8 Creative Pumpkin Ideas
by Kim Benson
Carve a jack-o-lantern. Children of all ages love carving pumpkins. Make an afternoon of it by purchasing a pumpkin for each child, perhaps one they picked out. You can purchase kits that have the knives and special tools and patterns to carve out fun faces or you can use your imagination and create your own faces or words. If you have small children, they can perhaps help you draw on the pumpkins while you use the sharp tools to create the look they want. Your children will be excited to see their finished product sitting on a step or in a window.
Roast pumpkin seeds. While doing all of your carving, set the seeds aside to roast later. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of vitamins B and E. Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber and protein which makes them a healthy and nutritious snack. To prepare the seeds, clean off the stringy parts. Then place them in salt water to soak. After soaking, drain water, add a little oil or butter and seasonings of your choice, and place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake at about 300F for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown. Take them out of the oven, let them cool, and enjoy a special treat of the season. Try experimenting with adding spices such as garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, seasoning salt, or cumin to give them a little kick. You can also simply clean the seeds, bake them until golden brown and then place in a pan with oil, sugar, spices such as cinnamon or ginger, and caramelize them for a sweet treat.
Make a face mask with pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is a great ingredient to nourish and condition your skin. This one is a little different, but may be worth a try. According to Deborah Burnes, a founding partner behind Sumbody, a line of chemical and preservative free skin care products, pumpkin is a great ingredient in face masks for all skin types. She says pumpkin “soothes, moisturizes and acts as a carrier, assisting the other mask ingredients to absorb deeper into the skin and intensifying the results.” The recipe is as follows: Mix 2 teaspoons cooked or canned pumpkin, pureed, ½ teaspoon honey, and ¼ teaspoon milk (or soymilk) together. Apply to your face avoiding the eye area. Leave the mask on for 10-15 minutes while your pumpkin facemask gently exfoliates, nourishes, and conditions your face. Rinse with warm water and apply a moisturizer for your skin type. You can also add other ingredients to this mask. If you have dry skin, try ¼ teaspoon whipping cream instead of milk or try ½ teaspoon brown sugar which will help exfoliate your skin. If you have oily skin, try ¼ teaspoon of apple cider which acts as a tonic and regulates pH or ¼ teaspoon of cranberry juice which is high in antioxidants.
Prepare pumpkin to use for fall treats. Everyone loves treats such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars or muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, or pumpkin cheesecake. There are 3 ways to make puree out of the pumpkin. First, you can cut it up, peel it, and then steam it in a pan on the stove. This takes a bit of time and is not too friendly on the hands. The peel of the pumpkin when raw is difficult to peel off. A better idea is to cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until soft. Then use a spoon to scoop out the soft pumpkin interior. A variation of this method is to use a microwave instead of the oven. With the puree, you can make many tantalizing desserts, breakfast entrees, or treats. For recipes, visit websites such as Recipezaar.com or Allrecipes.com or open your favorite cookbook. You will be sure to find something that suits your fancy.
Make pumpkin soup. Pumpkin soup is a very traditional soup in Europe. While living there, I ate this soup often in the fall. It is delicious and has many health benefits. Pumpkin is high in fiber, low in fat, and high in beta-carotene and vitamin A. Pumpkin soup can be made a variety of ways. Find a recipe that your family likes and try it. It may become a tradition during the fall for your family.
Make luminaries out of your pumpkins. Use lighted pumpkins to brighten up your driveway or walkway. Hollowing out a pumpkin and then creating a pattern on it to let light out is a festive touch to any front yard, driveway or porch. Follow the same method for creating jack-o-lanterns, but this time make fun patterns with geometric shapes or designs. Experiment with different sizes and shapes to create a fun festive decoration for your home.
Use pumpkins in a centerpiece. Pumpkins and squash are very festive and bright. They add a lot of color to your table and your home and they last a long time. Pumpkins come in many sizes from the miniature ones to extra large ones that win contests. Try finding a variety of pumpkins and squash to decorate your table with. You can have your small children participate with the decorating by having them gather multicolored leaves to arrange on the table. Also, keep your eyes open for fall flowers, corn stalks, and scarecrows which all add to the beauty and fun of the season. A great place to find all of these decorating items is at the Farmer’s Market which runs through October.
Decoupage pumpkins. This is a great art project for your 2 year old children on up. Younger children can make a simple pumpkin, while your older children can customize theirs and get really creative. What you need is a pumpkin (artificial or real), colored tissue paper, paintbrushes, and Mod Podge or watered down white glue. While working on a protected surface, cut or tear the tissue paper into pieces and paste them onto your pumpkin. Using a double layer of tissue paper produces brighter more distinct colors. After the tissue paper is on, put on a layer of Mod Podge to give the pumpkin a lasting topcoat. The project should take about an hour.
With extra ideas in hand for using pumpkins, this fall we can make our homes look beautiful, fill our tables with some delicious treats, and have fun as a family. Enjoy the season! SFM
Kim Benson lives in Billings with her husband and two preschoolers. She loves to cook and travel.
How to Preserve Your Jack-o-Lantern:
Do your pumpkins look like old, wrinkled and sagging by Halloween? Here is a process that will help keep them from deteriorating:
1. Wipe all of the outside surfaces of your pumpkin with a clean damp cloth to remove any dirt.
2. Make a bleach solution by adding 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water.
3. Put your bleach solution in a spray bottle and spray the inside, outside and all of the cut areas of your pumpkin. This will kill the
bacteria on the surface of the pumpkin that causes the rotting.
4. Let it sit with this solution on it for about 20 minutes.
5. Next, rub all of the carved surfaces with petroleum jelly. This will protect your pumpkin from any new bacteria and also keep the
moisture inside to prevent dehydration.
6. If you keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and cool (avoid a freeze), your pumpkin should look great!
Remember, if you have any great pumpkin ideas, post them below!