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More than pumpkin pie

Cindy Sanchez is the owner and editor of www.momsmenu.com, where Cooking Is Made Easy!

Cooking with pumpkin

It is the peak of pumpkin harvest time, and though pumpkins are not generally one of the more popular cooked squashes, don't be so quick to turn it away in the kitchen.

If you're planning to use pumpkins for cooking (rather than carving jack-o-lanterns), choose a type that is specifically grown for its baking and eating quality -- the sugar pumpkin. Small and usually weighing 1.4 to 3.5 pounds, it should be bright in color, free of blemishes and solid/dense for its size.

Storage: Pumpkins may be stored at room temperature for up to a month and in the refrigerator for three months.

How to use: Pumpkins may be used the same as any other winter squash.

Equivalents

Fresh pumpkin: 5 pounds fresh pumpkin equal about 4.5 cups cooked and mashed

Canned pumpkin: A 15-ounce can equals 1.75 cups mashed

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
1 small to medium pumpkin
1 quart cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 15-ounce can pumpkin

Directions:
1. Cut top of pumpkin (remove and save lid) scoop out all of the stringy contents and seeds and discard. Scrape out as much pumpkin as possible, being careful not to break pumpkin shell or make any holes in it.

2. When you have removed all of the pulp that you can, place the pulp in a pan and cook until soft with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. When the pulp is soft, cool a little and place in food processor and pulse until creamy. Grind cloves in chopper until pretty fine and combine with other spices.

3. Place all ingredients except cream in large pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes. If you need to, add a little water, 1/2 cup, to keep from sticking, be sure it doesn't scorch. Add cream and blend well, reduce heat to low and let cook about 10 more minutes. Pour soup into pumpkin shell, replace lid and serve.

4. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Spicy Pumpkin Dip

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 Tablespoons tahini, sesame paste
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. In a food processor, process pumpkin and chickpeas until fairly smooth.

2. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and process until smooth. Season to taste. Serve with pita chips.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (well rounded teaspoon)
1 teaspoons nutmeg
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:
1. Sift or stir first six ingredients.

2. Add remaining ingredients. and mix just until creamy.

3. Put batter into two loaf pans sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Bars

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream cheese frosting

Directions:
1. In bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

2. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, sugar and oil.

3. Add flour mixture; beat well. Stir in pecans.

4. Spread in ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Bake in 350 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Cream cheese frosting:

Beat together a 3-ounce package cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar, beating until smooth. Frost bars and sprinkle with additional pecans. Makes 2 dozen bars.

Pumpkin Surprise

1 large can of pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup chopped pecans
1-1/2 cubes melted margarine (real butter is even better!)

Directions:
1. Mix first five ingredients. Place in ungreased 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

2. Sprinkle cake mix and pecans over batter.

3. Drizzle margarine or butter over batter.

4. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Cool completely before serving. Good by itself or with ice cream.

Pumpkin with Rice Stuffing

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 5- or 6-pound pumpkin (make sure there is a stem)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/4 cup raisins or currants
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 slices whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
1 cup apple cider

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375 F. Cut out lid from top of pumpkin. Remove seeds and fibers.

2. Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and celery in butter, stirring occasionally until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except cider.

3. Fill pumpkin with rice mixture. Pour cider over rice mixture. Cover with pumpkin lid.

4. Place pumpkin in ungreased 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake for about 2 hours or until pumpkin is tender. Let stand 15 minutes. To serve, remove lid and cut pumpkin into wedges.

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