I love driving through neighborhoods during October to see all the fall and Halloween porch displays. There are pumpkins of every shape and size: some are spooky, some are whimsical. Whether you carve them or paint them, they all have one thing in common … they can’t stay on the porch forever.
I am a firm believer in not wasting vegetables if I can help it, so I began to create ways to reincarnate those jack-o’-lanterns and porch pumpkins.
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash and can be used almost interchangeably in most recipes. Much like carrots and sweet potatoes, pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene. Our bodies turn beta-carotene into vitamin A, which protects us against free radicals that are linked to some chronic illnesses. Pumpkins are known as a nutrient dense, low-calorie food with less than 50 calories a cup. It is also a great source of appetite-curbing fiber.
Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica. They are native to North America but can be found in nearly every cuisine and can be made in so many ways from sweet to savory. There surely will be something for even the pickiest eater.
After you create your jack-o’-lantern masterpiece, use the cut-away pieces and seeds for some yummy treats. Peal the cut-away parts, along with the other pieces that don’t make it to your porch, and cut it into chunks. Make a fall harvest mash by boiling the pumpkin pieces along with potatoes. Make sure to start cooking the pumpkin about five minutes before adding potatoes. Serve with butter and fresh chopped sage, salt and pepper.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are another fall favorite treat. Make sure to thoroughly wash the seeds, remove all the pulp and pat dry before adding a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasonings like sea salt or garlic. Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes and then enjoy.
My all-time favorite use for the smaller porch pumpkins, after pie, is pumpkin soup. There are many options, but most are simple, nutritious and oh so tasty.
Here’s my recipe for Gingered Pumpkin Soup. I like to kick it up a bit by cooking it with a whole Thai chile pepper, which I remove before blending. For a more mild, family-friendly recipe, forgo the pepper. From appetizers to main dishes and desserts, your jack-o’-lantern can be reincarnated into something quite delicious.
Gingered Pumpkin Soup
1 small to medium pumpkin (you will need 3 cups of flesh)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 gala apple, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tsp chopped garlic
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup almond milk
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Preheat oven to 400 degree. Wash small to medium pumpkin and slice into quarters. Clean out seeds and stringy fibers. Keep the seeds for toasting.
Rub pumpkin flesh with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay face down on parchment-lined baking pan. Roast for 45 minutes or until tender.
Let cool five minutes before peeling pumpkin shell.
Sauté onions and apples until tender, then add ginger and garlic until heated.
In a blender, combine roasted pumpkin, apple, almond milk, ginger root, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
Garnish with croutons or toasted pumpkin seeds to serve.