Pumpkinfest with Simplicity Gourmet
Ahhh, the love of fall...
This time of year always brings up so many memories of growing up. I love fall - sweaters & sweatshirts, forests of fiery leaves, crisp, cool air, breezy, sunny walks, the smell of fires and apples and baked goods, and, of course, pumpkin carving. When I see an intricately carved jack-o-lantern, I always picture my grandpa on the back porch at my grandparent's house creating jack-o-lantern masterpieces. My Poppy was an avid jack-o-lantern champ! I'd eventually end up raking leaves into huge piles and jumping around in them but he'd emerge from his huddled position over the pumpkin and I was always in sheer amazement at how he had come up with yet another piece of pumpkin perfection. Their house was the last house on the block and everyone from the entire neighborhood - and I'm sure beyond - always came out to the vast array of faces - silly and scary alike. Oh, sigh, childhood snapshots in time that I miss so very much.
This year, as I started to wish so badly that I could recreate one of his masterpieces just one more time, my mind started to wander to the reason why we have this strange tradition. Ever wonder why we carve faces into pumpkins?
A little easy research and I've found myself thoroughly educated on the subject. In short, carving jack-o-lanterns was an ancient Celtic practice on a holiday called "Samhein," a holiday reserved to honor the memory of deceased family and friends. The jack-o-lanterns would be lighted by burning lumps of coal and placed in the windows and doorsteps of the homes on the last day of harvest. Now, I was surprised to find that it wasn't actually the pumpkin that the Irish used, but rather hollowed out turnips, gourds, or potatoes.
When the Irish began to immigrate to North America, they brought this tradition along with them. Turnips weren't so plentiful in our part of the world, but pumpkins definitely were and they were found to make for much more elaborate jack-o-lanterns. While the actual traditions of Samhein was buried along with our ancestors hundreds of years ago, you will still find most houses glowing brightly this week with their very own homemade jack-o-lanterns welcoming home their little trick or treaters.
My research has also given me a few pumpkin picking tips that need to be shared. A couple of things to keep in mind when pick out your pumpkin is that you will always want to make a trip to a pumpkin patch - it's so quaint and rustic, you almost always get a hayride out to the pumpkin patch out of it! Plus, you will always get the freshest pumpkin when you pick it straight from the vine. A farm stand would be the second best choice to pick up your pumpkin b/c they were picked locally and you know they haven't endured abuse during a long trip to the supermarket. Try to sit the pumpkin upright while it's still attached to the vine to make sure that it sits level. Make sure that the stem is still attached to the pumpkin; pumpkins that are ready for harvest should have dried, brittle stems that are easily broken from the vine. Make sure your pumpkin has a vibrant orange color and is free of bruises and scaring, soft spots or any signs of mold. Carry your pumpkin by the base and make sure to store it in a cool place until you are ready to carve it.
This year will be my first year without my Poppy's Pumpkin Patch, so, I'm attempting to make him proud and create a couple of my own tonight. I found a few pumpkin design books for $5.00 each that I downloaded straight to my computer - pretty fancy, huh?! They are unbelievable - you won't be disappointed. So, wish me luck - I hope to make my Poppy proud!
Jack-o-lanterns aren't the only things that pumpkins are good for! For the very best in Fall fare and activities, check out the rest of Pumpkin-fest with Simplicity Gourmet today!
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Don't discard those seeds when you're creating your Jack-o lantern! Make a tasty, healthy snack rich in Vitamins B & E, Iron, and Magnesium! Rinse the seeds of all pulp, strings, and pumpkin flesh. For pumpkin seed purists, toss the seeds with just olive oil or butter and salt. Place flat on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown, tossing occasionally. For those of you with a little more adventure in you, you can flavor them anyway that you like; possible flavor combos: chili seasoning, Cajun seasoning, onion soup mix, cinnamon sugar, cheesy popcorn salt - they sky is the limit; no one knows your taste buds better than you...go for it!
SOUTHWESTERN PUMPKIN SOUP
UTENSILS: 6 qt Roaster, Master Kut w/ #1 & #4 Cones
1 ½ TBSP Organic Butter; 4 Stems of Organic Green Onion; chopped; 2 Organic garlic cloves, minced; 2 Cups Organic Pumpkin, sliced #4 Cone; 3 Large Organic Yellow Squash, sliced #4 Cone; 1 Large Organic Zucchini, sliced #4 Cone; 2 Cans Rotel Tomatoes, drained; 1 Cup of Organic Whole Kernel Corn, frozen; 1 Can of Organic Black Beans, drained; 36 oz Organic Chicken Broth; ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper; 2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes; ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper; ¼ tsp Paprika; ¼ tsp Cumin; 2 TBSP Cornmeal; 1 Cup Organic Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded; 1 Cup LOrganci Colby or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded; Organic Sour Cream; Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
- Add butter, onion, and garlic to the 6 qt Saute on medium heat until the onions are very tender (about 8 minutes).
