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.
- 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.
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.
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
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!