“To plow is to pray–to plant is to prophesy, and the harvest answers and fulfills.” – Robert G. Ingersoll
I might not agree with Ingersoll’s beliefs, but I like his quote about this harvest time of year. Whether you farm or simply have a garden with a few tomatoes, what is expressed is faith when that seed or plant goes into the ground. Having gardened this summer for the first time in years I felt like the backyard was a large, generous canvas. No more relegated to what herbs I could cram into pots in a small downtown Chicago balcony, I quickly planned for far more than even tightly-packed garden rows could hold. Even with good planning, it was a yard, after all. There was no room for sprawling vines.
Melons, squash and pumpkins were unfortunately relegated to the “get it at the farmer’s market” list. Yet I store squash in the basement and just like in a root cellar, it is a bounty for later. I like the taste of pumpkin, but hate cooking it. No matter what kind or size you buy, a pumpkin ends up being a difficult mess. I don’t even like carving them for Halloween.
I cheated with pumpkin recipes by using canned pumpkin after a simple discovery. I was reading the list of ingredients on a can of pumpkin and noticed it was a single word: pumpkin! What? No carrageenan? No BHT or BHA? No red or yellow number 5 or whatever number it is?
Imagine my shock when the Thanksgiving 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine made this shocking statement: “The cooked fresh pumpkin still couldn’t hold a candle to the smooth, dense puree from the can.” This is breaking news to us foodies. I’m not sure the mighty Martha Stewart–or her test kitchen minions–have ever admitted any kind of canned food is better.
But it’s true. If nothing else, the consistency of canned pumpkin is always reliable. With the real thing, unfortunately, it’s not. And you don’t have to deal with the pumpkin guts that have all the appeal of a slaughterhouse floor.
Other than pumpkin pie, many pumpkin recipes seem to immediately disappear the day after Halloween. Pumpkin is still a holiday treat, but not everyone likes pumpkin pie.
So for a Thanksgiving treat, I tried pumpkin cookies. Many of the existing recipes have a bit of pumpkin and then a lot of other fattening cookie ingredients. I wanted more pumpkin. After different attempts, I was able to create a cookie that used half the butter and double the pumpkin. The trade-off is that since the cookie batter is somewhat like thick pancake dough, you can “drop” it onto the baking sheet like a drop cookie, but must press it down to a certain height because it will not settle on its own. This is a slightly sweet, satisfying cookie. You can frost these if you want sweet cookies.
Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Optional: Sanding or coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine sugars and butter. Beat until well-mixed. Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg. Blend fully. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture to wet mixture. Combine fully, add walnuts, and stir.
Spray a cookie sheet with baking spray. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsful (about the size of a walnut, or ping-pong ball) on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Press each of them down until they are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Optional: sprinkle each cookie with sanding or coarse sugar. Bake at 350 F for 12-14 min. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and place on cooling racks. Cookies will be soft.