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Pumpkin: a versatile veggie

The word pumpkin brings jack-o'-lanterns to mind. Yet not only is this relative of the squash and cucumber family nutritious, it's versatile. If you have been using pumpkin only for pies or nut bread, or as something to carve at Halloween time, it's time for another look. While most cooks prefer the convenience of canned pumpkin, you can start from scratch and make your own pulp from fresh pumpkins.

Select the smaller ones (three to six pounds), which are the sweetest. Wash, cut into quarters, remove seeds and fiber, and bake, flesh side down, on a cookie sheet until tender, about one hour, at 400 degrees F. Test for doneness by piercing with a fork. (It should easily penetrate the skin.) Remove pulp from skin, mash thoroughly, and pur'ee in blender or food processor for several seconds. If necessary, drain any water.

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Another method is to steam the pumpkin quarters in a large covered kettle with two cups of water until tender. Proceed as with baked pumpkin. (Incidentally, you can substitute cooked or frozen winter squash for any pumpkin recipe.) Pumpkin Ham Patties 2 cups pumpkin pulp, well drained 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon prepared mustard 1/4 cup diced onion 1 beaten egg 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (more if needed) 1 cup diced, cooked ham Shortening

Mix above ingredients (except for shortening). If needed, use more cracker crumbs for a firm mixture. Chill for 1 hour. Shape into patties. Add shortening or oil, about 2 tablespoons, to skillet. When hot, fry patties until brown, turn, and brown other side. Makes 12. Pumpkin Casserole 2 cups mashed pumpkin 2 tablespoons melted butter 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 egg, beaten 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped 1 cup chow mein noodles or stuffing mix

Mix together all ingredients except noodles or stuffing mix. Pour into greased 1- or 1-quart casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle noodles or stuffing mix over the top. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 or 30 minutes until lightly browned. Pumpkin Snack Bars 1 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1 cup pumpkin pulp 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup oil 1 cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients (except sugar); set aside. In mixing bowl, beat together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Gradually stir in dry mixture and mix well by hand. Fold in raisins. Spread in greased 9-inch-square pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until firm and tests done. Dust with powdered sugar while warm, or frost with your favorite white icing. Cut into bars. Makes 12 to 16.

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