The art of carving

Cut the top off the pumpkin with a straight edge knife (a parent job). Cut the lid at an angle so the outside diameter is larger than the inside—this will keep the top from falling into the pumpkin.

You can buy pumpkin kits at any drugstore. The serrated knives that come with the pumpkin kit actually work very well and allow smaller kids a safer alternative to do their own carving.

Have a camera ready to take pictures of the kids when they first touch the pumpkin flesh and make their oh so cute"this is yucky” face.

Scoop out seeds and pumpkin flesh with a large spoon or use the scraper that came in the kit you bought.

Draw your design on the pumpkin before carving the face. Washable markers work best because then you can wipe away the extra color when you are finished.

Always carve away from your body. Never hold the knife in a stabbing position.

It is safest and works best to keep the knife in the pumpkin and carve with a sawing motion.

Carve the nose first and then work outward for the rest of the face.

Remove the carved pieces by gently pushing them into or out of the pumpkin. You may want to save the pieces for extra design later. You can, for example use toothpicks to hold the pieces in place sideways for a 3D effect. Or you can use toothpicks to fix pieces that broke and need to be put back in place.

Make sure the candle is small enough so that the flame does not reach and/or burn the top of the pumpkin.

DECORATING TIPS

• Use the tip of a potato peeler to carve lines that don’t go all the way through the pumpkin, for example, make it look like the pumpkin has hair.

• If you don’t want to carve a face you can make a face with paints or markers or stickers.

• Do you have a Lite Brite? Those pegs can go into a thin skinned pumpkin to make the face and then when you light the candle the light will show through the pegs.

• Choose one large and two small pumpkins and spell out B O O.

• Choose some small gourds. Cut off the bottom. Poke or drill (another parent job) small holes in the gourd. Put the gourd over a flashlight and watch the light shine through the holes.

• Spray the pumpkins with a mixture of water and red pepper to keep the squirrels from trying to make your pumpkins their dinner.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs¼ cup finely ground pecans1 tablespoon light brown sugar1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 stick butter, melted3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature1½ cups sugar2 tablespoons cornstarch1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg2 large eggs2 large egg yolks¼ cup heavy cream1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, brown sugar and½ teaspoon of the cinnamon in a bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir well to blend. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

• For the filling, combine the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, the remaining½ teaspoon of cinnamon and the nutmeg in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and yolks, beating on low speed until just blended. Fold in the cream and pumpkin purée. Pour the batter into the crust-lined pan and place on a baking sheet.

• Bake until the center is nearly set, about one hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Carefully run a small, sharp knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Release the sides of the pan and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.

• Cover the cheesecake tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least four hours before serving.

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

1 2/3 cup flour1 cup sugar1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice1 teaspoon baking soda½ teaspoon baking powder¼ teaspoon salt2 eggs1 cup pumpkin½ cup melted butter1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake papers. Mix all liquid ingredients, then add in dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips. Spoon evenly into cupcake papers. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Rinse and clean seeds in a colander. Soak seeds in water overnight. Spread seeds out on foil lined baking pan. Coat with sea salt and let dry. Place baking pan in a 250 degree oven. Bake until dry, about one hour.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

2 tablespoons butter2 cups carrot pieces1 medium chopped onion1 tablespoon curry powder4 cups chicken broth2 cups pumpkin1 teaspoon salt¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

In large sauce pan melt butter. Add carrots and onion and cook until vegetables are tender. Add curry powder, stir one minute. Pour in chicken broth. Add pumpkin, stirring while adding. Add in salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of pan, for one hour. Serve hot or cold. If you like, you may add a few chopped walnuts before serving.

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