Also known as – 5 things to do with Pumpkins that are better than putting them in your latte
Okay, first things first. I understand some people might have severe adverse reactions to this statement but I cannot and will not change my opinion on this matter on the basis or moral principle –
I do not like Pumpkin Spice Latte’s
There. I’ve said it. It’s out there and now the world can judge me for who I really am. I won’t discriminate against those of you who insist on putting an overrated seasoning blend in your morning cup of Joe, I just happen to think you’re wrong.
Here’s the thing, I do actually like pumpkin – just not pumpkin spice (no, they are not the same) and not in coffee. Pumpkin spice is cinnamon and sawdust used to raise the price of baked goods. Pumpkin is a delicious, versatile, and surprisingly healthy vegetable. Of the various recipes I’ve dabbled with, there are five that have made it to the top of the heap.
Before We Begin – A Brief Education on Pumpkin
Pumpkins are a cultivated variety of the squash family, but not all pumpkins are the same. Different varieties are bred for different reasons – the cute little table pumpkin that never rots is actually a different variety than the type you carve into jack-o-lanterns, which is entirely different from the variety you use to make a pie. These days most pumpkins are grown in China, The Ukraine, Egypt or Mexico, though you can still find homegrown varieties if you look closely enough. You can even grow them yourself if you live in the right climate.
Most recipes will call for canned pumpkin, which you can get at almost any grocery store all year round. If you do decide to carve up a pumpkin yourself, know to adjust slightly for sweetness and, potentially, cooking times. If you get confused or have questions, your local farmers market is the best resource. Most people in the industry will know how best to guide you, or at least be able to point you in the right direction.
There is a reason I am starting with this one. Roast pumpkin is the base for all other pumpkin recipes, letting you ditch the canned stuff at your convenience. Once you nail this, you will be a Pumpkin Master. Move over Jack Skellington, there’s a new Pumpkin King (or Queen) in town!
Jaden Hair from Steamykitchen.com does a great job of walking you through the basics step by step. From how to cut the pumpkin to potential spice seasoning combinations. Note that brown sugar is entirely optional. When baking you can cut these slabs into smaller chunks, which I recommend if that is how you intend to use them. This will reduce the cooking time, but it varies from pumpkin to pumpkin, so just keep testing until it’s fork tender.
- Mix in with Risotto, gnocchi or fusilli for a fancy fall pasta dish
- Add cold to salads with pine nuts or chia for a healthy meal
- Eat as is! Pumpkin makes a great fall side to most dishes
- Add to Chilli’s or chowders, or try the pumpkin soup listed below
- Freeze once baked for easy additions to future recipes – pumpkins are huge, so you will have plenty to go around.
Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix
I hate food waste. So often when you see people carving up a pumpkin the seeds just end up in the trash. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium and antioxidants and actually taste really good too. So why not use them?
Trail Mix is endlessly customize-able. You can add just about anything from M&M’s and dried fruits like cherries or bananas, to flax or sunflower seeds. I like a mix of slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, roasted corn, dried coconut, and a little bit of salt and paprika (smoked if you have it).
Pumpkin seeds, if recently liberated from the inside of a fresh pumpkin and not store-bought, should be roasted in the oven before eating.
Just pat dry with a paper towel to remove any lingering pumpkin goo, toss with a little canola or sunflower oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking tray and pop them in the oven at 300 F for about 45 minutes. The time will vary depending on your oven and how many pumpkin seeds you are roasting, so start checking every five minutes starting around the 30-minute mark. You will know they are done when the seeds are just lightly golden and have a nice crisp snap.
Before I get into this I just have to say that there are a LOT of different types of Pumpkin Cookies out there, but the ones at Two Peas and Their Pod are my favorite right now. They have a delicate crunch on the outside and are soft and chewy in the middle. The recipe is simple and easy enough to be family-friendly, and the spices can be adjusted to taste. The cookies pair well with a simple cream cheese icing dolloped in the middle, or just a tall glass of milk. I tend to cut back a little bit on the sugar and up the molasses. If you got too far, the cookie can be dense and crispy instead of soft and fluffy, but it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.
Add a small amount of sifted confectioners sugar and lemon or orange zest with cream cheese and combine to make a gooey cream cheese icing that can be dolloped on top or, as is more likely in my house, eaten directly from the bowl before the cookies are even out of the oven.
Pumpkin Bread / Muffins
Pumpkin Bread or Muffins are one of those overused recipes that can often turn out dry and disappointing. This recipe from Delish, however, has yet to go wrong. Combined with the gooey cheesecake filling it’s an indulgent treat I both love and fear! You can also top it with Martha Stewart’s Crumb Topping and, for an extra delicious addition, drizzle on a little icing.
This particular recipe doesn’t lend itself all that well for muffin making as it can be very easy to overdo it on the cheesecake filling in a small muffin shape. But so long as you make sure not to get too greedy with the filling, or even skip it altogether, you’ll still get a soft and deliciously sweet muffin. These can be a nice option for kids as a pumpkin muffin makes a great lunch box stuffer and can be wrapped and frozen individually so they keep for weeks (if they last that long).
I know. This was a weird one for me when I first heard it, but is actually a great combination. You get the deep savory flavors of roasted pumpkin combined with the richness of chickpeas and just a hint of sharpness to cut through it all from the lemon
Both the canned pumpkin and the canned chickpeas can be replaced with fresh or dried (chickpeas need to soak and cook before use). But what I really liked about this recipe was that I already have everything in my cupboards at home. A Couple Cooks has a lot of really great recipes and I like them because they are clean, simple, and easy to follow. I really don’t need any 20 step recipes or obscure ingredients cluttering up my kitchen.
When I first heard that Pumpkin soup was a thing, I was revolted. I hated pumpkin spice, didn’t really like pumpkin pie, and was 10 years old. By college the pumpkin invasion had begun. So, a couple times a week, pumpkin soup was the choice de chef and… meh. Saying it was alright is probably about as generous as I’m willing to get in that description.
I didn’t really like pumpkin soup until I had some at a friend’s house a few years back and it completely changed my opinion on the matter. I have never found a recipe quite like hers, so I’ve included two different options down below. One from Cookie and Kate and one via ChefTube. Both use coconut milk rather than cream, though that is a personal preference on my part. Feel free to try both and learn which you prefer.
Really, pumpkin soup is about the easiest thing in the world once you already have roast pumpkin on hand. So easy I might just have to do a recipe video of my own in the very near future…
Not normally one for a sugary breakfast, even I will yield to the power of Brunch every once in a blue moon. Pumpkin pancakes can walk a delicate line between sweet and savory, depending on your preference and the use of additional ingredients. But this recipe from Jamie at MyBakingAddiction is a great place to start.
I usually skip the pumpkin spice all together but do add a little bit of cinnamon and even a little coriander and nutmeg if I have it (as I said, I like them savory). Add toasted pecans for a bite, chocolate chips for the kids, or even a little bit of rum for the adults – the possibilities are endless.
Well, there you have it! Five different fun fall pumpkin recipes that actually do this vegetable justice. Now maybe we can talk about putting this delicious autumn squash to a better use than your coffee?
You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.