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Monday

16

November 2020

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COMMENTS

Bulk Bin Menu Inspiration

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Otamot, Thoughts

I wrote about some of my favorite bulk bin treasures in a recent post. Here are some creative and yummy ways to use those delicious ingredients.

I’ve included fourteen days worth of dinner ideas. You could double that by doing things like getting creative and swapping out the type of beans or rice in a recipe, using a different kind of protein, or something as simple as using a different type of pasta.

Bulk Bin Menu Ideas

Monday – Pasta Night 

I like the first day of the work week to be a pasta night. I know I’m going to be a little extra tired. I know I’m going to need something quick and easy. Pasta is perfect for that. Add some bulk bin beans, top with some chopped nuts and scallions, and dinner will be on the table in no time. 

Tuesday – Taco Tuesday

I could probably eat tacos every day of the week. They’re all great ways to use bulk bin beans. And, I’ll bet you could smear some refried beans on a flour tortilla and use it to wrap a hard taco and then maybe, just maybe, when it breaks all the fillings would stay in the taco instead of ending up on your plate… Or am I the only one this happens to?

Wednesday – International

There are so many great flavors. It’s fun to try something new and broaden the palate. 

Thursday – Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast food is one of my favorite types of food to eat. Any time of the day. 

Friday – Better than Takeout

Take out is fun! But it’s great to learn how to cook dishes that are on par with takeout… and sometimes they’re even better!

Saturday – Pizza Night!

Pizza can be a great bulk bin meal. From the ingredients to make the crust to the toppings (I think toasted nuts and seeds on a pizza with arugula and prosciutto would be fabulous!), it’s a bulk bin winner.

Sunday – Soup

Soup days are my favorite. Maybe even more so than pizza. Soup is one of the best ways to use bulk bin ingredients, use the last of the wilty veggies in the produce drawer, and warm the soul on a chilly evening. 

What are you cooking from the bulk bin? Do you have any favorites?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Monday

9

November 2020

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COMMENTS

Bulk Bin for the Win

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Thoughts

I love to shop in the bulk section of the grocery store. I feel like I save so much money by packaging it myself. I love a good deal and I love it when I come in under budget after a trip to the grocery store. 

The way that Meal Hero works (type in an ingredient and get tons of recipe inspiration) is such a great way to menu plan and get creative with the treasures found in the bulk bin. 

Here’s an in depth look into my favorites in the bulk bin. They star in many of our meals and take up plenty of space in the pantry of my kitchen. 

My Favorite Bulk Bin Ingredients and What to Do With Them

Legumes 

Beans

I always have beans on hand. They’re great for so much more than Chili. They make a great addition to pasta. Want a hearty vegetarian dinner that’s gonna be quick and easy? Look no further than Pasta E Ceci. You could sub some cannellini beans for the chickpeas and add some hearty greens (like swiss chard, spinach, or kale) and it’ll change it up enough to feel like a completely different meal. Oh and with those pasta leftovers, add a little bit of stock and you’ve basically got a Minestrone Soup. If it’s movie night and you want something to snack on that’s a little more substantial than popcorn (also something I like to buy from the bulk bin), turn some leftover pinto beans into refried beans. I like to top them with some cheese and bake until it’s hot. Then top with some sautéed bell peppers, homemade guacamole, sour cream, and salsa

Lentils

Lentil Stew is one of my favorite things to make with lentils. But, lentils are also a great addition to salads. They can star in a Lentil Salad, or be an accompaniment to hearty greens and winter squash in a Roasted Squash Kale and Lentil Salad. You could even toss them with some pasta if you’re all out of chickpeas for your Pasta E Ceci. Leftover cooked lentils can be blended and made into Lentil Hummus, which would be great for dipping raw bell peppers and carrots. They would also be great in a wrap.

