Jane Lawson’s son’s, Kellan as Wolverine and Carsten as Elmo, are ready for Halloween.
Jane Lawson’s son’s, Kellan as Wolverine and Carsten as Elmo, are ready for Halloween.
Monday, October 22, 2012

It seems everywhere I look, shops and restaurants are advertising the tastes of fall. Coffee shops entice customers to try pumpkin spice lattes. Ice cream shops are selling flavors like pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake.

This big orange gourd is extremely popular this time of year. In the United States pumpkins go hand in hand with fall. They are harvested in October, just in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Not only do pumpkins make a festive decoration for fall and can be carved into spooky jack-o’-lanterns, they are delicious.

According to allaboutpumpkins.com pumpkins are an extremely healthful food. They are low in calories, but high in fiber. They are rich in Vitamin A, potassium and beta-carotene.

Pumpkins have been used for a variety of ailments from once being recommended as a cure for freckles and as a remedy for snake bites.

Today researchers believe eating a diet that is rich in beta-carotene may help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Pumpkins have also been linked to aid in the delay of aging.

So go ahead and enjoy a pumpkin bar. Not only will it tickle your taste buds, it will also increase your health.

Pumpkin Bread Cake

My friend Jen Huegel, of Ankeny, and I met in the late 1990s while teaching summer school at King Elementary in Des Moines. We had just landed our first teaching jobs and decided to become roommates. At that time, we were young and busy with our social lives and didn’t cook much in our apartment near Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines. However, times have changed. Today both of us are married and we each have two children. Jen and I still teach full time, which makes for busy schedules, but we always make time to cook for our families.

Pumpkin bread cake is one of Jen’s favorite recipes. She and her family love it so much she bakes two to three batches at time. She wraps it in aluminum foil and keeps some in the refrigerator and stashes the rest in the freezer. Jen, a fairly particular eater, calls the bread so good she could live on it.

3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2/3 cup water
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
Mix flour and soda in a separate bowl. Mix other ingredients together in a large bowl and add gradually add flour and soda mixture. The batter will be enough for 4 loaf pans. Fill each pan only 1/3 full or it will not be done in the middle. Or you can fill smaller pans of any size such as mini loaf pans or you can bake cupcakes and bake for less time. Cream cheese frosting can be added, but is not necessary.

To bake 4 loaf pans, preheat oven to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Jen prefers her pumpkin bread very moist, but if you wish you can bake until a toothpick comes out clean.

Weight Watchers Pumpkin Muffins

My colleague, Connie Farley, mother-in-law of Suzy (Vincent) Hider, formerly of Carroll, brought these muffins for treat day at our school. Surprisingly there are only two ingredients needed — a cake mix and canned pumpkin to make these tasty and moist treats. Not only are these muffins scrumptious, they are guilt-free. A regular-sized muffin counts as 2 Weight Watchers points and a mini muffin counts as only 1 point.
1 (18 oz) boxed spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin
½ cup water
Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together all ingredients in mixer. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes. Muffins will be very moist. Makes 24 muffins or 48 mini muffins (bake for less time if baking mini muffins).

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

My colleague Alyssa Wilson, a fourth-grade teacher at my school, recently tried her hand at baking for the first time and came out on top. These bars were at hit with the staff at my school. The frosting is to die for and the cake contains all the flavors of fall.

In a large bowl, combine:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Stir together and make a “well.”
1 can solid pumpkin (15 oz)
4 eggs
1 cup oil
Stir only until ingredients are mixed together and lumps are gone. Over mixing will cause it to get dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread batter into a jellyroll pan that has been greased and floured. Bake for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out dry. Alyssa baked the bars in a 9 x 13 cake pan and increased the time to 30-35 minutes.

To make frosting, cream together:
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
Gradually add:
3¾ cups powdered sugar

Whip until desired consistency. Beat frosting with mixer. Start slowly then finish on high speed. Frosting should be thick. Lastly beat in 2 teaspoons of good vanilla. Spread over cooled cake. Optional: lightly sprinkle cinnamon over frosting.