Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Embracing fall: step 1--Pumpkins

Fall is my second to least favorite season for a few reasons: summer ends, it gets cold, it gets darker, the days get shorter, and worst of all, it means winter is coming. I typically hole up during fall and dread the winter to come, but I decided to enjoy fall for its positive traits this year as much as I can.

This, of course, started with apple picking.... leading to a ton of apple butter, which I successfully (I hope) canned for the first time ever. Then, I bought two pumpkins which I tackled Friday night.

I stuck the pumpkins in the oven for 10-15 minutes to make them soft enough to cut. I cut off the tops, removed the seeds and stringy stuff,  cut them into about 8 pieces each, and put them back in the oven to soften some more. Then I removed the skin with a knife and chopped up the pumpkin. I washed the seeds and left them to dry overnight. This took about two hours total and left me with a sore wrist. So, question one to my limited readers (maybe more in the future): is there a better way to do this!? 

My collection of pumpkin goods
(well, just the pumpkin seeds and bread)
After chopping the pumpkins, I saved some of the cubes in the fridge for later (soup maybe?) and put the rest of them in the crock pot in a decent amount of water with one secret ingredient (a chai tea bag). I let them "cook" on warm overnight before pureeing them with my hand blender. 1/3 of the puree went toward pumpkin chocolate chip bread, and 2/3 went toward pumpkin butter. Sadly, canning pumpkin butter is not an option unless you have industrial canning equipment (is that just an autoclave? not that I'm going to use an autoclave on my pumpkin butter, I'm just curious), so I can't share any, but I have a nice stash in my freezer. I tossed the dry pumpkin seeds in olive oil, added a dash of cayenne pepper and a dash of garlic salt, and then I thoroughly salted them with sea salt before putting them in the oven. Luckily, I didn't burn them this year like I did last year!

Here are the recipes I used (please note that especially the pumpkin butter is more of a guessing game than a recipe):

Pumpkin butter
~8 cups pureed pumpkin (mine had a hint of chai tea)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash allspice
dash nutmeg
dash ground cloves
1/2 cup honey
Heat pureed pumpkin in the crock pot (or if it's fresh, it should already be hot). Mix dry ingredients (sugars and spices). Add honey to pureed pumpkin, then add dry ingredients. Let cook for a while in the crock pot (up to overnight on low, at least two hours on high). Remove lid, turn heat to high, and let thicken, stirring frequently.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread... note the empty
muffin cup next to it--those went fast

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread 
*this is modified from a Betty Crocker recipe (click here for original) 
3 cups A.P. flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup margarine (or butter if you're not allergic like me) 
4 eggs
1/4-1/2 cup water (1/2 if you're using store canned pumpkin, but your own puree might vary in thickness a bit) 
~14-15oz pureed pumpkin (mine had a hint of chai tea) 
1 generous cup chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat margarine and sugar with mixer on high. Beat in eggs (one at a time). Beat in water and pumpkin on low speed. Your mix will be very liquidy at this point. Mix in the flour, stir in 1 cup chocolate chips. Pour into muffin cups and/or loaf pans. This will make two large loafs or one loaf+ ~16 muffins. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 65-75 mins (loaf) or 23-27 mins (muffins). Make sure to let the bread cool before eating!

Toasted pumpkin seeds in their
new, cute IKEA jar
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Make sure seeds are dry before coating in a bit of oil and your choice of seasoning. Place on foil coated baking sheet, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring every 5 minutes, until seeds just start to turn brown.

There will be more embracing fall posts coming up soon. Hint hint: the next one should be a sewing project :)

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