Oats

I can’t remember the last time I bought rolled oats from anywhere other than the bulk section. I always have cooked oatmeal on hand. I make a huge batch and freeze it in individual sized containers. Oats are obviously great for so much more than oatmeal though. They’re amazing in cookies. They’re a great addition to snacks and breakfast foods like muffins and breakfast cookies, pancakes, granola, and granola bars. And they make great homemade bread. Oh! Can we hop back on the oatmeal train for a second? Have you ever tried Baked Oatmeal?! It’s like oatmeal’s fancy cousin. Drizzled with a bit of maple syrup and served with a side of breakfast sausage, that’s a favorite comfort food of mine. Oats are one of the main ingredients in a Fruit Crisp. And what’s perfect about this dessert (which also doubles as a breakfast – add some yogurt, a drizzle of milk, or just eat it cold right out of the fridge!) is that it can be made all throughout the year. In the spring, try Rhubarb Crisp. Summer calls for berries or stone fruit (or both!). Fall means apples and pears. In the winter, I’d like dried fruit in a Cranberry Apple Raisin Crisp

Pssst… did you know that oats are great in savory dishes too? Doesn’t this recipe for Shiitake Mushroom & Kale Savory Oats sound fabulous? You could also make a pot of oatmeal and top it with things like crispy bacon, scallions, crispy onions, chopped nuts, grated cheese, seeds (pepitas/flax seeds/toasted sesame seeds/chia), a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Such a great bulk bin meal!

Grains (or things we think of as grains)

When I think of grains I usually think about rice. But, then I remember amazing things like farro, quinoa, and wild rice (which is not technically a rice at all). 

One of my favorite ways to use farro is in a Farro Grain Bowl. You could switch up the toppings depending on what you’re in the mood for. I love to top them with roasted veggies, bacon, and a fried egg. I also love salads where grains are the stars. Like in this Kale and Farro Salad with Bacon. Farro is amazing in soups and stews. I’d definitely recommend using it in something like this Creamy Chicken and Farro Soup. And in this Farro Risotto with Roast Mushrooms… farro and roasted mushrooms?! Yes please!!

Wild rice is one of the best things to make when I want to switch things up a bit. I love brown rice. I am a fan of quinoa. But sometimes I get in a rut and forget to get creative with what’s in the bulk bin. Wild rice is great in a simple meal. You could cook some artichokes, crisp up some sausage or tofu, and top cooked wild rice with butter or olive oil, lemon zest, and some sea salt. Perfection. But, let’s not stop there. I think that served with a simple green salad, Cheesy Crockpot Wild Rice Casserole, Crock Pot Autumn Quinoa Pilaf, or Butternut Squash With Whole Wheat, Wild Rice, & Onion Stuffing will make easy weeknight dinners. I might pair these Cranberry Wild Rice Meatballs with Potato Pancakes (I’m thinking ahead here, but this could be a super fun day after Thanksgiving meal and a great way to use up those leftover mashed potatoes). And how about this Fruited Multigrain Pilaf that uses wheat berries, farro, and wild rice and pairs it with fruit. Sounds delicious!

I love to eat quinoa. Its tiny little bobbles are simultaneously crunchy and soft. It’s quick and easy and is a great way to add protein to a dish. I really enjoy it with beans and fresh corn in the summer in a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. In the winter, swap out the corn and summer veggies for some leftover cooked winter squash, keep the beans, and serve it hot rather than cold. If you’re a fan of Tabbouleh, try it with quinoa instead of rice. Quinoa is a great addition to a Chicken Teriyaki Bowl. If you love muffins, try some Quinoa Chocolate Chip Muffins. It can also be a simple side. Cook the quinoa and add a bit of salt and any of the toppings I suggested for the pot of oatmeal with savory toppings. Or make it sweet by topping it with a splash of coconut milk, some maple syrup, and some cinnamon. 

Rice is such a versatile grain. I love it with stir fries, in soups, and in Cheesy Chicken with Grapes and Rice. I love that it freezes well, and is great when it’s reheated and topped with a fried egg and some leftover roasted veggies for lunch. Add it to beans and you’ve got a complete source of protein. I like the idea of doing this with Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice and Spanish Rice with Beans.

