My husband's three harvested bright orange pumpkins weighing between five and seven pounds each with two yellow banana peppers on an outdoor table.
My husband’s passion pumpkin patch harvest.

For several years I’ve been reading articles about our dying bee population and how devasting it is, but I hadn’t personally experienced the bee crisis until this summer when my husband planted his first small organic pumpkin patch. –Pumpkins need a bee’s pollination superpowers to grow, and without them, pumpkins terminate the growth of their tennis-ball-sized young. My hubby came in from the garden many times and sadly recounted that he’d lost another pumpkin baby. They’d turn yellow within ten days and fall off the vine without successful pollination

In an attempt to save his dying pumpkin babies, my hubby created “Operation Passion Patch.” He mastered his understanding of the female and male pumpkin flower anatomy and perfected his manual pollination efforts, or in lay terms, he learned to impregnate the female flowers. He used a QTip to move the goods from the male flower to the female flower and then held his breath while he hoped that it worked. I’m pretty sure I heard Marvin Gay music playing in the garden to aid in the fertilization efforts. He checked them every day to make sure that when those flowers open, he’d be right there, Doctor Love. Slowly he perfected the process, and he managed to grow three beautiful pumpkins, and when he harvested them, that’s when my stress began. These were very special pumpkins, and thus, I had to find recipes that honored them and my adorable urban farmer.

I’d never used fresh pumpkins before; I was quite happy with using canned pumpkin, I’m not much of a baker. My husband has somewhat of an educated palate when it comes to desserts; he’s the local cookie monster, but that’s a whole other story of its own. At one point, I considered giving the pumpkins to a couple of my fabulous baking goddess friends and knew we’d get tasty treats back, but when I mentioned giving them one of the pumpkins, I got a resounding “no.” He had nurtured them from little specks of pollen, and he wanted to be around to scoop their little pumpkin guts out (his words). Soon after, I got the real throw down, “I’m going to cook the pumpkins if you don’t.” Which meant your time is up girlfriend, face your fears and do something with those pumpkins. My hubby doesn’t cook, so the threat both intriguing and terrifying. It was at this point that my recipe search began in earnest!

Pumpkin bread was first. Luckily the fabulous Alicia from Alicias Delicias and the Food Network’s “Cake Wars” had recently made us the best pumpkin bread we’d ever had in our lives. I reached out, and she happily shared her fabulous recipe with me. – Love her! Now I had to prepare the pumpkins. I asked neighbors and friends how to do it, watched youtube videos, etc. And everyone I asked said to prepare myself for a giant pain in the neck.

Vase with bright yellow roses and 2 loaves of golden brown pumpkin bread in Spanish style ceramic pans on Molé Mama's marble kitchen counter.
Pumpkin Bread

After researching my options, I decided to bake them. I split the pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds, and veins and coated them in olive oil and baked on parchment paper at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. And then came the tough part, I was to scoop out the pumpkin after they cooked. I let them cool down for about an hour and noticed that the skin separated from the pumpkin flesh and decided just to peel them! In the places that the skin didn’t lift off easily, I used a butter knife, easy! I’m sure someone else uses this method too, but I didn’t find it during my research. Then I cut up the pumpkin and placed it in my food processor, drained it in a giant strainer to get the excess water out, and voila, the pumpkin was ready! I made Alicias Delicias pumpkin bread and carefully followed the directions to the letter and measured everything precisely(so not typical for me). But like I said, I was trying to honor my hubby’s pumpkins, and he had already tasted an incredible version of this recipe, so I needed to put every ounce of baking majesty I could squeeze into this recipe. Thankfully, the bread looked beautiful and tasted fabulous. Not quite as good as Alicias Delicias, but my hubby loved it and ate an entire large loaf in one evening! Success!

