Karen Atkins is the owner of Proper Gardens, a garden design and installation firm and is one of the State-by-State Gardening bloggers. Follow her at pagardener.com/propergardens.

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Three Ways to Celebrate Fall with Pumpkins
by Karen Atkins    

Maybe I always wanted to be Cinderella, but who knows? It could take a therapist several years and thousands of dollars to unearth the root cause of this obsession. Whatever the reason, I am hopelessly enchanted by pumpkins each fall. If you suffer from the same condition — and you know who you are — here are some ways to satisfy your pumpkin lust this season.


1. Clean out a Pumpkin and Roast the Seeds

Materials Needed:

•   1 white or orange pumpkin

•   walnut oil

•   Kosher salt

•   1 small bowl


Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Cut the top off of the medium-sized pumpkin, so that it resembles a small bowl. Clean out the seeds and the strings, using a sharp spoon, reserving the contents. Pull the strings from the seeds and place the seeds in a colander. Rinse the seeds, dry them, and toss them with walnut oil and salt. Roast until the seeds are evenly browned, and then pour them into a small bowl in the cleaned, small pumpkin for serving.


2. Create a Floral Arrangement in a Pumpkin



Materials Needed:

•    1 medium pumpkin

•    2 bunches of purchased fall bouquets, or zinnias and cosmos from your cutting garden

•    1 short jelly jar filled with water

•    1 teaspoon of bleach

•    1 teaspoon of sugar


Cut the top off of the medium-sized pumpkin, so that it resembles a small bowl. Clean out the seeds and the strings. Place the jelly jar in the medium-sized pumpkin and add the sugar and the bleach to the water. Using pruners or scissors, make a fresh cut on the stems of your bouquets so that they are the right length to completely cover the top of the pumpkin. Your blooms and water will stay fresh longer if you remove all leaves that will remain under water.


3. Make Chicken Pot Pie in a Pumpkin with Sage Crust
(Serves 4)


If you have the time to make homemade chicken stock, and to bake a whole chicken for this recipe, knock yourself out! This is the cheater’s version for those of us that want high-drama, low-effort dinners.


Ingredients for the Stew

4 sugar pumpkins (white or orange)

1 rotisserie chickens – all chicken removed and shredded

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into small squares

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup Half and Half

1 to 2 cans chicken stock

Flour, for thickening

1 cup fresh sage

1 stick butter

Ingredients for the Crust

2 sticks butter

4 cups of flour

1 ½ cups of butter

1 cup of fresh sage, freshly chopped


Ice-cold water


Set the oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkins to look like small bowls, by slicing off the tops in a straight line. Clean them, discarding all of the pumpkin string and saving the seeds to roast for later. Brush the insides with melted butter and shake a little bit of nutmeg all around the inside of each. Put them in a roasting pan, and bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil. While they are baking, make the crust.

Work the butter into the flour in a bowl by using a stand mixer with the hook attachment, or by cutting the butter into the flour in a bowl until it resembles small peas. Toss in the fresh sage and salt. Next, mix while slowly adding water until a firm, but not sticky, dough forms. If the dough becomes sticky, just add more flour and a little bit of salt until it is easier to manage. Divide the dough into four even portions, rolling each into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll each into a disk large enough to cover the top of each pumpkins, and reach half-way down the sides. Do not cover the pumpkin yet! Refrigerate the disks, separated with foil or wax paper, on a plate while you make the stew.

Remove the pumpkins from the oven and set them aside to cool. Melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan. Cook the onions until they are translucent. Next, add the carrots, fresh, chopped sage, and potatoes. Cook until the carrots are softened, stirring often. Add enough chicken stock to cover the vegetable mixture, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Now toss a light dusting of flour (maybe half a cup) evenly over the vegetable mixture. Be very diligent about stirring the stew quickly as it heats, so that it doesn’t burn. (Do not leave or get distracted — this is the one part of the recipe where you can ruin it and there would be no turning back.) Add the Half and Half, while continuing to stir over medium heat. The sauce should thicken. If it does not thicken after three or four minutes, just add a bit of flour and salt again. Pour in the peas and the cooked chicken, stirring to incorporate them evenly.

Set the oven to 425 F. Pour the stew into each pumpkin shell, leaving a few inches at the top. Cover each with the pastry dough, and return to the oven. Bake until the pastry has evenly browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 35 minutes. If the centers of the pastry tops do not look fully cooked, bake 5 minutes longer.

The fall season is short. But if you unleash your inner child, you may hear the chorus I hear each autumn, “Mom, not chicken pot pie in a pumpkin again.” Oh, yeah. 


(Photos courtesy of Karen Atkins)



Posted: 10/17/11   RSS | Print


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GClark - 10/30/2011

Number four!

We have a family tradition of doing a “Jamaican Stuffed Pumpkin” every year in the fall.  Just Google “Jamaican Stuffed Pumpkin”, do some reading and go nuts in the kitchen.  It makes for a wonderful family tradition.


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Karen Atkins (Michigan - Zone 6A) - 10/31/2011

I did google that! Thanks so much for number 4!

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