Baking

No, you can’t buy cookies and bread in the bulk bins (but if you’ve got a great local bakery to support you’ve got it made!). But, you can buy things like flour, cornmeal, and sugar there. Some stores will even have flours that have been milled by local farmers. Ask the people working at the store. They usually know a lot about the items that they’re stocking and are eager to tell you about their favorites and what they love to make. 

Nuts

I think that nuts are the best from the bulk bin. Not only do I get to see them before I buy them, but since I’m packaging them, I know how long they’ve been in the bag. (Tip: Shopping at a high traffic store means the bulk bins are likely to be restocked often, meaning fresher food for you!) I love to sprinkle nuts on salads. One of my favorite breakfast treats is a Trail Mix Cookie that’s loaded with nuts. I enjoy nuts eaten out of hand with an apple or banana. They’re a great addition to a Fruit Crisp or toasted and added to a bowl of granola and yogurt.

Seeds

Same story as the nuts. They’re great bought out of the bulk bin and are a great addition to so many dishes. I always have sesame seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds on hand. I eat them all the time. I top almost every salad with sunflower seeds and pepitas. I love to mix chia seeds into a bowl of oatmeal

Snacks

Sometimes I can’t believe how expensive it is to buy good quality snacks. But, then I head over to the bulk bin and am able to not only save some money, but buy the amount I need (because who needs the pressure of eating the entire bag before they go stale?!). Two of my favourite things to get are those little sesame sticks and chocolate covered almonds. 

What are your favorite meals to make that star the bulk bin?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Monday

19

October 2020

0

COMMENTS

Cook Once, Use it Twice

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Thoughts

My goal when I’m planning our menu is to make healthy meals that are going to taste great. But, I also want them to fit into our grocery budget and I want them to be easy. We don’t eat a lot of take-out. Most of our meals are made from scratch and are eaten at home. We enjoy this lifestyle. But, sometimes I get overly ambitious with my menu planning and forget to add the tired factor to the equation. 

I know it can’t just be me who is often tired and a bit hangry at the end of the day. It’s easy for me to want to get takeout or open a box of mac and cheese. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those. But, my goal is for these to be a treat rather than the norm. So when I plan my menu, I try to plan for ways to use our leftovers well. It makes it feel like I’ve given myself the gift of time. 

I also don’t like food to go to waste. Food isn’t cheap and I grew up in a family that didn’t like to waste it and made every effort to be mindful about using what we had and using it well. I’ve taken that into my own kitchen. If we roast a chicken to make lazy Sunday afternoon sandwiches with mayo, Maldon salt, and the last of the summer’s tomatoes, it’s also going to be made into Chicken Pot Pie and Pad Thai before the bones are turned into stock

I’ve been working with a meal planning app called Meal Hero. The way that Meal Hero works (type in an ingredient and get tons of recipe inspiration) is such a great way to menu plan and get creative with what you’ve got on hand. I especially love it for planning to Cook Once, Use it Twice.

Here are some of my favorite ways to do this, using recipe inspiration from Meal Hero’s site and my own: 

Roasted Chicken

Start with: Roasted Chicken (served with Oven Baked Brown Rice and Green Bean Fries)

  • I love to roast a whole chicken. It feeds us for many meals and it freezes well. If you want to plan ahead, you could roast two, take the meat off the bones and freeze it in containers that are labeled for their intended meal. 
  • I would substitute it in things like Chicken Curry in a Hurry and then suddenly your cooking time drops from twenty minutes to the time it takes to cook the veggies and reheat the chicken. Winner winner chicken curry dinner.
  • Don’t have time or energy to roast a chicken? Many grocery stores carry pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. No shame in picking a couple up. Have it for dinner (it’s already hot and ready to go!) and then save the rest for other meals. We do this often. 

Tofu

Start with: Pad Thai

  • When I’m making meals like Pad Thai, I like to cook a big batch of tofu, which already makes for a quick meal, and save the leftovers to use in other quick meals. If you have any leftover chicken this is a great way to use it too. 

