Rich And Wholesome Pumpkin

Rich And Wholesome Pumpkin

As temperatures turn chilly and autumn-painted leaves flutter to the ground, attention turns to those glowing orange gourds. They guarantee fun: jack-o'-lanterns, roasted seeds and mouth-watering treats.

"It's kind of a sensory calling towards fall," says Graham Sheldon, head chef of Ashland Creek Inn and Cooking School. "Pumpkins are so associated with all of those things we love this time of year like pumpkin pie, breads "¦ feelings of home and family and good times."

Pumpkin pancakes are a year-round breakfast staple for guests at the inn. While Sheldon uses canned pumpkin pie purée for convenience and consistency, fresh pumpkin is a nice touch when the harvest is fresh. You can make your own batter or use a mix.

"Basically, you just use any pancake mix that you want, Bisquick® or something, then add pumpkin pie purée into the mix in lieu of some of the water, then add spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg," Sheldon says.

To use fresh pumpkin, try baking the entire pumpkin at 350 degrees (stab a few holes to vent steam) then slice and remove seeds and skin. Baking not only yields more flavorful fruit, but preserves pumpkin's hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Another easy add-in for bread recipes lacking in depth of flavor, consider using pumpkin for a richer bread flavor and throw some fresh cranberries in for good measure.

Jacksonville's Country Cottage owner Chris Georgiou favors merging cream cheese and pumpkin, creating a cheesecake which his café can hardly make fast enough.

"I think the cheesecake, like anything with pumpkin, reminds people of homey Thanksgiving, fireplace type scents and all that," Georgiou says.

A longtime pumpkin favorite for Sandy Dowling, head chef at The Willows Cooking School and B&B in Central Point, are roasted pumpkin seeds which she says are "a must for the kids."

A kid-friendly recipe if ever there was one, scatter seeds on a dry cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, remove as much of the 'pumpkin guts' as possible and roast at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove additional pulp and loosen seeds from the sheet, then roast another 5 to 10 minutes until crisp. For added flavor, sprinkle seeds with kosher salt and roast 10 minutes more on a cookie sheet coated with extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy the pumpkin season. "When you're having a sweet treat with pumpkin, it doesn't feel like you're cheating on anything because it's tasty and it's good for you," Georgiou says.

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