKET PESTO 

 

Prep time: 15 minutes 

 

Cook time: 40 minutes 

 

Makes 4 crostini 

 

 

 

4 slices of toasted bread (sourdough bread) 

 

1/2 cup hummus or vegan ricotta 

 

4 slices of butternut pumpkin/squash (sweet potato works well too) 

 

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted on a pan 

 

seeds of 1/2 pomegranate 

 

Olive oil 

 

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber 

 

 

 

For rocket/arugula pesto: 

 

1 ounce rocket/arugula 

 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

 

2 tablespoons lemon juice 

 

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 

 

1 ounce walnuts, toasted on a pan 

 

1 large garlic clove 

 

Pinch of sugar 

 

3/4-1 teaspoon salt, to taste 

 

Black pepper, to taste 

 

 

 

  • Heat oven to 390 F and line a baking tray with a piece of baking paper. 

     

  • Wash butternut pumpkin/squash and cut into half-inch slices. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, flipping the slices to the other side halfway through baking time. The pumpkin is ready once the flesh is soft and nicely caramelized on the outside. 

     

  • Place dry rocket, garlic and toasted walnuts in a herb chopper with olive oil. Blitz into a fine pesto. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and nutritional yeast. 

     

  • Toast bread slices, top with hummus or vegan ricotta and caramelized pumpkin slices. Season with black pepper, drizzle with rocket pesto and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts. 

     

    (Source: lazycatkitchen.com) 

     

     

     

    SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN BUTTER 

     

    Prep time: 5 minutes 

     

    Cook time: 3 hours 

     

    Makes 4 cups 

     

     

     

    2 (12-ounce) cans canned pumpkin 

     

    1/2 cup apple cider 

     

    2/3 cup sugar 

     

    1/4 cup brown sugar 

     

    1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice 

     

    1 teaspoon vanilla 

     

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

     

     

     

  • Pour all ingredients into slow cooker and stir until smooth. 

     

  • Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour. 

     

  • When desired consistency is reached, store refrigerated in mason jars. 

     

    (Source: delish.com) 

     

     

     

    PUMPKIN PECAN BREAD PUDDING 

     

    Prep time: 25 minutes 

     

    Cook time: 35 minutes 

     

    Makes 8 servings 

     

     

     

    Cooking spray 

     

    3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree 

     

    2 large eggs 

     

    1 cup milk 

     

    1/2 cup heavy cream 

     

    1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar 

     

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 

     

    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

     

    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

     

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

     

    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 

     

    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

     

    7 cup day-old brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes 

     

    1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped 

     

     

     

    Bourbon sauce: 

     

    1 cup granulated sugar 

     

    1/2 cup heavy cream 

     

    1 tablespoon bourbon 

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle position. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. 

     

  • Make bread pudding: Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, milk, cream, sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl until smooth. Fold in bread and pecans. Let stand 30 minutes. Transfer to prepared baking dish and bake until set, 30 to 35 minutes. 

     

  • Make bourbon sauce: Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until sugar mixture is dark amber in color, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add cream and bourbon, stirring until smooth and creamy. 

     

    Serve pudding with sauce alongside. 

     

    (Source: countryliving.com)

     

  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

     

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