Carving jack-o-lanterns for Halloween is fun for the whole family. For those of us who love to eat pumpkin pie, however, jack-o’-lanterns are a sad sight, because once they’ve been cut open and sit leering on the front step for a couple of weeks, they’re inedible.
Our family’s remedy for this is to buy a few extra pumpkins when we’re shopping for one to carve, so we have some that we can eat, too. For kids who have only eaten pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin, cooking a pumpkin for pie from scratch can be a revelation. Canned pumpkin is convenient and good, but from-scratch is worth trying at least once. Children will also get a kick out of roasting and eating their own mini pumpkin, or making pumpkin soup using the pumpkin itself as the serving tureen.
To prepare a pumpkin for cooking for pie, cut it into quarters; have the children do the messy job of removing the seeds, and scrape away the stringy parts with a spoon. (Save the seeds for roasting.) Cut the pumpkin into large pieces. Then, heat 1 inch of water in a large saucepan to boiling, add pumpkin pieces, reduce heat to medium-high, cover the saucepan, and cook until pumpkin flesh is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain, cool and remove from the rinds. Puree in a blender or food processor with knife blade attached. One pound of uncooked pumpkin yields about 1 cup puree; leftover puree can be frozen and saved for future use.
To roast mini pumpkins, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut a lid in each pumpkin (adults should do knife work while children watch from a short distance away); remove seeds and scrape out stringy parts. Put a tablespoon of butter or margarine in each pumpkin and season with salt and pepper, or add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the butter in each pumpkin. Replace the lids, and place on a cookie sheet or in a 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Roast in oven about 45 minutes, until flesh is tender.
This fun and delicious soup is served in the pumpkin but cooked separately. Some pumpkin soup recipes call for the soup to be baked in the pumpkin, but that can lead to disasters such as the pumpkin collapsing, spilling the soup. Yikes!
Baked Pumpkin Soup
1 medium-size pumpkin, well scrubbed
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons oil
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups chicken stock or water with bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup cream (or milk or half and half)
Fresh ground black pepper, fresh chopped chives, and croutons for garnish
Carve a lid for the pumpkin and clean out the seeds and stringy part. Bake at 350 degrees or microwave the pumpkin until some of the flesh is partially cooked. Scrape out enough pumpkin flesh to make 3 cups. Be careful not to make a hole anywhere or scrape it too thin.
Saute the onion in the oil for a few minutes. Add pumpkin and potatoes and cook just a minute more. Add the nutmeg.
Add stock carefully, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 1/2 hour. Season to taste with pepper.
Remove the bay leaf. Puree soup carefully in a blender or food processor, in batches.
Put the soup in the pumpkin and stir in the cream. Cover with the lid, place on a cookie sheet or in a 9-by-13-inch cake pan, and keep warm in the oven. To serve, ladle soup from the pumpkin into bowls, and garnish with chives and croutons.
Note: This soup can also be served in baby pumpkins, for individual bowls, but make sure the pumpkins are a good eating variety and not just ornamental ones.
Yield: 6 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: 173 calories, 8.4 grams fat (2 grams saturated, 43 percent fat calories), 7 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 7 miligrams cholesterol, 780 milligrams sodium.