Permit me to reminisce a bit. Not too long ago, but kind of far away, I was once a Youth Ministry Coordinator. One of the programs I ran every fall was an event I called the Pumpkin Olympics. Every year, I planned this big event for the first weekend after Halloween. It was great, because as soon as Halloween ended, the local farmers market was more than willing to donate all of their leftover pumpkins for this event.
We did all sorts of sporting events with a pumpkin twist. There were pumpkin relays and shuttle runs, pumpkin basketball, and of course, pumpkin shot put, perfect for those pumpkins that were getting a little soft. We capped off the day with an elaborate pumpkin obstacle course. My very first year was quite memorable, too. It was a rainy day, and part of my obstacle course included crossing the monkey bars on the playground (it was optional, with a 10 second penalty). One of the girls, a fourth grader who knew that monkey bars weren't her strong suite, decided to try the crossing them anyway. She slipped and fell halfway across and fractured her forearm. I was new, and she was the principals daughter. I was mortified. Fortunately, her parents were understanding and forgiving.
Pumpkin season is over now, and if I were still in Wisconsin, come Saturday I would be shoveling broken pumpkins off of asphalt basketball course at the church and school that I once worked at. This might not be true for you, but you may be in the position to snag a few end-of-season pumpkins at a good price. If you are lucky enough to get some sugar pumpkins, I encourage you to cook them up and leave the canned pumpkin on the shelf this Thanksgiving.
Cooking a small sugar (or pie) pumpkin is easier than pie, pardon the pun. All you need is a pumpkin, a baking sheet, a sharp knife, and a large spoon. Simply cut your pumpkin into two equal halves and scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp from the inside of the pumpkin. If you make sure to give the pumpkin a good scraping to ensure that you get out as many strings as possible, your end product will be that much smoother. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until the pumpkin is totally soft. Let the pumpkin cool for a bit, and then simply scoop the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and store in an airtight container. Baked pumpkin freezes and thaws very easily, and a small sugar pumpkin will give you about 2 cups of pumpkin puree.
Then, if you want to separate the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin guts and make delicious homemade pumpkin seeds, go for it. In my opinion, there is nothing better than freshly made pumpkin seeds in the fall, and you can experiment and season your seeds with whatever seasonings trigger your fancy. Enjoy your late fall cooking!