Halloween is just around the corner, and pumpkins are a big part of Halloween festivities and traditions.

And while you’re carving your jack-o'-lanterns, you might start craving the taste of something pumpkiny.

Today on the final “You Can Grow It” of the season, garden master Jim Duthie tells us a little about the history of pumpkins and Halloween, and he teams up with Chef Lou Aaron for a tasty pumpkin treat that’s really going to make your mouth water.

Nothing says fall like pumpkins. And as we get closer to Halloween, it’s not just the pumpkin decorations, but pumpkin flavor in everything from cakes and pies to milk shakes and lattes.

Pumpkins come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from miniature decorative pumpkins, to medium sized ones that make good pies, to the larger jack-o'-lantern sizes suitable for carving. And then there are the giants that break world records for size and weight.

Pumpkins are pretty much an American thing, native to the western hemisphere. The tradition of Halloween jack-o'-lanterns actually started in Ireland, where they were carved out of big turnips and potatoes. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, where pumpkins made more suitable jack-o'-lanterns.

And since it’s pumpkin season, we turned to our good friend, Chef Lou Aaron from the West Side Drive-in, for some tips on something tasty to make with the good old pumpkin.

Well, Lou, everybody loves the flavor of pumpkins this time of year, so give us an idea of what we can do.

"Pumpkin shakes, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin shakes! Everybody likes pumpkin. We’re going to make pumpkin cream cheese muffins with streusel topping. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s pretty simple. The kicker in this is the cream cheese topping that goes on top of the muffins. This is what differentiates it from a regular old muffin to a really good muffin."

There are three parts to this recipe. First is the cream cheese filling.

"So I have eight ounces of cream cheese and I’ll add three tablespoons of brown sugar. I have one egg…then add some vanilla extract. You whip it up until it’s nice and cream and then we want to set it aside for a minute."

Next we make a streusel topping.

"First we made the cream cheese topping that’s going to go on top of the muffin batter. Now we’re going to make a streusel topping, the crunchy topping that goes on top of that."

This topping is made of sugar, flour, pecans and cinnamon, but instead of butter, Lou is using pumpkin.

"You mix the pumpkin in until it gets nice and crumbly and this looks just like a regular streusel topping, except, like I said, we made it with pumpkin instead of butter."

Next, the muffin batter. Mix together all the dry ingredients, including flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

"We’re going to make a well in the center of the bowl. You like my well?"

Yeah, you did that very well.

Then add the wet ingredients – eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and melted butter, and mix it together completely.

"It’s going to be a pretty tight batter and come out looking almost like cake batter."

Spray your muffin pan with oil, or use cupcake liners.

"Okay, so the next thing you do is get a scoop, and you want to fill this up about halfway. But don’t overfill it. So now we’ve got our batter in there, dense batter, and we have that cream cheese filling we made and you’re just going to put a dollop, about a tablespoon, on each one on top. It’s going to kind of make a crust on top."

"Now we have our cream cheese filling on top and now we get our streusel with the pumpkin and then we just spread that on top. Nice crumb topping, and all this, the cream cheese actually acts like glue to the streusel, and it glues right onto the top of the muffins."

They’re going to go into the over preheated to 350 degrees.

"And these take about 20 to 25 minutes in the oven. Pull them out and we have these beautiful…and you can see how the cream cheese is on top… crunchy and soft. It’s a little soft here, and they turn out just beautiful.
You can even drizzle a little glaze on top to make them sweeter."

So pumpkins…they’re versatile, they’re all over the place, everybody loves them this time of year.

Jim will be back again next spring with another season of "You Can Grow It." In the meantime, he would love to see pictures of your gardens. You can send them to jduthie@ktvb.com.

Chef Lou’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons pumpkin
2-1/2 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
2 teas cinnamon
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups pumpkin
1/3 cup melted butter
2 teas vanilla extract

Orange Glaze (optional-see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 muffin cups, or use cupcake papers

For Cream Cheese filling
In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese with egg, vanilla, and brown sugar. Until smooth. Set aside.
For Streusel Topping
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Mash in pumpkin and mix well until mixture becomes crumbly. Set aside.
For muffin batter
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Form a well in the center of the flour mix and add eggs, pumpkin, butter, and vanilla. Mix together just until incorporated. Scoop pumpkin mix in muffin cup about halfway up. Then add 1 tablespoon cream cheese mix on top of batter. Sprinkle on the streusel topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Drizzle Orange glaze on top, if desired.

Orange Glaze
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
¼ Cup orange juice
Combine powdered sugar and orange juice; stir well over medium heat until reaches a temperature of 120 degrees. Spread evenly over bread.