It’s October and on my calendar I call it the “month of the pumpkin.” I love pumpkins but then who doesn’t love those versatile and nutritious cultivars of a squash plant?

The pumpkin was one of many foods found to be used by Native Americans when the Pilgrims arrived in the New World. I’m sure they would all be surprised at the recipes using pumpkin that are found in generations of cookbooks published after the first Thanksgiving! It was used in everything from pancakes to desserts and many delicious dishes in between. 

Can you imagine a Halloween without a pumpkin, or a Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie? But, in case you’d like to refresh your pumpkin menu, here are some starters:

Vegetable Stuffed Pumpkins

Ingredients

Getting through this together, Atascadero

4 small cooking pumpkins with stems

2 loaves dry Italian bread

3 cups julienne carrots

2 cups julienne zucchini

2 cups julienne yellow squash

1 onion, chopped 

1 eggplant, chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

10 mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups vegetable stock

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Juice of 1 lemon

10 cups water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a circle around the stem of each pumpkin. Remove and reserve the circles to us as garnishes. Discard the seeds from the pumpkin shells. Remove and discard the crust from each bread loaf. Crumble the bread into a bowl. Saute the carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic in the olive oil in a skillet until tender. Add the sauteed vegetables and vegetable stock to the bread and mix well. Stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spoon the mixture into the pumpkins; drizzle with lemon juice. Arrange the pumpkins in a 13×9-inch baking dish. Pour the water around the pumpkins. Bake, covered with foil, for 25 to 40 minutes or until done to taste. Transfer the pumpkins to a serving platter. Set a pumpkin circle with stem to the side for garnish.

Note: I would suggest serving an individual pumpkin on a small plate like a bread and butter plate. Makes four servings.

Creamy Pumpkin Polenta

Ingredients

5-1/3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/3 cups yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup canned pumpkin

½ cup cream cheese, cubed

Salted pumpkin seeds, optional.

Directions

In a large heavy saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil, slowly whisk in cornmeal and nutmeg. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon for 15-20 minutes or until Polenta is thickened and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Stir in pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth. Sprinkle each serving with pumpkin seeds if desired.

Pumpkin Praline Creme Brulee

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

¼ cup maple syrup

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup canned pumpkin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 teaspoons brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and syrup. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan. Remove from the heat; stir a small amount of hot cream into egg yolk mixture. Return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Stir in the pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla and ginger. Transfer to four six-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a baking pan; add one inch of boiling water to pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until centers are just set (mixture will jiggle). Remove ramekins from water bath; cool for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Two hours before serving, place ramekins on a baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Broil eight inches from the heat for 4-7 minutes or until sugar is caramelized. Sprinkle with toasted pecans. Refrigerate until chilled. Makes four servings.

Pumpkin Chiffon Torte

Ingredients

Crust

20 gingersnap cookies, finely crushed

1 tablespoon butter, softened

Filling

½ cup milk

2 envelopes (0.25 ounce each) unflavored gelatin

½ cup sugar

1 can (16 ounces) pumpkin

1 container (8 ounces) frozen light whipped topping, thawed

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

For crust, combine cookie crumbs and butter in a medium bowl; press onto bottom of greased 10-inch springform pan fitted with a flat bottom.

For filling, pour milk into large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until very warm (120 degrees). Sprinkle gelatin over milk, whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in sugar. Add pumpkin, whipped topping, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves; whisk until smooth. Pour filling over crust; refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until center is set. Loosen torte from rim of pan; remove rim. Yields 12 servings.

Happy pumpkin days ahead!