Kitchen Basics – 10 Ways to Use Pumpkins

By October 21, 2015Kitchen Basics

 

Pumpkins are a super cute way to welcome fall. They’re fun and cheerful and their orange flesh makes me happy. They can be used in so many ways. They make a great addition to a fall centerpiece at your dinner party or just amidst fall decor. They are fabulous to eat. And, they are so much fun to carve.

Pumpkins for Decor and Carving

1. I love pumpkins anywhere. They’re cute atop a table by the door, or added to the garden. If you want to leave them outside, they will last longer if they’re not carved, so wait to do that until a day or two before you need them.

2. If you can never get enough of them, save some of the seeds from this year’s pumpkins and plant them in your garden next year. They will take up lots of room, so be sure you have space before you plant. Tim found a broken lattice and put it back together for me so that when I plant some more winter squash it can climb up rather than take over the rest of the garden (and in the spring I’ll use it for peas).

3. The seeds that you don’t save for planting, toss them with some oil and seasonings and roast them. They’ll make a yummy snack.

4. Pumpkins and other winter squash make for a beautiful centerpiece. You can collect leaves and press them in books, collect pinecones, and set them around the pumpkins for a lovely fall table. I will use any type of pumpkin or winter squash that I have on hand. I think they’re all pretty.

5. If you’re going to carve* you could get creative and trace some leaves and either carve all the way through the pumpkin or just slice off a bit of the skin so that a light inside makes the carved leaves glow. If you want to keep carving after Halloween, you could carve the words “GIVE THANKS” for Thanksgiving, or carve things that you’re thankful for (pictures or words).

6. If you want to decorate the pumpkin and then eat it, I’d suggest waiting to decorate until the day before you plan to cook it so it won’t spoil. You could use clean pushpins and press leaves, cranberries, sage leaves, or other colorful fall treasures into the skin of the pumpkin. You could work on something abstract, or try to create a fall-scape.

7. With smaller pumpkins you might hollow out a bit of the top and put votives or small candles in them.

 8. They even look great on a drink cart or atop some treasured books (just be sure to check it each day to make sure it doesn’t get moldy if it’s sitting on something that can’t be cleaned). If you’ve got a pumpkin drink, you could serve it on the drink cart, in a large pumpkin with a ladle.

Pumpkins for Eating

9. I’ve been working on some pumpkin (and winter squash) recipes for you. The first one was a Winter Squash Dip that’s fabulous no matter what kind of squash you use. If you have a pumpkin or a sturdy squash that can be used for serving, I’d give it a try!

The second was a Pumpkin Pasta. The pumpkin doubles as a serving dish and a key ingredient. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, or for a special occasion. And, bonus, if you have extra sauce, it makes a fabulous broccoli and potato soup. We enjoyed this for dinner the other night – it’s now one of my all-time favorite soups.

The third was a Pumpkin Pie Latté that was such a treat that I drank it all by myself and then made more.

10. Pumpkin can be added to sooo many things. Yum! Here are some suggestions for other foods to add pumpkin to.

Cookies Pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies would be fabulous.

Muffins Pumpkin apple muffins with a sprinkle of cinnamon would be a great fall breakfast.

Pancakes and Waffles Add some pumpkin and then top them with some spiced apples or pears.

Parfaits Mix some plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a drizzle of maple syrup. Top it with some homemade granola, chopped nuts, and a drizzle of caramel.

Hot Chocolate Add 1 T pumpkin and some caramel to your hot chocolate.

Quesadillas Black beans + pumpkin/winter squash + cheese = perfect fall lunch.

Grilled Cheese Spread a layer of salted, puréed pumpkin on the inside of a slice of buttered bread (butter the outside), then top with cheese before closing and cooking.

Tomato Sauce Add pumpkin/winter squash to your favorite tomato sauce.

Pizza Substitute the tomato sauce for a pumpkin sauce (or do half and half) and top with greens and gruyère or fontina cheese.

Salad A frisée salad topped with roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, crispy onions, mushrooms, and a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and lemon zest would be perfect for a dinner party.

Hash Chop up some pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, onion, and garlic and sauté. It could be served on its own, or topped with some olive oil fried eggs.

Roasted Toss with olive oil and some salt, then roast until crispy outside, tender inside, and serve with chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans). You could also drizzle with maple syrup and add a bit of cheese.

Gratin Shittake mushrooms, pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, and gruyère would make a lovely gratin.

Stew A hearty pumpkin or winter squash stew might also contain carrots, chickpeas or white beans, chiles, onion, coconut milk, spinach, and herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Serve the stew in the pumpkin for a great centerpiece.

Happy Eating!

*Carved pumpkin was lettered, carved, and photographed by Tim Oberg.

Author Rachel Oberg

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