- Add the pumpkin, squash, and zucchini and cover, whistle open.
- When the whistle sounds, uncover, and add the chicken broth, rotel tomatoes, corn, black beans, cornmeal, and spices. Stir until well blended. Cover, whistle open, and continue to cook.
- When the whistle sounds again, turn the temperature off and close the whistle. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, shred the cheese on the #1 Cone.
- When the soup has sat covered for 15 minutes, uncover and add the cheese. Stir until melted.
- Serve with Organic Sour Cream and Organic Blue Corn Tortillas.
UTENSILS: Master Kut w/ #1 Cone, Large Skillet
1 Large Tortilla Shell (per person); 1 Small Jar Pizza Sauce; 15-20 slices of pepperoni (per person); Two slices of black olive (per person); 3-4 thin strips of bell pepper, 2" long (per person); ½ Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (per person); ¼ Cup Shredded Provolone Cheese (per person)
- At the top of the tortilla, cut away a portion to form the top of the jack-o-lantern's stem.
- Place a few TBSP of sauce on the entire surface of the pizza, including the stem.
- Cut the cheeses on #1 Cone of the Master Kut and combine well. Coat the pizza with the cheese, including the stem.
- Outline the entire edge of the round portion of the pizza with pepperonis. Add two pepperonis for eyes, one for a nose, and six to form a mouth in the center of the pumpkin.
- Add the bell pepper slices to the stem portion of the jack-o-lantern.
- Add a slice of black olive in the center of each eye.
- Spray the large skillet with non-stick spray.
- Place the tortilla pizza in the large skillet; cover, whistle closed, and cook for 10 minutes on Medium heat. Check for doneness. If it needs additional cook time, cook for 1 minute intervals, covered, until cooked to your liking.
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
UTENSILS: Medium Mixing Bowl, Electric Hand Mixer
1 cup chopped pecans; 1/2 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips: 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 cup canned pumpkin; 4 tablespoon (1/2 stick) melted butter; 1/2 cup sugar; 1 cup dark corn syrup; 3 eggs; 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell; whipped cream, 2 TBSP chopped pecans, and 2 TBSP mini chocolate chips for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, beat eggs well. MIx in the corn syrup, sugar, butter, pumpkin and vanilla on low until well-blended. Arrange 1 Cup pecans & 1/2 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips in the bottom of the pie shell. Slowly pour egg mixture over them. Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving to allow the filling to set up. Garnish with whipped cream, chopped pecans, and mini chocolate chips.
Post Thanksgiving Pumpkin Penne
UTENSILS: Master Kut w/ #1 Cone, 6 qt Roaster, Griddle, 3 qt Saucepan, Garlic Press, 8" Chef Knife
1 lb Organic Whole Wheat Penne; 2 Cups Leftover Turkey, shredded (or cooked, shredded chicken); 4 Thick Sliced Bacon Strips, cooked crispy and chopped; Salt; 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil; 3 shallots, finely chopped; 3 to 4 Organic Garlic Cloves, minced; 2 cups Organic Chicken Stock; 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree; 1/2 cup cream; 1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste; Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste; 2 pinches ground cinnamon; 2 pinches ground sage; Salt and black pepper; 7 to 8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped, 2 Cups Spinach leaves, chopped; 1 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the water for the pasta in the 6 qt Dutch Oven on Medium heat, covered with the whistle open. When the whistle sounds, add salt and pasta. Cover, whistle closed and turn the burner off. Allow to stand for 12 minutes. Uncover and drain; add back to the Dutch Oven. Set aside until your sauce is ready.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon on the griddle until it's crisp; chop and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over Medium heat in the 2 qt saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan; saute until soft and tender, about 4-5 minutes, on medium heat. Stir in chicken stock and combine with pumpkin. Stir in the cream and then season with hot sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, sage, salt and pepper. Stir in the turkey, spinach (minus a little to garnish with), & ¾ of the basil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 5 to 6 minutes more to thicken.
Meanwhile, grate the cheese.
Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat well. Add ¾ of the bacon and ¾ of the cheese to the pasta and toss to combine well. Add the pasta to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining spinach, bacon, and cheese on top.
Serve with a side garden salad and fresh bread and enjoy!
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