I am of the firm belief that there are two groups of people in this country.
I’m not talking about Republicans and Democrats. I’m referring to those who love everything pumpkin spice and those who just don’t.
Do I dare say that I am a member of the latter?
When all of this frenzy began I felt like I was less of a fall-loving person because I wasn’t going absolutely crazy for all things pumpkin spiced.
Well-meaning friends would look at me with pure confusion when they realized I wasn’t counting down the days until Sept. 1 when this coffee flavor would appear on the menu of a popular coffee shop.
Well, as we now know, this frenzy didn’t stop with coffee. This flavor started popping up everywhere in the grocery store.
We have pumpkin-spiced Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Oreos, Cheerios and Pop-Tarts.
Those products I can understand. But then it started to make appearances in unlikely places like nuts, popcorn, tortilla chips, bagels and soft drinks.
Yes, soft drinks. There is actually a pumpkin-spiced Pepsi. Oh dear goodness. We have gone crazy with the pumpkin.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like pumpkin in the appropriate places. Pumpkin adds nutritional value as well as great flavor. These two recipes are cooking it up in just the right way: one savory and one sweet.
Pumpkin Sausage Pasta Bake
8 ounces pasta (rigatoni, ziti or farfalle work well)
1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sage
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Cook Italian sausage through and drain well.
To make filling: In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin puree, ricotta, egg, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper and parsley. Add sausage, mix well and set aside.
To make sauce: In a small pan, heat milk and broth. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the sage; sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the hot stock/milk mixture in thirds, whisking each time. Add salt, pepper and mustard. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
In a medium casserole dish, layer the ingredients as follows: 1/4 sauce, 1/3 pasta, 1/3 pumpkin filling and 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers 2 more times. Add one last layer of the sauce and top with remaining mozzarella.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden and dish is heated through and bubbly.
Simply Divine Pumpkin Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8-ounce) container cool whip
1 bag Heath toffee bits
1/2 jar caramel sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, cinnamon and pumpkin puree until smooth.
Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake approximately 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the cake. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake. This will fill in the holes and soak into the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove cake and spread cool whip over top of the cake. Sprinkle with toffee bits and drizzle with caramel sauce. Caramel sauce may be heated in the microwave before using. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or preferably overnight.
Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.