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Recipes: Pass the Pumpkin

Buffalo Pumpkin Chili and Creamy Pumpkin Soup

By Jennifer Kornegay

Food/Photography by Brooke Echols

There are so many signals of fall, the sights, sounds and sensations that tell us autumn has arrived: the slant of sunlight filtered through leaves beginning to lose their green; the beat of school bands practicing for football halftime shows; the feel of crisp cool in the evening and early morning.

     But in the last few years, a deluge of “pumpkin-spiced” dishes and drinks has dominated the seasonal shift, and as a side-effect, convinced some that the flavor of pumpkin spice — a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and clove — is synonymous with the flavor of actual pumpkin itself. It’s not. Pumpkin-spiced anything (latte, muffins, beer) has a taste akin to pumpkin pie, which includes pumpkin spice (or the afore-mentioned individual spices) on its ingredient list.

     On their own, pumpkins have a distinct profile devoid of any “spice.” Their orange flesh has a light freshness (that can even be a bit bland), close to a sweet potato, but less sugary and less starchy. This semi-blank canvas works wonderfully when pureed, mixed with stronger flavors (like pumpkin spice) and baked in a piecrust. Hence the prevalence of pumpkin pie, the fall dessert that always makes this season’s “most popular” list, and all its offshoots.

     But pumpkin is equally delicious in savory preparations. It is a species of squash after all. Chunks of pumpkin, dusted with a hint of chili powder or cumin and roasted till tender, pair nicely with all kinds of meat. Or throw them into a food processor, drizzle in some cream and make a pumpkin soup. Treat pumpkins like summer squash and shred, bread and fry them into fritters. And don’t forget those seeds. Tossed in oil, toasted and salted, they make an extremely craveable snack. Pumpkins also shine in desserts other than that ubiquitous pie.

     If these options have piqued your interest in pumpkins and have you thinking about ingesting them in some new ways, check out our reader-submitted recipes.


Cook of the Month

About five years ago, when Sheila Copenhaver was looking for a way to use up some pumpkin she had on hand, she came up with her Creamy Pumpkin Soup recipe. The idea of pumpkin in a savory dish intrigued her. “You often think of pumpkin in sweet things, but its flavor pairs really well with the garlic, onion and other ingredients in this,” she said. “And of course, the bacon on top is wonderful.” She’s not the only one who thinks so. Her husband and three young kids request this soup and then gobble it up every autumn.


Creamy Pumpkin Soup

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups cooked pumpkin

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

For topping:

Sour cream

Bacon, cooked and crumbled

Green onions, thinly sliced

In a large cooking pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter until tender. Add the broth, potatoes and pumpkin. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Puree with an immersion blender or puree (half of the mixture at a time) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return all to the pot. Add the milk, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Taste and season as needed. Spoon soup into bowls and top each with a dollop of sour cream, bacon crumbles and green onions.


Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

1 egg

2 tablespoons melted butter or oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground cloves

1/2 cup oats

In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in another bowl, adding oats last. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture just until combined. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium high heat, and lightly oil if desired. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, and cook on each side until brown. Serve with syrup. Makes 15-20 3-4-inch pancakes.

Christiane McKelvey, South Alabama EC


Buffalo Pumpkin Chili

2 pounds ground bison (or substitute beef)

1 quart tomato juice

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 large onion, chopped

1 large portobello mushroom, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 2.25-ounces can sliced olives

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Brown the bison (or beef) in a large pot, then add onions and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Add everything else, bring to a boil then back to a simmer for 1 hour.

Jamie Petterson, Tallapoosa River EC


Pumpkin Bites

1 box yellow cake mix

1 14.5-oz can pumpkin

1 1/4 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix and pumpkin on low speed of mixer until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 11/2 tablespoons dough into each hole. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. Makes 48 mini muffins.

Debra Adams, Black Warrior EMC


Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

12 chocolate shortbread cookies, crushed into crumbs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 large tub (12-ounces) whipped topping, thawed, divided in half

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs and butter. Transfer into a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Gently press down crumbs to form an even layer of crust. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until well combined and creamy. Use a spatula to fold in half of the whipped topping. Gently combine ingredients until smooth. Spoon a layer of pumpkin cheesecake onto the cookie crust in trifle dish, followed by a layer of whipped topping. Repeat layers until your trifle reaches the top of your dish. Store trifle in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.

Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC


Pumpkin Spice Sheet Cake

Cake:

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 large eggs

1 box spice cake mix

15-ounce can pumpkin

8-ounce package toffee bits

In a large mixing bowl, mix together: cake mix, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and eggs. Mix well, stir in 8-ounce package of toffee bits. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 28 to 33 minutes. Cool 1 hour.

Icing:

8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

2 cups powdered sugar

Mix well and spread over cooled cake. Garnish top of cake with chopped Heath English Toffee candy bars.

Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC


Pumpkin Dip

2 packages cream cheese, softened

1 15-ounce canned pumpkin

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

(Pumpkin pie spice can be used too)

Beat all ingredients together and chill one hour before serving. This dip is a crowd pleaser when served with ginger snap cookies. Graham crackers are also suitable for serving with this dip.

Joy Griswold, Dixie EC


Sticky Bun Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups pecan halves and pieces

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together melted butter, sugar and corn syrup. Spoon one rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into each cup of 2 lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans and top each with 1 rounded tablespoon pecans. Stir together flour and next four ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 2/3 cup of water; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling ¾ full. Place an aluminum foil-lined jelly pan on lower rack to catch any overflow. Bake at 350 degrees on middle rack for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert pan immediately to remove muffins and arrange muffins on a wire rack to cool. Spoon any remaining topping over muffins. Cool 5 minutes. Yield: 2 dozen.

Tracey Estes, Pioneer EC


Pumpkin Pecan Pie

1 unbaked Pillsbury piecrust

1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pie mix)

½ cup light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs, well beaten

½ cup evaporated milk

Topping:

¼ cup butter, softened

½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup pecans, chopped

Line pie tin with pastry, tucking overlap inward and pinch up edges. Using electric hand mixer, blend ingredients together in order listed. Add to pie crust and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes and then sprinkle on mixture of: ¼ cup butter, ½ cup light brown sugar and ½ cup chopped pecans. Bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool and refrigerate a few hours to set well for slicing. If a ginger snap crust is preferred use 38 ginger snaps, ¼ cup finely chopped pecans mixed with ¼ cup melted butter.

Barbara Umland, Sand Mountain EC


Pumpkin Rolls

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup warm milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups white whole-wheat flour

2-2½ cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm water with the teaspoon of sugar for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, butter, brown sugar, salt, flax and pumpkin. Add whole-wheat flour and beat until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Add enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth or mix in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease the top of the dough. Cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour. Punch down and return to floured surface. Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again for about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.

Carolyn Johnson, Sand Mountain EC


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Alabama hunters anticipate excellent deer season

By John N. Felsher

More than 300,000 Alabama sportsmen will take to the fields and forests this fall to hunt whitetail deer, the most popular game animal in North America.

“During the last season, hunters killed some really good deer, but the overall harvest was down,” says Chris Cook, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries deer studies leader in Northport. “Since the harvest was down in 2017-18, a lot more bucks lived to grow another year, so they should be bigger.”

When any sportsman kills a buck or a doe, that person must report it to Game Check within 48 hours. This includes people hunting on private or public lands. The data allows biologists to monitor population trends and the overall health of the deer herd. The easiest way to report a kill is to download a free app to a smart phone. New this year, sportsmen must delete the old app they used last season and download a new one. The old app won’t work this year. For details, see outdooralabama.com/contact-us/mobile-apps.

“Even in places where there is no cell service, people still need to enter their information on the new app and submit it,” Cook says. “The app will automatically upload when it senses a cell signal. In addition, that harvest record is on the phone in case someone checks to see if that person reported the deer.”

Alabama whitetail caught on game camera.
Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

Another change this season: Alabama sportsmen traveling out of state to hunt deer must comply with new procedures to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. Also called CWD, the disease affects all members of the deer family and attacks an animal’s brain like mad cow disease. So far, CWD has not been confirmed in Alabama, but a deer found in western Mississippi in February 2018 tested positive for the disease.

