About six years ago I discovered my boys had a vocabulary problem. They were using one word to describe everything that tasted good: 'heavenly'.
This bothered me for two reasons- one, I'm sure heaven is much better than the best food, and two, they weren't expanding their vocabulary. This was a perfect time. So we pulled out a thesaurus and looked up 'delicious' to come up with a new word to use. 'Toothsome' had them rolling on the floor laughing, so that became the new favorite.
I've discouraged them using 'heavenly' very often- but I'll tell you, that was the first word that popped into my head (I didn't say it!) when the first spoonful of moist, custardy, caramel-y, pumpkin dessert hit my tastebuds.
My apologies to Heaven. This is a modified version of Caramel Bread Pudding. (
The link has other ways of using up stale bread, too.) The spices in this play a supporting role to the pumpkin flavor: just enough there to help you notice the pumpkin, not the spice. If you want to taste the cinnamon, double or triple the amount here.Caramel Pumpkin Bread Pudding-
fills a 9x13 pan
15 slices good-quality white bread, cut into 1” pieces (about 16 cups or 20-24 ounces)- baked until crisp (about 10 minutes at 450 degrees)
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
¼ c. honey or corn syrup
5 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 1/2 c. half-and-half, or use the last ½ cup evaporated milk from your can (above); use whole milk for the remaining 2 cups here.
5 large eggs1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon OR 2 tiny drops
cinnamon essential oil
1/4 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 tiny drop
clove essential oil
1/2 c. toasted nuts, optional
Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir about 4 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Remove from heat and stir in cream or evaporated milk, corn syrup, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Pour one cup of this caramel into a greased 9x13 pan.
Set aside one more cup of caramel, to use as topping later.
To the remaining caramel, add the half-and-half (or mixture of evaporated milk and whole milk). Beat the eggs together, then whisk in pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk in the half-and-half mixture. Add remaining vanilla. Fold in the bread, and let sit until soaked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Put bread mixture into the 9x13 pan, bake about 40-45 minutes, until the top is crisp and the custard is barely set. Sprinkle with toasted nuts. Serve warm, with the reserved cup of caramel drizzled on top.
Do you have carved - or not- pumpkins sitting around now? Or do your neighbors? Will they share?
If you have a pumpkin farmer nearby, even better. Their selling season is over. If you act fast, they're often happy to let you glean for free. If you wait, the pumpkins will likely get tilled into the ground.
If the pumpkins are not cut, you can store them for a couple months if you like- dry (NOT sitting on cement!!), cool (under 75 F), and dark is best. Most often my whole pumpkins stay firm and fresh until about January or February- this is at about 65 degrees F, stored off
the floor and on a layer of cardboard or newspapers to absorb moisture- but I've had a Hubbard that stored until the next July, and a spaghetti squash from a year ago!
But let's say you have a pumpkin that you'd like to cook with.
Fresh has so much more flavor than the stuff in a can from the store.
Smaller pumpkins tend to be sweeter, bigger ones more watery. But you can always drain off extra liquid if you need to. Below is a slide show on how to make your own fresh puree. You can see here
for another, more detailed post on making the puree, or see previous posts on finding,choosing
, or dehydrating them.Click on the "Pumpkin" category on the right for recipes.
Pumpkins are one of the most inexpensive, nutritious
vegetables around... right now they're under 20 cents per pound where I live. One cup (8 oz.) of pumpkin has more than 700% of your daily Vitamin A needs, 7g fiber, 3g protein, 19% RDA for iron, 17% RDA for Vitamin C, and 6% RDA for calcium. All this for 83 calories and about 10 cents.
We grew a few, but the garden was pretty sad in general and we ended up buying a couple for our annual pumpkin-carving party at Grandma's house. (To tell you how bad the garden was... the only pumpkins that survived were in the SANDBOX, where one son had spilled some pumpkin guts in late spring. Yeah. Go figure. They even survived our free-roaming chickens.)