Bowl of orange curry on an outdoor table with a large orange pumpkin, purple sweet potato, onion, head of garlic, yellow and yellow rose
Spicy Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Prawn Curry

Next on the list pumpkin curry, we both love Indian food and curries. I remembered some fantastic recipes from The Pepper Cook, an Indian chef I follow on Instagram. I have sometimes caught myself daydreaming about some of the pictures of her recipes, so it seemed like a logical place to start. She didn’t have a pumpkin curry recipe, but I’d made her  Prawn Curry With Kokum And Raw Mango, and it was outstanding, hands down the best curry I’d ever had in my life. So I used this recipe and substituted pumpkin instead of mangos and omitted the ginger. I thought the pumpkin substitution might work, and it did! Her curry recipe is full of rich, spicy flavors and dairy-free. Its creaminess comes from the pumpkins and coconut milk! I added cooked sweet potatoes and raw prawns and served it with white rice. It was so delicious, and the family loved it! I will be making it again. 

Yellow roses with Sweet Pumpkin Empanadas, Pumpkin & Chorizo Empanadas, & Spicy Chicken Sausage Empanadas & Muy Bueno Cookbook on Molé Mama's marble kitchen counter
Sweet Pumpkin Empanadas, Pumpkin & Chorizo Empanadas, & Spicy Chicken Sausage Empanadas

Finally, I knew we needed empanadas! Having just purchased my current favorite cookbook, “Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor,” I instantly gravitated to her pumpkin empanada recipe. And while I was tempted to buy ready-made pie crust (I even had it in my basket in the grocery store), I took a brave step forward and decided to make the homemade crust outlined in the book, and a magical thing happened. As I placed my hands in the flour and began to mix it, looking down at my hands, they looked so much like my mama’s, and wondrously remembered how to work with flour from all the years of making homemade flour tortillas with my mom. I hadn’t made my mother’s tortillas or mixed any flour with my hands since she died more than seven years ago. It was so much fun and special to make the empanada crust. I tripled the recipe and made three types, sweet pumpkin empanadas, savory chorizo & pumpkin with Manchego cheese empanadas, and chicken sausage with mushroom, garlic, onions, and Manchego cheese! Thankfully neighbors came over to help us eat through some of the empanada surplus, and the rest went into the freezer.! Well, let’s just say that I ate my share of all of them and leave it there! I will be making these again!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try a pumpkin recipe soon, and if you do, remember to add the most important ingredient, your love!

AND per my hubby, the pumpkin empanadas are excellent hot with vanilla ice cream!  

Happy fall and happy cooking!

Big hugs,

Diana Silva, Molé Mama’s Founder

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  • Diana Silva

    Author, podcaster, vlogger, Molé Mama Founder

    Molé Mama

    Molé Mama is a San Diego-based author, home chef, vlogger, and podcaster. Diving into her Latina roots, she uses her magical molcajete, and other tools and techniques that make her food taste like grandma used to make back in Mexico.  Her book, Molé Mama; A Memoir of Love, Cooking, and Loss,  shares the stories of how she perfected her beloved mother's recipes. Readers swear that they smell Sonora enchiladas, Spanish rice, mole, and other delicious Mexican food simmering in their kitchens as they read her book.   Molé Mama Recipes YouTube cooking videos and weekly podcast celebrates family recipes, cooking delicious meals at home, and adding love to every recipe. Along with her guest chefs, Molé Mama explores recipes and traditions from around the world and the stories that keep them alive. Most of her podcasts will make you hungry, and you may find yourself dancing in your kitchen to salsa music.  Molé Mama is calling everyone to return to their kitchens and to preserve their living and past ancestors' favorite recipes and stories for future generations. "We need to try to preserve our cultures and not just let those favorite recipes disappear forever. The common thread of every cherished family recipe is that they were homemade with love, and that's the real secret ingredient," says Molé Mama. For many home chefs, cooking is their preferred love language, and that's why we cherish their recipes. Their love has the power to transcend an ordinary recipe into magic! Culinary Training  Diana was just nine years old, and when her culinary training began. Rose was making her legendary flour tortillas, and Diana's big job was to mix the masa. Rose expertly poured water, flour, salt, and a little baking powder in the bowl, and Diana eagerly put her small hands in the bowl and tried to follow her mother's patient instructions on how to mix it. Diana loved the way the sticky dough felt in her little fingers. She was so very proud and excited to help her mama. Diana didn't understand the road she had embarked on that afternoon and the joy she'd experience cooking with her mother for more than 20 years. To watch Molé Mama’s videos, listen to her podcasts and learn more go to: @mole_mama