Country Pumpkin

After your pumpkin has had its day as a jack-o-lantern this year, remember that sad-looking thing is one of the richest sources of vitamin A. Don’t toss it out with the rest of the stale Halloween candy.

Pumpkin is nearly as rich in vitamin A as carrots and apricots, and it is lower in calories. Unsweetened, pumpkin tastes like its cousin, squash. Sweetened, it’s often a welcome substitute for yams, spinach, or broccoli as a source of vitamin A.

To prepare pumpkin for use in these recipes, cut it in half crosswise and remove the seeds. Scrape the center well. Bake it on a cookie sheet, cut side down, for at least an hour at 325 degrees. When it is tender and begins to fall apart, scrape the meat from the shell and strain it. It can be canned or frozen—unlike the delicate B vitamins, vitamin A is not destroyed by heat.

My friend Geni Sessions, now of Falls Church, Virginia, gave me this superb recipe for Pumpkin Bread when we were living on Guam. The first time I tried it, I doubled the recipe so I’d have extra loaves for the freezer but forgot to add the baking powder. We had four very large but flat loaves of pumpkin bread that were otherwise delicious.

Pumpkin Bread: In one bowl, combine 4 eggs, 2 c. pumpkin, 1 c. oil, 3 c. sugar. In another bowl combine 3 1/3 c. flour, 2 tsp. soda, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg. Combine the two mixtures. Stir in 1 c. raisins and 1 c. chopped nuts or coconut. Line two large loaf pans with waxed paper and pour in the batter. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 325 degrees.

Pumpkin Cake: Cream 1/2 c. shortening and 1 1/4 c. sugar well. Mix in 1 c. pumpkin and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Add 3/4 c. milk and 1 beaten egg. Sift together 1 T. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger, and 2 1/4 c. flour. Add to moist ingredients and mix well. Bake at 350 degrees for 25–30 minutes.

In place of the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice may be used.

The cake is moist and heavy, but it can be baked in nine-inch layer pans and frosted. Frosting alternatives include penoche, peanut butter, cranberry sauce, or raisin sauce.

Pumpkin Muffins: Beat 1 egg lightly; stir in 1/2 c. milk, 1/2 c. pumpkin, 1/4 c. melted butter or oil. In a large bowl combine 1 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg. (If desired, use 1 tsp. pumpkin spice instead of cinnamon and nutmeg.) Stir liquid mixture into dry mixture, using 8–10 strokes. Add 1/2 c. raisins, stirring 6–8 additional strokes. Batter should be lumpy. Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full, and sprinkle 1/4 tsp. sugar on each muffin before baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 18–20 minutes. Yield: 12 large muffins.—Pamela Williams, Sanders, Arizona

Slippery Mix

Driving dangers soar during the first few minutes of a rainstorm, especially if the road has been dry for awhile. Rain water mixes with the oil and rubber build-up on the road to produce a lethal brew, and it takes a good downpour to wash this slick off. The defensive driver will compensate by cutting his speed and going on alert for that unexpected skid.—Alton L. Thygerson, Brigham Young University Health Science Department

Slick Tricks

1. A crochet hook unpicks seams speedily with no danger of damaging the fabric.

2. Tweezers are indispensable for removing short basting threads or those caught under machine stitching.

3. Try bee’s wax on thread when hand sewing. The thread won’t curl.

4. Threading a needle—hand or machine—is easier if you cut the thread on a slant instead of straight across.—Renee Thackeray, Brigham Young University Clothing and Textiles Department

Spin the Wheel!

Our children are two, four, and six years old. We’ve been trying to teach them responsibility since the oldest was two, but I often found myself threatening, raising my voice, and using other parental measures I wasn’t very proud of.

One day, after noticing how much fun the children had with “spin the spinner” games, I devised a “get-the-work-done game” for the whole family—and it’s been magic for a record-breaking three months!

I bought a dimestore spinner and fastened it to the middle of a heavy posterboard circle. I divided the circle into 12 sections, wrote jobs that needed to be done on nine of them, wrote “Pixie” on the tenth, and put gold stars on the other two.

We play the game right after supper, since Daddy’s home then. Everyone takes a turn spinning. If you get a star, no job! If you get “Help someone else,” the job takes only half as long. Or the Pixie (the little ones love this) helps without letting anyone find out who he is.

Depending on the job, it is either done right then or during the next day. Even our little two-year-old tries to do the job she gets.

It’s just a little game, but peace and cooperation have replaced yelling, and our children can’t wait to spin for jobs each evening. It helps remind Mom, and Dad, too, that they need to do the jobs they get right away.—Janice Izatt, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico

Storing Honey and Sugar

How can you prevent lumps in sugar, or how can you keep honey from crystallizing when you want it to be liquid—or vice versa? The way to solve these problems is to know more about their causes.

White sugar forms lumps when it absorbs moisture from the air. Therefore, it must be protected from moisture and stored while it is very dry. Store the sugar at room temperature or below, since sugar that gets hot over a long period of time may turn slightly yellow. If it develops lumps, they can usually be broken up easily.

Brown sugar is just the opposite. It needs moisture to make it soft, and it gets rock-hard when it dries out. If you buy it in a plastic bag, keep the bag tightly closed after opening with a clothes pin or a rubber band. If you buy sugar in a cardboard box, the inner liner usually won’t keep it moist after it is opened, so transfer the sugar to a plastic bag and close it tightly.

If brown sugar goes hard or lumpy, sprinkle it with water and heat it in the oven at 250 degrees F. for a few minutes. Some people suggest putting an apple slice in the plastic bag with the hard sugar. Both methods add moisture to the sugar.

Honey that can crystallize stores better than honey that can’t, since the high sugar concentration in crystallized honey prevents fermentation and the growth of microorganisms. For honey to crystallize, the water content must be below 15–18 percent. Pure honey will crystallize; if water is added, it probably won’t.

Do not store honey in large containers such as five-gallon cans, since you’ll have to liquefy it in order to use it. Not only is this process inconvenient, but every liquefaction makes the honey darker and stronger.

Before the honey crystallizes, pour it into smaller containers. A three-pound shortening can will hold five pounds of honey. Many people prefer glass jars instead of cans, since the acid in the honey sometimes interacts with metal in the can and causes a black discoloration. Cover containers tightly and store them at room temperature or below.

To liquefy honey, place the container on a low oven rack in a pan of hot water; the rack should be high enough to prevent scorching. Heat the honey to 155–160 degrees F., stirring frequently. Maintain this temperature for 30 minutes to be sure all crystals dissolve. Heating the honey to a higher temperature can cause undesirable flavor changes.—Kay Franz, Brigham Young University, Department of Food Science and Nutrition