Please Forgive Me, But I’ve Still Got Leftovers

I make you a solemn promise; this is the last of the Thanksgiving leftover posts – that is not to say it’s the last of the leftovers, but I’m too laden with guilt to post about them anymore.  It’s just that one writes about what’s on their mind, and right now that’s Thanksgiving leftovers.

Actually, I thought I was done with this subject, and then as I was putting one of my turkey leftover ideas together last night, I went to the fridge and moved the candied sweets out of the way, and there it was – the rest of the half used big can of pumpkin!  Whoa, I can’t let that sit there and mold its way into the trash.  But what can I make that isn’t just like what we’ve already had with the Thanksgiving meal?  Hummm?

Don’t know if you’ve thought about it, but pumpkin is one of those really common foods that are so loaded with nutrition that they deserve to be used far more than they are – they really are one of the vegetable world’s stars, yet they barely get a look except at Thanksgiving.  However, I’ve noticed a renaissance of sorts recently, partly due to the fact that many restaurant dishes are titled as using pumpkin, when actually the pumpkin is standing in for some less attractive sounding things, like squash or sweet potatoes.  Thai restaurants are famous for making this switch with their popular Pumpkin Curries, which I’m absolutely sure is a misnomer and a sub for sweet potatoes.  They perhaps can be forgiven -maybe- since the word pumpkin in Thailand is commonly used to mean many different vegetables – all across Asia, similar semantic issues abound.  But then, Pumpkin Curry does sound so much better that Sweet Potato Curry, does it not?

But in a way, all of this name-game stuff is simply a matter of consumers/eaters realizing that no matter how sexy a name is, it’s ultimately the taste that’s important – and the truth is that already there are many winter squashes, especially in Asia, that taste far better than do even the best of what we know as pumpkin.  Even with my limited taste buds, I’d give butternut squash an equal billing with the best of the pumpkins – and I’ve never yet had a real pumpkin that could hold its own against Hubbard, Delicata, Kabocha, Buttercup or Sweet Meat, as well as many others.

So, what to make with the leftover pumpkin?  And then I came on a recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars, a very quick prep cookie – and since we are currently low on in-house cookies, it won automatically.

I pulled the opened can of pumpkin puree and gauged it to contain about 1.5 cups (it later measured out exactly 1.5 cups – scary!).  That amount would allow me to double the recipe, which we most often do with cookies, since making only the base recipe may not have lasted the rest of the day!  (Why do they do this?  If they don’t like cookies, why not let someone who does make the recipes!)  As you can see from my pics, my doubling of the recipe did not make an outrageous amount – in my estimation, if it’s not enough to fill the cookie jar, it’s not enough!

A Very Wet Batter Filling a 9x15 Pan

Here’s what I liked about these – they are a Hermit type cookie, one of my favorites – but these had a very minimal amount of sugar (one of my current diabetic No-No’s), and NO shortening!  OK, that’s a little scary, but then, pureed fruits are often used as subs for fats in baked goods, so let’s go with it and see what happens.  I also added some raisins (to increase the Hermit like character) and some chopped candied ginger (I still have some candied ginger left over from a 5lb bag I bought about 3 years ago, and vacuum packed away – Yup, it’s still fine).  So, we’ll see how those work when we taste ’em.

All Baked - Ready For Cutting

I was a little taken aback by the no-show of any salt in the recipe – first, I looked for another ingredient that might be loaded with salt, but I can’t find one.  Now, my wife might disagree, but I’m not an over-user of salt – I simply realize its proper role in cooking and I try to get it balanced against the other tastes in a dish.  Frankly, I consider cooks who insist on using no salt to be the fanatics – I’m just a realist looking for max taste.

I shall always remember the quote I recently read about a chef (sorry, can’t remember the name) who was making the rounds of his dining room at the end of the night, and a guest commented, “Why is it that you and I are cooking the exact same things, the exact same way, and yours are always so much better?”  To which the chef responded, “I know exactly why – when I cook, I’m not afraid to use salt, and you are!”

As you’ll note, I’ve included a minimal amount of salt as an optional ingredient – for those of you who still doubt.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars
(adapted from The Seattle Times)
Makes 12 servings

2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup solid pack pumpkin
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tsp of salt (optional)
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup of minced candied ginger (optional)
1/2 cup of dark raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick vegetable spray.
2. Beat eggs with electric mixer at high speed 2 minutes. Add brown sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add pumpkin, molasses and vanilla. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.
4. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger; stir to blend. Add to pumpkin mixture; stir well.
5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Let cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto platter. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm.

