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How to cook and bake with pumpkin like a pro this fall

The last few days of August always seem like an odd time of the year.

Kids are back at school, there’s a certain crisp feel in the air and Halloween candy starts hitting the shelves. Ready or not, fall is on its way. 

Pumpkin spice drinks and pumpkin-flavored baked goods often steal the show (we see you, pumpkin pie), but using a small pumpkin for dinner inspiration is actually much easier than you think. 

1. Know the difference. Most people buy canned pumpkin puree for pie filling, though it can be used the same way you’d use the innards of a pumpkin, just without the mess. Just be sure you’re buying the puree only, not something labeled “pumpkin pie filling,” Epicurious reports

2. Pick the prettiest. It’s a little superficial, but the way the outside of the pumpkin looks matters. Look for firm, brightly orange pumpkins to cook with, according to Good Housekeeping. These are in season in northeast Indiana from the beginning of July to the end of November but reach their peak in October. Look for smaller pumpkins for cooking and baking. 

3. Dissect. Unless you’re trying to carve a jack-o’-lantern, it’s OK to cut the pumpkin in half or into fourths before scraping out the pulp, according to Old Farmer’s Almanac. It’s easier to cook in smaller bits, plus you won’t get pumpkin goop all over your arms. 

4. Keep it clean. Even if you peel an apple before you eat it, it’s important to wash it. The same goes for pumpkins. Babble suggests scrubbing the outside with a vegetable brush under warm water. 

5. Make your own puree. If the pumpkin is small enough, you can roast the whole thing after washing the outside, according to Detoxinista. After it’s cooled and scooped on the inside, all you have to do is blend the roasted pumpkin to make your own puree for soups, bread or pie.

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