With the leaves changing color, fall is gorgeous. It's also gourd-eous.
While those summer vegetable plants have withered, the arrival of fall is prime harvest season for those squash and pumpkin plants.
My love of pumpkin is well documented. The first family recipe I shared on these pages was my mom's pumpkin cake, which I have as a birthday cake most years, even though I was born in May. I used that cake recipe as the basis for the salted caramel pecan pumpkin cupcake, and I'm pretty sure I've done at least one other pumpkin-related page since we started Tribune Cooks.
Tribune Chronicle / Andy Gray
Pumpkin French toast casserole makes a great fall breakfast treat.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that when my turn in the rotation fell in mid-October, I turned to the orange orb for inspiration.
About a month ago, my older daughter (who has zero interested in cooking) sent me a recipe for a pumpkin maple pulled pork prepared in a slow cooker / crock pot. She wanted me, her mom or her younger sister to make it, so last weekend I picked her up at Hiram and obliged.
I tweaked the original, mainly to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand. I used pure maple syrup instead of maple extract. A quarter cup of syrup (instead of the teaspoon of maple extract) was enough to impart a subtle hint of maple flavor, although the amount of syrup could probably could be upped to a third of a cup without it becoming overpowering. Since I was adding more liquid, I eliminated the Worcestershire sauce and added a touch more salt.
Pumpkin French Toast Casserole
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
10-ounce French baguette, cut into one-inch cubes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon softened butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Whisk together the first six ingredients in a bowl. Add the pumpkin and stir in until fully blended with the other ingredients.
Arrange the baguette pieces in the baking dish in a single layer. Pour the egg / pumpkin mixture over the bread and stir / toss with a spatula until everything is mixed well and distributed evenly.
Mix the brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, flour and butter together until it forms a crumbly mixture and sprinkle it over the bread/pumpkin mixture.
Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the casserole. Place in oven and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with maple syrup.
Pumpkin Maple Pulled Pork
3 pound pork roast
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Put the pork roast in a crock pot. Add the remaining ingredients and use a spatula to make sure the pumpkin and sugar coat the top of the meat. Set the crock pot on high and let cook until the meat is tender, at least 4 hours.
Shred the pork using two forks and stir well. Cover and cook for another hour until it thickens.
Serve on crusty rolls or on top of mashed sweet potatoes.
About 8 sandwiches / servings
This couldn't be easier to make. Essentially, all one needs to do is throw all of the ingredients in a crockpot and let it cook on high until the meat is tender, at least four hours. Use two forks to shred the meat, let it cook another hour or so for the sauce to thicken and then serve. It may take 5 hours or more to cook, but there's only about 15 minutes of active work involved.
The pumpkin-maple combination imparts an added sweetness to the meat without being cloying. I still prefer pulled pork that has a vinegary tang and spiciness, but this is a nice chance of pace.
We enjoyed it on crusty ciabatta rolls for dinner, but I think this pulled pork might be even better piled on top of a scoop of mashed sweet potatoes. And it goes great with a pumpkin ale.
Since I still had most of a large can of pumpkin puree, I stared looking for a way to finish off the remains.
An online search found several breakfast casseroles that incorporate the fruit. (Or is it a vegetable?)
Again, I did a little tweaking. I used a French-style baguette for the bread, and I added chopped pecans, because a food allergy is the only reason not to pair pumpkin and pecan.
There are some pluses and minuses to this casserole compared to some other breakfast casseroles / stratas.
On the plus side, this goes straight from prep to the oven. There's no need for the ingredients to sit in the refrigerator overnight. One hour after deciding to make it, everyone can be eating it.
Also, since it doesn't have any heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk, the fat content is lower than most breakfast casseroles.
However, that lack of milk fat keeps the dish from getting as custardy as some might hope. My younger daughter, who calls breakfast stratas ''too eggy,'' thought this was wonderful. Everyone else liked it but missed that custardy texture.
The casserole has a rich pumpkin flavor, and it's a fast, simple way to finish off that extra pumpkin and not let it go to waste.