CARTHAGE, Mo. —
I was thrilled to see pumpkins growing in my garden this summer. They were a pleasant surprise, seeing that I couldn't remember what seeds I had planted where. As they started to turn orange in mid-August, my fingers were crossed that they would take their sweet time.
There's nothing wrong with August jack-o'-lanterns, but I was hoping they would hold out until October. A vendor at the farmers market told me to dip my butternut squash in bleach water to make them last for months. After dipping them, let them dry, wrap each in paper and store in a cool, dry place.
With this newfound knowledge, I hobbled away with bags stuffed comically full of butternut squash and my mind spinning with pumpkin preservation ideas.
I'm pretty excited about this year's pumpkin possibilities. Cut the top off of one of your pumpkins and fill it with potting soil. With water and sunshine, pumpkin seedlings will pop up in no time. The kids will love it. Or, scoop out the pumpkin goo and seeds, then fill with potting soil. Plant pansies, ornamental kale or a mum to make a festive fall planter. If you wipe down the pumpkin with bleach water, it might extend the life of your planter. There are no guarantees, since weather has lots to do with causing your cut pumpkin to decompose.
I can't get enough pumpkin. It's around for such a short time. Lucky for me, pretty much everything comes in pumpkin spice flavor this time of year. I drink the lattes, I like the beer and I adore the baked goods and ice cream. However, I will admit that I'm stumped by a bottle of pumpkin liqueur my mom has had for years. Each fall, we bring it out and experiment. No winning cocktails have come from this bottle, but we will definitely keep trying.
Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A and fiber. Stock up on canned pumpkin while you can find it, or puree your own and store it in the freezer.
Butternut squash is a fine substitute for pumpkin, and can generally be found all year. A few spoonfuls will go unnoticed stirred into chili, tomato-based sauces or stew. Add it to oatmeal, yogurt or hummus for a vitamin-packed change of pace.
Take advantage of pumpkin being widely available, and try these recipes.
Pumpkin pie overnight oatmeal
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk of choice
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar. If you'd like to add any extra ingredients (coconut oil, dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds), do so now. Cover and shake vigorously! Store in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Eat cold or warm up in the morning.
Clean-eating pumpkin butter
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree
1 cup apple juice, no sugar added
1 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons molasses
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, no sugar added
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in a small slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Allow to cool for a while, pour into storage jars and keep it in the fridge overnight.
Pumpkin polenta with chorizo and black beans
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound chorizo, casings removed (if desired) and meat chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 pimiento peppers or roasted red peppers, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup quick-cooking or instant polenta
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the chorizo. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, then add the onion and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the black beans and the pimientos and heat through, another 1 to 2 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock and butter to a boil and stir in the pumpkin. Return to a boil, whisk in the polenta and stir until it masses together, 2 minutes. Remove the polenta from the heat and add the thyme, salt, pepper and cheese. Adjust the seasonings. Pile the polenta on plates and top with the chorizo and beans. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
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