I could go on and on about why autumn is my most favorite season of all for my family, but if I have to limit it to one word, it would be PUMPKINS! Fall is the season to enjoy any and all things pumpkin and I welcome the season with open arms. The Pumpkin Spice Lattes return to Starbucks, the pumpkin pies, cakes, and muffins began making an appearance at my table, and the time spent decorating the pumpkins with my children is a time I look forward to and treasure throughout the year.
Pumpkins are an inexpensive treat for decorating and for eating. You shouldn’t feel limited by the traditional pumpkin pie though or even feel like you have to toss the pumpkin when the Halloween season is over. The beauty of a pumpkin is that you can enjoy them in new ways each season with the addition of a new pumpkin recipe or learning how to extend your pumpkin further.
Choosing a Good Pumpkin & Making it Last
You will want to pick a pumpkin that is fresh and firm. Avoid pumpkins that are bruised or have soft spots on them. You will also want to make sure that you pick a pumpkin based on your needs. Is the pumpkin going to be decorating your front step? Be sure that it sits upright. Will you be carving your pumpkin for a project? Look for a pumpkin that will have a nice smooth surface for you to work on.
Pumpkins that are not carved can last until after Thanksgiving, but may require being brought in at night. When pumpkin rinds freeze, the insides deteriorate and then collapse, that is why it is important to bring them in or cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.
Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
First up, did you know that you can make your own pumpkin puree? It is very easy and a great way to get your money back on the pumpkins you bought. The Tightwad Gazette recommends not cutting into your pumpkin until after October 30th. Save the cut out portions in your fridge and the day after Halloween, you can begin to process it. Simply cut the flesh away from the skin and dice it, just as you would do with squash. Fill a pot with your cubes and add two inches of water to the bottom. Simmer the pot until the pumpkin is soft. Then all you have to do is run it through your food processor and you can freeze this into two cup portions (the equivalent size of the canned stuff). How easy is that? Heck, if you are super frugal you could just ask your neighbors what they are planning to do with their pumpkins and use those too! Few people take the time to do this, but why waste it? Just as a side note, when thawed, the puree will be more watery than the canned version. Just allow the water to drain out and use the pumpkin as usual.
Use Those Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be a fun treat to eat with the children and can be a yearly tradition in your family. It is certainly time-consuming to separate the seeds from the pumpkin, but can be a fun activity for you to do with the kids. To toast pumpkin seeds you only need the seeds, vegetable oil, and a little salt. Preheat your oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the clean, dry pumpkin seeds in a bowl with a small amount of vegetable oil, just enough to coat, and toss with salt. Arrange in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can then bake these for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack and eat them by the handfuls.
Take Your Decorating to New Levels
Pumpkins are an inexpensive way to make any holiday table look rustic and rich. Smaller pumpkins look beautiful in a line on a table or mantle and can easily be made into candleholders by carving a spot for your tapered candles. By hollowing out your pumpkins, you can turn the hollowed pumpkin into a flowerpot to house a mum bouquet or you can use the pumpkin for serving food out of it. A quick search on the internet should yield thousands of ideas for ways you can put your pumpkins to good use!
Pumpkin Recipes to Try
With the zillions of pumpkin recipes out there, you should never be at a loss of what to do with pumpkin. Here are some of my family’s favorites, from our house to yours!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pound package of Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (removed from its casing)
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 can chicken broth
- ¼ cup half & half
- ½ cup sour cream (low-fat or fat free)
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp sage
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- ¼ cup Romano Cheese, shredded
- 1 pound penne or rotini pasta
In a large skillet sauté the garlic in the olive oil on medium heat. Add the turkey sausage and cook until no longer pink, breaking the meat up with your spoon as you cook it. Remove turkey sausage and garlic from the skillet (I put it into the serving bowl we were going to use that evening, to cut down on dishes). Pour the chicken broth into the skillet and deglaze the pan using a wire whisk, to bring up all of the flavors stuck to the pan. Whisk in the cream and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and stir into the pumpkin mixture along with the turkey sausage, simmering for another three minutes or until the sauce thickens and hugs the pasta. Stir in parsley and garnish with Roman and more parsley.
Amy’s Version of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup very strong coffee
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 teaspoons sugar (or one packet of Splenda)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus extra for dusting)
- 2 heaping spoonfuls of pumpkin
Pour all of the ingredients into a pot and heat over medium-high heat until the coffee is steaming hot. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream & cinnamon. Enjoy!
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 cup pumpkin (canned or your homemade pumpkin puree)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, adding yogurt, milk and pumpkin puree. Mix well. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Spoon the batter onto a preheated, oiled griddle, using 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes slowly over a low-medium heat for approximately 4-6 minutes, flipping after 3 minutes.
Makes eight servings.
If you want a really sweet pancake, substitute the cup of sour cream for one cup of French vanilla yogurt and decrease the sugar to a ½ cup.
Spiced Pumpkin Bread
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if desired.
Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.
- Pumpkin Pie
- 2 9” pie shells
- 3 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 ½ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. IN a large bowl combine eggs, egg yolks, white sugar, & brown sugar. Add spices. Gradually stir in milk & cream. Stir in pumpkin. Pour into the pie shells. Bake for ten minutes in oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for forty-five more minutes or until set.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake (and Variations)
- 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
- 1 egg
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan. To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey. Serve with fresh whipped cream.
For a Pineapple Gooey Cake: Instead of the pumpkin, add a drained 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling. Proceed as directed above.
For a Banana Gooey Cake: Prepare cream cheese filling as directed, beating in 2 ripe bananas instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.
For a Peanut Butter Gooey Cake: Use a chocolate cake mix. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.