Pasta

Start with: Tired Pasta

  • This is an easy meal to make when you have last minute dinner guests or you forgot to defrost the pork chops that you were planning to make for a weeknight dinner. No big deal. You got this! My favorite way to make it is by cooking ground meat in a dry skillet and letting it get a bit crispy. Then I’ll add some frozen peas… I know, fancy. I’ll add some torn hearty greens like spinach or kale and a big handful of chopped scallions. Add in the cooked pasta with a bit of its starchy cooking water. Let everything get happy in the pan for a minute or two. Add a little salt and pepper to season. To serve I like a drizzle of olive oil and maybe dusting of grated cheese, and dinner is ready in a flash. If I were to cook some extra ground meat then I’d have it ready for things like Chili, (add it to) Tacos, and Taco Salad
  • I usually cook a whole pound of pasta when I make it for dinner. Then it’s ready to go into Chicken Noodle Soup or be reheated with some butternut squash and a splash of cream and topped with some crispy bacon. 

Ground Meat

Start with: Tacos

Beans

Start with: Brothy Beans on Toast

  • I like to cook a few varieties of dried beans ahead of time and use them as needed. But, I also love the ease of opening a can of beans. Just depends on the time that I have to prepare. 
  • To make the Brothy Beans on Toast: Take whatever beans you have on hand. Add a little liquid and seasonings like salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Toast some bread. Rub the toasted bread with garlic. Top with the beans and a drizzle of olive oil. I like this dish served with Coleslaw and Tomatoes and Avocado with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Maldon salt.

Chili

Start with: Chili

  • If you’re like me and you love chili that has both meat and beans, those beans in the above section will come in super handy here. If you’re in the no beans chili camp, I’m here for you too. Both are delicious. 
  • Make with the Leftovers:
    • Taco Salad (I’m all for a super quick meal that’s ready in the time it takes to ask the family to wash their hands for dinner!)
    • Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese (I like to serve this with Coleslaw or a bright salad with a vinaigrette)
    • Sweet Potato Bowls with Chili on top (I like to cube sweet potatoes, toss them with oil and salt, and roast them, flipping once, until they’re crispy outside, tender inside. Then top with reheated leftover chili or, like I did the other day, topping with leftover crispy pork and cabbage and some bacon.)
    • Hasselback Potatoes with Chili on top

When prepping for these meals, you could do it all at once, or just do my trick and roast two chickens at the same time, add an extra pound of ground meat to the pan and reserve half of it to freeze for other meals (labeled with the intended meals and dates to make your life even easier), or add some extra noodles to the pot. They’re little things like this that have made a big difference in how I feel when it’s 5pm and I forgot to stop working and I’m hangry. If I remember that I already cooked half of what I need for dinner and it just needs to be reheated, that’s motivation enough to put down the phone and not order takeout.

What are your favorite meals to make big batches of so that you can Cook Once, Use it Twice?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Thursday

5

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

How to Prep Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Written by , Posted in Holiday, How To

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It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Is it just me, or does it feel like it should only be June or July? It was just January… wasn’t it? In any case, ready or not, here they come.

Whether your hosting or a guest who’s bringing a side dish, there’s plenty that can be done ahead of time to get your kitchen ready for some holiday cooking. I’m a plan ahead, list making, organization loving kinda gal. I don’t like last minute changes, or coming to a busy time of year unprepared. So I make to do lists and a menu plan way ahead of time.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can feel one step ahead as we roll into the holidays.

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Four Weeks Ahead

Menu Plan

Come up with a rough idea of what you want to serve for your holiday dinner. Jot down a few ideas for other meals around that time too, especially if you will be hosting overnight guests, or people for more than one meal. Then, take a deep breath and jump in. (P.S. You’re so brave. I admire you. Way to go!) If you need some help getting started, I’ve done a menu planning series, plus have a few posts with holiday menu ideas (including brunch).

