Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The many uses for Pureed Pumpkin

Are there more uses for a pumpkin than just carving scary faces and lighting them with a candle on Halloween? The answer is yes, of course. Pureed pumpkin is a wonderful thing and there are dozens of things you can put it in. The nice thing about pumpkins is that they are very easy to grow in the garden and they store very well (for about 6 months) in a cool basement. After harvesting the pumpkins, let them sit in a warm place for about 2 weeks to cure before putting them in the basement (this allows the stems to fully dry out). You can't store them after carving of course; they have to be left whole. But you can use the meat from the carved ones if you use it within a few days (before it starts to mold). If you didn't grow any this year, this is a great time to go buy them for cheap and store them this winter. Last year, we grew several pumpkins and they were still good even in April! We just opened them one at a time and cooked and pureed the meat and divided it into 1 and 2 cup portions and froze it. Other winter squash (such as Hubbard, Banana, Butternut, Buttercup, etc) also works well in many of these ideas & recipes.

To start with, I'll first tell you the health benefits of pumpkins. Next I'll describe how to cook & puree pumpkin. Next, I'll list some of my favorite uses for pureed pumpkin. Finally, I'll give a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Health Benefits of PumpkinPumpkins are orange because of the high amounts of carotenoids found in their meat. Carotenoids have great anti-cancer properties. Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which help promote the health of eyes. Pumpkins also contain nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium, iron, zinc, and fiber. These are all important to overall good health.

Pumpkin seeds are also very healthy. They are high in zinc and essential fatty acids. Be sure to roast your seeds at or below 300 degrees to protect the inherent good fats.

How to Prepare Pureed Pumpkin (don't you love the P's?):

To start with, cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out pulp and seeds (Don't throw the seeds away - they are healthy and delicious roasted!). Then use one of the following methods:
  • Microwave Method - This is the easiest way I've found. Cut up the pumpkin into pieces that will fit in your microwave. Cover meat side of the pumpkin pieces with plastic wrap and microwave for 5-15 minutes or until meat is tender and you can scoop it out with a fork. Then place the meat in a blender or food strainer and puree (adding a little water if necessary). Then place pumpkin puree in usable portions (1/2 Cup, 1 Cup or 2 Cup increments depending on the recipe) and freeze.
  • Oven Method - Cut up the pumpkin and place, cut sides up, in ungreased rectangular baking dish (13x9x2"). Pour water into dish until 1/4" deep. Cover and bake in 400 degree oven 30-40 min, in 350 degree oven about 40 min, in 325 degree oven about 45 min or until tender.
  • Boil Method - Slices or cubes - 15 to 20 min or until tender.
  • Steam Method - Slices: 12-15 min, Cubes: 7-10 min or until tender.
Uses for Pureed Pumpkin:
  • Pumpkin Pie - this is probably a no-brainer at this time of year, but pumpkin pie is delicious all year round!
  • Pumpkin Bread - substitute pumpkin for the zucchini in a zucchini bread recipe, or you can make a whole-wheat pumpkin bread that's not sweet.
  • Pumpkin Muffins
  • Pumpkin Cookies
  • Fat Substitute - you can experiment with substituting pumpkin puree for part or all of the fat in your baking recipes. This works great for cookies, pancakes, waffles, breads, etc.
  • Stews or Cream Soups - Add a cup or two of pumpkin to stews or cream soups. Some examples include: cream of broccoli, cream of potato, corn chowder.
Others? What do you do with Pumpkin?

Pumpkin Recipes:
Here are a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes. Many of them are gluten free or can become gluten free with a few alterations. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Sausage Penne Pasta
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1 C. Pumpkin, cooked and blended
1 lb. bulk sausage*
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 med. Onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 C. Chicken broth, divided
2 tsp. ground sage
½ C. heavy cream**
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 lb. penne pasta, cooked
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Add 1 Tbsp. oil to hot pan & brown sausage. Transfer to paper towel. Drain off fat. Add remaining oil & sauté garlic & onion. Add bay leaf, sage & 1 C. chicken broth. Reduce liquid to half. Add remaining stock & pumpkin. Stir & heat to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat & stir in cream. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Cook pasta & drain. Remove bay leaf from sauce. Combine sauce and pasta & top with cheese.

*you can substitute tvp (textured vegetable protein) for the meat. We usually do 1/2 sausage and 1/2 tvp. Just rehydrate about 1/2 C. of unflavored tvp (cover with water and let sit 10-15 min), then add it when you are browning the sausage and it will take on the flavor.
**instead of cream you can add milk or half & half or evaporated milk and its fine

Corn, Potato, Pumpkin Chowder
1 lb. bacon*
1 med. onion
6 med. potatoes
1 can cream style corn
1 C. cooked, pureed pumpkin
Cheddar cheese, sour cream opt.

Brown bacon and crumble. Sauté onion with bacon until tender. Add chopped potatoes and cover with water until barely over top of potatoes. Boil until potatoes are tender. Add canned corn and pumpkin. Cook until warmed through. Serve topped with sour cream and grated cheddar cheese if desired. Can add cooked grains into this recipe for added health.

*I usually use a lot less bacon - maybe 1/3-1/2 lb. It tastes just fine and is a lot better for you.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
3 C. pumpkin, cooked, pureed
3 C. brown sugar
¾ C. butter, softened
¾ C. canola oil
4 C. whole wheat flour (or other grain)
4 C. rolled oats
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
2 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Mix pumpkin, sugar, butter and oil well. Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Bake 375 F for 8-10 min. Makes 11 dozen 2” cookies.

Pumpkin Muffins
1-1/2 C. flour (use freshly ground whole-grain - try oat, brown rice, barley, spelt or combination)
1/2 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
½ C. milk
1/2 C. canned pumpkin
1/4 C. butter, melted
1 egg

Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Grease bottoms of muffin pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

If you have any other great pumpkin recipes - will you post them as comments for us? Thanks!


Cherylyn said...

Pumpkin Soup

8 slices bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 cups water
2 tbsp chicken boullion granules
1 can (32 ounces) packed pumpkin
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp thyme
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese

1. Cook the bacon in a heavy pot. Remove from heat, crumble and set aside. In the same pot, mix the onion, carrots and celery. Saute for 15 minutes. Stir in water, boullion, pumpkin, sugar, thyme and crumbled bacon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.
2. Pour the soup in batches into a blender and puree. Return to the pot. Mix in the milk, nutmeg and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with cheddar and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Serves 4.

Cherylyn said...

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 box spice cake mix
1 15 oz. can hard-packed pumpkin (I use 2 cups pumpkin puree)
3 eggs

Whip the pumpkin and eggs until smooth. Add the cake mix and whip until thoroughly mixed. Follow baking instructions on the cake mix box.

Heather Smith said...

Thanks Cherylyn, these look good.

Cherylyn said...

I saved our pumpkin seeds last week when we were carving jack-o-lanterns. I followed your recommendation to cook them on a temp less than 300. I would set the timer for about 20-30 minutes and check how "done" they were. I think I cooked them for about an hour total, and they turned out great! I used to cook pumpkin seeds on a higher temp to get them nice and crispy, but they tended to turn out pretty dry. These seeds I cooked at the lower temp were not quite as crispy, but they had a little bit of tenderness which contrasted really well with the crisp, and they had a really good flavor that the others never had. I also felt good that I had made a really healthy snack. It's just to bad I can't get everyone in the family to eat them!

Tricia said...

Fabulous idea for using our outside pumpkin. I think I'll go cut that guy up right now...

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