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Pumpkin Carving ideas & Wetherbee’s Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Picking out a pumpkin and carving it into a great jack-o’-lantern always makes for a fun event–especially for kids. Yet as a child I remember asking my mom why we had to throw away the inside seeds and not use the flesh. She explained that we needed to remove the insides in order to carve a face. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that a pumpkin’s most prized virtue is what’s inside.
You can still carve a pumpkin and enjoy the insides too. But in order to have the best of both worlds you need to start with a pumpkin that is ripe. And the way to know if it’s ripe is listen for a hollow sound when you thump it with your knuckles. Wait until the vines start to dry up and the pumpkin has fully turned color–whether that color is orange, tan, red, or even ghostly white–before harvesting. (The color will stop developing once it has been picked.) Use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin from the vine, leaving a good-sized handle (stem) about 3 to 4 inches long.
When shopping for pumpkins, look for ones that are firm and heavy for their size, with dried stems intact. The skin should be firm enough so that a fingernail cannot penetrate through. (Always test on the bottom of a pumpkin and not on the face.) Avoid any pumpkins with bruises, cracks, soft spots or mold. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, be sure to carry the pumpkin with your arms and not by the stem. Your local Kmart is a great place to pick out your perfect pumpkin. I even found an affordable carving kit at Kmart’s online store which makes carving easier and much safer than using knives.
While giant pumpkins make for great jack-o’-lanterns, their flesh is often quite stringy. Smaller sized pumpkins from two to eight pounds or 8 to 10 inches in diameter are best for kitchen use as they are sweeter and more tender inside. When you’re ready to start carving, simply cut off the top, scoop out the seeds and scrape out stringy fiber, which is often referred to as “the guts”.
Once the “guts” have been removed, you can bake, steam, or microwave the flesh just like you would for winter squash. Allow the cooked flesh to cook, then puree in a blender or food processor. Of course you can always go to your local Kmart and buy a can of whole pumpkin puree.
Whether bought at the store or made from scratch, pumpkin puree can be used in so many ways. You can mix it into muffins, fold it into pancake batter, use it in breads, stir it into soups, or make a simple sauce for chicken or pork with pumpkin puree, olive oil, honey, minced garlic, some curry powder and a dash of soy sauce. Or treat yourself to a pumpkin sundae by adding honey or molasses and your favorite spices to pumpkin puree, then ladle it on top of ice cream.
To use the pumpkin seeds, rinse in water and use your fingers to separate the stringy pulp from the seeds. The seeds can be eaten raw, sautéed in butter or olive oil on the stove, or roasted in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes are until lightly brown. (Be sure to stir the seeds often to prevent over browning or burning.) I especially enjoy the seeds (raw or roasted) sprinkled over stir-fry, tossed in salads, folded in burritos, or simply eaten out of hand for a tasty and portable snack.
RECIPE: Pumpkin Harvest Bread
- 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup oat bran
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar or brown sugar
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract until well combined. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oat bran, sugar, nuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a large spoon just until evenly incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Brush the egg wash on top of the batter and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let bread cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer the bread to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.
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