Many people wait impatiently each year to search for just the right pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern. Parents, grandparents and teachers take youngsters to pumpkin patches; farmers markets, grocery stores and roadside stands are stocked with the bright orange orbs; but pumpkins are more than Halloween decorations.

Yes, pumpkins are for carving, but this beautiful vegetable also signals fall and the coming of Thanksgiving. This holiday’s meal would not be complete without a traditional pumpkin pie. However, pumpkin can be used for more than pies; it’s very versatile. From soups to desserts, a pumpkin dish can complement any course of your holiday feast.

Whether you make your own pumpkin puree or buy canned pumpkin or pie filling, these recipes can get you started. Expand your recipe file; but don’t neglect the pumpkin pie, just add a new dimension to this fall’s mealtime menus.

Pumpkin Soup

1 large onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

4 tbsp. Butter

4 cups beef stock (or 4 bouillon cubes plus 4 cups water)

2 cups pumpkin, fresh or canned

1 medium potato, chopped

2 tsp. Caraway seeds

2 cups half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion, celery and carrot in butter until tender. Add stock, pumpkin, potato and caraway seeds. Simmer until tender. Add half and half. Put in blender and fully blend. Return to pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Pumpkin Cornbread

2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. honey

3/4 cup sour cream

1 large egg

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 cup self-rising flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place oil in a 10-inch iron skillet. Place skillet in oven and heat while making cornbread batter.

In a large bowl, combine honey, sour cream, egg and pumpkin. Mix well.

Combine dry ingredients and fold into wet ingredients. Add milk and stir until well mixed. Pour into prepared skillet and bake 20-25 minutes or until browned. Good served with soup or stew.

Pumpkin Biscuits

3 cups Bisquick

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup milk

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Stir until dough forms a soft ball. Knead on surface sprinkled with baking mix until dough holds together.

Roll dough out roll 1/2-inch thick. Cut out 12 biscuits with 2-inch round biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 2-inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 box carrot cake mix

1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

2/3 cup water

Combine all ingredients. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup to 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Recipe makes 24 regular-size muffins or 60 mini-muffins. Reduce baking time for mini-muffins.

Pumpkin Flan

1 box (3 oz.) flan mix (Jell-O)

1 cup pumpkin pie mix (from a 30 oz. Can0 not pumpkin puree

1 cup milk (can use 1% lowfat)

Place four 6 oz. Custard cups or ramekins on a tray. Make flan according to directions on flan box substitution 1 cup pumpkin pie mix for 1 of the cups of milk. (Freeze remaining pumpkin pie mix for another use or make up more boxes of flan mix. Each box makes 4 servings.)

Pumpkin Fritters

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups bread flour (or plain flour)

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

8 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. baking powder

melted butter

Beat eggs; mix with sugar, salt, spices and flour. Beat until mixture becomes smooth and fluffy. Add pumpkin, vanilla and baking powder. Whip until thoroughly mixed.

Fry in skillet in melted butter until fritter becomes brown on both sides. Don’t fry too fast; otherwise, fritter will not be done in middle. Makes 4 dozen.

— Judy O’Daniel’s “Country Gourmet” column appears in the Times-Journal. This column originally ran Oct. 15, 2008.

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