Get Thee a Can of Pumpkin!

Starting in September (or was it the end of August?), my Facebook News Feed became littered with statuses exuding head-over-heels excitement that the season of pumpkin spice lattes had returned. This was disturbing to me for two reasons: first, I don’t drink coffee. Trust me, I tried. I went to college. Second, I’ve never been a big fan of pumpkin. The fact that I have more than one can of pumpkin puree in my pantry right now is like, newsworthy.

And, can I vent for two seconds? There is a difference between pumpkin flavor and pumpkin spice flavor, right? Pumpkin is like earthy and sweet and squash-like. Pumpkin spice is cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger – things we associate with potpourri and autumn and baked goods. Pumpkin spice is often paired with pumpkin because it makes the earthy squashy orange stuff taste better, no?

Ahem. So. I have been collecting ideas for what to do with pumpkin over on Pinterest in a valiant effort to give my relationship with pumpkin another shot. But if we were gonna do this right, I wanted unique things to make with pumpkin (i.e., no pies or cheesecakes or mousses or soups please). Things started well with this mostly paleo pumpkin granola. Followed by some decidedly not paleo pumpkin whoopie pies (I made these “cookies” and sandwiched them together with maple-ginger cream cheese frosting).

But yesterday, I hit the jackpot.

Pumpkin macaroni and cheese.

Intriguing, right?

It’s really a classic mac&cheese recipe: bechamel sauce made cheesy and tossed with pasta. But here’s the trick: add pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices and fresh thyme to the milk, and use a lovely fall blend of cheeses – cheddar and smoked gouda – and you get a luxurious and filling dish…gah! I couldn’t believe it!

The recipe can be found here, by the incredibly talented Spoon Fork Bacon. I only departed from the recipe in two ways and it still came out great: a) I added a pinch of ground ginger to the pumpkin bechamel seasoning; b) I didn’t have yellow cheddar so I used 3 oz. sharp white cheddar, and 2 oz. smoked gouda. I did top it with some toasted breadcrumbs as suggested in the recipe, but in the future I might sprinkle with some chopped toasted pecans too.

If you’ve been looking for something new to do with pumpkin, make this. Like tonight. And if you don’t (can’t/won’t), you should leave a comment and tell me your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin (if at all) so that I may increase my pumpkin love potential.

P.S. If you come across a recipe that calls for “pumpkin pie spice,” you may already have everything you need in your cupboard (no pumpkin required)!

To replace 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice:
– 1 tsp. cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

That should do it.

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