Fall weather is finally here, and you know that Halloween is right around the corner when you start seeing pumpkin stands on every corner. My partner and I have fun each year searching for the perfect pumpkin. We had a fabulous time tromping through our local pumpkin patch, and this year we’ve got three giant orbs adorning our living room.

The question on my mind is this: how do I stretch my food dollar by making the most of the pumpkins we’ve selected?

The first tip for pumpkin lovers is to hold off on carving that pumpkin until right before Halloween. I know that it’s hard to resist the temptation to put a face on your orange friend, but carving the pumpkin exposes the skin and the flesh of the pumpkin to bacteria that will cause your pumpkin to start to decompose. Try to cook your pumpkin the day after Halloween, because the longer you let it go, the less likely you are to be able to utilize the squash.

Picking a Pumpkin
Different pumpkins serve different purposes. The green and the white varieties are pretty flavorless, and are best used for carving only. Smaller orange pumpkins, called Sugar Pies, have a very sweet flavor, and are therefore suited for baked goods, like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Fairytale pumpkins, like the squat, round pumpkin I’m holding in the photo, are terrific in soups, or in roasted dishes. Try to keep this in mind when you’re shopping for a pumpkin. Those green and white pumpkins might be cute, but you won’t enjoy eating them later in the season.

What would a Stretch Your Food Dollar article be without recipes? I thought I’d share my tips for roasting pumpkin seeds, and give you a recipe for a vegan pumpkin cheesecake. If you’ve got tips and tricks for cooking up tasty pumpkin treats, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds from the inside of your pumpkin(s)
pan spray

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray the corners of two baking sheets with pan spray, then stick a piece of parchment paper on each baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Wash the seeds from your pumpkin, and remove any of the orange, stringy flesh that is still attached.

3. While the seeds are still moist from rinsing, divide the pumpkin seeds into two mixing bowls. In one mixing bowl, sprinkle the seeds with curry and salt. In the other mixing bowl, sprinkle the seeds with sugar and cinnamon. Mix until seeds are evenly coated.

4. Empty the seeds onto your baking sheets – each type should go on its own sheet. Make sure that the seeds are evenly distributed throughout the pan.

5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the seeds start to smell a little nutty. Keep an eye on them, because they can burn quickly if you’re not paying attention.

6. Store roasted pumpkin seeds in an airtight container, and you will have both a savory and a sweet snack for several weeks (if you can keep your hands off of them).

Vegan Pumpkin Cheese Cake
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup vegan butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Pumpkin Filling
3 (8-ounce) packages vegan cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375, and lightly grease and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan.

2. Toss the graham cracker crumbs in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and brown rice syrup over the crumbs. Stir until evenly combined. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Set aside.

3. Put filling ingredients in your food processor. Combine until all ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Pour filling into prepared pan. Give the pan a few taps on the counter to make sure that the filling is even, and that any air bubbles get tapped out. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the sides start to pull away from the pan. The cheesecake is done when you give the pan a gentle shake and the pie doesn’t wobble back and forth. If the cheesecake moves when you shake it, stick it back in the oven.

5. Let the cheesecake completely cool. Then cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill for 12-24 hours before serving. This will allow the flavors to mingle, and it will help your cheesecake set up before you remove the sides of the pan or cut into it.

For more pumpkin treats, check out my recipe for pumpkin roll. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!