The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

November 7, 2012

Amanda Stone: Preserve pumpkin for later

JOPLIN, Mo. — I can't get enough pumpkin this time of year. I know it's all the rage. Everyone's talking about it. Although I usually like to come off as having a mild aversion to all things popular, I love jumping on the seasonal pumpkin bandwagon.

I want pumpkin spice flavored everything. It's all a big mind game. I want it because it's nearly impossible to find for the rest of the year.

A couple of years ago I went to the store with canned pumpkin on my shopping list. I don't know what time of year it was, but it obviously wasn't fall. I was so naive. I had great intentions of making healthy baked pumpkin something for my baby daughter. There was no pumpkin to be found. I had no idea it's only around during pie, bread and pumpkin roll season -- otherwise known as "the holidays." Thus began my quest for pumpkin knowledge.

I learned my lesson. You will never catch me without pumpkin puree in my freezer and a can or two in the cabinet, in case of emergency. It's great to have on hand for whole-wheat pancakes and muffins, to stir into oatmeal or to slather on my face for a rejuvenating mask. So, maybe I haven't tried that last one yet, but I like to have the option. Going along with my frugality and general food waste anxiety, I've started using my Halloween pumpkins. Don't use the jack-o'-lanterns. Those go in the compost pile. But the others that just sit around looking festive get eaten.

Large or small, save your pumpkin from the trash can before you put out the holiday decorations. My preferred method of pumpkin processing is to simply cut the thing in half. Scoop out the seeds and goo in the middle. Place it cut-sides down in a roasting pan with a cup of water in the bottom. Bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour. This is just like baking any other winter squash: When it's soft, it's done. Let it cool, then scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor. I like to freeze mine in ice cube trays for easy

portioning later. Compost the shell, roast the seeds with a little olive oil and salt for a seasonal snack. Or save some seeds for pumpkin planting in the spring.

I came across some really great uses for big pumpkins. Although stringy and not as sweet as their dainty siblings, they can still be baked and pureed for recipes. However, I love the idea of sawing off the top, scooping out the seeds and goo and using the empty shell as a planter for seasonal flowers such as pansies or mums. When the pumpkin gets squishy, dig a hole and plant the entire thing in the ground. The pumpkin decomposes and your mums and pansies live on.

In case you're already sick of the usual pumpkin spice flavor, try these recipes for a different twist.

Pumpkin gratin

1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for dish

1/2 cup breadcrumb

2 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

5 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped into matchsticks

2 tablespoon thyme

3 tablespoons chives

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Rub a 2-quart dish with garlic, then coat dish with butter. Set aside. Melt butter in a skillet, add breadcrumbs and stir for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in salt, pepper and parsley. Set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, thyme and chives. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to buttered dish. In a small pan, bring cream and nutmeg to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Poor cream mixture over pumpkin. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then stir. Bake until bubbly and thick, about 10 minutes more. Remove from oven, sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture and broil for about 2 minutes or until breadcrumbs are toasted.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Pumpkin hummus

Combine 2 cups pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 garlic clove, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin and salt in a food processor. Serve with toasted whole-wheat pita bread and veggies.

Recipe adapted from Parenting.com

Have questions? Email them to amandastone31@hotmail.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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