So now we have several carved jack-o-lanterns to set on the front porch for Trick-or-Treating. The day after Halloween they'll get cleaned, sliced, and either cooked or dehydrated and turned to powder
. My kids are excited at the possibilities. Their favorite is pumpkin pie, but this shake tastes just like it, in a fraction of the time!Pumpkin Shake1 pint vanilla ice cream
(about 4 heaping ice cream scoopsful)1 1/2 c. milk1 1/2 Tbsp. pumpkin powder
*1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
OR 1/8 tsp. cinnamon plus a dash (to taste) each ground cloves, ginger, and/or nutmeg2 Tbsp. brown sugar,
OR molasses, OR honey
Put all ingredients in a blender and mix on high until smooth. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
*If you don't have pumpkin powder, use 1/2 cup plain pumpkin puree, and reduce the milk to 1 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups.Optional mix-ins:
2 Tbsp. raisins (add before pureeing so they get finely chopped)
2-3 oz. cream cheese
2-4 Tbsp. chocolate chips
Get this recipe and many more ways to use pumpkin, free, from The Great Pumpkin Cookbook
Yeah, I know that smoked salmon is a little expensive for a website with a name like this one has...
Would it help you feel better to tell you I buy it during the after-Christmas "food gift" clearance sales? It's at least 50% off then.
OK, it's still not real frugal. But it does have an incredible shelf life-- and is one of my absolute-favorite foods!- which is why I had a couple tins of it on hand when the idea for this sandwich struck. I decided, the day of the contest, to enter the "Fleishman’s Yeast Sandwich Bread Contest 2012" at the Utah State Fair. Which bread I wanted to make was no problem, the Autumn Harvest Bread
came right to mind. The contest this year, though, specified for 10% of your overall judging score to be from the filling (or "description of a filling"). This is what I came up with to complement the breads' flavors. It will make your tastebuds "dance and sing"! The judges agreed, this took first place in the contest. Autumn Harvest Smoked Salmon sandwiches
Start with one loaf of Autumn Harvest Bread
, sliced about 1/2" thick.
* * * * * * * * * * * *Cream Cheese Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. very finely chopped (or pureed) red onion
2 Tbsp. minced crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp. finely chopped toasted pecans
¼ c. finely chopped celery
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/16 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Stir together, chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. To assemble sandwiches
, spread about 2 Tbsp Filling on each of four slices of bread. Top with 2 ounces smoked salmon, and any of the following you like (I used all of them): thinly sliced red onion, sliced tomato, roasted red pepper, alfalfa sprouts
, and arugula
. Drizzle with red wine vinegar
and sprinkle with salt and pepper
. Makes 4 sandwiches.
This bread has a thin, chewy crust with an exceptionally tender and moist interior, flavored with pumpkin and honey, scented with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, with a toasty crunch from pecans. (See a photo of the inside here
.) It is one of my all-time favorite
recipes. It all started with an artisan bread cookbook, Amy's Bread
My brother had just finished a two-year mission to Spain, and came back with a whole new perspective on bread. He described how fresh, hearty, deeply flavored, and moist those European breads were, with their beautiful, flavorful crusts.
That's it, I thought, I MUST learn to make bread like that.
So I bought a book. (I still have, it, use it, and love it. Her Country Sourdough loaf is perfect, and the thin, crunchy, seeded breadsticks are addicting!)
The recipe below began as one from her cookbook. I've tweaked it over the years, until it can be claimed as my own. We usually just slice and butter it, or toast and spread with cream cheese. It would make incredible French Toast, especially if you stuff it with lightly sweetened cream cheese and top with fruit syrup
or homemade maple-flavored syrup. For a sandwich filling
that goes spectacularly well with it, see my next post!
See here for a post on making pumpkin puree
, or see this one on making pumpkin powder
. I actually used the pumpkin powder & added water in my batch for the fair.Autumn Harvest Bread
(Pumpkin-Pecan Yeast Bread)
1 Tbsp. Instant or RapidRise yeast 4 ½ c. bread flour
1/2 c. warm water ½ c. butter, melted
½ c. (6 oz.) honey 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. pumpkin puree ½ tsp. ginger
1/4 c. cornmeal ½ tsp. ground cloves
2 large egg yolks 1 ½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. dry milk powder 1 c. pecan pieces, toasted
Combine yeast and warm water, stir to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes. Mix in honey, pumpkin, cornmeal, egg yolks, milk powder, and 2 cups of the flour. Add butter, then the remaining 2 cups flour, the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes. Let rest 20 minutes. Knead in pecans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ -2 hours.
While it’s rising, make a wash with 1/4 c. cold water and 1/2 tsp. cornstarch:
Combine the two, bring to a boil, and stir until thickened. Cover it so it doesn’t form a skin, and let it cool.
