It’s no secret that pumpkin is the ingredient du jour. You will find it everywhere. At popular coffee chains, pumpkin is in everything from lattés to muffins to breads.
In the fall, grocery stores devote more shelf space to canned pumpkin — and often it’s on sale. Don’t confuse it with pumpkin pie filling, which also comes in a can.
One of the most popular uses of pure pumpkin, of course, is in pumpkin pie.
But there are plenty of other ways to use this antioxidant-rich ingredient.
You can make pumpkin soup or stir some into a stew or chili.
Swirl pumpkin into plain nonfat Greek-yogurt. Add some to mashed potatoes. Use pumpkin to replace some of the fat in cookies, muffins and breads.
It’s all good. And, for the most part, good for you. Adding pumpkin to recipes adds vitamins and antioxidants and provides a good dose of fiber.
A half cup of pumpkin has only 50 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Pumpkin is available year-round, but it’s during the holidays when producers say they see a jump in sales.
Pure pumpkin is what you get after cooking sugar or pie pumpkins (don’t use jack-o’-lanterns) until their inner flesh is soft. Once soft, the flesh is mashed or processed into a puree.
You can make your own, but it’s just as cost-effective to buy the canned. For example, a 15-ounce can of 100 percent pumpkin is about $2. Larger 29-ounce cans are about $3.
A pie pumpkin weighs about 4 pounds and averages about 79 cents a pound. Once you roast it, the flesh softens and shrinks some, yielding about 21/2 cups of pumpkin.
Here are few ways to use pumpkin:
Chili: Brown 1 pound bulk spicy Italian pork sausage (or turkey sausage) in a large pot; pour off fat. Add 1 cup chopped onions, 11/2 cups chopped bell peppers and cook until softened. Season with chili powder, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Stir in 13/4 cup canned great northern beans, 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1 cup vegetable broth and 11/2 cups pumpkin. Simmer 20 minutes. (Recipe adapted from www.bonappetit.com.)
Mini muffins: Mix one devil’s food cake mix with one 15-ounce can (about 1¾ cups) pumpkin. Scoop batter into mini muffin tins. Bake according to package directions.
Pasta sauce: Stir 1 cup of pumpkin into 3 cups of pasta sauce for a thicker consistency.
HOW TO MAKE PUMPKIN PUREE
Bake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut sugar or pie pumpkins in quarters and remove all the seeds and fibers. (Save seeds for roasting, if desired.) Place the quarters flesh-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast about 45-50 minutes or until the flesh is tender.
Puree: Scoop away tender pumpkin flesh from the skin. Purée it in a food processor or mash it by hand until smooth. Cooked pumpkin can have a lot of moisture. To remove it, line a colander with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Place the flesh in the colander and press on it to remove excess moisture.
Store: Freeze any leftover canned or homemade pumpkin puree. Place it in a plastic sealable freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Press the bag so it will store flat, label, date and freeze. You can keep the purée about 6 months. Thaw before using.
PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Using a mix of heavy whipping cream and skim milk saves a few calories and fat grams. You also can use fat-free half- and- half in place of the cream. Using Gouda cheese gives this mac and cheese a mild nutty flavor.
2 cups dried elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup skim milk
4 ounces Gouda or fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crushed
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh sage leaves, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta, and then return to pot.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add whipping cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in the cheese, pumpkin and sage until cheese melts.
Stir cheese sauce into pasta to coat. Transfer macaroni and cheese to an ungreased 2-quart rectangular baking dish.
In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. Tested by Susan M. Selasky.
PUMPKIN SHRIMP CURRY
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
This dish has a good balance of curry and cayenne suitable for most tastes. If you like it spicier, add more cayenne.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
11/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 cup butternut squash, roasted and diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
11/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
FOR SERVING (OPTIONAL)
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in plum tomato and pumpkin purée; cook, stirring frequently, until pumpkin is golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, curry powder and cayenne pepper; simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the butternut squash, shrimp and lime juice.
Simmer until shrimp are cooked and squash is warm. If desired, serve over steamed rice and top with cilantro, lime zest and fried shallots.
From www.bonappetit.com. Tested by Susan M. Selasky.
Pumpkin Banana Bread
Makes: 1 loaf (12 slices)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Floured baking spray
1 mashed ripe banana (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8 ½-by-4 ½-inch loaf pan with floured baking spray.
In a large bowl, place mashed banana, pumpkin purée, oil, egg and egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.
In a separate bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to banana and pumpkin mixture and beat until just moist.
Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly before cutting into slices.
From and tested by Susan M. Selasky. Analysis per 1 slice.
Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 50 minutes
If desired, substitute ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice for the nutmeg and cloves.
22/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin (about 13/4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 standard muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the walnuts and raisins and gently toss with the flour mixture. This will help prevent the nuts and raisins from sinking to the bottom.
In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugars and oil.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring with a wooden spoon just until combined.
Fill muffin cups about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool them completely.
Frost and decorate as desired.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma and tested by Susan M. Selasky.