Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hooray for pumpkin season!

It's that time of the year again when the markets are flooded with those small bright orange Sugar Pie pumpkins. We always make sure to grab a few and set aside some time to make up batches of homemade fresh mashed/pureed pumpkin. It is quite easy to do and we just did this a couple days ago as I needed some for a couple recipes this week. We always make extra so we can freeze most of it to have plenty to use throughout the fall/winter season. Do note - sometimes the puree can be a bit watery and sometimes it is just right - if it seems too loose, set the puree in a cheesecloth-lined colander and let some of the liquid drain away. Feel free to experiment with other squashes - we also do this with Acorn and Butternut for a slightly different taste.

Before freezing, I set aside one cupful for a savory dish we are making tomorrow night and a half cup for these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars I made for us today.

The base of these bars is a sweet combination of honey graham crackers, rolled oats, flour and just a couple tablespoons of butter that are buzzed together in a food processor - the crumbles are then moistened with a drizzle of milk. This crust does need to be pre-baked to crisp up and requires a short cooling period before adding the cheesecake layer.

Not much different than your average cheesecake batter, the only thing is the addition of the mashed pumpkin (or butternut/acorn puree if you're feeling especially fancy) into the batter. To ensure the mixture is smooth and velvety, make sure that you take your cream cheese out of the refrigerator at least a couple hours to soften at room temperature. It is also helpful if your eggs are not chilly - if you forget, just soak them in luke-warm water for about 15 minutes to take the edge off.

Pumpkin Cheesecake BarsThe thin bars, with a glimmer of orange from the mashed pumpkin, cut easily into clean little squares with a creamy and mild pie-like flavor. If you don't have the time (or energy) to mash your own pumpkin, this recipe would work just as well with canned plain pumpkin. Of course, after gobbling up my piece, I thought using brown sugar in the batter might add a delicious caramel undertone to the cheesecake. If I were to go that route, I would seriously have to think about serving a bourbon-butterscotch sauce on the side to make it a little more decadent.

You've heard me sing the praises of the notably nutritious grain quinoa before, but if you still have not tried it, can I tempt you with this fresh tasting Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad?

The only trick to this grain, as we've mentioned before, is that it must be rinsed well to remove any of the bitter coating (saponin) that surrounds the grain. I would suggest doing this even if the package says it has already been pre-rinsed. To bump up the flavor of the quinoa, it is cooked in chicken broth, instead of water, until the tender grains explode into their spiral shape. As it cools, a bright dressing is made by combining rice vinegar, fresh orange juice, snazzy orange zest, olive oil and cumin. For some texture to the salad, plump golden raisins add some chew while a chopped cucumber adds a cool crispness. You could serve this right away at room temperature if desired, but I made it a couple hours ahead of time and placed it in the refrigerator to let the flavors bloom.

Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad


  1. I love anything with pumpkin, so I definitely will have to try these.
    I'm going to buy a pumpkin from the store. I've always used canned pumpkin.
    Do you just scoop out the seeds, hack it into pieces, and then bake it? Can you use all of the pumpkin?

  2. Hi Emilie - If you click on the link where it says "It is quite easy to do", it will send you to how we do it! Anything in blue on the website is a link that you can click on.

  3. If you really want your puppers to love you, give them each a little scoop of plain pumkin puree. Mine go nuts for the (canned) stuff.

  4. Courtney - we've made them some pumpkin biscuits before that they quite enjoyed!