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Pumpkins, Punkins, and The Root Beer House

Definitions:

Pumpkins--a member of the squash family; carved into Jack-O-Lanterns during Halloween, and baked into pies at Thanksgiving.  May be made into other delicious dishes, as below…

Punkins--term of endearment, usually reserved for my kids, or anyone else’s kids, and sometimes people’s dogs.  Babies may be called punkin seeds, naturally.

I don’t know why, but I have always loved Halloween.  I am guessing that this is because to me, it represents the gateway to the Holiday Season.  It means that Thanksgiving, and falling leaves, and Christmas, and all the seasonal baking is close at hand.  It means that the average daily temperature will be lower than 105 degrees.

Dressing up in costumes was always fun, and even though I am forty something, I still do it every year.  And God bless my husband, who not only tolerates this, but who dresses up with me.   We tend toward historical figures, or favorite characters from the previous year’s popular movies. And always, always, homemade costumes.  Like showing up at prom in the same dress as someone else, you don’t want to run into another Pink Cotton Candy Fairy on the same sidewalk, whilst trick or treating.

Octomom!

And every year, it’s a new theme–because Heaven forbid we get caught wearing the same thing twice!!

Greg as "Elf"--this was the best costume EVER! He handed out candy canes to the trick-or-treaters

Max always has a half dozen of his friends at the house, and Halloween is no different.  They have had some pretty awesome costumes over the years…

Mad Max, the Rodeo Clown

last year, these three football players were, well, not football players for Halloween

Max and Tuff were Smurftastic this year

We always give out plenty of candy.  We live in the last real neighborhood in the incorporated part of our town, so all the families from the farms and ranches up the road come to our neighborhood to do their trick or treating.  In 2002, it was a particularly warm and muggy Halloween, and I thought it would be nice to serve something cold to drink to the trick-or-treaters and their families.  We bought about 15-3 liter bottles of root beer and poured it over dry ice in a witch’s cauldron.  The dry ice super-cools the drink, and turns into a very cold, slushy version of itself.  For the worry warts out there–have no fear–as long as no dry ice makes it into anyone’s cups and mouths, it is perfectly safe.  Anyway, it was very popular.  Very popular.  We had half the high school sitting in our front yard drinking iced root beer and having a blast.  The next year, we did it again.  And you know, after something happens twice, it’s a tradition.  A few years later we started handing out hot dogs too.  And now, groups of kids come running up our driveway yelling, “it’s the Root Beer House”, or “it’s the Hot Dog House”…

Charlie Sheen and his Goddess (Reagan and Ashtyn)

It would be easy to think that what we are doing doesn’t mean anything–that it is just something we do on Halloween night, but we have had some really great experiences over the years.  We have seen the little Ladybug grown into a high school senior, and the Buzz Lightyear is now a Marine.  One lady told us that she looks forward to our Halloween festivities all year, and she recanted in perfect order every costume that Greg and I have worn for 9 years.  Are you kidding?  I couldn’t remember costume I wore 2 years ago without looking at pictures.

Anyway, we have learned that what are doing really means something to our neighbors, and that really means a lot to us. I think it illustrates what we aren’t just giving out hot dogs, and iced root beer.  We are keeping alive in small town America some things that have all but disappeared in most cities. In fact, in most cities, one should neither accept nor eat hot dogs and soda from people he or she does not know…We are perpetuating the front porch attitude once so pervasive across the South, but sometimes hard to find these days.  We are celebrating with friends we may not know by name, but with whom we share a town and a shared spirit of community. This year, we served up 200 hot dogs and 21 3-liter bottles of root beer.  That’s a bunch of community!

Speaking of pumpkins (yes, I know I wasn’t), I hate carving them.  The sticky stringy mess just grosses me out.  We haven’t carved one for at least 4 years, opting instead for one of those foams ones that plug in.  How sick is that?  This year, I got a wild hair, and decided we should carve a real one this year.  I am sure this had something to do with the fact that it had been way too long since I had made fresh roasted pumpkin seeds, and was jonesing for hot, sweet, salty ones…Well, we wound up doing three of them. Greg broke out the power tools this year–the jig saw, dremmel tool, and drill, and we wound up turning out three carved pumpkins, as seen below:

Before, During, and After the Party

These yielded about three cups of seeds, so of course, I had to roast them.  My recipe follows ( sweet and hot, my favorite combination), but you can easily substitute any spice blend you like.  They are good both sweet and savory, so just make them what you want them to be!

Sweet Hot Pumpkin Seeds

3 cups fresh pumpkin seeds

6 T melted butter

2 T sugar

1 t salt

1 t cayenne pepper

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t allspice

1/2 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large jelly roll pan with foil.  Rinse seeds in a colander and remove all of the pulp and strings.  Dry briefly on paper towels.  Mix with remaining ingredients, and spread on baking pan.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before munching!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter, Jalapeno and Fried Corn
 

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sauce and Fried Corn

Gnocchi:
1 pound cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 ½ t salt
1 t allspice
¼ t ground red pepper
3 T Butter
1 ¾ C flour
2 large egg yolks

Place pumpkin, butter, salt, red pepper and allspice in a saute pan over low. Heat through until thick, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in flour and egg yolks just until well incorporated. Pinch off dough in the size of about ½ a tablespoon. Roll into a football shape, and press fork along one side to make indentions. Place shaped gnocchi on floured cookie sheet until ready to use.

Sauce:
1 can sweet corn drained
1 ½ sticks butter
1 T sugar
2 t salt
1 T olive oil
1 large fresh jalapeno, seeded, membrane removed, and minced
6 sage leaves, sliced very thinly
2 t ground rainbow peppercorns

In a heavy skillet, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add corn, sugar and salt, stirring to coat. Cook until corn begins to caramelize, and butter browns about 3-5 minutes. Add olive oil and jalapeno, and cook for 3 more minutes. Add sage leaves and peppercorns. Cook for 2 more minutes and set aside on a warm burner to keep warm.

To Finish:
Bring 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Drop in the gnocchi, about 6 at a time, and cook until they rise to the top. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large serving bowl, toss with the sauce and serve.

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Categories: Food, Texas, Uncategorized

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4 Comments on “Pumpkins, Punkins, and The Root Beer House”

  1. Jackie
    2011/11/01 at 9:21 pm #

    Your house is the Halloween Destination Place and that root beer slush sounds really yummy. I love the costumes but mostly that you all get into the “spirit” of the Halloween. Recipes sound good too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2011/11/02 at 1:25 pm #

    I think that’s totally awesome. Halloween is so completely dying out down here, and it sucks, especially now with a baby! I wish we had more of that “small townness” that Boerne has.

  3. 2012/07/19 at 9:02 am #

    Oh my gosh, I have got to try this! My dad & I absolutely LOOOVE gnocchi, and I am a super huge fan of pumpkin as well. So thank you for this inspiring and amazing-looking recipe to try out!

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