I just got home from a Pumpkin Recipe Contest at work. OMG!  I am stuffed – but more than stuffed, I am impressed! What an unbelievable collection of foods in one place!  Each employee came up with their own recipes and without prior consultation, we had no duplicates.  Each item was totally unique with its own distinct style and flavor.  I didn’t even think to bring a camera.  I guess I just wasn’t expecting to have my socks knocked off – but knocked off, they were!

We had:

Pumpkin Ravioli with a Brown Sage Butter

Pumpkin Apple Almond Potstickers with a Ginger Honey Scallion Sauce

Pumpkin Cheese Cannelloni with a Cranberry Sage Butter Sauce

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Lasagne

Puff Pastry filled with Fresh Pumpkin Chunks and Sour Cream topped with India Relish

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Muffins topped with a Cream Cheese and Pumpkin Icing

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Toffee Sauce

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Smoothies, and

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

I’ll start at the top with my own observations…

The Pumpkin Ravioli were something you would find at a fine-dining establishment.  A pumpkin dough filled with a delicate pumpkin and cheese mixture.  Light, yet substantial. And the browned butter sage sauce was the perfect accompaniment.   You could actually make a meal of them adding nothing more than a glass of wine (and bread to sop up the sauce, of course!).  Just divine.

The Pumpkin Potstickers were an OMG! surprise.  Totally unexpected and totally delicious.  I had more than one and could see a tray of them disappearing quickly.  The flavors in the filling were perfectly matched, and the dipping sauce worked great with them.

Pumpkin Cheese Cannelloni was yet another fantastic taste sensation.  Very similar to a blintz in texture, it’s another item that could be found at an upscale eatery.  Also light and delicate – yet substantial.  Two of these on a plate with a salad would be a perfect meal.

The Pumpkin Soup was a vegan entry (full disclosure here – I made it!) that took its cue from the Caribbean.  Pumpkin, coconut milk, rum, hot peppers – plus tomatoes,  hominy, black beans and black rice.  Sweet with just enough kick to be interesting.  It was hearty and thick.  Definitely a full meal during the cold months.

The Pumpkin Lasagne was layers and layers of tantilizing pumpkin, cheeses, greens, and pasta.  It was the type of dish that if set on a table would be empty in minutes with people clamoring for more.  Warm crusty bread, a mixed green salad, a bottle (or two) of a good red wine.  Heaven.

The Puff Pastry was the only entry that used fresh pumpkin!  The sweetness of the pumpkin worked perfectly with the spiciness of the India Relish.  It also made a great presentation – and would be a great addition to any appetizer table.  Come to think of it, they could also make a great plated first course.

The Pumpkin Bars were another (last minute) entry of mine.  A fairly traditional pumpkin pie filling topped with a basic cake mixture and walnuts.  It would be better served cold with whipped cream, but I took them out of the oven minutes before heading off to work, so they were served warm.  They were pretty darn good warm, too!

The Pumpkin Muffins were good enough for dessert!  They were a perfect balance of moist and sweet and the icing was another perfect balance of flavor.  These were any-time-of-the-day muffins, for sure!

Bread pudding is one of my all-time favorite desserts, and the Pumpkin Bread Pudding exceeded every one of my expectations.  It was just perfect.  The texture of the bread, the lightness of the custard, the wonderful sauce… Just perfect.  I ate lots.

The Pumpkin Pancakes were light as a feather!   They were perfectly puffed up and airy – unusual for a pancake with something as dense as pumpkin added to it.  (The secret is the yogurt!) And they were really decadent with some of the Toffee Sauce poured on top!

Pumpkin Smoothies – who wouldda thunk?!?  But what a great taste sensation.  I could definitely see these with a float of dark rum and a little paper umbrella.  Too good just for breakfast!

And Pumpkin Crème Brûlée.  Yes – Crème Brûlée!  Talk about another show-stopper!  Light, creamy, rich, flavorful – all at the same time!  The sugar topping was perfectly crisp and crunchy, contrasting superbly with the silken pumpkin custard beneath.  One would not be enough.

Everything was superb in its own right.  The tastes and textures were as varied as the individuals who brought them in.  Everything was over the top.  There wasn’t a single “ordinary” item in the bunch.  I can’t even imagine trying to actually judge them.  It’s a 12-way tie for first place in my not-so-humble opinion!

And the variety of items really illustrates just how versatile the humble pumpkin is.  From sweet to savory and everything in between.

And another great benefit of today is that I now have some great ideas for Thanksgiving!  I did a ham and gorgonzola won ton one year, but I’m thinking potstickers might work this time around, I could do a large creme brulee instead of individuals… Ravioli as a first course?!?

It’s gonna be fun – thanks to some great people today!