Food & Drink

Pumpkin pumps up in popularity in fall

Fall for pumpkin recipes for festivals, Halloween carnivals and even Thanksgiving.

Some areas are lacking for good pumpkins this year due to lack of rain, but pumpkin patches from Texas to Florida are already hosting school tours and family outings. These farms offer petting zoos, corn mazes, hayrides and more. It's fun for the children to go into the fields for their special pumpkins.

Even more fun than picking a pumpkin is eating that pumpkin. I never let meat of the pumpkin go to waste. It can become pumpkin puree for pies, muffins, cupcakes, crisps, soups and stews. The seeds when roasted make a great low-fat snack.

Two readers agree that pumpkin makes for great desserts.

"After I made this recipe the first time, I decided not to ever make another pumpkin pie," Linda Hook of Ocean Springs said. "It is really good. I hope your readers will enjoy it."

Hook found this recipe in the November 2005 issue of Southern Living.

PUMPKIN CRISP

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (18.25-punce) package butter-flavored cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter, melted

Whipped cream, optional

Ground nutmeg, optional

Stir together first 5 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture; sprinkle with pecans. Drizzle butter over pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, if desired. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.

-- Submitted by Linda Hook

"I want to share my recipe for pumpkin muffins with your readers. The muffins are so good and are perfect for Oktoberfest

or Thanksgiving," Donna Johnston of Long Beach said. "The recipe is from my muffin book put out by two women in Canada. Enjoy!"

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

4 eggs

2 cups white sugar

1- 1/2 cups oil

1-3/4 cups pumpkin (small can) (not pie filling)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups raisins

1 cup walnuts, chopped (Johnston adds these to recipe)

Beat eggs slightly. Add sugar, oil, pumpkin and beat thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Stir in raisins and nuts.

Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle tops with brown sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Yields: 18-24 good-sized muffins.

-- Submitted by Donna Johnston

Troublesome recipe

The banana nut cake that I shared several weeks ago has proven not so easy for some readers. My daughter and I both make this cake and have no problems, but some have so I thought this reader's suggestions would be helpful.

Phyllis Williams of Parrish, Fla., was helpful in telling me her thoughts on the recipe. Perhaps some readers encountered the same trouble.

"In anticipation of having guests in for cards, coffee and dessert on Sunday, I decided to try the banana nut cake. Here are my comments:

"The recipe did not indicate when to add the nuts to the batter. I added them after the eggs.

"One guest cannot eat nuts, so I made the cake in two 8-by-8-inch pans, adding nuts to half the batter.

"I buttered the pans very well and then sprayed with nonstick spray. I could not get the cakes loose from the pans. If it had been a 9-by-13-inch pan I am sure the cake would crack. I suggest cutting the cakes in pieces and serve on a cake plate.

"The recipe for icing was way too much. Perhaps if it was removed from the pan you would be icing the sides and that amount would be needed.

"I did as you recommended and soured fresh milk with lemon juice.

"All in all it tasted fine, good texture but would not use as an after-dinner dessert. Too filling. Better for coffee hour get-together.

"I will add this to my 'keepers.' My company liked the cake, but I lost at cards. Enjoy your column," Williams said. "I am going to try the tomato soup spice cake next time. I am 88 years old and have been baking cakes for many a year."

Thanks for the suggestions. I know fellow readers will appreciate them, too.

Lookout for more

"Thank you so much for trying to get the recipe I requested. Truly, this was not a figment of my imagination," Terri Jones said. "My husband and I traveled to Gulfport every week to eat this dish. The crabmeat au gratin dish was always described to us by the waiters as a 7-cheese crabmeat casserole. We truly hated it when it was removed from Lookout Steakhouse's menu."

Jones even sent me a photo of the menu to show that the dish was once on the menu.

I asked owner Rob Stinson for the 7-cheese crabmeat casserole, not a crabmeat au gratin. He said he did not have such a cheese casserole. Now that I know it was a crabmeat au gratin, perhaps Stinson will share that recipe. I'll ask.

Another au gratin

"I would really like to find the crabmeat au gratin recipe from Vrazel's," Homer Dedeaux said. "I remember that it had two slices of American cheese on top."

I will ask Bill Vrazel, the owner of the now-closed restaurant, for the recipe and see how his cookbook is coming along.

Wanted: Nutrition data

"I often find your recipes of interest, but am confused about the 'per serving' values," a reader named Viki said. "They don't appear in many of your recipes. Can you add them?"

I will add them as often as I can. Readers, when sending a recipe, please add the nutritional information if it is available.

We will try to do better on this because I know others are interested in this, too.

Slow-cooking candy

"I am writing to you with a special request," Myrtle R. Taylor of Picayune said. "I have made slow-cooker candy before, and my recipe has been lost. I cannot remember where I got the recipe. I really would appreciate it if you print the recipe for me.

"The recipe had, as much as I can remember, German chocolate bar, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate bits, dry roasted peanuts and almond bark," she said. "I'm not sure if there is anything else or how long to cook it. I love all the help you give to so many people."

Readers, have you made this slow-cooker chocolate candy? It sounds like a chocoholics delight. If you have the recipe, please send it to me by mail or e-mail.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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