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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pumpkin: Not Just For Pies!

It pangs me to see all of the pumpkins that go to waste after Halloween. Sure the best pumpkins for Jack O' Lanterns might not be the tastiest, but they are still food! Aside from pumpkin pie and other pumpkin-y desserts, pumpkins have other great culinary uses! I prefer to roast cheese pumpkins or sugar pumpkins until they are sweet like butternut squash. As mentioned in my last post, I used my giant Long Island Cheese Pumpkin to make roasted pumpkin, corn, and sweet onion served over wild rice with a lemon, mint, and sunflower seed dressing. This recipe was a fusion of two of my favorite recipes of all time: 101 Cookbooks' Roasted Pumpkin Salad and Bon Appetit's Wild Rice with Roasted Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn. The pumpkin roasted up with unbelievable sweetness, and I still had 3/4 of the pumpkin left afterwards (plus all of the seeds, which I plan to roast)! Yesterday I pulled the remaining pumpkin out of the fridge and roasted all of it. I used some of it towards Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake, and the rest I intended to roast and puree (for future use in pies and other desserts). When you hear "millet" you're probably thinking bird food (and indeed I used to feed it to my parakeets). Millet is gluten-free, highly nutritious, and was once considered a sacred grain in ancient China. In the recipe above, I toasted the millet before baking, so it has a nice texture that is a little crunchy and soft at the same time. So back to the pumpkin--the portion that I intended to puree seemed too stringy and tough for pureeing, so I plan to test out Veganomicon's Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onion and Sage Crumb Topping later this week. So far everything I've tried from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks has been amazing, so I'm crossing my fingers for this one! Can you tell that the winter weather has me on a comfort food kick? Tonight I even tried Vegetarian Times' recipe for ginger tea to warm my tummy. When I lived in South Korea, a coworker of mine was give a thermos of homemade ginger tea similar to this by one of her students. Koreans drink ginger tea to protect the immune system and ease digestion. The version I made was super-spicy, so I diluted it with more hot water and added raw honey (consuming an occasional tsp. of honey is the only thing that prevents me from being a "strict vegan"). I will leave you with one last recipe before I go...I recently purchased four bags of Arrowhead Mills puffed cereals for only $1.50 each at Big Lots and the only thing I could think of to do with them was make granola bars. I used VegWeb's Creative No Bake Chewy Granola Bars recipe as the base and tweaked it a bit. I used a mixture of puffed brown rice, millet, and kamut. I used cashews, flax seeds, and hemp seeds as the nut/seed portion and medjool dates and figs as the dried fruit portion. I used agave as the liquid sweetener, almond butter, and a pinch of cardamon to complement the cashews and dates. So far the half dozen or so people who have tried them couldn't stop eating them. The recipe seems pretty versatile, so next time I might try a peanut butter and chocolate chip combination.

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