Divide dough into two pieces. Shape into 16-20” long logs, and tie each into a knot. (Or shape into a ball, seam-side down, or shape into two 8x4 loaves.) Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 1-1 ½ hours. Using a pastry brush, gently coat each loaf with the glaze. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown and the surface is firm. Brush again with the glaze. This helps it have a nice shine and a thin, soft crust. Cool before cutting into 1/2" slices.
This is a smooth, lemony, egg-based baked pie. Use a fresh lemon for the best flavor, one is all you'll need. If you only have bottled lemon juice, be sure to use the lemon zest, or about 1 tsp. lemon extract, or 4-6 drops lemon oil. The zest gives more flavor than the juice does.
Lemon Chess Pie5 eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) melted butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then add sugar, juice, zest, cornmeal, salt, and butter. Pour into a parbaked crust, put on the lowest rack so the heat will set the crust. Immediately reduce temperature to 325 or 350 degrees. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until all but about 1” of the center is set. Jiggle the pie to check that- it will jiggle like Jello instead of like water. (If 1" of the center still seems like liquid, that's OK; the center will continue to cook as it cools.) Cool on a rack. Store covered in the fridge.
Pat-in-Pan Crust Looks and tastes just like a rolled-out crust, but is much easier, and does not get tough from handling it.
1 stick butter (1/2 c.) softened but cool
2 oz. cream cheese, softened but cool
1 ¼ c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
Coat a 9” pie pan with cooking spray. Beat together butter and cream cheese until very smooth. Add all else, beat 20-40 seconds more until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Scrape sides of bowl, beat until large clumps form. Set aside 3 Tbsp of dough for top edge. Evenly press remaining dough onto bottom and up sides of the pie pan. On a floured surface, roll each Tbsp reserved dough into a 9” rope, put around top edge of pan; flute edge. Wrap and chill 1 hour, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out and prick with a fork; bake until golden, 35-40 minutes. Cool on rack.
To "parbake" this crust, you're going to "par"tly "bake" it: cook 20-25 minutes, until the crust looks dry but not browned. Pour the filling in while crust is still warm.
If you’re making multiples of this, it’s easiest to use an upright mixer and wire beaters. You’ll use about two cups of the dough, loosely packed, for each crust.
This recipe is from this week's Custard Pies and Pie Crust class
- the two-page handout is on the link. It includes recipes for several custard pies: Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Poor Man's Pecan Pie (Pecan Pie recipe, but using toasted rolled oats INSTEAD of pecans), Rhubarb Custard Pie, and Cranberry Pie.
There are a few previous posts on finding, choosing
, or dehydrating
This one is on just preparing it. If you want pumpkin recipes, see The Great Pumpkin
e-book, available for free.
The simple version is: cook until soft, mash or puree, use or store it. If you need details, this is the post for you!
I prefer to steam my pumpkin, that way I can keep the skin on and get the extra fiber and minerals from it, and waste less. You can bake it if you prefer; cut in half, clean out the insides, and bake, cut-side down on a cookie sheet. Plan on about an hour at 350 degrees. Baking is a better option if you're using a thick-skinned squash like Hubbard or Acorn (which work fine in pumpkin recipes, by the way).
If you're steaming it, start by scrubbing off any dirt. If there are little blemishes, cut them out or scrape them off with a paring knife. Some are only skin-deep. Cut off the steam and blossom end. Those little brownish-grey bits never will soften up. They won't hurt you, but they're not pleasant to eat.
Cut the pumpkin in half. Scrape out the strings and seeds. A spoon is a great tool. Don't worry about getting all the strings out. They puree. Seeds don't.
Cut the pumpkin in strips about 1 to 2" wide. These will be C-shaped. Turn them on their sides and cut crosswise to make roughly square-shaped pieces.
Put about 1" of water in the largest pot you have. When it comes to a boil, fill the pan with the pumpkin pieces. Bring back to a boil, put a lid on it, and let simmer until tender. It takes about the same amount of time as it does to boil cubed potatoes: about 30 minutes for bigger chunks, less for smaller ones.
When the pumpkin is done, it will be translucent. A fork or knife poked into a piece will meet no resistance. You can still puree it without it being fully cooked, but it's harder on the machine.
Mash with a potato masher if that's all you have (but it won't get rid of strings). I use a blender and usually have to add about 1/4 c. of the cooking water to get it to puree. A food processor would work great.
