Penny-pinching cooks searching for great fall food need look no further than the humble pumpkin. Whether you are using fresh or canned, pumpkin brings power-packed nutrition to the table. Pumpkin recipes run the gamut really, from desserts and cocktails to gourmet dinner entrees and breakfast pancakes. Here are some of my penny-pinching pumpkin recipes from my home and around the web.

Stuffed pumpkin makes for a seriously phenomenal dinner.       

Cook some ground lamb with raisins, almonds, cinnamon and cardamom along with onions. Add in enough cooked rice to make a sticky mixture. Let cool, and cut the top off a small sugar pie pumpkin from the grocery store, taking the time to scoop out the pulp and seeds (which you can save for roasting).  Stuff the rice and lamb mixture into the pumpkin until it is full and push the top part back into the opening. Place a little water in the bottom of a covered baking dish and bake the entire thing at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until done. This is a phenomenal meal when paired with sautéed string beans or other money-saving side dishes, and the sparse use of ground lamb makes it an affordable splurge during the holiday season.

Keep it savory with other hearty pumpkin meal ideas.

It’s really unbelievable how flexible this vegetable can be. Try an elegant pumpkin-brie quiche for a Thanksgiving brunch, or replace the high-fat hamburger steaks you usually serve with some Syrian pumpkin patties for stick-to-your-ribs dinner. Pumpkin and kale stuffed polenta patties are a stylish supper option you can feel proud putting at center stage, but if appetizers are more what you’re looking for, then you might want to consider this Middle-East-inspired baked pumpkin kibbeh. Because you are greatly reducing or even eliminating meat in these recipes, the cost for enjoying these special treats is significantly less than other popular autumn indulgences. Pumpkin can really help you keep your wow factor high and your grocery budget low during the cooler fall and winter months.

You can also use pumpkin to celebrate your sweet tooth.

The array of pumpkin dessert ideas is practically mind boggling. So I won’t even try to provide a comprehensive listing. What I will do is point to some of my favorite classic pumpkin recipes that provide fun affordable treats during the fall season. First of all, who doesn’t love a pumpkin margarita? Especially when you are preparing for Halloween festivities. If you live somewhere with warm weather year round, try this chilled pumpkin fluff dip with sliced, firm fruit. Pumpkin fudge is an appropriate October through New Year treat in any climate, and of course native New Englanders will be intimately familiar with classic pumpkin whoopie pies.

Pumpkin is clearly a versatile nutritional item. Whether you are whipping up a vegetarian pumpkin and black bean soup, or a sausage and pumpkin pasta sauce for a batch of fresh linguini, the flavor combinations are endless. So mix up one of those pumpkin margaritas to get your courage up and start experimenting in the kitchen. You’ll have a fun, fresh recipe repertoire in no time!