Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Baking for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast has begun.  We're fortunate to be expecting family to arrive from South Carolina, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and even Moscow (yes, Russia-our oldest son and girlfriend will be in the states for a visit).  We're hoping to get much of the prep work done ahead of time, so we have more time to enjoy their company.  Pumpkin bread, muffins, and mini cheesecakes have been baked and stored in the freezer.  


Preparing the Pumpkin
Spread newspaper over your work surface. Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. If you are planning to roast the pumpkin seeds, smash the pumpkin against a hard surface to break it open. If not, cut in half with a sharp knife. In any case, remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. A messy job, but it will pay off.
Cooking the Pumpkin
Boiling/Steaming Method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup. Follow the steps outlined below in Preparing the Puree.
Oven Method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender. Then follow the procedure outlined below in Preparing the Puree.
Microwave Method: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender. Continue as outlined below in Preparing the Puree.
Preparing the Puree
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.
Freezing the Puree
Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0°F for up to one year.
Using the puree
Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.

This tasty pumpkin bread recipe was given to Los Cerros Middle School families to prepare to be included in the Thanksgiving baskets prepared for needy families in the Bay Area of northern California.  Each year student and parent volunteers loaded laundry baskets with donated frozen turkeys, fresh-baked pumpkin bread, and canned foods collected during the annual food drive.

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2    t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1       c. pumpkin
1/2   c. oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4   c. water
2       t. pumpkin pie spice 

Sift together flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a small
bowl.  In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices together.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix quickly, but not too thoroughly.  Pour into three 3x5" aluminum pans sprayed with oil.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  When cool, wrap in plastic wrap.

Using the pumpkin bread recipe, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, similar to the ones Starbucks served in past seasons, can be created.  Sprinkle a few pepitas on top along with the crumb topping to mimic those tasty treats.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins


4    oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c.   powdered sugar

Combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar, mixing well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2" in diameter.  Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log and reinforce with a piece of foil.  Transfer to the freezer and chill until slightly firm, at least 2 hours. The mixture will be somewhat soft, but firmer.


1/4    c. sugar
2 1/2 T. flour
1        t.  pumpkin pie spice
2       T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Combine the sugar, flour, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the butter pieces, cutting into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble muffins, spoon 1-2 T. of the "pumpkin bread" batter into each liner, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner. Slice the log of cream cheese into 12 equal pieces, placing a slice into each muffin well in the center of the batter. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, covering the cream cheese completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffins. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


3    T. ground cinnamon
2     t. ground ginger
2     t. nutmeg
1 ½ t. ground allspice
1 ½ t. ground cloves


20        gingersnap cookies
2    T.  unsalted butter, melted
1/2 T.  granulated sugar
8    oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2  c. packed brown sugar
1/2  c. canned pumpkin
1     T. sour cream
1/4   t. salt
1/2   t. vanilla extract
1/2   t. pumpkin pie spice
1      egg

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease mini cheesecake pan with baking spray.
In a food processor, process gingersnap cookies into fine crumbs. Add granulated sugar and melted butter, combining well. Divide equally among cheesecake pan cavities and press down on cookie crumb mixture. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 325.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, sour cream, salt, vanilla and spices. Mix well. Finally, add egg. Divide among cheesecake pan cavities.
Spoon roughly 2 tablespoons of filling into each pan cavity.  Do not overfill. Leave a 1/4" gap between cheesecake mixture and top of the pan. Tap pan on counter gently to force any air bubbles to the top.
Bake for 15-18 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before transferring to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The recipe for this stew served in a pumpkin shell was discovered in the Los Angeles Times California Cookbook, a wedding gift, published back in1981, the year we were married.


2 lbs.  beef stew meat, cut in 1 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 clovesgarlic, minced
3 T.  oil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
l large green pepper, chopped
1 T. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. sugar
1 c. dried apricots
3 white potatoes, peeled and diced
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 c. beef broth
1 medium pumpkin
butter or margarine, melted
1/4 c. dry sherry
1 lb. whole kernel corn

Cook beef cubes with onion and garlic in oil until meat is browned.  Add tomatoes, green pepper, salt, pepper, sugar, apricots, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and broth.  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Meanwhile, cut top off pumpkin and discard.  Scoop out seeds and stringy membrane.  Brush inside of pumpkin with butter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Stir sherry and corn into stew and spoon into pumpkin shell.  Place shell in a shallow pan and bake for 1 hour at 325 until pumpkin meat is tender.  Place pumpkin in a large bowl and ladle out stew, scooping out some pumpkin with each serving.

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