Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Carving & Banana Gingerbread

We've always used a drywall saw and a kitchen knife to carve of jack-o-lanterns. They usually turn out cute.

Last year, since a friend recommended it, but mostly because I'm a sucker for any holiday stuff that's marked 75% off, we bought a stencil book and pumpkin carving set for a little less than a buck. The little plastic  utensils looked like they might fall apart or break during the first use, but we figured the stencils alone would be worth what we paid.

I was smart enough to pack it away with the Halloween costumes and decorations, so we actually remembered we had it! Well, the stencils were all a bit big for our pumpkin. So we made our own with white paper and a Sharpie. We notched each corner so it would fit better, and taped it on the pumpkin.

We tried a new technique this year which made the pumpkin easier to handle: carve the facial features first, then cut out the top opening!

I think he's our best ever jack-o-lantern! And our easiest. Those cheap little precision tools actually worked great, didn't break, and did a better job than the stuff we used to grab out of our toolbox! We got much smoother cuts with the little saws, and the tiny plastic "drill" made it easier to get started. The best tool of all was the flat plastic scoop/scraper we used to get the strings, pulp and seeds out of the pumpkin.

And, as a bonus, our orange friend held an abundance of seeds, which are spread out to dry for roasting tomorrow night!

"Don't forget about me... I'm orange, too..."

Milburn didn't like having orange competition, so he tried to get us to let him in through the kitchen window. Notice that his left ear is all torn up- he fights with an orange cat down the street that has only half a tail.

Freezing Bananas to Use in Baking

Madeline made Banana Gingerbread from a recipe I clipped from Better Homes & Gardens years ago. As always, my changes are in italics to make one large loaf rather than three minis.  Pictured here are both my "babies"- my KitchenAid stand mixer is in the background to the left of my daughter. The mixer's been with me a lot longer!

Bread/cake recipes work best with very ripe, brown-spotted bananas. We had some at that stage last Friday when we decided to go out of town for the weekend. So I threw them in the freezer, peel and all. Here's what they looked like when they came out.

You just peel them, let them thaw a bit, and bake with them. You can also peel them first and freeze them in Ziploc bags, but that just seems like an extra step to me. They come in their own packaging, after all.

Banana Gingerbread

Yield/Servings: 3 loaves (I prefer to make 1 large loaf)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium)
1/2 cup butter (sometimes I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce- just as good!)
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
Combine 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add mashed bananas, butter and molasses. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until blended, then on high speed for 2 minutes. Add remaining flour and eggs; beat until blended. Stir in nuts.
Divide batter among 3 greased 5 1/2 x 3 x 2-inch loaf pans (or 1 regular-sized loaf pan). Bake at 350 for 40 minutes (about an hour for 1 large loaf) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans; cool thoroughly on wire rack.

Wrap in plastic wrap when almost cool. Actually tastes better the next day, like most fruit/veggie breads.

Here's hoping Frankenstorm doesn't bring us a blizzard for Halloween! 


  1. We don't carve pumpkins anymore - the squirrels just destroy them. I'll have to try the Gingerbread loaf - I love anything spicy. What size large loaf pan? 9x5 or 8x4? I will leave out the nuts due to family allergies. I have several frozen bananas in the freezer - I use them for smoothies rather than added ice. Another reason to freeze bananas in their peel: the moisture in the banana forms ice crystals.

    1. Sorry I forgot to specify that I used 9x5 loaf pan!


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