Monday, September 24, 2012

The most colorful season is upon us. Leaves have already begun to change color and fall. Oftentimes in the morning as I drop off Kellan at preschool, I can hear the high school marching band practicing in the distance, a sure sign of fall.

Pumpkins are harvested in the early fall to be turned into jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin pie. Cans of pumpkin have already started flying off the shelves at the grocery store.

Our family has started a tradition of visiting pumpkin patches around Des Moines. Our favorites are Howell’s Tree Farm in Cumming and Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge.

These visits turn into an all-day excursion loaded with fun for the kids. Not only are we searching for the perfect pumpkin to bring home to carve and set on our front steps, we are also taking a hayride, jumping in a corn pool, petting goats, riding pedal tractors, and taking a pony ride. There is so much to see and do it’s my job as mom, to move the kids along so we make it home before nap time, but inevitably, the kids fall asleep on the way home with sticky caramel around their mouths and sugar from the cider doughnuts on their fingers.

Pumpkin Fluff

My colleague, Stephanie Hein, recently brought this to school to share. Not only is Stephanie, Cattell Elementary’s music teacher, a good singer, she is also a good cook, and often shares new recipes with the staff. She served this sweet and low-fat dip with graham crackers. I thought it was so light and fluffy it could also be spooned and smoothed into a graham cracker pie crust and chilled to be served as a fall dessert.

1 can pumpkin puree
2 (8 oz) tubs fat-free Cool Whip, thawed
1 box sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or to taste)

In a large bowl mix together all ingredients except Cool Whip. Carefully fold in Cool Whip. Transfer to serving dish and chill. Serve with vanilla wafers, graham crackers or ginger snaps.
½ Cup Serving:
61 Calories
Fat — 0.2g

Pumpkin Marmalade

Last week my group of fifth grade students were reading and learning about games played by colonial children and the very beginning of basketball, baseball, etc. I shared a book about pioneer projects for children, and this simple recipe for pumpkin marmalade was in the book.

1(4 oz) can of pure pumpkin
¾ cup white sugar
1 lemon and peel, chopped, with the seeds removed
1 orange and peel, chopped, with the seeds removed
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ginger spice

In a saucepan, mix all ingredients except the pumpkin. Cook on low heat until the sugar melts. Stir often. Add pumpkin. Simmer for 40-60 minutes, stirring often. Let mixture stand until cool.

Pumpkin Waffles

There is nothing more our boys, Kellan and Carsten, like more for breakfast than sticky syrup. Even while wearing plastic bibs, they still manage to end their pancake or waffle breakfast as a gooey mess.

These waffles are perfect for autumn. The recipe comes from a former bed-and-breakfast owner who said guests requested her waffles more than anything else.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
4½ teaspoons butter, melted
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Maple Cranberry Butter

½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup butter, softened
additional maple syrup, optional
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk the egg, milk, pumpkin and butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended. Fold in pecans. Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine cranberries and syrup. Cook over medium heat until berries pop, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; cool slightly. Beat in butter until blended. Serve waffles with maple cranberry butter and syrup if desired. Refrigerate or freeze leftover butter.
Yield: 4 servings

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Kids love to stick their hands into a pumpkin to dig out the flesh and seeds. This year save the seeds for a healthful snack.

Pumpkin seeds can be toasted in a skillet on the stove and tossed with salt for a crunchy snack.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and cook until puffed and browned, about 3 minutes; if they start popping, cover the skillet. Transfer the pumpkin seeds to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt, let cool and serve.

Oven Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

To toast a larger batch of pumpkin seeds, toast them in the oven, but be sure to keep an eye on them. For a twist, try adding a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning.
pumpkin seeds
vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss clean, dry pumpkin seeds in a bowl with a small amount of vegetable oil, just enough to coat, and toss with salt. Arrange in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack or by stirring in a mesh sieve.

Cinnasweet Pumpkin Seeds

Instead of traditional savory pumpkin seeds, try a sweeter version.

4 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
½ cup margarine, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup white sugar, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the pumpkin seeds, margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl; stir to coat the seeds. Spread the seeds in a single layer in a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; stir and return to oven for 15 minutes more; remove from oven and sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the seeds; stir to coat. Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes before removing again to sprinkle with remaining sugar and stirring. Bake another 15 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Store leftover seeds in an airtight container.