“Before people can bring a deer or any other animal in the deer family to Alabama, they need to completely debone the meat or have it processed,” Cook says. “They also need to remove all brain, meat and spinal tissue from any deer parts they plan to mount. Once an animal is exposed to CWD, the disease can stay dormant for up to 60 months without the animal showing any signs of it. CWD is a major problem. Fortunately, we haven’t seen CWD in Alabama yet and we want to keep it that way.”

With the purchase of an annual wildlife management area license, people can hunt more than 721,000 acres in 35 state-managed WMAs across the Cotton State. Sportsmen can also hunt several national wildlife refuges, other federal properties and some special opportunity areas. For more on applying to hunt SOAs, see outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas.

“Each county in Alabama has a healthy huntable deer population,” Cook says. “Some of the best counties are in the northwestern part of the state such as Lamar, Fayette and Marion. Deer populations are on the rise in those counties and in good shape because they have good habitat. Historically, the Black Belt in the central part of Alabama has also been good deer country and produces some quality deer.”

Cook recommends Oakmulgee and Barbour WMAs. In the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee spreads across 44,500 acres of Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties. The habitat consists mostly of mature pine and upland hardwood forests. People can also hunt the surrounding 392,567-acre national forest.

“Oakmulgee is usually near the top in number of deer killed every year,” Cook says. “It also has some good age structure and antler quality, but not quite as good as Barbour or Black Warrior. Barbour has some of the best habitat in the state with pretty good soils. Skyline is another area that traditionally produces good deer.”

Barbour WMA covers 28,214 acres of Barbour and Bullock counties near Clayton. The property includes a good mix of pine and hardwood forests. James D. Martin-Skyline WMA covers 60,732 acres of the Cumberland Plateau near Scottsboro. The area contains abundant oak trees that provide excellent deer food. The largest WMA in the state, Black Warrior covers 91,263 acres of the Bankhead National Forest near Moulton. People can also hunt the 181,230-acre national forest outside the management area.

“For older bucks with better antler development, I recommend Black Warrior WMA,” Cook says. “The Bankhead National Forest has a low deer density, but a lot of big bucks. It’s very rough country and a tough place to hunt. Black Warrior WMA has the earliest rutting dates in Alabama. The rut there typically peaks around Thanksgiving. During the rut, it’s easier to kill big bucks because they are moving around looking for does.”

Depending upon where one hunts and how, the Alabama deer season could last from Oct. 15 through Feb. 10, 2019. Seasons and regulations may differ on public properties, so always check before hunting anywhere.

For season dates and other information, see outdooralabama.com/hunting/deer-season-zone-map. For information on specific WMAs, see outdooralabama.com/hunting/wildlife-management-areas.

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

Hardy Jackson’s Alabama: The evolution of tailgating

Story by Hardy Jackson

Illustration by Dennis Auth

It began as such a simple pleasure.

Drive early to the game in a pick-up truck full of stuff to eat and drink. Get there, park, lower the tailgate, use it as your table, and there you have it — tailgating.

Only hardly anyone goes in a pick-up any more.

I do, sometimes, but I am hardly anybody, which is my point.

My first experience with tailgating was as a boy with my Daddy. We would drive over to Auburn from the home place at Slapout, stopping along the way to buy barbecue sandwiches from church folks who set stands by the side of the road. When we arrived at the stadium, we parked, ate and then went to the game.

A few years later, some college friends and I wandered down from our Birmingham-Southern hilltop campus to Legion Field to mingle with tailgaters who packed the parking lot. Things had gotten fancy. Some had set up tents and grills and such.

Then I was at the University of Alabama, living not far from Bryant-Denny Stadium. My housemates and I marked off our yard and sold slots to eager tailgaters who paid us well and let us party with them.

Then it was the University of Georgia (by this time my father had about decided that my goal was to attend every school in the SEC). There, tailgaters crowded into the lawn around the history department building and we graduate students mingled and consumed because everyone belonged to the Bulldog nation.

Finally, I taught and tailgated at Jacksonville State.

All of which is to say that I have watched the evolution of tailgating from a way to get a good parking place and a bite to eat before kickoff into a pre-game/post-game event that, for some, is more important than the game itself.

Another sign of the sophisticating of the South.

As football spread beyond its small-town Friday night roots and as more Southerners developed loyalties to college teams, tailgating became part of the weekend ritual.  Even the ticketless who could not make it inside the stadium gathered with food and friends and a radio or TV.

