Well friends, the calendar may show it’s the middle of October, but the lovely weather we have been enjoying recently belies that fact! We have had a few “seasonal moments,” but for the most part it has been warm and sunny. All it takes to remember it is fall is a walk into any store…you will be overwhelmed not only by the presence of Halloween goodies, but by the mass of goods labeled “pumpkin spice.” It seems that everything that can possibly be, has been made pumpkin spice flavored!
The stores offer pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spiced cider, pumpkin spice tea, pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice hand soap, and much to my wonder, even pumpkin spice scented air freshener. Believe it or not, I even saw pumpkin spiced deodorant at a store recently! These things all make their appearance in October. This is in addition to all of the “normal” pumpkin delights we think of, like pumpkin pie, bread and cookies. To think all of these items have come into being all because of the giant orange squash were lovingly think of as a Jack ’o’ lantern!
If you have never cooked a fresh pumpkin, it may seem a little daunting, but it truly is simple. “Pie pumpkins” are the small, tender ones usually found displayed with the other winter squash. I like to cook pumpkins as I do squash, that is by simply piercing the flesh a few times and bake whole until it is tender. You can also cut the pumpkin into chunks, and boil until tender in lightly salted water. After cooling, simply peel and then mash the flesh (using a potato masher, mixer or food processor) and voila-pumpkin for all of those yummy pumpkin spice recipes! True, canned, solid pack pumpkin is a whole lot easier and more convenient, but not as much fresh tasting!
My boys are grown up now, but I fondly remember their joy of carving their pumpkins. Even when they were bigger than me, they still wanted to carve pumpkins every fall. I am so disappointed that they are not here to help me do that anymore! I guess I will have to look forward to future grandchildren to take their places! Their favorite part of the process, however, was not actually the carving of the pumpkin, but the removal of the “guts” (or seeds, to those of you without boys!). It always started out neat enough…kitchen table covered with newspaper, each boy with their own pumpkin and a big spoon to scrape the insides out with. The neatness would last probably 6.5 seconds, until the first spoonful of guts just happens to slip in the direction of the unsuspecting brother. Splat! That simple action is a declaration of war, and the ensuing battle winds up in a laugh-fest, with those slippery, slimy seeds all over my once clean kitchen! Over the years they have, however, get better at keeping the seeds on the table (rather than on each other), because they always want me to roast them when they are done! Roasted pumpkin seeds are a favorite in our house. I simply soak the seeds in salted water over night, then drain well and spread on a lightly greased baking tray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. The smell is pure fall, and the taste is even better!
So, why not gather the kids (or a few friends) and head out to your local farm market and choose a few of those big, beautiful orange globes. Give it a personality, roast its seeds and enjoy the fall decoration!
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ c sugar
- ½ c butter, melted
- 24 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 c dark brown sugar
- 5 t flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 c canned, solid pack or fresh pumpkin
- ½ c whipping cream
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 1 t cinnamon
- ½ t nutmeg
- ½ t ginger
- ½ t cloves
Combine crust ingredients and press into the bottom of a spring form pan. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes.
Combine cream cheese, brown sugar and flour and beat until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour mixture over warm crust.
Bake at 350* for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 250* and bake 1 hour 15 minutes longer or until center no longer looks wet and shiny. Remove from oven and run a knife around inside edge of pan. Turn oven off; return cake to oven for an additional 1 hour. Chill, uncovered, overnight. Garnish with cranberries and whipped cream if desired.
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