Falling leaves, festivals, football, and fires; just a few things we love about the fall season. The weather cools and American families venture outdoors to get some fresh air before the sting of winter hits. Other than the fall activities, one thing we really do well is fall flavors. We know the season is changing when cinnamon, spice, and everything pumpkin hits the shelves. Pop-tarts, M&M’s, coffee, marshmallows, and even dog treats; pumpkin has made its way into every aisle in the store. But has it really?
Inspect almost any label and you will be lucky if you find a trace of real pumpkin in the ingredients list. Most of that delicious iconic taste comes from a blend of spices and artificial flavors. Not that this is a bad thing, I will take any excuse to drink coffee or toast marshmallows loaded with my favorite spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The sad part is we are missing out on the best part of pumpkin, the pumpkin!
Pumpkins are more than just a vegetable porch sitter; they are a nutritional powerhouse. 1 cup of pumpkin contains only 50 calories and has plenty of the good stuff like 245% of your daily vitamin A, 20% of your daily vitamin C, and 3 grams of fiber.
So what keeps us from throwing a pumpkin in the oven for a healthy dinner? Well, just that, there is no “tossing it in the oven.” A pumpkin’s thick shell and slimy insides make for a rather labor intensive adventure, but potentially very fun and rewarding. Breaking down and cooking pumpkins can be a great activity to do with the kids. Show them pumpkin doesn’t always have to come from a can. Cooked pumpkin can be frozen for long term use and added to pancakes, muffins, smoothies, and soups year round. It even makes a healthy snack for your family dog. Think beyond pumpkin pie and give this a try.
How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin
- When taking the family to pick out a pumpkin for the front porch be sure to choose one that is small to medium sized and has few blemishes and no holes.
- After a few weeks (or right away) you can cook your pumpkin. Wash the outside well with water to remove any dirt.
- Cut the pumpkin in half vertically with a sharp knife.
- Remove the stem and have the kids help take out the seeds and soft insides.
- Place flesh side down in a shallow baking dish. If the halves are too large for your baking dish, cut into quarters before baking.
- Bake for about 2 hours in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.
- Test with fork and bake until flesh is soft.
- Allow to cool completely and scoop the flesh from the shell into a blender or food processor.
- Blend until smooth for a fresh pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin Pudding Parfait
• 2 cups of prepared low fat vanilla pudding
• ½ cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree
• 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• 1 contained of whipped cream or non-dairy dessert topping
• 1-2 cups of gingersnaps
- Crush cookies into small pieces by placing in a sealed plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Be sure to leave some larger piece and do not crush them too fine.
- Mix pumpkin, pudding, and spices in a large bowl.
- In a large bowl or trifle bowl layer: cookies, pudding mixture and whipped cream. Make your last layer whipped cream and top with a sprinkle of crushed cookies or spices.
Fresh Fall Soup
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 small onion diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and diced
• 1 apples, peeled and diced
• 2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin
• 3 cups vegetable stock
• ½ cup half and half cream
• ½ cup low fat milk
- In a stock pot melt butter and add onion, carrot, apple, and pumpkin and sauté for about 10 minutes.
- Puree in batches in a food mill or blender.
- Return to pot and add vegetables stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add cream and milk and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Lower heat and add freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds if desired.
Fresh Pumpkin Butter
• 3.5 cups fresh pumpkin puree
• 1 cup apple juice
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• ¼ tsp clove
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil.
- Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Store in airtight jars in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.
- Serve with whole grain toast or waffles.