"I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze.

The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves."

~Ann Drake

 

Pumpkin season has arrived! I know, it’s still quite warm and humid outside, and we’re all wearing shorts and flip-flops, not sweaters and boots. But once Labor Day has passed by, and everyone heads back to school for the semester, I begin daydreaming about all things autumn: pretty scarlet and orange leaves adorning wreaths on front doors, the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg baking in breads and pies in the kitchen, and lots of friendly pumpkins on porches, welcoming family and friends home. To me, these things herald the beginning of my favorite season, regardless of the temperature.

I love decorating with pumpkins, from the traditional-looking smooth orange ones to bumpy-gnarly ones to green or white ones. They’re all beautiful to me! I decorate with them indoors and out. I stack them in old wheelbarrows, line the porch steps with them, and perch them with other smaller gourds on my mantel inside the house. I want them everywhere possible, beginning in mid-September and going straight through Thanksgiving. Beautiful, friendly pumpkins everywhere!

Years ago, mom or dad would buy a big pumpkin for my little sister and me to carve into a jack-o-lantern just before Halloween. We were somewhat disgusted by the sliminess of the insides of the pumpkin, but we’d do the operation anyway, excited to remove it so we could begin the more artistic part of carving the face! We always tried to make “Jack” smile and not be too scary. Then, mom would put a candle inside and we’d wait excitedly for nightfall so we could light it and stand back, admiring our handiwork. Such fun!

When Thanksgiving rolled around, mom would make a couple of pumpkin pies, rich with cinnamon and nutmeg. We loved those pies! I make them, too, using her recipe, each November. Pumpkin is delicious!

It’s also nutritious, containing a good dose of fiber, potassium, and vitamin A. It’s a great ingredient to add to your diet, and not just in pie. Following are some of my favorite recipes that feature pumpkin. I hope you’ll enjoy trying some of them!

First, these low-fat treats are unusual….not the typical brownies, they’re very dense, quite moist, and have the flavor of fall, even without the oil and eggs! Just don’t expect them to be cake-like; they’re definitely unique in that regard.

 

3-ingredient Pumpkin “Brownies"

 

15-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 box brownie mix

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

 

Optional: One cup cinnamon chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch or maple-flavored chips

 

Method:

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9-inch baking ban with aluminum foil, leaving some extra on each end for easy removal from the pan when brownies have cooled. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and the spice, whisking to combine. Add the brownie mix, and then fold in with a spatula until well-combined and smooth.

 

Spread the batter into the foil-lined baking pan, smoothing with spatula. If using the flavored chips, sprinkle them over the top of the brownie batter, smoothing gently with the spatula to press them into the batter slightly.

 

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan, then remove by lifting out with foil and placing on cutting board. Cut with large serrated knife into squares. Enjoy these thick, fudge brownies with a cold glass of milk.

 

Steph’s Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread

 

1 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Method:

 

1. Plump the berries: Place the 1/3 cup water in a saucepan with the cup of dried cranberries. Bring to a simmer, stir, and remove from heat.

 

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

 

4. In another bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add pumpkin and oil, and whisk until combined.

 

5. Add wet mixture to dry, and gently stir until just combined (no remaining visible clumps of flour)

 

6. Fold in berries, including the juice that they’ve created. Combine gently with spatula until they are evenly distributed in the batter.

 

7. Pour batter into a loaf pan that you’ve sprayed with Pam or Baker’s Joy, or greased and floured.

 

8. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. For a large loaf, expect it to take about an hour. If dividing into two smaller loaf pans, bake for about 35 minutes. (I do this to save time.)

 

You could also make this into muffins of any size, adjusting baking times accordingly.

 

Pumpkin Blondies

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 cup white chocolate chips

 

1 cup cinnamon chips (If you can’t find these baking chips, just add another flavor, or more white chocolate chips, if you prefer)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.Spray with cooking spray.

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. Add the pumpkin puree. Reduce speed to low, and mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Don’t overmix. Stir in the white and cinnamon chips by hand.

 

Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. The sides will pull away from the pan and brown a bit. Do the toothpick test, if it comes out clean. They are done. Cool completely in pan. Lift the blondies from the pan, using the foil. from pan. Peel off the foil and cut into squares.

 

If you like, you can drizzle with melted white chocolate or cream cheese icing, too. 100 percent delicious!

 

I hope you’ll enjoy pumpkin season with these recipes, and that you’ll enjoy your fall decorating, too. Feel free to share your pictures with me; I’d love to see them! My email address is steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.

She is married and has three young adult sons who are considerably taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com.