Tuesday, 30 October 2012

To Carve, or Not to Carve

Happy Halloween from the Building Beautiful team!  Today we're talking about pumpkins three ways.  First up is the debate of to carve, or not to carve a jack-o-lantern from the traditional whole pumpkin.   Later today, Lisa shows us how to make a pumpkin pecan streusel cake!

To Carve (Jess)
Carving a jack-o-lantern is one of those holiday activities that has a strong connection to my childhood.     It was always an activity for Dad and me, and I recreate those traditional steps nearly every year.   I have a hard time diverting from our tradition, from laying out our new paper, to plotting the face, and lining up the various carving implements.    

This year,  Dad's unfailing pumpkin logic has been improved upon via Pinterest.   Even he thought that it was clever!  
Carve 3/4 of the circle around the top, then bring it down in straight lines and across the bottom.   This made it MUCH easier to scoop out all those slimy innards.  Even getting into finer detail was easier because you have a whole new (and safe) range of motion.

Now what do you do with all those ooey gooey seeds?  Turn them into something beautiful by roasting them of course!

Honestly, cleaning the seeds took the longest time!  I found that running them under water, then swirling them in a mesh strainer gave just enough abrasion to get rid of (most of) the strings.  I dried them by laying them out on a clean dish cloth while I prepped the spices.

Heat oven to 350.  2 c. Seeds. 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, 2 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, salt.  (Experiment with the spices - I added in just a bit of Cajun spice and it gave them some heat).  Mix seeds, oil and spices until evenly coated.   Spray or parchment a baking sheet and evenly spread the seeds.  Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Not to Carve  (Shannon)
Well, in our house, the approach we take when it comes to our Halloween pumpkin is different than in many other families.  We used to carve a jack-o-lantern, back when I thought pumpkins probably tasted as bad as they smelled.  But two years ago, I started to wonder if the rest of the world could actually be on to something with their pumpkin pies and things.  I took a leap of faith (mostly prompted by the fact that I had invested in a food processor) and decided that there must be a better alternative for my pumpkin than the fate I had been dealing at the end of a sharp butcher knife. 
So now, in our house, we buy our pumpkins and display them on the front step just like all the neighbours.  But we no longer carve them since my new opinion is that pumpkins are far too wonderful not to cook.  In an effort to keep the spirit of Halloween alive, we sourced out a jack-o-lantern alternative.

And now, our pumpkin proudly wears a reminder of its’ delicious fate:

So, if you’re looking for something to try with your pumpkin, I would strongly suggest my yummy jack-o-lantern alternative.

Pumpkin Soup

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in pot.  Sauté 1c. chopped onion and ½ c. chopped celery (8 minutes)

Stir in:   2 lbs. of fresh pumpkin* (cooked first)
                3 c. chicken stock
                ¾ c. half-and-half cream
                2 Tbsp. brown sugar
                1 tsp. each of ground cinnamon and ginger
                Salt and pepper to taste

Heat through and puree.  Reheat before serving.  Garnish with a dollop of cream or grated cheddar cheese.  It’s not likely that you’ll have any leftovers, but just in case you do, it’s worth noting that this soup seems to freeze really well.  I can’t tell you how long you can keep it in the freezer though, mine never lasted more than a week!

* I don’t have a scale in my kitchen, so I have to estimate.  I generally add a medium-sized mixing bowl full of chopped, cooked, pumpkin. 

There we are.   Two jack-o-lanterns with two delicious outcomes.   What do your jack-o-lanterns look like this year?

REMINDER:   Look for Lisa's pumpkin streusel cake later today!
Happy Halloween!

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