Football & Pumpkins: It's Autumn!
There's a huddle in the living room and tense fans on the sidelines. Come Sunday, everyone will become football fanatics, and you might feel like the scrimmage is right in your house. And those athletes need energy, whether they're running down the field or jumping on the couch. Here are some ideas to keep your team happy during time outs:
Even though they aren't in the stands, the cheering (or jeering) section wants to feel a part of the action. Food that's bite-sized and easy to hold usually wins out. Lots of flavor is important, too, to energize the home team. Stock up on a few things that you can prepare ahead, and one or two that can be warmed at halftime.
Here are some coaching tips for those of you manning the concession stand:
- For great chicken wings, take basic barbecue sauce and splash in Louisiana hot sauce to taste. It's easy and it makes for GREAT wings!
- Toast English muffins on a cookie sheet in the oven. Put on tomato sauce and toppings (anything you want), sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and put back in oven. Bake until cheese is melted. Tastes great and makes a good appetizer when guests are over.
- Put one package little smokies in a skillet and add 1/2 cup dry vermouth. Simmer until warmed through. Serve hot with toothpicks. Quick, easy, tasty, gone!
- The Big, Tasty Hot Dog: Make one slit about 1/2-inch thick down the side of each hot dog. Fill each with one ounce grated cheese. Wrap three slices of blanched bacon tightly around each hot dog and place them on a hot griddle. Weigh down each dog and turn every 2 to 3 minutes. Cook until all sides are seared, about 8 to 10 minutes. Put in buns to serve.
Be sure to provide lots of napkins for the crowd, so no one's uniform gets dirty. Then, once you've won this game of catering, keep some of these plays in mind for future parties. Any gathering of friends and fans is a good excuse to practice your game plans.
During October, you can usually see numerous pumpkin patches spread across the countryside. These bright orange beacons dot the fields, each one begging to be taken home for eating, carving or admiring. Searching for your "great pumpkin" is a wonderful way to enjoy autumn's crisp air, sunshine and colors. Whether you process your pumpkin for eating or use convenient, pre-made pumpkin purée, this member of the squash family creates delightful soups and desserts to serve this time of year.
Pumpkin patches provide more than just a selection for prospective jack o lanterns. Many patches offer hay rides, crafts, apple cider and other seasonal treats. Pumpkins are a winter squash, similar to acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti and turban squashes. In fact, the varieties are interchangeable in most recipes. Winter squashes are known for having hard, thick seeds and skins, which protect the flesh and allow for long storage.
When choosing a pumpkin, look for a hard, deep-colored rind free of moldy spots and blemishes. Select a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size and has the stem intact, which prevents spoilage. If you are using your pumpkin for eating, choose a smaller variety, such as a sugar pumpkin. Generally, small pumpkins have finer-grained flesh and a sweeter flavor than large field pumpkins. The larger varieties make spectacular jack o lanterns, but their stringy, watery flesh is not ideal for cooking.
Pumpkins, like other winter squash, have firm flesh that requires a long cooking time. If you'd prefer using your time to carve a fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin is a convenient and reliable ingredient for your favorite pumpkin recipes.
Here are some tips for using pumpkin:
- A 4-pound whole pumpkin yields about 2 pounds raw flesh and 6 ounces seeds.
- One pound of raw, peeled pumpkin equals about 4 cups raw chunks, which will equal about 2 cups cooked, puréed and drained flesh.
- A fresh whole pumpkin will keep for 1 to 2 months if stored in a cool, dry place.
- Use pumpkin shells as decorative serving containers for cooked vegetables or Spiced Pumpkin Soup.
- Add puréed pumpkin to mashed potatoes for an autumn treat.
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