Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

There's been big news around the Test Kitchen: pumpkin is back! Like wearing white after Labor Day, we have been needlessly - yet religiously - bound by the culinary conventions of the seasons... abstaining from all things pumpkin since that very first day of Spring so many moons ago. Happily, I can once again celebrate my love of pumpkin in the open... and I do believe we are starting the season off on a very promising foot!

Autumn Pumpkin Raspberry Bundt Cake

The Crew and I have, in fact, been caught up in a flurry of delightful pumpkin-infused recipes. Some are old favorites from years past that we couldn't wait to make again, while others are inventive new dishes that we've just recently tried for the first time. First up on our must have punkin picks? Michelle Phillips' Pumpkin Spice Mochaccino Mix! This yummy mixture of hot cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, powdered creamer and instant coffee is a super simple way to kiss those expensive coffee drinks goodbye. (You know the ones I'm talking about - deliciously addictive... and mighty tough on the pocketbook.)

Michelle came about the inspiration for her recipe while traveling. "When I went out to Amish Country they had a Pumpkin Cappuccino mix that we just loved, and since I don't live close I decided to make my own," explains the Medina, OH cook. "We find it best by warming a cup of milk and adding it to that."

Mmmmm.... just the thought of that has me ready for another cup! And I do believe I know the perfect accompaniment, a warm slice of Pumpkin Nut Bread! Bristow, Oklahoma's Janet Jordan has turned me on to her outstanding recipe for this fall staple. Laced with ground cloves, cinnamon and chopped nuts, each bite exudes the rich flavors of the season. Want to make it even more decadent? Just A Pinch friend Marcy Elliott posted a great suggestion to our Facebook page: toast a slice and slather on some peanut butter! Is it me, or does Just A Pinch have the smartest friends and members? The proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the peanut butter!)

Another Oklahoma gal, Liz Nelson, has done gone and proved her pumpkin recipe as the best of the best in the 2010 Newcastle Great Pumpkin Bake Off! One bite of her Autumn Pumpkin Raspberry Bundt Cake and you'll know why! The cake itself is a moist combination of pumpkin and fresh chopped raspberries, while the icing is an amazing blend of cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and whipped topping! This is one of those desserts that is decadent while still remaining light and refreshing. Quite a accomplishment, quite a dessert.

And rounding out this week's pumpkin picks is one truly stellar pumpkin side dish: Crunchy-Topped Pumpkin Casserole! Lest you think pumpkin is for dessert-time alone, this scrummy, sweet side is an ideal accompaniment for savory main dishes like ham or turkey. "I've been tweaking this recipe for years," says Rockville, MD cook Ronna Farley. "The result is a great combination of sweet, creamy and crunchy that everybody loves!" It's a regular guest at Ronna's Thanksgiving table and a new favorite among me and the Crew. We've dubbed it "Upside Down Pumpkin Pie" because of its creamy filling and sweet, crunchy top. We simply cannot wait to make it again.

And isn't that, after all, the true sign of a great recipe? Each of these recipes is cravably good anytime of the year. I, for one, am happily throwing on a sweater, preheating the over and settling in to a quiet moment with my favorite little punkins. Savor the season.

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