If you have more puree than you'll use within a week, measure the extra into containers or freezer bags. How much will you use at once? Store that much in each container. I always make two pumpkins pies at a time, which takes 4 cups. So I freeze pumpkin in 4-cup batches. If you only want 1 cup at a time for a batch of cookies, freeze some in that amount. Label them with the contents, amount, and the date. Best if used within a year, but they'll be fine so long as they don't get freezer-burned. It won't make you sick even then, but you'll need more spices to hide that nasty flavor. I sometimes find 3- or 4-year-old bags hiding in the back of the freezer; they cook up just fine.
So that the bags lie flat for storing, you can freeze them on a cookie sheet. This has another benefit- if your bag happens to pop open while freezing, spills are caught on the tray. Yep, I learned this one the hard way. Actually, they'll stack in a less space if you freeze them already stacked up. Just make sure those bags are going to stay closed!
This reminds me of a quote seen today: "Always learn from others' mistakes. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself."
What about the seeds you scraped out? Well, you can toss the whole lot out into a flowerbed or pot outside, and see what grows next year. We prefer to eat them. With your fingers, sort out the seeds. It's a slippery job, but you'll get the hang of it. The strings go in the compost pile outside. If you want to save seeds for next year, put some of the seeds on a paper towel and let them airdry for a couple weeks. Store them in a paper bag or paper envelope. They'll mold if stored in plastic. Label them! Be aware that unless you have a non-hybrid pumpkin, what grows next year will not be exactly the same size, shape, or variety. But it will be pumpkin. Plant in the spring after the last frost. Plant 3-4 seeds close together, and allow them about a 2-4 foot radius for the vines to spread out.
To bake them instead, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of oil (this makes them MUCH easier to chew and digest!), sprinkle with salt, and bake until they've turned golden brown. Use any temperature from 350 to 400 degrees, baking will take anywhere from 7-20 minutes, depending how wet they were and how hot the oven is.
Hey, I know what this is starting to look like... and no, I really don't make cupcakes ALL the time!
I had a quarterly lunchtime get-together with some friends, and we all brought food. So that's my excuse this time around. That said, everyone flipped over these cupcakes, and insisted that I share the recipe.
True to form for me, there is no single-page recipe for this: I took a regular cake recipe, added applesauce and spices to it, filled it with something complimentary I had in the cupboard, and made my favorite frosting, using cream cheese in it this time.
If you have a copy of The Chameleon Cook
, the plain (yellow) cake recipe is on page 74, and the frosting recipe is on pages 76 (Boiled Milk Frosting) and 78 (Cloud Frosting variation). I made a half batch of frosting; it ran out on cupcake #19. If you like a lot of frosting, especially when it's fluffy, creamy, and not too sweet, make the full batch. If you like a strong cream cheese flavor, instead of using 2 sticks (8 oz.) butter and 8 oz. cream cheese, decrease the butter to 1 stick (4 oz.) and add an extra 4 oz. cream cheese (total 12 oz.) To make it even more rich, reduce milk to 1/2 cup, Ultra Gel or flour down to 2 Tbsp, and sugar down to 1/2 cup.
For the cupcakes:
Take any white or yellow cake recipe, or a boxed mix
Use the same ingredients and instructions as the recipe or box says, except:Add 1 cup applesauce or pumpkin puree
to it, and reduce the liquid the recipe calls for by 1/2 cup (this means reduce the milk to 3/4 cup if you're using my recipe)
Applesauce or pumpkin puree, for cooking purposes, acts like about 50 % water.
Stir in any or all of these spices: using all of them gives a full, round flavor, but if you only have cinnamon, it'll still be good:1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
, or 1 Tbsp. grated fresh, or 1-2 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger :-)3/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
If you like, also add 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, and/or 1/2 c. raisins
Bake according to regular instructions.
When cool, add filling if you like. I used Dulce de Leche
, thinned with enough water that the caramel didn't hold its shape anymore (maybe 2 Tbsp. water to 3/4 c. caramel). But use whatever you have or can make, such as homemade or jarred caramel sauce, unwrapped caramels melted with milk or water (try 1 Tbsp. milk/water for each 10 caramels). If you have a decorating bag with a tip, you can fill the bag with caramel, poke the tip down into the cupcake, and squeeze the bag until the cupcake swells with the filling. I have a bag, but didn't want to mess with it this time. The other way I fill cupcakes is by cutting out a cone-shaped section from the top of the cupcake. Lift it up, put a spoonful of filling in the hole, and replace the top of the cupcake. Frosting the cupcakes will hide those surgery marks. See the photos below.
If you're making mini cupcakes, an easy, non-messy way to get batter in those little cups is with a small ice cream scoop. Use a regular-sized scoop for regular-sized cupcakes.
