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While there are several signs that mark this beautiful season we are in, nothing says ‘autumn has arrived’ quite like a porch full of pumpkins. However, carving pumpkins can be a pain, and not everyone is a master with a carving knife. So, what to do? Well, being the garden expert that I am, naturally, my “no-carve” solution involves plants. While this DIY pumpkin planter is not completely carve-free, it is a whole lot easier to achieve and, in my humble opinion, a lot easier on the eyes as well. With four simple materials and in four simple steps you will have the perfect, pumpkin planter for your porch.

materials-diy-pumpkinFirst, cut around the stem of your pumpkin, just like you normally would, making a hole large enough for your plant to fit into. Then, if you want, spray paint your pumpkin a fun, fall color. I chose copper for mine. After the paint has dried, choose your favorite, fall quote and use a paint pen to write it out onto your pumpkin. (Tip: If you know someone who is gifted at calligraphy, enlist their help!)quote pumpkinThen, simply plant your flowers just like you would in a normal planter.plant pumpkinEasy, right? And now your porch is the perfect picture of fall.pumpkin porch“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

-George Eliot

I love this time of year! The leaves turning, the smell of fall in the air and one of my all-time favorite ingredients comes into season – PUMPKIN. We had a beautiful pack of pumpkins growing until a furry rodent (i.e. squirrel) got into the patch. Oh well! That is a part of gardening – isn’t that right?!?

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This year, I will have to make due with some store bought pumpkins. When shopping for pumpkins (or planting them), you want to select varieties that are specifically bred for cooking. Smaller varieties have a denser flesh with a smooth texture and higher sugar content. Traditional varieties that are commonly found at grocery stores include ‘Small Sugar’ and ‘New England Pie’. There are several newer varieties that are great for cooking, but may be harder to find at the grocery store, so growing them would be a better option, they include ‘Baby Pam’, ‘Autumn Gold’ and ‘Ghost Rider’. I selected ‘Small Sugar’ as that is what was available to me. Also when picking your pumpkins make sure there are no holes, cracks or soft spots – this is a sign the pumpkins are not fresh.

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Small Sugar Pumpkins

 

Now that we have selected our pumpkins, making puree is the simple part, but it takes some time. Here is the process for creating homemade pumpkin puree. I know that it takes extra time, but you will not be sorry. You can really tell the difference. The excellent thing about it is that it can be frozen and used in the future. Also pumpkin is perfect for baby food as it’s an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C.

Let’s get into the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting!! These are so good – I swear I was having a foodgasm while eating one. If you love pumpkin and cream cheese frosting – you will absolutely love this recipe.

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies – makes 1.5 dozen

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c. homemade pumpkin puree or canned (do not use pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

1/2 tsp. of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 c. of all-purpose flour

1/2 c. of cake flour (can use all-purpose if not available)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 tbsp. ground ginger

1/4 tbsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. all spice

1/2 tsp. ground clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First cream softened butter in mixer using the paddle attachment. Then add brown sugar and blend until combined. Once incorporated, add all remaining wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla). I use vanilla bean paste as I find it more flavorful than extract. Mix until well combined.

Wet ingredients all mixed together

Wet ingredients all mixed together

 

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. I prefer to put the them through a sifter to remove all the lumps, but it also does a sufficient job of blending them together. Using freshly ground spices make the recipe more flavorful. However, I only used freshly ground nutmeg.

Run all dry ingredients through a sifter to remove lumps and to blend ingredients

Run all dry ingredients through a sifter to remove lumps and to blend ingredients

 

Once combined, add your dry ingredients to your mixer with the wet ingredients. Slowly mix your them together – so that flour doesn’t go all over the kitchen. Been there – done that! Do not over mix – just make sure it is well blended.

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together

 

Now there are two methods – either you can use a small scoop and place on a greased cookie sheet to make round whoopie pies or you can spread the dough to a nice layer on parchment paper or a jelly roll plan (or any pan that will allow you to form a thin layer). I choose to do this because I wanted to have my whoopie pies in the shape of pumpkins.

