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Perfect pumpkins

Agriculture.com Staff 10/24/2007 @ 9:03pm

Fall's famous fruit not only is a tasty part of a variety of recipes including soups, breads, and desserts, but also is good for you. Any way you carve it, pumpkins are low in fat, low in calories (pumpkins are 90% water), and loaded with vitamins.

The traditional orange color is an instant giveaway that a pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in the body and performs many important functions for overall health.

While most of us are familiar with orange pumpkins, more markets are carrying a white version. Some pumpkins are red and even blue, but those varieties aren't widely available in all areas.

Even though canned pumpkin may be quicker to use in recipes, fresh tastes sweeter. But before you head to the pumpkin patch, know what to look for.

When choosing a pumpkin, be sure it is firm all the way around. Pick a pumpkin with a stem; stemless pumpkins decay faster. Look for a smaller pumpkin (5 to 8 pounds). They have more flavor because they're grown specifically for cooking.

Prep: 20 minutes, Bake: 25-30 minutes, Oven: 350 degrees F.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin
1-2/3 cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting
Pecan halves (optional)

Step 1: In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add the flour mixture; beat until well combined. Stir in chopped pecans, if desired.

Step 2: Spread batter in an ungreased 15-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Top with pecan halves, if desired. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator. Makes 24 bars.

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a medium bowl beat together one 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened; 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened; and 1 teaspoon vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Nutrition facts per serving: 250 calories, 13 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 45 mg cholesterol, 147 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein.

Prep: 25 minutes, Bake: 50 minutes, Oven: 350 derees F.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
14.5-oz. pkg. gingerbread mix
Whipped cream (optional)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate or an 8 1/2-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Step 2: In a small mixing bowl combine pumpkin, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Add egg. Beat lightly with a rotary beater or fork just until combined. Gradually stir in half-and-half; mix well.

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