Halloween is almost here! If you live in St. Petersburg, you can enjoy carving your pumpkin at the Surreal Pumpkin Carving to be held at the Mirror Lake St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club located at 559 Mirror Lake Drive North on October 27th at 7 p.m. There will be prizes awarded for the best pumpkin carving. The cost is $25. If you would like to know more about this event, call 727-823-3767. If you reside in Tampa, you might like to try out the Pumpkin Carving and Scary Food event this Friday, October 28th at 6 p.m., in the Apron’s Cooking School at Publix Supermarket located at 7835 Gunn Highway. They are offering a great time for the whole family. You can learn pumpkin carving techniques and designs, and partake of the tasty treats prepared for everyone. The price is $45 per family, up to four people. This activity is recommended for children over the age of four. For more information, contact 813-926-4465.
Whether you decide to go to one of these events or not, it is time to buy a pumpkin and do some creative carving. Did you know that ninety-nine percent of pumpkins in the United States are used as Jack-o-Lanterns? What a shameful waste to simply throw away your Jack-o-Lantern when Halloween night is done.
Did you know that pumpkin is full of delicious nutrition, with very few calories? It has no cholesterol, plenty of fiber, and is great for the digestion. Only one cup of cooked pumpkin contains 588 milligrams of potassium, 2.4 grams of protein, 310 percent of daily Vitamin A, 20 percent of daily Vitamin C, and only 80 calories.
The best method for having your Jack-o-Lantern and to eat it too, is to carve it anyway you like and keep it in the refrigerator until Halloween night. Go ahead and place a lit tea candle in the center of it for the trick-or-treaters, and once the evening event is over, place it back into the refrigerator until you have time to cook it, so that it remains fresh and firm.
When you are ready to prepare it, remove the top and discard it since it will be the only part blackened by the candle. Wash your pumpkin thoroughly just like you do baked potato skins. Cut it into large pieces and steam or boil until the skin is soft. Let it cool. It will be ready to easily remove the pumpkin from the skin with a butter knife. The skins will be great for your compost pile, or to give as snacks to your dogs, because it is good for their digestion also.
Of course, you can go the traditional route and make pumpkin pies, but if you are like me, you will still have plenty of pumpkin left over for a couple of meals. So hang on to that pumpkin, because there are literally hundreds of pumpkin recipes to try out. Since space is limited here, I will pass on two of my favorites.
First, you could try Pumpkin and Chicken Casserole. Start by placing a chopped onion and three chopped celery stalks in a saucepan and sauté them until caramelized. Add two cups of cooked chicken, half a cup of raisins, one chopped apple, two cups of cooked and diced pumpkin, one half cup of chicken broth, one half cup of heavy cream, ¼ tsp. of nutmeg, ¼ tsp. of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of cumin, and ¼ tsp. of salt. Stir until will mixed.
Wet three to four cups of seasoned breadcrumbs with two tablespoons of melted butter and half a cup of milk until a little moist, and then greese the bottom of a 10-inch casserole dish with butter. Pour the moist breadcrumbs into the bottom of the casserole dish and cover them with a ½ inch layer of ricotta cheese. Cover this by laying thin strips of Monterey Jack cheese over the top, and then pour in your creamy pumpkin sauce and smooth out until level. Cover the dish and place your casserole into an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven and immediately garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
The second recipe is a hearty Pumpkin Stew. Start by cooking two-pounds of stew meat until tender. Add two to three cups of water, one onion, one bell pepper, four potatoes, four carrots, two cups of pumpkin, and four celery stalks chopped into bite-sized pieces and simmer for one hour. While they are cooking add three crushed garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for one hour and serve hot.
Be sure to buy a few extra pumpkins on sale for Halloween so you can try other delicious pumpkin meals, breads, muffins, pudding, or cookies for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. They will keep for a few months in the refrigerator if left uncut. Or you can cut and cook the pumpkins, and store the pieces in airtight containers in the freezer until you’re ready to apply them to the recipe of your choice.
Take advantage of pumpkin season, while you have an ample supply of this amazing wholesome vegetable to serve at your table.