Invite Guests

Figure out who’s coming with plenty of time to adjust the menu and seating chart accordingly. You’ll want to ask if anyone has dietary restrictions or allergies. If you come across any, and if you’re letting guests share in the cooking load, have those with the restrictions bring a dish that they can eat (and let them know if there’s anyone else coming who eats the same way). This will save you or other guests from buying expensive ingredients that you may only use once. Plus, someone who always eats a certain way is more likely to be a pro at cooking that way. Of course, it’s also nice to have other dishes that they can eat too (just one thing for dinner would be super boring).

Order Meat

One of the reasons you want to have an idea of who’s coming and what you’re making is you need to order your meat ahead of time. Turkeys tend to go quickly, so you don’t want to be serving tofurkey to your carnivores just because you didn’t get your order in on time. If you’re not ordering and are buying from a local store or market, it’s still a great idea to pick up your meat in advance (if you’ve got room in the freezer, or have a friend who could store it for you). There will be better selection than the day before the holiday, and you don’t run the risk of them running out.

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Two Weeks Ahead

Nail Down the Menu

Figure out exactly what you’re going to be serving. List all items, including those being brought by others (and double check that they’re still planning to bring them). Write it down or type it out so it’s not just found in your head. This is a great time to figure out some ideas for what to do with your leftovers too.

Grocery Shop

Everything except the perishable items. If you wait until the week of or even the day before a holiday, you might be out of luck and Auntie Gertrude won’t get her canned cranberry sauce.

Make Your To Do Lists

My brain melts without organization. So, if I was going to host a big holiday dinner, I’d need many many lists of all the to dos. I’d want a list of the food to be served (with a note about who is preparing it, what serving utensils it will require, if it will need space in the oven etc). I’d make a schedule of the week leading up to the event, and the day of. For the day of (and probably day before), I’d go hour by hour with what will be done. I’d have a list of the household chores to be done and who is responsible for each one (guest rooms to prep, bathrooms to clean etc). Since others will want to know what they can do to help (cough, clean the bathrooms, cough), it may be helpful for each person to have a “honey do list”, that they can keep with them and mark things off as they go. Whether you do each list individually, or make one master list is up to you. I’d probably end up doing both, since I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to list making. Do whatever helps you to feel the least stressed.

Stock the Kitchen

Spices – I like to have salt (table salt and a good finishing salt), pepper, cayenne, paprika, coriander, chili powder, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and ginger (the last four are what I use for pumpkin pie – you don’t have to buy the pre-mixed bottle) on hand. They might not all be used for a holiday meal, but I use them so frequently that they’d at least get used when transforming leftovers into something delicious.

Herbs – Fresh herbs are always my preference. But, if they’re not available, dried will work well too (just remember to use less since they’re more concentrated than fresh). In either case, for the holidays, I like to have basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and tarragon on hand. I don’t buy poultry seasoning since it can be made with herbs and spices that I have on hand (it usually consists of: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg).

The Pantry – You don’t want to run out of olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the middle of cooking for your big dinner. So make sure you have a few staples on hand. I like to have: olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine or apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, baking powder, baking soda, flour, vanilla, salt, honey, maple syrup, and sugar (brown and white).

The Fridge – Eggs, cheese, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt are staples in my home no matter the time of year.

Clean the Kitchen 

Like a good deep clean… It might be a good time to do the same for the bathroom. This way you can clean the week of, but it won’t take nearly as long. I’d suggest cleaning out the fridge and freezer (and using up some of the food to make room for the turkey, made ahead meals, and leftovers), sink, shelves, stove, oven, and other small appliances that may get used (mixer, microwave, toaster oven, blender). There’s going to be a lot of traffic in your kitchen, whether it’s just your own two hands doing a lot, or many others. It’s always better to start with everything clean.

Wash and Fold Linens

This can be done the week of. But, it’s something simple to get off your to do list, and it can be done while relaxing with a glass of something yummy, while watching something fun (and yes, others can help, especially the kids!).