Today, at home or on campus, tables are loaded with food and drink appropriate for the occasion.  Like so much else that is Southern, football has become yet another excuse to eat.

Wings, fried chicken, barbecue, and a mess of other stuff that can be eaten from a paper plate with one hand. Occasionally someone will whip up something fancy, but most buy it and bring it.

For many, tailgating is a multi-family affair, so the food is kid-friendly. The vehicles also form a protective barrier that keeps the small ones in.

There they are, we are, dressed in team colors. Milling about or sprawled in lawn chairs, waiting while the Tigers, the Tide, the Trojans, the Gamecocks, get ready to take the field.

Then the band marches by, with majorettes and flag corps and cheerleaders, whipping fans into a frenzy.

Then it is off to the stadium to cheer and stomp and have a fine time.

And when it is over, everyone returns for a little more of the same.

Which is often more fun than the game.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living.  He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

Consumer wise: Tips to stay comfortable this winter and keep your home warmer

Q:

Last year, we spent our first winter in our new place, which is actually an older home. Even with the heat turned up, it always felt chilly indoors. This year, we added insulation, but we’re wondering if there are additional steps we can take to make the house more comfortable this winter. Can you offer any advice?

During the winter, covering cold surfaces like hardwood floors can improve comfort. An area rug can be visually appealing while helping retain indoor heat. Photo: Pixabay.com

A:

When we talk about comfort in our homes, we usually think about where the thermostat is set. But, as you’re finding, there’s more to the picture than just the indoor temperature.

An important piece of the comfort puzzle is radiant heat, which transfers heat from a warm surface to a colder one. A person sitting in a room that’s 70 degrees can still feel chilly if there’s a cold surface nearby, like a single-pane window, a hardwood floor or an exterior wall.  Covering these cold surfaces can help. Try using area rugs, wall quilts or tapestries, bookcases and heavy curtains to help prevent heat loss and make your home feel more comfortable. Keep in mind, radiant heat can really work in your favor. A dark-colored tile floor that receives several hours of direct sun can retain heat during the day and radiate it into the room during the evening.

Another possible cause of discomfort during the winter is air movement. We recognize this when weather forecasts report chill factor, which is a calculation of air temperature and wind speed.

Moving air makes us feel colder, which is why we use fans in the summer. But during the winter, cold, outdoor air can infiltrate our homes.

On average, a typical home loses about half its air every hour, and that amount can increase when outdoor temperatures are extremely cold and the wind is blowing. In this case, the best way to keep your home toasty is to minimize air leaks. You can easily locate air leaks in your home with a blower door test, which is typically conducted by an energy auditor. These are some of the most common spots air leaks occur:

  • Penetrations and cracks around windows and doors
  • Exterior cracks in brickwork and siding
  • Plumbing and wiring penetrations from the exterior to the interior of the home
  • Mail slots or pet doors

A variety of products like caulk, weather stripping, outlet cover gaskets and dryer vent covers can be used to seal these leaks.

A fireplace can also be a major source of air leakage. If you don’t use the fireplace, you can seal the opening or install an inflatable chimney balloon. Before using the fireplace, consider this: unless you have a high-efficiency insert, your fireplace will suck heated air from the room out through the chimney. Always close the fireplace flue when it’s not in use.

Your pursuit of comfort should also include a careful look at your home’s heating system. Is it distributing heat evenly and efficiently? Forced-air systems distribute air through supply ducts and registers. Small rooms may only have one register, but large rooms could have several. You may find some supply registers are blowing copious amounts of warm air and others little at all.

Ideally, every room should have return air registers. If you see possible shortcomings with your forced-air system, enlist the help of a certified contractor that really knows how to improve ductwork.

Ensure your furnace is running at peak efficiency by scheduling an annual inspection. Check your filter monthly and replace or clean it as necessary. If you heat your home with radiators, bleed them at the beginning of the season so they flow more efficiently.

Beyond that, you can always warm yourself by wearing heavier clothing, doing some light exercise throughout the day, and snuggling with a pet or under a blanket.

By taking some of these small steps, I hope you will enjoy a more comfortable winter in your new (older) home!ν

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on staying comfortable in winter, please visit: www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.