Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Month: A Love Story (or, 11 Fantastic Pumpkin Recipes)

When Jill and I were roommates in Bloomington, Indiana, we discovered a mutual love of pumpkin recipes (and holiday food in general - we had a truly epic Thanksgiving while we lived together as well) and with our roommate Ann, we declared October to be pumpkin month, and started to make every delicious pumpkin recipe we could find - pumpkin shakes, pumpkin pastries, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin cookies, dinner in a pumpkin, plus some butternut squash soup that we snuck in on a technicality. (If you don't believe me, here is the blog post I wrote halfway through the month, and there were more pumpkin and Halloween festivities before the end. Also, I had totally forgotten about Brewster's ice cream in Indiana, but now my mouth is watering for that pumpkin pecan ice cream. Mmm.) It was the most delicious, beta-kerotene filled month of my life, and every year I strive to recreate it with mixed results that are never quite as wonderful as the original.

However, over the years that means we've collected some pretty darn amazing pumpkin recipes, and we're going to share a few of our favorites with you here.

I (Meg) have about a million pumpkin recipes pinned on pinterest, some of which I've made and some I'm saving for later, but I've made all of these listed here and recommend them highly. Yum.

Perfect Pumpkin Roll, from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I love this recipe because it's kind of fancy and exciting to make (I'm always just a little bit terrified that the whole thing is going to break into a million pieces, but I've made it many times now with uniformly excellent results) but it's not so difficult that you have to carve out more than about an hour for it. In fact, as I type this, I have the cake part of one cooling in my fridge. It's incredibly delicious and so pretty. (I have also made this pumpkin roll from Ina Garten, which is excellent but needs some fancier ingredients that take a little more tracking down, and it tastes a little fancier too, so consider your audience when you pick.)

Everything Good in a Pumpkin from Dorie Greenspan. My sister-in-law recommended this recipe to me a few years ago, and she makes it for Thanksgiving every year. It's really exciting to cook right inside a pumpkin, and the results are quite delicious. I recommend making sure you're using a pumpkin pie pumpkin (the littlish round ones, I think also sometimes called sugar pumpkins) because a big jack o' lantern pumpkin just drowns out the deliciousness inside. (I speak from experience. When I lived in south Texas, I couldn't find anything but ordinary pumpkins, and it was okay but not amazing.)

Dr. Dean's Pumpkin Bars. When I was in college, I had this wonderful professor who brought these amazing treats for our midterms and finals, because she was an amazing human being. They are so good, super easy, and the recipe makes a TON. If you need something to take to a big party, this is your recipe. I posted it on my blog years ago (without pictures - it was a pre pinterest world) but it's a wonderful moist pumpkin cake topped with the creamiest cream cheese frosting imaginable. Trust me.

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread. This is the most delicious pumpkin bread EVER. I made it for a friend last year and she asked for the recipe and made it about 6 more times while the pumpkin was out. Truly, it is quite something, and it's easy and yummy.

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce (about halfway down the page in the post from that link). This is a quintessentially fall meal. It's warm and filling and squashy and herby. I love it. It makes a LOAD, so make it for lots of people, plan on lots of leftovers, or cut it.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cake (or cupcakes) from Picky Palate. Moist, delicious, subtle, and full-on chocolatey goodness. The cake itself doesn't really taste like pumpkin, and the pumpkin butter cream is incredibly subtle and lovely. It's a good recipe for those among you who are not pumpkin fanatics but want to be seasonal anyway. I've made it as cupcakes more than once, and they are divine.

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As for me, Jill, one of the biggest discoveries that I made during that inaugural Pumpkin Month was that pumpkin was meant for more than dessert dishes. Savory pumpkin?! What the what?!

Needless to say, I was skeptical. Ann won me over, however, with her Dinner in a Pumpkin (which I have since adopted as my own yearly October tradition) and I haven't looked back since.

Pumpkin, Apple and Cranberry Bake. Okay, so the recipe is technically for butternut squash, but the month of October just makes me do crazy things like swap pumpkin in the place of other squash. This is a delightful side dish with either type of squash in it, although with both butter and brown sugar making an appearance, its place of being served with dinner instead of after it for dessert is debatable.

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce. This one uses canned pumpkin, so if you're not in the mood to hack into a whole pumpkin (and scoop out its innards. Shudder), this is the recipe for you. Add chicken and you've got yourself an amazing fall meal.

Pumpkin Soup. This recipe combines my two fall favorites- pumpkin and soup. This particular soup has just enough richness to fill you up and who can deny the need for something hot and creamy on a crisp fall day?

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli. Okay, confession: I haven't actually made this recipe yet. I want to so badly, though, but I have never made my own pasta and I am more than a little intimidated. As soon as I muster my courage (and buy a ravioli press), this recipe will be the first fresh pasta I try. If any of you have the skills, try it out for me and let me know how it goes!

And to end on a sweet note, these Chocolate Pumpkin Turnovers were part of our very first Pumpkin Month all those years ago and I love them still today. They are the perfect balance between the chocolate and the pumpkin and as an extra bonus, they are super easy to make! So go forth and bake!

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