I love the holidays. I particularly love that it starts with a celebration of that beautiful orange gourd - the pumpkin.
I recently took the kids to a local pumpkin patch. We traipsed through the mud to find just the right pumpkin. Pumpkins in the store are all round or oval, but in the field they come in a variety of shapes - round, square, rectangle, oval, and even some that have a waistline or fold over onto themselves. I'm sure your choice of pumpkin says something about you, but I'm not sure what. I chose a bright orange oval while my husband chose something that looked like a hunchback pumpkin. I'm guessing that says something about his quirky sense of humor.
At the pumpkin patch we came across bins of little pumpkin-like gourds of every shape and color imaginable - little orange pumpkins, mini white pumpkins, gourds that look like ghosts from Pac-man, gourds that look like crazy sea creatures, and even some gourds that look a little naughty! Proof that God has a sense of humor.
The best thing about pumpkins is you can do so much with them. Of course you must hollow them out to make jack-o-lanterns. Your choice of pumpkin design says even more about you than your choice of shapes. I remember several years ago I was invited to a pumpkin carving party and went to work designing the perfect Halloween pumpkin. Afterwards, we decided to line them up along the railing of the porch at night and light them up to appreciate their glowing wonder. It was only then that I realized that my friends had made smiling pumpkins, happy, loving pumpkins, while I had carved a snarling monster from the bowels of hell. Perhaps not the right theme for the church group activity? For some reason, I was not invited back the next year. Hey, I was warding off evil spirits - you're welcome!
Though I love to make horrifying jack-o-lanterns (that's the whole point people!) I love what you can do with the inside of the pumpkin even more. Pulling out the pumpkin guts is not my favorite, but roasting the pumpkins seeds is. I love the nutty smell of the roasting seeds. Crunchy pumpkin seeds make a great snack!
Even better than the seeds is what you can do with the insides. Of course, I just grab a can of Libby's for the pumpkin puree, I'm not clever enough to do it myself. I like to eat pretty much anything you can make with pumpkin - pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread pudding, and of course my all time favorite - pumpkin orange cranberry bread!
Pumpkin Orange Cranberry Bread
3 cups flour 1 T plus 2t pumpkin pie spice
2t baking soda 1t salt
3 cups sugar 1 can Libby's pumpkin (15 oz.)
4 eggs 1 cup veggie oil
1/2 cup orange juice 1 cup dried cranberries
Orange zest of 1 orange 1 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.
3. Beat together sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, juice, and zest and mix until just blended. Add flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in dried cranberries and nuts if you desire.
4. Bake in two greased & floured loaf pans until inserted knife comes out clean, about 60-65 minutes. OR bake in 5-6 mini loaf pans for 50-55 minutes. OR bake in muffin tins for 20-25 minutes (makes about 3 dozen muffins, depending on size of muffin tin).
I make this bread from October all the way through Christmas. It's great as pumpkin muffins for Halloween, pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving, and it even makes cute little Christmas gifts for the neighbors as little mini loafs.
Speaking of Christmas, the other thing I love about this time of year is the release of the holiday romances. I have just released my first foray into the Christmas themed romance, Winter Wedding. Eating some delicious pumpkin bread while reading a holiday romance - now that is a little slice of heaven!
What is your favorite thing to do with a pumpkin?HHHkklll