It's autumn time. The dog days of summer are behinds us as the sun slips down faster now and darkness creeps back to rule the season. The nip in the morning air and the cooling nights carry the promise of winter's return. Corn and potatoes, apples, pumpkins and squash find their way to our tables as summer's lighter fare is replaced with warmer, heartier dishes.

Venders join the dance of the season as they fill their windows with festive decorations featuring fall colors reminding us that now is a time of bounty and we are a nation blessed. Our thoughts turn to the coming holidays and the collecting of recipes and gifts begin, the hunt to find the perfect treats and treasures to shower upon our cherished friends and loved ones. And we plan parties, feasts and gatherings, days of celebration where rituals are formed, new memories made.

September 22 is the autumn equinox signaling the beginning of fall. This is the point where day and night grow even. To the Ancients whose calendar tracked the solar cycles, this was Mabon, the second harvest day, a time to take stock and be grateful for the gifts of nature. They knew that with the turning of the wheel of the year, came cooler months in which the fields would grow dormant and the food supplies would run low.

Today autumn is still a harvest time when many fruits, vegetables and grains are gathered before winter sets in and no other fall fruit is as popular as the pumpkin. Pumpkins have become a symbol of the season. Carved into jack-o-lanterns, they decorate our home. When the seed are scooped out and the pumpkin is baked, the flesh is used to make savory dishes and sweet desserts. Even the seeds are a tasty treat packed with nutrients.

How to make Pepitas or Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
You will need:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, clean and dry
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
a pinch cayenne
Sea salt

Cut into the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Rinse under cold water, picking out the pulp and fleshy strings. Let seeds drain. When seeds are dry, place the pumpkin seeds in a bowl and coat with oil. Add spices and stir until coated. Arrange seeds on an oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

How to bake a pumpkin
Baking a pumpkin is the same as baking any of the large squashes and you begin by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds. Next set pumpkin halves in a large baking dish and add 1/2 inch of water. Now bake at 450 until tender, about one hour. When cool, just scoop the tender flesh out of the shell.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup baked pumpkin
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Combine sugar, eggs, and oil in a large bowl and beat at medium.
Add baked pumpkin and mix until combined.
Combine flour and spices in separate bowl then gradually add to pumpkin mixture, beating until well blended.
Stir in nuts.
Spoon mixture into a muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops liberally with crystals of raw sugar.
Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.

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