Kitchen Shrink: Be well-rounded and think big: It's pumpkin season!

KITCHEN SHRINK:

The pumpkin invasion is complete. The glorious orange gourds are taking over farmers markets, football fields, supermarket aisles and parking lots. On Halloween night, the pedestrian pumpkin transforms into a magical glowing jack-o'-lantern as the welcoming symbol of the Pagan tradition. But it's more than just a pretty carved out face. There are dozens of uses for the pumpkin, whether the pulp, seeds or hull.

Although 90 percent water, the mighty squash has a load of nutrients, especially potassium, beta-carotene and Vitamin A to amp up skin, eye and heart health.

The elliptical forest-green seeds, aka pepitas, are packed with fiber, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, stress-busting Bs, iron, copper, magnesium, fatty acids and zinc to ward off osteoporosis; relieve creaky arthritic joints; promote optimum prostate, kidney and bladder functions; and act as nature's roto-rooter. In addition, since pepitas are low in allergens, they have a wide range of appeal (and tolerance), especially for the peanut allergic.

Here are dozens of ways to get the best out of this legendary fruit.

For savory palates whip up:

1. A batch of roasted pepitas on a parchment-lined cookie sheet flavored with any combination of pink sea salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, rosemary and lemon zest or chili and lime juice to snack or sprinkle on salads, roasted vegetables, fish, lamb, chicken, pasta or rice dishes;

2. Pumpkin harvest soup with apples, ginger, turmeric and pinch of cayenne to warm the cockles of your heart;

3. Farro or quinoa stuffed pumpkins using the hull of the sugar pie variety as a ramekin;

4. A pan of pumpkin lasagna with mascarpone cheese;

5. Citrus, pepita-encrusted halibut or wild-caught salmon;

6. Oven-baked pumpkin fries with zippy ancho chili aioli dipping sauce;

7. Roasted Brussels sprouts with pepitas and dried cherries;

8. Golden beet salad with endive, fennel and pumpkin vinaigrette;

9. Pepita pesto with pappardelle egg noodles;

10. Pumpkin ratatouille with assorted squashes and red peppers;

11. A pot of roasted pumpkin chili;

12. Creamy holiday spice pumpkin risotto;

13. A pumpkin mac-and-cheese casserole with toasted pepita crust;

14. A pumpkin-spice chevre cheese log studded with herbed pepitas;

For sweet tooths whip up:

15. A pan of pumpkin pepita brownies or fudge for trick-or-treat night;

16. Cinnamon pumpkin overnight oats with chestnut honey;

17. Pumpkin and black walnut or pecan scones;

18. Pepita brittle;

19. Toasted granola bars with oats, pepitas, golden raisins and sesame seeds;

20. Sassy pumpkin rum puree to dial up pancakes, ice cream sundaes, or fresh fruit wedges;

21. A batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies;

22. Pumpkin apple strudel drizzled with cinnamon spice liqueur;

23. Chocolate pumpkin flan;

24. Pumpkin fruit leather;

Home, sweet home with:

25. Pumpkin autumn-spiced potpourri

26. Pumpkin-scented candles or incense

27. A pumpkin shell vase with assortment of autumn flowers

28. Whole decorated pumpkins painted in metallics, and hot-glued with autumnal ornaments as a table centerpiece

Hello beautiful!

29. Whip up an invigorating pumpkin-based face mask with a rich store of antioxidants, zinc, Vitamins A and E. Blend one cup of organic pumpkin puree with one tablespoon each of honey and avocado oil for dry or sensitive skin, or replace the oil for apple cider vinegar for oily or acne- prone skin;

30. A pumpkin hair mask to soothe an itchy, irritated scalp, and add luster to dry, damaged locks. Whisk together one cup of pumpkin puree with three tablespoons of organic, unrefined coconut oil, and two tablespoons of honey;

Shake, swirl or stir:

31. Refreshing glass of iced pumpkin matcha green tea;

32. Frothy ginger pumpkin smoothie or coconut milkshake;

33. Heart-warming cup of pumpkin mocha latte;

34. Spirited Pumpkin Pie Martini, Cosmopolitan, Julep, Manhattan or Irish Cream.

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Recipe: Pumpkin Pepita Spice Rum Cake

Ingredients: 3 cups unbleached flour; 2 1/2 cups brown sugar; 1 teaspoon baking powder; 1 teaspoon salt; 2 teaspoons cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ginger powder; 16 ounces pumpkin puree; 2/3 cup dark rum (or half water, half rum for timid palates); 1 cup nut oil (walnut, hazelnut, almond, your choice); 4 large eggs; 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; 1 cup golden raisins; 1/2 cup of toasted, pumpkin seeds, and extra for topping.

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Soak raisins in rum (or rum and water). Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients, including raisins and rum, then blend with the dry. Pour batter into 2-greased loaf pans, top with toasted seeds and bake for 1 hour or until the toothpick comes clean.

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: kitchenshrink@san.rr.com

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