When fall arrives we begin to see many ripe pumpkins in the stores and fields, ready for us to enjoy. Many of these pumpkins will be used for Halloween decorations, but they can be used in so many other ways. More than 1.5 billion pumpkins are produced in the U.S. each year and 80% of the crop is available during the month of October. The versatile pumpkin can be baked, steamed, roasted, or boiled and is made into a variety of products commercially, even dog biscuits. No part of the pumpkin has to go to waste, since every part of the pumpkin is edible, including the skin and stem. If you haven’t tried roasting the pumpkin seeds, try it this fall. The seeds are high in iron, and a pumpkin contains around 500 for you to enjoy. Pumpkins are also rich in nutrients. One cup of pumpkin has just 100 calories and only one-half gram of fat. It has more fiber than kale, more potassium than bananas, and provides heart-healthy magnesium and iron. If you are selecting fresh pumpkins to use in baking, look for the smaller sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins since they will have less water and will not be as stringy as those grown for use as jack-o-lanterns. Enjoy this popular fall fruit/vegetable in any of the following ways.

What are better flavors to combine than pumpkin and chocolate? Make up just one batch of batter, then add chocolate to half of it for another flavor. The gorgeous swirl pattern is easy to create using a knife to drag through the batters. It is baked in a loaf pan, making it more like a pound cake. The original recipe calls for 1¼ cups sugar, but I have reduced it to 1 cup. It is also lower in fat than most pumpkin breads.

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Swirl Cake

(Servings: 12)


1¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

½ cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup canned pumpkin

3 oz. dark chocolate, melted

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon shredded orange peel

2 to 3 tablespoons milk or orange juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment; coat with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl whisk flour, spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Fold in pumpkin. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients all at once; whisk just until no lumps remain. Divide batter in half. Add melted chocolate and cocoa powder to half the batter; stir to combine. Alternately add batters to pan. Using a knife, swirl through batter. Bake 50–60 minutes until cake has risen and crackled, and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cool 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. For orange glaze, in a small bowl stir together powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice or milk. Spoon over cooled cake. Source: Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, November 2014.

If you don’t have Pumpkin Pie Spice in your cupboard, you can whip up a batch using basic spices in your cupboard. Combine 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1¼ tablespoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and ½ teaspoon ground cardamom.

Pumpkin is associated frequently with desserts, but it is also an excellent addition to main dishes, in this case a cornbread-topped beef casserole. The Moroccan spice gives a Middle Eastern flavor to this hearty supper dish.

Moroccan Beef and Pumpkin Bake

(Servings: 8 – 1 cup each)


1 pound ground beef

2 cups ½-inch pieces peeled pumpkin or winter squash

¾ cup coarsely chopped red sweet pepper

½ cup coarsely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

½ cup couscous

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1 recipe Moroccan Spice Blend (recipe follows)

1 cup beef broth

½ of an 8-oz. package cream cheese, cut up

½ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1¼ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

1 egg beaten

2 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook ground beef and the next four ingredients (through garlic) in hot skillet over medium heat until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir corn, couscous, and spice blend into beef mixture in skillet. Heat through. Add broth and cream cheese, stirring until well mixed. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl combine the next five ingredients (through salt). In a small bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and oil; add to cornmeal mixture all at once. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter over beef mixture in dish. Bake about 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into topper comes out clean.

*Moroccan Spice Blend: In a small bowl stir together 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Source: Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications, “Fall Recipes,” 2018.

Pumpkin soup is a favorite but this one takes on a different twist. The lentils in combination with the vegetables add another dimension to this pumpkin soup. For a special flair, serve it in a tureen fashioned from a pumpkin.

Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

(Servings: 8–10)


2–4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

2 large onions, diced

1 rib celery, sliced

1 large carrot, sliced

½ cup lentils, rinsed in water

5 cups chicken stock

1½ cups cooked or canned pumpkin

¼ teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Dash of Tabasco

1 cup half-and-half (optional)

Salt to taste


Melt butter or heat oil in a soup kettle. Add onions and cook until lightly colored but not browned. Add celery and carrot; cook for another minute. Stir in lentils and chicken stock. Add pumpkin, herbs, pepper and Tabasco. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about one hour. Allow to cool, then process in food processor or puree with an emulsion blender. At this time the soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Add half-and–half and reheat the soup before serving. Adjust seasonings. Variation: To use the pumpkin as a tureen for the soup, cut across 3 inches below the top. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Warm pumpkin in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes before filling with soup. Use pumpkin top as a cover. Source: From “The Best from Libby Hillman’s Kitchen” collected by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley for ”Best of the Best from America Cookbook.”

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.


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