Count Plates, Platters, Bowls, Serving Bowls, Silverware, Serving Spoons, Glasses (water and wine) 

You want to be sure that everyone has not only a plate and cup, but a fork to eat with. Everything doesn’t have to match (unless you want it to), so if you’re not sure you’ll have enough spoons, borrow from someone who will be attending the event (then they can take them home at the end of the night, leaving you with one less thing to do), or who will be out of town (and not needing them for their own gathering). If you’re borrowing someone’s fancy dishes and you have children coming to your event, be sure to ask if they’re ok with kids using them, or if you should have special plates for the kids, rather than risk breaking them.

Prep Freezer Meals

It wouldn’t hurt to have a meal or two in the freezer for two days after your big dinner. You’ll probably have eaten leftovers the day after, but maybe you don’t want to eat the same thing three days in a row. A frozen lasagna or shepherd’s pie would be perfect, and will feed many if you still have loved ones in town.

Prep Breakfast Foods

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. But, if you want to make something ahead of time, your guests are sure to feel extra loved. If you’re not crazy about making even more food, or your freezer is completely full, cereal and toast will be just fine. I mean, your guests have a comfy bed to sleep in and your wonderful company. What more could they really ask for?!

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The Week Of

Grocery Shop for Last Minute Items

Any perishable items that you’ve waited to purchase. Try to avoid shopping the day before or day of the holiday if you can. Selection will be better and your sanity will thank you.

Sharpen Knives

Either sharpen or use a honing steel to realign your blades before cooking your holiday feast. It’s important to keep knives sharp, so don’t neglect them.

Defrost Meat

Be sure to give your meat plenty of time to defrost in the fridge. No one wants to end up with a beautiful outside, but still frozen inside turkey. For large cuts of meat you will need days, so plan accordingly and make room in the fridge. I like to keep meat covered, on the bottom shelf, in some sort of a pan with sides so there’s no way that it will cross contaminate other foods in the fridge.

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Mis en Place

You have your lists made, so you know what you’re going to need and when you will need it. You could save some time and prep ingredients for the big cooking day by chopping and measuring in advance. Things like carrots and celery for stuffing, dry ingredients for biscuits or pancakes, and nuts for green bean casserole can all be prepped in advance and stored in glass or plastic containers (in the fridge or not, depending on what they are). Pie crusts can be made and frozen. Mashed potatoes can be completely cooked and then reheated the day of. There’s lots to do so that the day of isn’t stressful.

The Kids

The kids don’t have to just be cute little observers/distractions/noise makers. They can lend a hand too. Some things that kids can do to help are: tidy their rooms, help with other household chores (sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and depending on their ages, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen), doing dishes, setting the table, whisking, stirring, measuring, chopping (depending on your comfort level with them using a sharp knife and their knife skills), coming up with menu ideas (they might be more likely to eat it if they’ve come up with the idea), folding linens, counting silverware, and on and on… lots for the kiddos to do.

With these tips, I hope that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that you’re able to enjoy your time with loved ones – in the kitchen, around the table, and wherever your holidays may take you.

Happy Eating!

Saturday

31

October 2015

0

COMMENTS

Ten Ways to Use Pumpkins

Written by , Posted in How To, Vegetables

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Pumpkins are a super cute way to welcome fall. They’re fun and cheerful and their orange flesh makes me happy. They can be used in so many ways. They make a great addition to a fall centerpiece at your dinner party or just amidst fall decor. They are fabulous to eat. And, they are so much fun to carve.

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Pumpkins as Decor and for Carving

1. I love pumpkins anywhere. They’re cute atop a table by the door, or added to the garden. If you want to leave them outside, they will last longer if they’re not carved, so wait to do that until a day or two before you need them.

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2. If you can never get enough of them, save some of the seeds from this year’s pumpkins and plant them in your garden next year. They will take up lots of room, so be sure you have space before you plant. Tim found a broken lattice and put it back together for me so that when I plant some more winter squash it can climb up rather than take over the rest of the garden (and in the spring I’ll use it for peas).

