Cheap (no-pie) Pumpkin Recipes
With autumn come pumpkins. They're everywhere and cheap. You'll find pumpkin-flavored everything at this time of year -- beer, bread, even coffee. So take advantage of the bounty in your very own kitchen with these cheap pumpkin recipes. And forget about pie. Pumpkin, though distinctive in flavor, is fairly neutral and can be the basis of sweet or savory dishes.
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As Halloween approaches, scary faces carved in massive pumpkins stare out from doorsteps and front windows. What happens to all those seeds? Instead of throwing them into the garbage or compost, roast them for a snack. Clean off the stringy pulp, place on a cookie sheet, lightly coat with cooking spray or a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and oven roast at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the seeds start to brown. (Frugal cook's tip: Boiling the seeds first for about 10 minutes makes the shells softer.)
Canned pumpkin is often on sale about now, but you can make your own puree and store it in the freezer to use in cheap pumpkin recipes all year long. For pumpkin puree -- or just about any dish that calls for this hard-shelled, orange-yellow squash -- it's best to avoid the large Jack-o-lantern pumpkins because they're grainy and stringy. Instead, choose small sugar or pie pumpkins that abound at farmers markets and increasingly are available in local supermarkets.
To prepare pumpkin puree, cut the fruit (yes, it's a fruit) into wedges and remove the seeds (roast, don't waste). Spray or drizzle the wedges with oil, place on a baking sheet, and pop into a 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can stick a fork easily through the flesh. (If you're not into baking the pumpkin, Pick Your Own suggests several alternatives.) When the wedges are comfortable to the touch, scoop out the flesh; letting them cool completely makes it harder to separate the flesh from the shell.
Put the pumpkin meat in a blender or food processor and whir away. Measure out one-cup portions, put each into a plastic freezer bag with the air squeezed out, and freeze what you don't plan to use immediately. The yield obviously depends on the size of the pumpkin, but figure on the equivalent of one or two 15-ounce cans. When using the puree in baked goods, drain it first through a paper towel for a few hours so there's no extra liquid to throw off whichever cheap pumpkin recipe you're following.
Now you're ready to proceed with cheap pumpkin recipes that can carry you through the day.
First up, breakfast. Frugal homemakers know there's absolutely no reason to buy pancake mix -- starting from scratch is way cheaper and takes just a couple of minutes. There are scads of pancake mix recipes in cookbooks and on the web, and this one from Food Network is a fine foundation for pumpkin pancakes. To make a small batch, gently combine 1 cup of the mix, 1 cup of buttermilk, and an egg; lumps are OK. Separately, mix together 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, a tiny pinch of clove and nutmeg, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and -- cup pumpkin puree. Add the pumpkin mixture to the batter and stir lightly (again, lumpy is good). Fry up on a griddle in the usual way, slather with butter and maple syrup, and enjoy.
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Lunch calls for pumpkin soup accompanied by crusty bread. This cheap pumpkin recipe starts with puree and chicken stock that can be jazzed up with all sorts of spices -- ginger, cumin, curry blends, or chipotle; King Arthur Flour has the details. (Frugal cook's tip: Sprinkle the soup with some of the pumpkin seeds you roasted.) Follow up with pumpkin bread topped with a schmear of cream cheese. The cheap pumpkin recipe at Slate calls for pumpkin ale; several cooks suggest kicking up the spices a notch.
Cheap pumpkin recipes are also a boon at dinnertime. Use a cut-up pumpkin just as you would acorn or butternut squash -- that is, baked on its own or mixed into a recipe. The pumpkin puree you whipped up earlier can be turned into pumpkin gnocchi, which are quickly fried in brown butter with a bit of sage. Gnocchi are fairly easy to make and pretty light if you follow this recipe from Simply Recipes, which substitutes ricotta for the potatoes. If there's a child at home to roll out the dough, less work for you and more fun on a blustery, rainy autumn afternoon. (Frugal parent tip: Playdough is the perfect teaching tool.) Cut the rolled logs into small pieces and, if you're really ambitious, roll the little squares up the tines of a fork; budding chefs will enjoy this task, as well.
For dessert, default to the tried-and-true pumpkin pie -- but with a twist. Forget about the crust and bake in individual ramekins. Whipped cream is still mandatory.