Just a week to Thanksgiving, and I don’t like pumpkin pie

I like turkey and stuffing and green bean casserole and okay not Brussels sprouts, but everything else on the table is likely to be tasty. I need to mention to my mother that I want to make the stuffing this year because I have some snazzy recipes pulled out and really want to try the one with chestnuts and sausage.

But though I appreciate tradition as much as the next person, pumpkin pie isn’t really my thing. If you, too, would like to work pumpkin into the menu without actually making a pumpkin pie as such, here are some recipes that will let you do that. All of them are tasty, though as you will see some are not meant to be replacement desserts at all — just to use pumpkin so that you can feel that you are properly following the (culinary) spirit of the holiday.

1. Way better than pie: Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

1 1/2 C vanilla wafer crumbs or gingersnap crumbs
1/2 C finely chopped pecans
1/3 C melted butter

2 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine crumbs, pecans, and butter. Press onto bottom and 1 1/2 inch up the sides of a nine-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Combine cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Set aside one cup batter. Add remaining sugar, pumpkin, and spices to the rest of the batter and mix well. Spoon pumpkin and plain batters alternately over the crust and cut through with a knife to swirl. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. If you have problems with cheesecakes cracking, then you might try reducing the heat to 300 degrees after forty minutes and baking longer. The cheesecake is done when the center looks almost set and jiggles only very slightly when you gently shake the pan. If there are tiny cracks around the edges, the cheesecake is almost certainly done (and probably slightly overbaked, but it will be fine).

Run a knife around the edge of the springform pan but don’t remove the edge. Cool completely. Chill overnight. Remove the rim and serve.

2. A casual lunchtime dessert for the Thanksgiving holiday: Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 C all-purpose flour
1 C quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 C canned pumpkin
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add in three portions, alternating with half the pumpkin between portions. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes. These are really good, so if you wouldn’t ordinarily combine pumpkin with chocolate, try them and see for yourself that it works.

3. For breakfast during the holidays: Pumpkin-Pecan Biscuits with Honey

I’m not a huge fan of pumpkins, pecans, or honey — but I love these biscuits. Give them a try. I’d personally suggest serving them with ham, btw.

2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C butte
1/3 C chopped pecans, toasted. It’s easiest to toast pecans before chopping: put them on a baking pan in a 350 degree oven, shake the pan after four minutes and then again after 3 more minutes and then again after 2 minutes, until the pecans smell toasted and look a shade or two darker.
2/3 C canned pumpkin
1/3 C light cream (half and half)

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a handy pastry cutter, or two knives, or pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor, and the butter, and pulse to cut in. A heavy pastry cutter with good sturdy blades (not wires) is easy to use and a nice item to have around, though. Anyway, stir in the pecans. Combine the pumpkin and light cream and stir in. The dough should be stiff. Turn it out on a floured surface, knead a couple of times, pat out 1/2 inch thick, and cut out with a 2-inch cutter or whatever you have handy. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently knead the scraps together, pat out again, and cut out more biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Serve with butter and honey (even if you’re not crazy about honey, try one with just a tiny bit of honey and see what you think).

4. Avoiding desserts? Or just really dislike pumpkin? For lunch the day after Thanksgiving, try Pork-Pumpkin Chili

1 lb pork tenderloin (or pork shoulder, or beef chuck, or, I guess, chicken), cubed
2 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-4 poblanos, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 C chicken broth, or beef broth, or hey, turkey broth. Whatever.
15-oz can pumpkin
1/4 C heavy cream

Brown pork in oil. Add onion, garlic, poblanos, and jalapenos and cook, stirring, five minutes. Add cocoa powder, cumin, cinnamon, maybe a tsp of salt, and stir a couple of times. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes (for pork tenderloin; an hour for pork shoulder, 2 1/2 hours for beef chuck, or 20 minutes or so for chicken. I used beef because that’s what I had. I simmered it at a low heat for an hour, reduced the heat to very very low and left it for an hour and a half while I went out. The lowest heat on my induction stovetop is barely warm enough to melt chocolate, so this was like a slow cooker temperature.)

After the meat is tender, add the pumpkin and cream (I used a generous quarter cup of coconut milk since I didn’t have cream around). Heat through. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

With a longer cooking time, the onions and chilies will just about melt into nothing. This is perfectly okay. With a shorter cooking time, the onions and so on will have more of a noticeable presence, which is also fine. I’m trying out different chili recipes for an upcoming chili cookoff and this one was both unusual and good. The pumpkin is not an identifiable presence, but it adds body and smoothness and cuts the heat. If you try this and it turns out to be too spicy for you despite the pumpkin and cream, try serving it with elbow macaroni or for that matter with rice, like a curry, which is what I’m going to try tonight.

There you go! Enjoy your Thanksgiving, all you Americans out there! I have a lot to be thankful for this year; I hope you all do too.

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4 thoughts on “Just a week to Thanksgiving, and I don’t like pumpkin pie”

  1. I do like pumpkin pie, but I also like making other pumpkiny things so this is fun! Those biscuits sound awesome.

    I’ve recently become a fan of brussel sprouts–oven-roasted with a little bit of balsamic vinegar is so much better than steamed or boiled! And my personal Thanksgiving contribution is going to be green bean casserole, but I’m not using canned soup!

  2. I was too thoroughly turned off brussel sprouts to ever experiment, but I admit it’s possible that more interesting preparations might work better than (ugh) boiled. And balsamic vinegar certainly can’t hurt! Those biscuits are awesome. I need to get more pumpkin.

  3. The local Afghan restaurant has a dish called kadu which is pumpkin chunks in meat & yogurt sauce. It’s wonderful, and my favorite way to eat pumpkin. There are recipes on the web which look like they ought to taste right, try http://www.food.com/recipe/kadu-bouranee-320562 or http://www.elizadomestica.com/recipes/vegan-recipes/pumpkin-kadu-recipe.

    There’s also a Thai place that does a pumpkin curry with chicken that’s really good.

    Don’t like the pie but pumpkin cheesecake is ok – it’s the texture of the pie I don’t like.

    Brussel sprouts IMO are best cooked with an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, although my sister swears they’re delicious with maple syrup – I’ve never tried.

  4. Honestly, I’m okay with letting other people explore the world of Brussels sprouts. But I’m happy to try pumpkin in curries and other dishes! Pumpkin ravioli is very good, but I am more likely to make an easier pasta recipe with butternut squash that I got from one of Mark Bittman’s books. I don’t have it with me, but it’s similar to this, with shredded butternut squash.

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