Tuesday, October 1, 2013

All About Pumpkin

Even if it weren't for the drop in nighttime temperature and the fact that my modest back yard organic garden looks about done for the year, it is obvious that fall has arrived in my home.  No longer am I sitting outside in the sunshine reading a book when I have a free moment, or inside washing pounds of produce from my garden.  I noticed it a few weeks ago when my son went back to school and the temperature dropped... that unmistakable urge to bake that comes when I feel cooped up inside my house.  Over the course of three days I baked four different items and if it weren't for my children's relentless after school schedule (soccer, dance, guitar lessons, baseball...) I am sure I would have baked even more treats.  Not that we have that many mouths to feed.  :)  And of course when fall comes around and my favorite season full of fresh produce is over, what do I turn to in my kitchen?  PUMPKIN!!!
Growing in my backyard!!

Not only is pumpkin easy to use and convenient to have on hand, but it is also extremely nutritious. It is one of the lowest calorie vegetables and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol.  However, it is high in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals (copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus) and vitamins A, C and E.

Usually I am happy to use canned pumpkin and to be honest I have never roasted and scooped out the inside of a sugar pumpkin for baking, but this year we are attempting to grow a few in our yard.  If the not so healthy vine does grow me a usable pumpkin or two, I will definitely roast it up and use it in one of the following delicious recipes... none of which are a basic pumpkin pie.  Why stick to something so boring (although a favorite of my husband) when there are so many other options to experiment with?  My all time favorite is a recipe I concocted last fall after looking up pumpkin bar recipes online and not finding anything that I liked.  After a few tries, I got the recipe perfect and it has been a year round favorite in our home ever since... pumpkin pie brownies!!  Not only are they delicious and nutritious (one sure way to get my very picky daughter to eat some vegetables), but they make the house smell amazing while cooking and for hours afterwards.  All of the recipes that follow are original pumpkin creations (or modified versions of old favorites) that my whole family looks forward to each fall. Happy baking!!

Pumpkin Pie Brownies
Pumpkin Brownies with dried cranberries,
walnuts & white chocolate chips

1 can (15 oz., 1 3/4 C.) pumpkin
2/3 C. organic white sugar
2/3 C. organic brown sugar
3 organic eggs
2/3 C. organic canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/3 C. organic whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine the pumpkin, sugars, eggs, oil and vanilla in a bowl.  Mix until blended together.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt, and slowly add to the wet mixture. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch pan and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes. Let cool.

Note:  For mini muffins, bake 25 minutes.  For regular muffins, bake 35-40 minutes.

**Can add in ½ C. each of pecans or walnuts, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.


Pumpkin Spice Cake

3 C. organic whole wheat pastry flour
canned pumpkin
2 T. ground flax seed 
2 T. wheat germ 
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. organic white sugar
1 C. canned pumpkin
1 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. organic canola oil
2 large organic eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the flour, flax seed, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves in a bowl.  In a separate mixing bowl, combine the sugars, pumpkin, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs and vanilla, and mix together well.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.  Spread into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes.

*In a donut pan, bake for 15 minutes.  (good with a maple confectioners’ glaze on top)

Be careful not to overfill the pan

with maple glaze and a side of fruit

Allow to cool completely if adding a confectioners' glaze

*In a muffin pan, bake for about 20-25 minutes.

jumbo sized!

*In a 9 inch round cake pan, bake 2 or 3 cakes for about 30 minutes.

with cream cheese & Greek yogurt frosting


Pumpkin Cookies

1 1/2 C. organic whole wheat flour
1 C. organic all-purpose flour (or oat flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 C. organic butter, softened
1 1/2 C. organic white sugar
1 C. canned pumpkin
1 organic egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.


dry ingredients
Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/3 C. organic whole wheat flour
2 T. wheat germ
2 T. ground flax seed
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

wet ingredients
1/2 C. canned pumpkin
1 organic egg

1/4 C. organic canola oil
1/2 C. organic plain soy milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 C. organic sugar

Combine flour, wheat germ, flax seed, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the pumpkin, egg, oil, milk, vanilla and sugar in a separate bowl.  Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just enough to mix well. Pour into muffin pan and place in 400F degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 regular muffins.
Granulated sugar may be sprinkled on top of muffins prior to baking.

Pumpkin Muffins!!!!


Pumpkin Scones

4 C. organic whole wheat flour
2/3 C. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. cold unsalted organic butter, cut into pieces
2/3 C. buttermilk
1 C. pumpkin
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 C. dried cranberries
1 C. chopped walnuts 

Preheat the oven to 400° and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla, and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough. 

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into circles that are about 7 inches round. Cut the circles into six equal triangles. (You can also use the drop method and just make small mounds of dough in a circular form, about 2-3 inches in diameter).  Place the scones on the baking sheet. 

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 


Pumpkin Truffles
(a much more indulgent way to enjoy pumpkin)

1 C. canned pumpkin 
1/4 C. brown sugar 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1 tsp. ground ginger 
1/4 tsp. ground cloves 
2 C. organic heavy cream 
1 pound dark chocolate, finely chopped  (16 ounces)
2 T. organic butter, room temperature 
1/4 C. orange-flavored liquor, optional
6 ounces melted dark chocolate 
3 ounces  dark cocoa powder  (1 cup, or as needed)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until mixture reduces by half and pumpkin looks dry. Set aside. 

In a medium saucepan over high heat, add cream. When cream boils, take off heat. In a heatproof medium bowl, add chocolate and hot cream. Let the mixture sit for a minute, then slowly begin to stir, starting in the center of the bowl and working outwards. Once the chocolate and cream are evenly mixed, add pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. 

Add the butter and liquor, if using. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. 

On a parchment lined cookie sheet, scoop mixture into small balls.

Place in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until chilled. Remove truffles from refrigerator and dip each in melted chocolate. Roll in cocoa powder and serve. 


Pumpkin Pasta
(a savory way to enjoy pumpkin)

1 pound whole wheat penne
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil 
3 shallots, finely chopped 
3 cloves garlic, grated 
1/2 C. dried cranberries
2 C. organic chicken broth (or vegetable)
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1/2 C. organic heavy cream (or half & half)
1/2 C. plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce 
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 
Salt & Pepper 
12 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced 
Grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and cranberries and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, pumpkin, cream and yogurt. Add the hot sauce, cinnamon and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the sage. 

Toss the pasta with the sauce and top with Parmesan cheese and the remaining fresh sage.

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