Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Halloween is a pumpkin scene

Life gives us many blessings and one of my multitudes is a God-son named John Eugene after his father John Hart and his Mom's father. I claim the three Hart kids because I held each one of them in front of the altar shortly after they were born. They no longer dribble on me, pee pee on me, come running to me when they have an owie, but we see each other when we can, reminisce together, laugh together, and eat together.

Gene Hart the younger (also known as brudder), is a grown man with a white beard now living in Seattle. He has never had a child of his own but he is still a child at heart. Each year he throws a huge kids-of-all ages party just before Halloween. He invites his neighbors, friends and their children to come and make jack-o'-lanterns in his double garage.

A lug of pumpkins is delivered by forklift. Sawhorses are set up to give legs to old, discarded doors and they become benches for working on the pumpkins and later for setting out food.

Electric drills are put in place and stacks of old newspapers are at the ready (the seedy pumpkin pulp is pretty messy stuff). The kids, moms and pops carry their works of art home with them but not until after they have cleared the work benches and had a bite to eat.

For days ahead of this event Gene headquarters each night in his kitchen and single-handedly (he had a cookin' fool for a mother) bakes pumpkin and apple pies and makes huge caldrons of soup. While cooking he is also putting in a request for sunshine since this is a strictly-out-of-house event and Seattle is a notoriously wet city.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Why bother toasting pumpkin seeds when you can buy them pretoasted? Because they have a nutty flavor that the store-bought seeds never have. Also because why waste the seeds if you are making real pumpkin jack-o'-lanterns? Separating the seeds from the pulp is easiest if you throw all of the pumpkins' innards into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Cooking hardens the slimy tendrils clutching the seeds and makes it easier to remove the seeds.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and cook until puffed and browned, about 3 minutes. If they start popping, cover the skillet. Transfer the pumpkin seeds to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt, let cool before serving.

Baby Pumpkins Filled with Custard

Baby pumpkins are cute and delicious. Sometime I just cut off the tops and scrape out the innards. Then I stuff them with frozen creamed spinach, or cheese soufflé, or a sausage bread stuffing (you can use a stuffing mix) and serve either as a first course or as a side dish with ham or pork. Cook as directed in this recipe. They always bring surprised praise. Makes 6 servings.

6 small pumpkins
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake pumpkins until just tender, about 20 minutes. Cut off tops and set aside, then scoop out seeds. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into a large measuring cup. Arrange pumpkins in a baking dish large enough to hold them without crowding. Divide custard mixture among the pumpkins and cover with tops. Pour enough hot water into dish to reach about halfway up sides. Bake until custard jiggles only slightly, about 30 minutes. Remove from dish and cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Halloween Doughnuts

Halloween calls for apple cider and cider calls for doughnuts. You can ice these sweet treats with orange icing or you can dip them in granulated sugar. You could try making these from regular frozen bread dough or try this recipe that my mother-in-law knew by heart. Doughnuts should sink for a few seconds before floating to the top; if they don't sink, the oil is too hot.

1 package (1/4 ounce) dry yeast
3 1/4 cups flour, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
Vegetable oil for frying
Granulated sugar or icing

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water (95 to 110 F.). Combine with 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar and salt. Beat 2 minutes with mixer or wooden spoon. Add egg and butter and gradually beat in remaining 1 3/4 cups flour by hand until batter is smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface. Roll 1/2-inch thick, flouring generously and turning dough between rolls to keep dough from sticking. Cut out rounds and cut out doughnut centers. Place rounds and centers on 2 well floured baking sheets at least 1-inch apart. Let dough rise in a warm place until slightly puffed, about 2 hours. Arrange cooling racks on baking sheets and set them near the range. Pour granulated sugar into a pie pan for dipping cooked doughnuts. Pour oil into a large pot to depth of 2-inches and heat to 325 to 350 F. Start by frying the holes. Fry 3 or 4 doughnuts at a time until golden brown--only turn once; about 1 minute per side. If doughnuts take more than a minute to brown, increase the heat. Transfer cooked doughnut with a slotted spoon to the racks. Test the first doughnut holes by breaking one open. It should be light and cake-like inside--not greasy. If it is greasy the oil is not hot enough or it was in the oil too long. While still slightly warm, dip in sugar. If you are going to frost them, wait until they are cold.

Jackson Pollock inspired table cloth

Being a bachelor Gene just covers his make-shift tables with clean newspapers or plastic tablecloths when it is time to eat. However, it is very easy to make a Halloween cloth that you can use year after year. Find an old bed sheet and lay it out on a flat surface which has been covered with at least 2 layers of newspaper.

Buy: Fabric paint in at least 2 colors (maybe orange and black for Halloween)

2 wide throw-away wide paint brushes

Using the wide paint brushes, flick fabric paint onto the sheet, one color at a time.

Allow the paint to dry (which can take overnight if paint is applied to thickly).

With a hot iron, press painted sheet, right side down on an old cloth or towel. Follow directions on the paint's label.

Make Halloween fun for all of the ageless kids you know.


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Halloween is a pumpkin scene
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