To fill a cupcake, run a knife around the top, with the blade angled so the tip is in the center, about an inch down.
Lift up the top, and the cupcake is ready to fill! How much you add is up to you. Any less than 1/2 teaspoon just disappears into the cupcake, so use more than that. Add too much and it will spill over the top... so you'll figure out what you like pretty quickly. That said, I used what fit on a regular spoon, about 1 1/2 teaspoons. Put the top of the cupcake back on, then frost.
SO... is there a difference between those big pumpkins that are cheaper, and the littler, "Sugar Pie Pumpkins" that are 3 to 10 times the price?
Yes, there is. The smaller ones are varieties selected for smooth, dense, creamy flesh, with a higher sugar content. The bigger ones are still good for eating, but usually have a higher water content, and often have stringy flesh. When I make pumpkin pie using the small sweet ones, I can get away with using only 1/2 cup sugar per 2 cups puree. If I use the bigger ones, it tastes best if I use the 3/4 cup sugar called for in the recipe.
How big of a pumpkin will you need for one pie?
A very small one. If you're including the peel in your puree, there will be almost no waste from your pumpkin- only the stem, seeds, and stringy center will be taken out. (Remember to rinse, salt, and roast those seeds!) You'll get almost two cups of puree for each pound in your pumpkin, when prepared this way. Two cups will make one 9" pumpkin pie. That means a 5-pound pumpkin will yield enough puree for FIVE pies. And if you use your 25-lb jack-o-lantern?...... Luckily, pumpkin puree freezes well! My favorite way to preserve it now is by making pumpkin powder
. Less space, no freezer burn, and no electricity required once it's dry.
If you're using big pumpkins, you can still end up with dense, smooth puree if you know how to handle it. Clean, chop, and steam, boil, or microwave the pumpkin until tender, then run it through a blender or food processor, adding water only if it won't blend without it. You could use a potato masher, but it won't get rid of the strings. When it's smooth, you can either use it as-is (which is thinner than usual), or let it sit in a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Let it drain at least 1/2 hour. The water drained off has vitamins in it; use that in pancakes, smoothies, or whatever else occurs to you. Any winter squash can be used in pumpkin recipes. I've eaten "pumpkin" pies made of kabocha squash, spaghetti squash, and Hubbard squash. The spaghetti squash was a lot more watery (drain that liquid off!), and if only mashed, not pureed, the texture resembles coconut cream pie (in fact, there's a recipe for Mock Coconut Cream Pie t
hat takes advantage of this!) Hubbard and kobocha are both dense, creamy, and sweet, and only required the 1/2 cup of sugar that I use with sugar pie pumpkins.
When else can you get another vegetable for under twenty cents a pound?
You may even get them for free if you ask a farmer, or grocer, right AFTER Halloween. I was able to glean from two different farm fields last year!
I saw an interesting thing, as I was looking for pumpkins in good condition: one man was walking around with a hatchet and a bucket. He wasn't after the pumpkins; he wanted the seeds! It didn't matter if the pumpkin was shriveled or damaged; each pumpkin was chopped open and the seeds scooped out.
Most people look at pumpkins as merely decorations. They are great for giving your yard or home that homey, autumn feel. But one cup of pumpkin (only 49 calories!) is also high in fiber (3 g) and beta-carotene (Vitamin A- 2650 IU), plus calcium (37mg), potassium (564mg), magnesium (22mg), along with smaller amounts of iron, zinc, selenium, Vitamin C, Niacin, folic acid, and Vitamin E. See University of Illinois Extension or Nutritiondata . That's just the pumpkin. The seeds also provide exceptional nutrition.
If you'd like to know how to turn that festive decoration into a form you can eat, it's simple. Basically, you clean it, cook it, and mash or puree it. I much prefer the flavor of fresh pumpkin to that from a can. It can be frozen for later use, dried and powdered, pressure-canned in chunks, or stored whole in a cool (55-70 degrees), dark, dry location. They can last the whole winter stored whole. I stored a Hubbard squash last November; I finally cut into it in July this summer. It was perfect.
For more detailed instructions for cooking it, along with a few dozen recipes, see The Great Pumpkin recipe book. To get cooking instructions and just a few of my favorite recipes-
Pumpkin Chili, Pumpkin-Pecan Yeast Bread, Pumpkin Muffins, and Pumpkin Pie-
see the Pumpkin Class Handout.