NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

October 31, 2012

Put another face on pumpkin

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.)

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