Whether it’s pumpkin picking, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin bread or even pumpkin crafts, there’s nothing that says October, like the bright orange pumpkins dotting the landscape and making their way onto the dining tables.

Here’s some simple ways to enjoy your pumpkins this Fall – from decorating to dinnertime to dessert, there’s something for everyone.

Think Outside the Knife

Traditionally many people carve pumpkins with simple triangle shaped eyes and a jagged smile. Then the creativity flared as stores started selling kits with templates that really come out amazing. But now, it’s the Pinterest age, and every crafter in the world with a secret pumpkin decorating talent has a board to showcase new ideas. A simple term search of “pumpkin carving” on Pinterest will yield hundreds and hundreds of boards. Some great crafty ideas :

  • Use a drill to make holes in a geometrical design or lines to make a picture. This looks very unique and is pretty simple to do.
  • Spray pumpkins with chalkboard paint and write words on them like “BOO”, “Happy Halloween” or even your family’s last name and place it on the porch as a welcome. Or draw a chalk faces and designs.
  • Paint pumpkins with silver or gold spray paint to add a dressy touch.
  • Use stencils and craft paint to paint designs on pumpkins.
  • Hollow out a pumpkin (use the flesh for cooking and the seeds for roasting) and place a small mum plant in it for an interesting planter. Alternately, you can even use plastic or silk orange and red flowers for a festive Autumn look.
  • Pin buttons or sequins onto pumpkins-make words or designs for a crafty whimsical pumpkin.
  • Write the recipe for pumpkin pie or bread on a large pumpkin and gift it to a friend or teacher
  • Use a cookie cutter and a mallet to punch designs in a hollowed pumpkin. Try leaf shapes, ghosts or stars.
  • Use a wheelbarrow on your front lawn as a display for various pumpkins. Stuff flowers and leaves between them for a full and colorful look.
  • Wrap small pumpkins in gauze to make mini mummies the kids will love! Pin or glue black buttons for eyes.

Delicious Dinners and Desserts

Once you’re done carving out your pumpkin to decorate – make sure to save the seeds! Or grab a can of pumpkin puree from the store to whip up one of these dishes:

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds. They are not only delicious but offer health benefits of  protein, minerals, vitamins B and E and phytosterols which can be helpful in reducing LDL cholesterol. Consider topping them with cinnamon or cayenne pepper for a nice twist. Eat the seeds plain as a snack or toss over a salad.
  • Pumpkin bread. Try this simple Pumpkin Bread recipe or look for one of the hundreds on Pinterest , all with different variations. You can get very creative with add-ins like walnuts or raisins, with toppings like cream cheese or caramel and with mixed breads like making pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin apple bread or pumpkin banana bread.
  • Pumpkin Muffins. Use the same recipe for pumpkin bread and make extra to freeze in ziploc bags for quick grab and go kids lunch box  or snack ideas.
  • Pumpkin Pie. The classic pie so many people love. Top with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for a great look and taste.
  • Pumpkin Waffles/Pancakes.  Get the day off to a healthy start. Kids love the mild flavor of pumpkin waffles and pancakes and Moms love the extra health benefits. A win-win. Make them with fresh pumpkin or keep a can or 2 of pureed pumpkin around for those weekend mornings when you make homemade waffles.
  • Pumpkin Soup. Make a simple pureed soup with a nice depth of flavor by adding onions, garlic , even bacon. Most soups use heavy cream with the pumpkin to add a thicker base and make a very tasty and filling fall soup.
  • Roasted Pumpkin.  A sugar pumpkin can be peeled, seeded and cut into cubes and roasted alongside other fall favorites like sweet potato, butternut squash, shallots, onions and peppers. Roasted veggies make a delicious side to a salad, a grilled sandwich or a cut of meat and are filling enough that you can skip the carbs like rice or pasta with the meal.
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake. Need I say more? If you are a cheesecake lover, the subtle flavor of pumpkin mixed with the cheese gives it a whole new dimension.
  • Pumpkin Layer Cake. This delicious pumpkin layer cake is a great holiday dessert for any of the fall and winter holidays.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte. Whether making your own or buying out, this popular drink is a must on a brisk fall day.

Pumpkin pumpkin everywhere. For other creative ideas, did you know you can add canned or pureed pumpkin into pasta as a sauce to smoothies, to homemade ravioli, even to chili and lasagna? Doesn’t that sound delicious? There are endless possibilities in cooking with pumpkin. Since it’s available in cans, it can be used year round, not just in the Fall. But there’s nothing like a fresh-baked slice of pumpkin bread at the end of a crisp, cool day.