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Dining In: On autumn days we can savor pumpkin


When the muggy days of August were still upon us, the first pumpkin-flavored foods and beverages began to appear in supermarkets and coffee shops.

While we might not have been in the mood then, now that the crisp days of autumn are here, we are ready to sip and savor this quintessential flavor of fall.

It makes sense that we should love pumpkin in his many forms, since it is a native fruit, believed to have originated in North America thousands of years ago. Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. Native Americans were the first to eat them, and America’s first immigrants quickly followed their lead.

Pumpkins are good sources of vitamins A and B, potassium, protein, and iron and have a flavor that goes well with the warm spices of fall: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

While the earliest pumpkins consumed were cooked as vegetables, it was during the 1600s that someone figured out that they could be used in a sweetened pie. This is no surprise, since the Pilgrims followed the English practice of pie-making, and baked a variety of foods in crusts.

By the early 18th century, pumpkin pie had earned a place at the Thanksgiving table, when the celebration became a New England regional holiday. In 1705 the Connecticut town of Colchester famously postponed its Thanksgiving for a week because there wasn’t enough molasses available to make pumpkin pie. The first recipe for the custard-style pie we enjoy today was published late in the 18th century.

Back then they had to bake fresh pumpkins in order to create a puree. Today we have the option of buying puree in cans at the supermarket, although plenty of local farms can offer guidance on fresh pumpkins for those who want to make their own. Just don’t try to cook your orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin; those are bred for looks, not taste.

These pumpkin bars from are good now in lunchboxes, and can be served at Halloween parties as well as an alternative to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Bars

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 2/3 cups Sugar in the Raw (turbinado sugar)

1 cup canola oil

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt


6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk

1. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until well blended. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 °F for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

2. For icing, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl. Add enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread over bars. Store in the refrigerator.