You can’t squash America’s pumpkin fever

Are you sick of pumpkin yet? Me neither. I love this squash that looks like it received the spray tan of a celebrity on Dancing with the Stars.

You can imagine the excitement in the air when I discovered half a shopping cart full of pumpkin spice instant pudding mix at a local discount grocery. Three for a dollar! And it didn’t hurt that other half of the cart held gingerbread instant pudding. Instant happiness.  For a while, we’ll be content to just whip some up with 2-percent milk and call it dessert. Then the wheels will start turning and, well, look for those concoctions a little closer to Thanksgiving.

The burgeoning popularity of pumpkin flavoring has attracted the expected backlash, with Facebook friends bemoaning the ruination of beer, ravioli, pound cake, cookies, coffee creamer, fudge and multiple other food products.

Sure, our new favorite pudding has absolutely no extra nutritional value, but if you put some pureed pumpkin in a recipe – wow – you’ve got beta carotene, which provides an abundance of vitamin A, anti-oxidants and a silver lining for the waning hours of sunlight as fall takes over.

The other night, our friend Mary had us over to polish off a chocolate cake she had left over from her mortgage burning party. Faced with the delicate and moist cake, it wasn’t exactly a chore to do our job. When the last crumb disappeared, she informed us that the cake had two ingredients, a cake mix and a 15-ounce can of pumpkin pureee. Nothing else. Now, that’s the kind of baking I can get behind.

You don’t have to be a fan of Halloween or the Peanuts comics to believe in The Great Pumpkin. Just whip up a batch of these pumpkin crisps, which use canned pumpkin and cake mix in another magical way  – as perfected by our friend William –  and the oohs and ahhs you hear will be anything but ghostly.

Pumpkin Crisp

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 box butter-flavored yellow cake mix

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the filling. Top with pecans and drizzle butter over everything. Bake for one hour. Remove from oven and sprinkle crystallized ginger on top. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before cutting into bars. Serve warm or at room temperature.



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