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Get ready to roll those pumpkins out


If you are a fan of bread pudding, try adding some pureed pumpkin and serve with or without a sweet sauce.


It’s that time of year again, when bright orange (usually) pumpkins are available for cooking and decorating. And if you are like me, I don’t like to wait to cook with pumpkin, so I use the canned puree, which is available all year round.

Be sure to get the solid pack puree and not the canned pumpkin pie filling, unless of course, you are planning to bake pumpkin pies.

If you want to make your own puree, use pumpkins that are specific for cooking purposes and avoid the ones used for jack-o-lanterns or porch and table decor.

Cheese ravioli with pumpkin Alfredo sauce

1 package (25-oz.) frozen cheese ravioli

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chicken broth and milk.

3. In a large skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add in milk mixture, Parmesan cheese, pumpkin puree, parsley, sage and nutmeg. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Stir the ravioli into the sauce. Serve topped with the pine nuts and walnuts. Makes 4 servings.

Pumpkin and Cheddar scalloped potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup hot milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Heaping 1/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

3 large russet potatoes cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (3 3/4 cups 1/4-inch sliced potatoes)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter or grease a 1-quart oval casserole dish. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, cook until soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Whisk in flour. Cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk; add salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in pumpkin puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of prepared dish, pour half of sauce over. Cover with half of the cheese. Repeat for next layer. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.

4. Cook until potatoes are fork tender and top is golden brown, about 1 hour. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil and remove a few minutes before the potatoes are done cooking. Makes 4 servings.

Pumpkin bread pudding with salted caramel sauce

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 cup whole milk

1 can (15-oz.) pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 loaf (16-oz.) hearty, crusty french bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Salted caramel sauce, for serving (recipe follows)

1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped, for serving

Sweetened whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in half-and-half, milk, pumpkin and vanilla.

2. Place bread cubes in an extra large mixing bowl. Pour half-and-half mixture evenly over bread cubes then gently toss to coat. Let rest 10 minutes.

3. Spoon mixture into a buttered 12-by-8-inch or 13-by-9-inch baking dish (If you like, you can lightly press down on the bread cubes to even it out a bit). Bake in preheated oven until set, about 45 to 50 minutes.

4. Let cool for a few minutes then cut and serve with salted caramel sauce, pecans and sweetened whipped cream. Makes 12 servings.

Salted caramel sauce

Gather all ingredients and have them ready to add to the mixture as needed.

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup salted butter, diced into tablespoon-sized pieces

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste

1. In a heavy-bottomed 2-to-3-quart saucepan (something that isn’t dark on bottom so you can see the shade of caramel), heat sugar, salt and water over medium-high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar.

2. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally (this will take time, so be patient). It will first bubble vigorously and steam and it will be a clear shade, then bubbling will continue but the bubbles will become smaller and slower and it will slowly tint yellowish, then orange, then a deep reddish orange and that is what you are looking for.

3. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. Carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk with a long-handled whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth.

4. Pour caramel into a glass jar to cool. Once cool, store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Caramel sauce will be thicker once cooled to room temperature and much thicker once chilled. Makes 10 to 12 servings, depending on amount used.

Pumpkin bars

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 2/3 cup sugar

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 can (15-oz.) solid-pack pumpkin

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt


6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until well blended. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

2. Pour into an ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

3. For icing, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl. Add enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread over bars. Store in refrigerator. Makes 2 dozen bars.

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