###

My Notes: A very runny batter – baked up very cake-like and moist, which is fine if you expect that.  Not real spicy – if you like a good dose of spices, you may want to up them.  I wanted them less cakey, and so I cut them in bars, and spread them out on a pan rack to go back in the oven at 300F for another 20 or 30 minutes.  I’m not sure how well they’d keep, unless you re-baked them like a biscotti first.  I liked the sweetness level – a good balance.  Frankly, I couldn’t decide if the pumpkin or the ginger was pulling rank, so I guess they’re well balanced too.

Addendum: Yes, I liked the re-baked ones better than the cakey ones – they came out with a chewy, crunchy character, and I’m quite sure that they’ll store as a cookie much better that the original ones.

This is a great afternoon tea partner, or for that occasional sneak nosh when you just have to have a little something!

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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7 Responses to Please Forgive Me, But I’ve Still Got Leftovers

  1. That’s an impressive use of leftovers. I don’t know most of the squashes you refer to. I am often disappointed by the nameless ones I pick up at farmers markets, watery and tasteless and I don’t think I could tell them apart by taste alone like you can. I do like butternut squash, which is the one I am familiar with, probably bent on world domination.

    I love the way you put them back in the oven, and they do sound very healthy, no fat, not too much sugar, – pumpkin biscotti almost!

    PS I know exactly what you mean about the salt, I took sugar out of my tea and coffee years ago, but salt from bread or eggs, no I really can’t do without that and be happy 🙂

  2. drfugawe says:

    I have all my winter squashes in storage now, and soon I’ll be posting on my biggest Hubbard, a thirty pounder – I walked him from my garden to the garage, and halfway there I almost put him down and got the wheelbarrow – I already know when it comes time to cut him up, it’s dangerous to think about using a knife – he’ll have to either be dropped from 10 feet up, or hit with an axe (which may be just as dangerous as the knife!). Yeah, we’ll drop him a few times.

    I’m learning why these giant squashes are not the most popular.

  3. I’ve been through all my 38 yrs of never hearing the word Kabocha and then on the same day today I see it twice!

    I first saw it this afternoon in my favourite blog http://www.playingwithfireandwater.com where Linda bakes a quail in a little pumpkin and talks of the tradition in Thailand of baking a sweet custard in a Kabocha and now you mentioning it along with other pumpkins! It must be a sign 🙂

    I have a little baby pumpkin in the garage at the moment, only the second time I’ve bought one, after the first time didn’t really see the point….normally I’m a fan of butternut squash and buy it throughout the autumn/winter.

    The little pumpkin I have in the garage was heading for pumpkin cheese…then I saw Linda’s quail baked in it which I’ve been tempted by but I think I’m going to follow the Thai’s street food tradition of sweet baked coconut custard which is also dairy-free…a plus for me!

    One of my favourite ways with butternut squash and would also work well with pumpkin is a fragrant curry I make with spinach and beans & coconut milk.

    • drfugawe says:

      azelia,
      Welcome to my blog. You have reminded me of a quite fantastic meal experience I had many years ago in a tiny Thai family restaurant in Jacksonville, FL – as our delightful meal was ending, our waitress said they had just that day found just the right “pumpkins” to make a very special dessert – of course we said we’d love to try it, and so we were introduced to Thai coconut custard baked in a pumpkin / squash. Don’t know why I haven’t tried this one at home, but with your reminder, I now will.

      Thanks azelia – hope to see you again.

  4. Looks like a delicious combination, Doc! Creative use of leftovers – there is something very rewarding about being able to use them up rather than discarding them! It’s a shame this is your last leftovers post – I was enjoying them! 🙂

    For those of us who don’t have access to canned pumpkin, will pureed fresh do? Over here, a butternut squash is known as butternut pumpkin – squashes are little yellow buttony things. 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      Celia,
      You have the best ideas. I might start keeping notes on my more successful uses of leftovers, and then do a monthly post on the best effort – I think there are times when a leftover dish is actually better than was the original – right?

      Yes, of course fresh cooked squash/pumpkin can sub for US pumpkin – in fact, I for one, am very suspicious about just how much “pumpkin” really is pumpkin over here. Frankly, I think sweet potatoes, the deep orange ones, make a better pie than does pumpkin – you have sweet potatoes, I hope.

      Isn’t global semantics funny?

  5. That’s great it has brought back some good memories! I shall look forward to your post 🙂

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