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pumpkin

Pumped for Pumpkins

Pumped for Pumpkins

For many of us, fall means running to the nearest coffee shop at least once a day to satisfy our addiction to the famous seasonal Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This year, break that tradition with a little encouragement from these pumpkin treats in addition to your favorite coffee drink. The smooth and rich taste of pumpkin can give you tasty rewards throughout the fall regardless of which meal you choose to enjoy it. In addition to its rich fall flavor, pumpkin has added health benefits. It’s packed with Vitamin A which helps keep your eyes sharp, it aids in weight loss (who doesn’t like that?), can reduce bad cholesterol, and reduce your risk of getting cancer. With a few of these recipe favorites, you can break that addiction to Pumpkin Spice Latte, increase your wellness, and wow the crowd.

Pumpkin and Bacon Mac & Cheese:

Ingredients:

1 8-lb. pumpkin, preferably the Cinderella variety (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. macaroni noodles

6 strips thick-cut bacon

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 c. pumpkin, diced (squash would also be delicious)

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 c. heavy cream

1 c. whole milk

1 clove garlic, minced

4 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. If you are not using the pumpkin, prepare a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. If using the pumpkin, slice off the top one-third of the way down. Scrape out and discard the seeds and pulp to create a bowl. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin and its top directly on a baking stone or on a large sheet pan and bake for 1 hour, or until tender.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles and boil until 1 minute shy of their al dente cooking time, according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, drain again and set aside. Cook the bacon in a large heavy pot over medium heat until crispy and all the fat has been rendered, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the bacon, chop roughly and set aside. In the same pot over medium heat, melt ¼ cup of the butter into the bacon fat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and cook for 6 to 8 minutes—the pumpkin should be just tender, not mushy or falling apart. Season with salt, transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. In the same heavy pot over medium heat, melt the remaining ¼ cup butter. Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the butter and flour form a smooth paste or roux. Add the cream, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Add the milk and stir the roux until smooth. Stir in the garlic. Add the cheese and stir until very smooth. Add the cayenne pepper and season with salt. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the macaroni noodles. Add the onions, pumpkin and bacon and stir everything together really well. Spoon the macaroni into the pumpkin (or the baking dish) and bake for 30 minutes, until the macaroni and cheese is very hot and bubbly on the edges and the top is crispy and golden. Serve immediately.

Roasted Pumpkin Salad

Ingredients:

3 c. of pumpkin (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Extra-virgin olive oil

Fine grain sea salt

12 tiny red onions or shallots, peeled (OR 3 medium red onions peeled and quartered)

2 c. cooked wild rice*

1/3 c. sunflower seeds

1/3 c. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. warm water

1/2 c. cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Toss the pumpkin in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and turn out onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. You’ll need to flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice along the way – so it’s not just one side that is browning. In the meantime, make the dressing. With a hand blender or food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and honey until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings (or flavors) to your liking – I usually need to add a touch more salt with this dressing. In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large spoonful of the dressing. Add the onions and gently toss. Turn the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash (I’ll very gently toss with my hands here to disperse the pumpkin a bit.) Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro. Serves 4.

Cheesy Baked Potato and Pumpkin Casserole

 

Ingredients:

20  oz. thinly sliced potatoes, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

4 Tbsp. olive oil

Pinch salt and pepper to taste

1 c. pumpkin puree (about half of one 15-ounce can)

4 oz. sliced or shredded cheese (American, Havarti, Pepper Jack, Monterrey Jack, or similar)

1 tsp. all-purpose seasoning blend, to taste (Mrs. Dash, Trader Joe’s 21 Salute, or similar)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Place about 15 ounces of potatoes (about three-quarters of the bag if using a 20-ounce bag) in the baking pan arranged in a staggered yet flat layer so the potatoes form a solid crust over the base of the pans, without gaps or cracks so the cheese will be contained when it melts. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Note: The prepared refrigerated potatoes I used are softened and somewhat pre- cooked; if using raw potatoes that are then sliced or grated, baking time will likely need to be extended. Spread the pumpkin on top of the potatoes in a smooth, uniform layer using a spatula or knife. Add the cheese slices in a single layer (or add shredded cheese so that it’s all about the same height and fluffiness). Top with remaining potatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle seasoning blend over the top, to taste. Bake for about 45 minutes until top is browned and golden. Serve immediately

Creamy Pumpkin Soul Devine Soup

Ingredients:

2 lb. pumpkin (any), chopped into large chunks (remove skin and seeds)

2 med. onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic

3 c. chicken or vegetable stock

1 c. milk

Salt and pepper

Directions: Combine all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a saucepan and bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until pumpkin is tender. Remove from heat and use a stick blender to blend until smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender, use a food processor but make sure it is vented as mixture will be hot and expands when blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then garnish with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. Serve with crusty bread.