It’s that time of year again. As of October 1st, all bets were off for how many different ways you could use a pumpkin in your kitchen! Think Forrest Gump here: Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cookies, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Soup, Roast Pumpkin, Steamed Pumpkin, Pumpkin Stew, Pumpkin Ravioli, Pumpkin… you get the idea.
I’ll be honest, though. Up until three years ago, the closest I ever got to a pumpkin was either carving it or scooping it out of a can. But in Thailand, when I was asked to make a squash casserole for Thanksgiving dinner, I had to face my fears of using real pumpkin head-on. Of course, in Thailand the closest thing they had to a pumpkin was a huge, round, green squash, but it was the same on the inside.
After much internet searching and nail-biting, I embarked on my first squash-roasting attempt with two enormous green monsters and a finicky oven. If I remember correctly, I ruined at least one of them. But the other one worked out and the casserole was delicious! I was never scared to use real pumpkin again.
Of course, when the Sweet P was a baby, pumpkin and butternut squash were some of our FAVORITE baby foods to make. She loved them with cinnamon. Or garlic. Or curry.
And this year I’m excited to try all kinds of new recipes using pumpkin!
But, first things first. If you’re like I was, you might be intimidated by using real pumpkin. So here is my Tried and Tuesday: Cooking a Pumpkin. Hopefully it will be easy and encouraging for you, and you, too, can enjoy the bounty of the harvest in all your Fall dishes!
1. CHOOSE A PUMPKIN: Not all pumpkins are created equal! What you’re looking for in the grocery store, or in the field, is a small “pie” pumpkin. These are smaller than your jumbo-sized Jack-O-Lanterns, at approximately 7 inches tall. You want to choose one that sounds hollow when you knock on it, but feels heavy and doesn’t have any cuts or bruises.
2. PREPPING YOUR PUMPKIN: Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Then wash your Pumpkin. Take the sticker off. Cut it in half. And get a little helper to clean out the inside for you. Optional: pay in cheeseballs and call them “Pumpkin Poop.” (Keep the seeds for roasting if you want!)
3. COOKING YOUR PUMPKIN: In a large casserole dish, lay pumpkin halves open-side down. Then fill the dish with water so it comes up about 3/4 of an inch on the side of the pumpkin. Place them in the pre-heated oven!
I don’t know if this is “roasting” a pumpkin or more like “steaming” a pumpkin. All I know is that it works and after 40-60 minutes you will have smushy, golden pumpkin ready for pureeing and using in all of your favorite recipes. (If you start to smell the pumpkin cooking, it’s probably done! Pull it out and check the flesh. If a fork slides easily into it, then it is done and ready to use. If not, it will need a little more time. Add some more water if needed to prevent burning)
When you pull the pumpkin halves out of the oven, the air inside them will release and they will shrivel up. Not very attractive, but it’s ok. Let them cool a little, then very carefully flip them over to reveal the perfectly cooked flesh!
4. STORING YOUR PUMPKIN: Use a spoon to scoop out the soft yellow flesh. It will be a little stringy. Depending on what you’re using it for, you can now puree it using a handmixer or by putting it in the food processor. Store in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator for up to a week. As for using it? The possibilities are endless!
5. USING YOUR PUMPKIN: Here are some ways I use pumpkin and all its goodness…
– Blend with plain yogurt, curry powder, garlic, cinnamon, s&p for a creamy Pumpkin Soup.
– Stir into Chili or Spaghetti sauce for a well-disguised nutrient boost!
– Make a pie!
– Use in all your favorite baked goods- pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins.
– Puree with homemade applesauce and cinnamon.
– Add to smoothies or shakes with a hint of pumpkin pie spice for the taste of the season.
Do you have any other uses for real pumpkin?