Spread dough thinly on parchment paper or put into a jelly roll pan

Spread dough thinly on parchment paper or put into a jelly roll pan

 

Place into preheated 350 oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Use a toothpick to check doneness. If not wet when removed, take out of oven and set to cool. Then cut into pumpkin shapes. Let pies cool before putting on cream cheese frosting.

Use cookie cutters to create whatever shape you desire

Use cookie cutters to create whatever shape you desire

 

Cream Cheese Frosting –

Only 4 ingredients for cream cheese frosting

Only 4 ingredients for cream cheese frosting

 

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

8 oz. low-fat cream cheese

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 1/4 c. powder sugar

Put all ingredients in a mixer and blend until thoroughly combined. I like to set my mixer on high so that the frosting has a lighter consistency, but this is up to your personal preference.

Whip ingredients til light and fluffy

Whip ingredients til light and fluffy

 

Try not to eat all the frosting before the whoopie pies have cooled.

Finished and delicious cream cheese frosting

Finished and delicious cream cheese frosting

 

Once pies have cooled. Use a pumpkin cookie cutter to get this holiday shape. Spread cream cheese frosting on one half to your desired thickness and top with another pumpkin whoopie pie. Serve!

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These make the perfect additional to any party taking place in the autumn season. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Carmen

Recipes modified from Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Cream Cheese Frosting

During this season of the year, when the temperature begins to drop and things start to show down a bit, I am able to reflect on the year and all the friends and family that I am so blessed to have in my life. We are so thankful to have so many wonderful individuals in our life who are always willing to offer a helping hand. In celebration of cooler days ahead, I love to host small get-togethers to thank those that have blessed me with being a part of my life. When preparing for parties, I love to search Pinterest for ideas and DIY projects that are quick, but will add that personalized touch to my fall festivities. Here are some ideas that I have decided to incorporate for my next bash.

The entry way to your home is extremely important to decorate when having a party. When guests arrive, they will be totally wowed by your curb appeal and know they are headed to a classy party to celebrate the arrival of fall. Here is a beautiful example of a gorgeous front door and what a couple pumpkins and potted mums can do to bring your front entrance from dab to fab in seconds.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

I love when fall rolls around because pumpkins are as far as the eye can see coming in colors from your classic orange to ghostly white and gothic gray. Pumpkins can be used for an array of serving trays from using them as an ice chest for drinks, a punch bowl, a chip bowl and even a vase for flower arrangements.

Pumpkin vessel

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Small pumpkins and gourds serve as wonderful elements to include in tablescapes as candlestick holders, fillers in hurricanes and a range of other clever ideas. The centerpiece on your dining room table can be as fancy or simple as you like it depending on the theme of your party.

Pumpkin centerpieces

Image Credit: Lauren Liess

For a simple centerpiece, try filling a beautiful antique crystal bowl with apples and let it be the star of the table. Or use apples as the seating cards for the party and simply lay them above the forks in the place setting.

Image Credit:

Image Credit: Pinterest

For dessert have something as simple and fun as these chocolate acorns!

The recipe is really easy:

1 pkg. of plain Hershey Kisses

1 pkg. of Nabisco Nutter Butter Bite Size

¼ cup of miniature Chocolate Chips

Gently twist the Nutter Butter cookie to expose the filling. Take the flat end of a butter knife and scrape off the filling to smooth on both halves. Once done, press a Hershey kiss to stick. Place your miniature chocolate chips in the microwave for a couple seconds so the bottoms get soft, but aren’t totally melted. This will be your stem. Press the chip to the top of the Nutter Butter cookie! Presto! You have an extremely cute dessert or fun snack to greet guests at the door with when they arrive with a nice, warm glass of apple cider.

To a fall full of festivities!

Cheers,

Carmen

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Email: carmen@carmenjohnstongardens.com

Phone: 762-822-7696