When carving a jack-o'-lantern, scrape out as much of the flesh as possible without compromising sturdiness. Put the pumpkin chunks in the oven with a little water and bake for about 90 minutes or until tender, then purée until smooth. Separate the stringy "slime" from the seeds and purée the "slime," too. That should make plenty of pumpkin purée to use just as you would the canned stuff called for in some recipes.
Pumpkin guts can make a hearty, flavorful stock for soups, stews, and more. Homemade stock is also a good way to use up kitchen scraps such as onion tops, celery leaves, and carrot tops. This recipe doesn't require any preparation of the pumpkin guts -- just toss the whole mess, seeds and all, into a pot of water with onions, carrots, celery, and whatever else you'd like to use. Simmer on the stove for 30 to 60 minutes, then strain so only the golden broth remains. The stock can be frozen to use throughout the year. The blog Busted Button offers tips on making and using pumpkin stock.
Pumpkin liqueur is easy to make in time for a fall meal or party. The ingredients are water, vodka, pumpkin purée, brown sugar, lemon peel, and a few spices. Get the full recipe from Food Republic, then use the brew to add a kick to apple cider, serve as a shot alongside pumpkin ale, or mix up a pumpkin martini.
PUMPKIN FLAXSEED DOG BISCUITS
Much cheaper than store-bought dog treats, pumpkin flaxseed biscuits from the blog White on Rice Couple have just eight basic ingredients -- including those slimy, stringy pumpkin guts. (The dog won't know you didn't bother making a purée.) These also work as a seasonal gift for dog owners, especially after using cookie cutters to make the treats in different shapes.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Roasted pumpkin seeds are the classic frugal way to make use of pumpkin guts. And they're an excellent source of protein and high in zinc, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 45 minutes, until toasted. For an even better taste, toss the seeds in butter or oil and add a little seasoning before baking. There's nothing wrong with plain old salt and pepper, but a sweet version with cinnamon and brown sugar or a spicy alternative with cayenne and cumin adds variety. Use roasted pumpkin seeds in salads, oatmeal, or trail mix, or use them to garnish soups and other fall dishes.
PUMPKIN SEED NECKLACE
After separating the seeds from the pumpkin guts, rinse and lay them to dry on a paper towel for several hours. The seeds can be colored with felt-tip markers, dipped in paint, or left as is. Thread a needle with linen thread, cord, or elastic and use the needle to poke a hole in the center of each seed, stringing them one by one onto the thread with the flat sides facing together. When the string is the length desired for a necklace or bracelet, tie the ends together.
CREAMY PUMPKIN RISOTTO
Creamy, warm risotto is a perfect dish to welcome the fall and winter months. Pumpkin purée adds earthy and sweet flavors to a variation on risotto; the web is loaded with recipes. For more pumpkin flavor, use pumpkin stock to cook the rice instead of chicken or vegetable stock.
Pumpkin butter is easy to prepare as a holiday gift -- although after a taste, you may decide to keep it for yourself. Spread it on toast and muffins, scoop it onto oatmeal, mix it with plain yogurt, top pancakes with it, spoon it straight from the jar, or use it to add fall sweetness to many dishes. There are lots of pumpkin butter recipes and variations, but a popular one from Allrecipes calls for seven basic ingredients. A slow cooker version from the food blog Tasty Yummies comes with jar labels to download for free.
PUMPKIN SUGAR BODY SCRUB
Raw pumpkin contains enzymes that eat away dead skin cells, leaving skin smooth, glowing, and rejuvenated, beauty experts say. It also contains vitamins A and C and other antioxidants that promote healthy skin. Harness these benefits with a body scrub recipe from the blog Freutcake: Mix one-half cup puréed raw pumpkin, 1 cup coarse raw sugar or salt, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil. The mixture will keep up to a week refrigerated.
PUMPKIN SPICED OATMEAL
A stick-to-your-ribs winter meal, hot oatmeal gets creamier and sweeter with the addition of pumpkin purée. Cook oats on the stove with pumpkin purée, milk, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg according to taste. Enhance the fall flavors by mixing in raisins, apples, pears, dried cranberries or cherries, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, or other additions. Top with chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or even roasted pumpkin seeds.
One of the easiest, no-fuss ways to use up pumpkin guts is to toss them in a large pot of boiling water for half an hour or so, then strain them out and keep the broth. Mix the broth with mulled apple cider and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, or ginger for an apple-pumpkin cider that's hard to beat on a chilly fall day.
Those chunks of flesh from the inside of the pumpkin can be transformed into vegan burger patties. Grate the raw pumpkin flesh and add chopped vegetables such as onion and bell pepper, then mix in something to hold the patties together -- flour, bread crumbs, or (for non-vegans) a beaten egg. If you don't have enough pumpkin to make burgers, mix in canned chickpeas or black beans. Chill the mix, form into patties, then fry in a skillet or bake in the oven until golden.
GROW MORE PUMPKINS
Why not use the seeds from this year's jack-o'-lantern to grow another pumpkin for next year? Pumpkins can be grown from seed in a garden with enough space, or in 5- or 10-gallon buckets. Look to the Old Farmer's Almanac for advice on growing pumpkins from seeds.