So, I had a giant can of pumpkin. Really giant.
At 29 ounces, it was large enough, the label helpfully explained, to make two pies. I'm sure that's the only reason this can exists—to make Thanksgiving baking more efficient. But I never make two pumpkin pies. I make a pumpkin and a pecan. Or a pumpkin and an apple. And I certainly don't need four loaves of pumpkin bread. And I know if I freeze half of it, I'll forget about it. So this can—that I grabbed off the give-away table in the photo studio in a fit of autumnal longing three months ago—had languished in my kitchen. But last weekend, as I grumbled over the losing Tetris-game of boxes and cans on the top pantry shelf, I decided to take a stand: The pumpkin had to go.
And, to make it interesting, I would challenge myself to use it all in a week, in five different ways (no doubling of recipes allowed). Here's how I did it.
Pumpkin-Spice Pancakes: This one was a no-brainer. I made my favorite Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes and stirred in some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, along with 1/2 cup pumpkin. That was enough to get telltale pumpkin flavor and color without affecting the moisture content too much. We wolfed them down, and because of the whole-wheat flour and added fiber and nutrients of the pumpkin, it felt almost healthy. Score.
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting: I wanted to make a dessert to share in the office, and this one-bowl recipe couldn't be easier. Next time, I think I'll add some chopped walnuts for crunch and to cut the sweetness, but no complaints. And this used the equivalent of one normal can of pumpkin: 1 3/4 cups. Progress was being made.
Pumpkin-Parmesan Quesadillas: Before you wrinkle your nose, let me just say this was the sleeper hit of the week! I love butternut squash ravioli with sage butter, so I riffed off those familiar flavors and folded them in a tortilla. Seriously, this took like 10 minutes. I sauteed a small sliced shallot, a minced garlic clove and some chopped fresh sage in about a tablespoon of butter in my 9-inch cast-iron pan. After a minute, when the shallot was softened, I scraped that buttery goodness into a small bowl and stirred in 1/4 cup pumpkin, along with salt and pepper. (Don't rinse your pan; this is where you're going to make the quesadilla.) I divided the pumpkin filling between two flour tortillas, spreading it evenly on each. Then I topped them with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella. (I highly recommend freshly grated Parm here; it will melt better.) Fold the tortillas in half and put them back in the pan. Cook on both sides over medium heat for a couple minutes, until toasty and crisp. I know it sounds weird, I really do, but trust me, this was delicious. Especially paired with an arugula salad I dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. The peppery bite of the arugula and acidity of the lemon juice balanced the richness of the quesadilla beautifully. If my rules had allowed me to repeat recipes, I would have made this one again. But I'm nothing if not a stickler for the rules—even the arbitrary ones I make up myself.
So at this point, I had about a cup of pumpkin left. I scooped it into a bowl and stirred in cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger, plus brown sugar to taste. I stashed that in the fridge and used it for a few pumpkin-rich breakfasts during the week.
Pumpkin-Pie Parfait: I layered plain yogurt (use Greek if you like, but mine was just regular) with some of the pumpkin-spice goo. A few tablespoons I guess? It really doesn't matter. Then top with granola. I won't go so far as to say this is as luscious as a real dessert, but the tang of the yogurt with the spiced pumpkin and crispy granola has a definite cheesecakiness that made it seem quite special for breakfast.
Pumpkin-Pie Oatmeal: I also swirled some of that spiced pumpkin into oatmeal. Such a cinch. Add some chopped hazelnuts for crunch and extra protein, and you're golden.
So there you have it! One giant can of pumpkin, five great ideas—and incredibly, we didn't turn orange in the process.