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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

Reuse Your Jack-O'Lantern--Leftover Pumpkin Ideas

Halloween Update and Special Offer

Before we get into the heart of this month's column, I'd like to update you on our Halloween. When I wrote last month's column, I didn't know what my kids would do this year. My son, almost 5, went as a pumpkin: a pillow stuffed inside a large orange shirt of my wife's, with his hair pulled into a topknot for the stem--cost: zero. And my daughter, who will be 10 in December--and had a broken arm that limited her original costume choices--went as the Night Sky. She traced some stars and planets we had lying around, filled them in with reflective paint, and we sewed it onto black cloth. Total cost: about two bucks for a small vial of paint. We also made a ghost out of a torn tablecloth--my son painted a face on the backing side and I stuck it on a mop handle and put it in our front window--and of course, each picked out a pumpkin to carve; we'll be eating those pumpkins all month, I suspect, some 20 lbs. worth.

And the offer: Now through December 15, I will pay the shipping cost (standard mail) on any book order to the U.S. or Canada (or knock $3 off the price of a foreign order). Both of my books make fabulous holiday gifts, filled with useful, practical, money-saving advice--and written in a clear, approachable style. Just think--you can get presents for as many people as you like with one convenient order!

U.S./Canada prices during this special: The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook - $17 (plus .85 in Massachusetts); Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring - $12 (plus .60 in Massachusetts); one of each, only $25 (plus $1.25 in Massachusetts.

NOTE: Penny Pinching Hedonist is now available only in eBook format. It's a great deal at $8.50! Please click here to order your copy now!

Now on to this month's tip:

Even carved jack-o-lanterns will keep several days before they begin to rot. If yours are starting to get far along, just cut away the rotten parts, which should be right along the holes. Painted ones will keep longer, but make sure to prep them in a way that doesn't get paint into the food!

In my Halloween report, I mentioned that we'd be eating pumpkin all month. Pumpkins are a *great* food source: nutritious, versatile, easy to prepare (only hard part is getting the strings off the inside. Skin comes off easily if you cook it first.)

The big problem is, how to use up all the pumpkin without getting bored? Here's how we've handled it, so far (we still have several quarts of pumpkin puree that we haven't decided what to do with yet):

I used a quart of puree to make pumpkin butter. My daughter tasted it and pronounced it too bland--so I added a bunch more mace, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon--too much, unfortunately! I doubled the amount of pumpkin and it was still too strong. So now I just prepped a few apples, which I'll cook up and throw in. Hopefully, my apple-pumpkin butter will be a hit.

My soup turned out great! Pumpkin, hot pepper, apple, garlic, almonds, and mozzarella cheese. My parents and in-laws were both up yesterday, and all pronounced it delicious.

Meanwhile, my 9-year-old daughter Alana made dessert: pumpkin chocolate chip bars. Even though pumpkin cookies are common around here, we couldn't find any recipe--so she made one up! We did 'em in a tray like brownies, rather than as individual cookies. Very tasty.

Turned out my food processor won't slice thinly enough for chips--so I made "pumpkin plantains," instead--like the big fat plantain chips you get in a Cuban or Puerto Rican restaurant. They were starchy and greasy, but Dina (my wife) liked them a lot. I thought about trying to make chips with a carrot peeler, but it seemed like more work than I could manage. I'll try that some other time, when there's less food to deal with.

Dina took another batch and made Chilean Squash Casserole (from the original Moosewood Cookbook) for Saturday's dinner: pumpkin, cheddar cheese, carrots, cumin, salsa, and I forgot what else. Very tasty once enough cheese was in. Next time I might try a wheat germ topping.

In the past, I've grated raw pumpkin for latkes (a traditional Jewish pancake that's supposed to be made with potatoes)--we mix eggs, onions, pumpkin, and flour into patties and fry them up--maybe add some potatoes. But this year, when I went to make them, I realized we had no onions--boom, no traditional latkes. So instead, I mixed grated pumpkin, eggs, and whole wheat flour with Thai panang sauce (ready-made and store-bought), peanut butter (all-natural), and coconut to make Thai curry pumpkin latkes--and boy, were they great!

Of course, we baked the seeds while some of the other stuff was in the oven. Yum!

And that took care of the larger pumpkin, 15 lbs. or so. The smaller one we threw, in its entirety (minus the pieces that had been cut for the jack-o-lantern), into the oven. It had been painted and we didn't want to boil it. Haven't figured out what we'll do with it, but my guess is some pies, maybe. Anyway, that bought us a few more days to figure it out.

By the way, pumpkin makes a marvelous vegetarian main dish at Thanksgiving. We like to remove the seeds and strings, fill it with a mixture of vegetables, cheese, milk, bread crumbs and flavorings, and throw it in the oven. You end up with a soup, stew or casserole (depending on how much liquid) that cooks right in the pumpkin skin.

Here's a great charity project for someone--go out on November 1 and gather up all the vandalized pumpkins, cook 'em up for a local soup kitchen. What a shame to waste all that food when people are starving!

Sneak peek: next month: a tip to cut the cost of airfares.

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