Even if you have no time, or no desire, to carve a jack-o’-lantern this Fall, pumpkins can still be a part of your fall decorating from late September through Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas that go beyond the traditional, ideas about how to use these festive gourds in decorating and entertaining. These ideas are easy to do and can add style to your home without costing much money or time.
- Try making several holiday center pieces to spruce up your tables. Simply cut off the top, clean out the inside and use it as a vase. A quick trip to your local florist shop or even Michaels for some silk, and you’re all set, but get creative.
- Want an interesting center piece? Use small pumpkins as candle holders. Go to your local craft store and purchase some inexpensive votive holders. (Or if you prefer, you can simply use tea lights). Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin, just large enough to squeeze in the votive holder. Not too big though, you don’t want it slipping through. Place the holder in the hole and drop the candle in…viola! This will definitely be a conversation piece!
- Candle Tip – When using candles at your dining table, make sure you use unscented candles. Believe it or not, if you are burning scented candles at your table while eating, they can alter the taste of the food.
Place Card Holders
- You can use small pumpkins to hold place cards for the table seating. Make sure they all have a small stem. Slice a knife across the top of the stem and insert the card. This will add a nice holiday touch to your table.
Make a Decorative Topiary
- Place a sturdy branch in a box or flower pot, weighing it down with rocks that you then cover with nuts. Cut or drill a hole through the largest pumpkin, and place it on the branch. Top with two smaller pumpkins. You can add greenery, leaves, or flowers, and perhaps a strand of white lights!
Pumpkin Bowl of Soup or Stew
- Small sugar pumpkins make cute and seasonally appropriate bowls for serving a hearty fall soup or stew. Just cut off the tops, clean them out and rub the insides with oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake the pumpkins and their lids right side up for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Remove lids, turn pumpkins upside down, and bake for another 25 minutes. Let cool and then fill with your favorite fall soup or stew. The pumpkin provides an edible bowl and sweet-savory taste addition. Plus it looks great!
Not sure of a soup or stew to serve? Here is a great recipe. This pumpkin soup is full of flavor and perfect for a brisk fall day. Serve as a starter to any meal or with a fresh baguette and hearty salad for a light yet satisfying meal.
Pumpkin Soup (Musque de Provence)
3 lbs fresh pumpkin, skin and seeds removed
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp diced garlic
1 tbsp diced fresh ginger
1 ½ qt chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch fresh diced chives
1 pumpkin seed oil (optional)
Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch or smaller cubes. Melt the butter in a soup pot; add onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add pumpkin pieces, garlic, ginger, and stock. Boil until pumpkin is very soft. Add cream, nutmeg, and cinnamon and bring to a boil again. Carefully transfer soup to a blender, or using an immersion blender, puree soup. Serve in warm cups or bowls, decorated with swirls of cream, fine cut chives, and/or pumpkin seed oil.
Just as beautiful on the kitchen table as they are outdoors, pumpkins make delicious treats. Here is another favorite:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin. Once the ingredients are all incorporated, pour into a non-stick 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan. If your pan is not non-stick, coat it with butter and flour. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. For muffins, temperature should also be 325 degrees, but bake for only 30 minutes.
Last but not least, a delicious recipe for using pumpkin as a main dish.
Pumpkin Risotto with Amarone Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 (3/4 to 1 lb) pumpkin, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 fresh bay leaves
3 cups vegetable stock, plus 1 cup vegetable stock
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tbsp butter
Freshly ground pepper
1 recipe Amarone sauce, recipe follows
Directions, Pumpkin Puree:
In large pot, heat olive oil and then add the onions. Gently fry until soft and translucent. Add the pumpkin, bay leaves, and 1 cup of the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cover, steam over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Add a tbsp of remaining stock to the pumpkin base and mash it down into a puree using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula.
In a large pan, heat some olive oil and add the rice. Add the remaining stock and cook for 12 minutes with the lid on until the stock has been absorbed; the rice will have a lovely creamy consistency. Add the pumpkin puree into the risotto pan and stir together. Finally add the Parmesan and butter, stir well, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the risotto on individual plates and spoon the Amarone Wine Sauce over top.
Amarone Wine Sauce:
2 cups Amarone wine
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
3 ½ tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup cold water
In a medium-sized pan, heat the Amarone wine, a pinch of salt, sugar, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Stir well and heat over low flame until the sugar is dissolved. In a small bowl, mix together the water and flour. Gradually add the flour and water mixture to the pan, continually stirring until the sauce has the desired consistency and flour is cooked (the sauce should be clear)
Story By: Joanne Gaudet