Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Halloween may be time to try some scary new recipes

My Mexican friends celebrate All Saints Day completely differently than we celebrate our somewhat comparable event, Halloween. They visit the cemeteries where their relatives and friends are buried, pay their respects and then go home to delicious dinners.

In addition to skeletons and skulls which we both use in our decorations what we have in common are pumpkins. We use them chiefly for decoration and the Mexican people use them chiefly for cooking.

Mexican cooks make much better use of pumpkin seeds (called pepitas) than we do. Their pepitas don't morph into compost, instead they candy them, salt them, or use them as nutritious thickening in sauces and stews such as their famous mole. Some moles contain chocolate but I like this Pumpkin Seed Mole even better.

Salted Pumpkin or Squash Seeds (Pepitas)

Use as you would salted sunflower seeds.

2 cups seeds
1 quart (4 cups) water
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Boil each 2 cups of seeds in 1 quart of water with 2 tablespoons salt until somewhat tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with vegetable oil, then spread on a baking sheet with sides. Bake at 350 F. until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes. Toss them often using a spatula, the wider the better.

Candied Pepitas

Any that you don't just snack on, sprinkle over squash or pumpkin soup, on salads or on slices of papaya or mango. To separate the seeds from the fibers, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes. Drain and separate the seeds. This recipe makes 2 cups and is easily doubled. Makes 1/2 cup.

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon honey

Toast cumin seeds in a small skillet until fragrant. Remove seeds and cool. Pound in a mortar. Place pumpkin seeds in same skillet over medium heat and toast for about 3 minutes until golden and puffed (slightly rounded). Add butter, sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and cumin. Sprinkle with salt. Toss for a few more minutes in the same pan. Remove from heat and turn into a small bowl. Drizzle with honey and toss seeds to coat them well.

Pumpkin Seed Mole

No, the chocolate has not been forgotten. This recipe doesn't ask for it. It does, however call for tomatillos (the little green, tart variety of tomatoes with a husk). If you can't get tomatillos but do have green tomatoes left from your garden, use them, to make an equivalent amount. Tomatillos are about as wide as a 50 cent piece (remember when we used them?). If you can't get the fresh chiles, use chili powder, to taste. The recipe came from Jacqueline Higuera McMahan. Makes 4 servings.

14 tomatillos or small green tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves or broad-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 jalapeno chile, sliced
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 small dark leaves of romaine, optional
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds poached chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken or sliced, browned pork tenderloin

Place tomatillos and broth in a deep saucepan, partially cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool down in the broth for 15 minutes. Reserve the broth. In a large fry pan, toast the pumpkin seeds until golden and puffed. Remove to a spice grinder or a coffee grinder, you can even use a food processor. In a blender or small food processor, combine cooked tomatillos, ground pumpkin seeds, garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin, jalapeno with seeds, Serrano, romaine and salt. Add a cupful of the broth used for the tomatillos and puree to a sauce. You can keep adding the reserved broth until the sauce is the consistency heavy cream. Heat the olive oil in the skillet used for toasting seeds and pour in the pipian sauce. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the cooked chicken or pork and simmer 20 minutes to soak up the flavors. Serve immediately or keep a day or two as the flavor will continue to improve. Serve with tortillas or a rice dish.

Apple Ghosts for Kids of Any Age

Use small apples for these apples coated with white chocolate. Black licorice sticks can be stuck on to make the faces. Or, chocolate chips or peppermint candies could be used if there is a licorice shortage at your house. When making them ahead, let the chocolate become firm and then enclose apples with plastic wrap. You can put them on sticks or forks for dipping and for eating. They make cute place cards or desserts. The coating covers 10 to 12 depending upon the size of the apples. Save any leftover white candy for other projects.

10 to 12 apples, not much over 2-inches in diameter
3 cups (18 ounces) white candy chips or chunks, suitable for melting
2 tablespoons solid whit shortening (not butter and not oil)
2 black licorice sticks, cut crosswise into thin slices, optional

Rinse apples, dry well and firmly insert a stick or fork into stem end of each, until apple is secure. Combine candy and shortening and microwave at half power until chips are soft, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. If still lumpy, microwave again at 20 second intervals until smooth. Quickly dip apples, one at a time, into coating to cover, letting excess drip back into bowl. Set apples, sticks up, in a pan lined with waxed paper. Make ghost faces by pressing licorice slices into soft coating. If coating on apple is too firm, use melted coating to glue licorice in place. If coating gets too thick, reheat briefly in microwave.

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