Fall is by far my favorite season. Although in California we do not experience the autumn leaves change colors as an indication fall has come, each and every one of us has our own little cue that lets us know fall has finally arrived.

That special cue for me is when Starbucks puts that beautiful sign up in the window indicating Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.

Every time I take a sip of my Pumpkin Spice Latte I go back to elementary school and remember picking the perfect pumpkin with my parents at the local farm’s pumpkin patch. At the time, I had no interest in how to cook a pumpkin, but I knew my job for the weekend would ultimately be carving the perfect jack o’lantern to put on the porch steps to scare all the ghosts and ghouls away on Halloween night.

Even though I’m in college I still appreciate the joys pumpkins offer as a way to channel my inner artist through carving, but I also see more possibilities for pumpkins in creating scrumptious and flavorful dishes — and not just canned pumpkin, but fresh pumpkin right off the vine.

It is a wonderful event to go to the pumpkin patch with some friends and find the perfect pumpkin. When looking for a carving pumpkin it really is left up to personal preference for what kind of art surface you work best with, but cooking pumpkins are a slightly different breed and demand slightly different criteria for selection.

Normally you want to veer away from giant pumpkins when choosing a pumpkin to cook with, such as the world record breaking 1,810.5 lb gourd grown by Chris Stevens. Pie and sugar pumpkins are much smaller but pack a lot more sweetness than the ghastly jack o’lantern gourds, which makes these varieties a better choice for cooking. These pumpkins are used to create the beloved canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving pie.

It is easy to make your own homemade pumpkin puree to use in place of the canned pumpkin for holiday recipes. The three methods to achieve the perfect pumpkin puree are boiling, baking and my college-friendly favorite — microwaving.

Cook the pumpkin just as you would a potato until the flesh is soft and you can mash it or throw it in the blender. Don’t forget to remove the stringy guts and seeds before cooking. You can even keep the seeds to roast, salt and serve as a quick appetizer at your upcoming Halloween festivities.

This Halloween, don’t just carve into your pumpkin; dig in and make a hauntingly good treat!

Next week’s clue: This food is considered one of the five Italian herbs emblematic for flattery.

Pumpkin Gingerbread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree ***Use your homemade pumpkin puree!!
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice cinnamon and clove.

3. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.

4. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Heather Rockwood is a food sciences junior.

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