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Pumpkin perfection - sweet, spicy, aromatic

Fall is definitely in the air and the holiday's right around the corner.

All the Halloween pumpkins visible around the communities decorating door steps or the interior of homes with their vibrant color are also a pleasant reminder of all the spicy, aromatic baked goodies that the popular orange pulp can be an ingredient for.

Not only is pumpkin a baking staple, it is also a healthy food choice, packed with beta carotene, which translates into important antioxidants that convert to vitamin A in the body. Pumpkin is also relatively low in calories at 49 per cup.

The next two weeks the plan is to feature pumpkin recipes in my eating well column. This week the focus will be bread-type baked goods, including a muffin recipe, pumpkin breads, one with a caramel glaze, the other two a little more traditional, and the ever-popular pumpkin bar with cream cheese icing, always a favorite.

Some of the best recipes I've made have been the ones featured in the Cass County Electric magazine. The Delicious Pumpkin Bread is one of them with a little bit different twist in that it calls for cook-and-serve vanilla pudding.

Next week the focus will be on easy, more dessert-type recipes.

Some of you may even opt for the fresh pumpkin and cook up your own, a lot more work than I would ever attempt, with so many delicious canned brand options out there.

Another nice thing about baking with pumpkin is that it is relatively inexpensive and usually on sale over the holiday season.

All of these recipes will make your holiday entertaining a whole lot easier, because they can be baked ahead of time and they all freeze nicely.

Until next week, from my kitchen to yours, happy baking!

Pumpkin Muffins

1 ½ cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup milk

¼ cup butter, melted

½ cup raisins

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

Mix all ingredients until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Pour batter in cupcake papers in muffin pan. Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread

3 1/3 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup water

½ cup chopped pecans

Caramel Glaze:

¼ cup butter

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup whipping cream

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl. Combine the pumpkin, oil, eggs and water and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined; fold in the pecans.

Spoon into two greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for at least ten minutes before removing from pans to wire rack.

For glaze, combine butter, sugars and cream in a saucepan. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. Cool for 20 minutes. Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaves.

Golden Pumpkin Bread

1 ½ cups flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

½ cup softened butter

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Spoon into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool ten minutes, remove from pan.

You can also substitute three greased 5 1/2x3 inch mini-loaf pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Delicious Pumpkin Bread

5 eggs

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 packages (3 oz. each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add oil and pumpkin and beat until smooth. Combine remaining ingredients and gradually beat into pumpkin mixture. Pour batter into five greased 5x2 1/2x2 inch loaf pans. Bake at 325 degree for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes, move from pans to wire rack. The bread may also be baked in two greased 8x4x2 inch loaf pans for 75 to 80 minutes.

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups flour


3 oz. cream cheese

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 15x10 jelly roll pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until bars spring back to touch. Let cool before frosting.

To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese with the butter and beat until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.