3. The seeds that you don’t save for planting, toss them with some oil and seasonings and roast them. They’ll make a yummy snack.

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4. Pumpkins and other winter squash make for a beautiful centerpiece. You can collect leaves and press them in books, collect pinecones, and set them around the pumpkins for a lovely fall table. I will use any type of pumpkin or winter squash that I have on hand. I think they’re all pretty.

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5. If you’re going to carve*, you could get creative and trace some leaves and either carve all the way through the pumpkin or just slice off a bit of the skin so that a light inside makes the carved leaves glow. If you want to keep carving after Halloween, you could carve the words “GIVE THANKS” for Thanksgiving, or carve things that you’re thankful for (pictures or words).

6. If you want to decorate the pumpkin and then eat it, I’d suggest waiting to decorate until the day before you plan to cook it so it won’t spoil. You could use clean pushpins and press leaves, cranberries, sage leaves, or other colorful fall treasures into the skin of the pumpkin. You could work on something abstract, or try to create a fall-scape.

7. With smaller pumpkins you might hollow out a bit of the top and put votives or small candles in them.

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8. They even look great on a drink cart or atop some treasured books (just be sure to check it each day to make sure it doesn’t get moldy if it’s sitting on something that can’t be cleaned). If you’ve got a pumpkin drink, you could serve it on the drink cart, in a large pumpkin with a ladle.

Pumpkins for Eating

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9. I’ve been working on some pumpkin (and winter squash) recipes for you. The first one was a Winter Squash Dip that’s fabulous no matter what kind of squash you use. If you have a pumpkin or a sturdy squash that can be used for serving, I’d give it a try!

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The second was a Pumpkin Pasta. The pumpkin doubles as a serving dish and a key ingredient. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, or for a special occasion. And, bonus, if you have extra sauce, it makes a fabulous broccoli and potato soup. We enjoyed this for dinner the other night – it’s now one of my all-time favorite soups.

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The third is a Pumpkin Pie Latté that was such a treat that I drank it all by myself and then made more.

10. Pumpkin can be added to sooo many things. Yum! Here are some suggestions for other foods to add pumpkin to.

Cookies Pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies would be fabulous.

Muffins Pumpkin apple muffins with a sprinkle of cinnamon would be a great fall breakfast.

Pancakes and Waffles Add some pumpkin and then top them with some spiced apples or pears.

Parfaits Mix some plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of pumpkin purée and a drizzle of maple syrup. Top it with some homemade granola, chopped nuts, and a drizzle of caramel.

Hot Chocolate Add 1 T pumpkin and some caramel to your hot chocolate.

Quesadillas Black beans + pumpkin/winter squash + cheese = perfect fall lunch.

Grilled Cheese Spread a layer of salted, puréed pumpkin on the inside of a slice of buttered bread (butter the outside), then top with cheese before closing and cooking.

Tomato Sauce Add pumpkin/winter squash to your favorite tomato sauce.

Pizza Substitute the tomato sauce for a pumpkin sauce (or do half and half) and top with greens and gruyère or fontina cheese.

Salad A frisée salad topped with roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, crispy onions, mushrooms, and a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and lemon zest would be perfect for a dinner party.

Hash Chop up some pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, onion, and garlic and sauté. It could be served on its own, or topped with some olive oil fried eggs.

Roasted Toss with olive oil and some salt, then roast until crispy outside, tender inside, and serve with chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans). You could also drizzle with maple syrup and add a bit of cheese.

Gratin Shittake mushrooms, pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, and gruyère would make a lovely gratin.

Stew A hearty pumpkin or winter squash stew might also contain carrots, chickpeas or white beans, chiles, onion, coconut milk, spinach, and herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Serve the stew in the pumpkin for a great centerpiece.

Happy Eating!

*Carved pumpkin was lettered, carved, and photographed by Tim Oberg.


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