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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: The Great Pumpkin Officially Arrives

By Sherrie Norris

Despite the summer-like temperatures we’re still experiencing even in October, roadside pumpkin stands popping up around The High Country are serving as a huge indicator that fall has arrived. Hopefully, by the weekend, we’re told, it will also begin to “feel” like fall. And, yes, it won’t be long until warmer days will be but a fleeting memory and we’ll be wishing they were back!

It’s all about the pumpkin now, as we see in so many products that are including it as a key ingredient, so let’s enjoy a little trivia and move on to the good stuff:

  • While easily grown in these parts, pumpkins are believed to have been first cultivated in Central America. History tells us that Spanish and Portuguese explorers carried pumpkin seeds back to Europe in the 14th century. In North America, native Americans grew pumpkins for food long before the first Europeans arrived on the continent in the 1600s.
  • The vivid orange color of pumpkin indicates a high content of carotene pigments such as lutein, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene (which turns in to vitamin A in the body).
  • Using pumpkins as lanterns at Halloween is based on an ancient Celtic custom brought to America by Irish immigrants. All Hallows Eve on October 31 marked the end of the old Celtic calendar year. On that night hollowed-out turnips, beets and rutabagas with a candle inside were placed on windowsills and porches to welcome home spirits of deceased ancestors and ward off evil spirits and a restless soul called “Stingy Jack.”
  • In 1621, at the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to give thanks for their first successful harvest, they ate a pumpkin custard flavored with maple syrup and spices baked in pumpkin shells. The beloved Thanksgiving pumpkin pie evolved from this treat.
  • Surprise! The pumpkin is actually a fruit, a member of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants with trailing vines.


Pumpkin Soup

2 lb. fresh pumpkin, peeled, cut into chunks, seeds removed

3 cups milk or half-and-half, scalded

1 Tbs. butter

2 tsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Steam the fresh pumpkin until tender; mash or puree. Stir into the hot milk; stir the remaining ingredients. Heat through and serve immediately. Serves 6.


Pumpkin Squares


1½ cups quick cooking oats

1¼ cups flour

¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. soda

¾ cup butter, room temperature



1 (16 oz. )can pumpkin puree

2/3 cup milk

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Combine oats, flour, ¾ cup brown sugar, chopped nuts, salt, baking soda and butter; beat until mixture is crumbly. Reserving about 1½ cups of the crumb mixture, press remaining mixture into a lightly buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.

Prepare filling. Beat filling ingredients until well blended and smooth. Spread filling over the crust; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes longer. Cool and cut into bars.


Easy Pumpkin Cake

1 box butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling

4 eggs

¼ cup Wesson oil

¼ cup water

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer; blend all ingredients until moistened on low speed, then 2 minutes on medium speed.

Pour into greased and floured Bundt or tube cake pan and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Let cool completely before removing from pan as this is a very moist cake.


Yummy Pumpkin Dip

2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened

1 large (30 oz.) can of pumpkin

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger

Whip together and serve in small hollowed out pumpkin or bowl. Serve with ginger snaps.


Pumpkin Bread

3 cups sugar

1 cup oil

3 eggs

2 cups pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. allspice

1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix together sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and vanilla in a large bowl. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, add to pumpkin mixture and stir well. Add nuts. Bake in 2 loaf pans at 350 for 1 hour 10 minutes.


Quick and Easy Pumpkin Pudding

1 (3.4 oz.) box instant butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1 ½ cups cold nonfat milk

1 (15 oz.) can pure pumpkin

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp .nutmeg

Whisk butterscotch pudding and milk for two minutes. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, blending well. Pour into 4 dessert glasses or bowls. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with a dollop of fat-free whipped topping and/or a few pieces of candy corn.