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Cooking Pumpkin: Take the Pumpkin Challenge

Cooking Pumpkin: Take the Pumpkin Challenge

November 02, 2012
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Pumpkins, it seems, are everywhere this time of year. It was only a couple of months ago that I had the privilege of watching a pumpkin grow on the vine right outside my office window. Each day the pumpkin either changed shape or color, and then developed into a medium-sized, bright orange pumpkin right before my eyes.

Today I see pumpkins on farm carts for sale, piles of pumpkins at harvest festivals and there are even pumpkins for sale at the entrance to my local grocery store. I cannot get away from them.

I always thought the primary use for a pumpkin was for carving a Halloween Jack O’Lantern. These large, round, orange pumpkins are perfect for carving, however, small pie pumpkins yield more tender pumpkin to use in cooking and baking. There are so many other fun and delicious ways to enjoy fresh pumpkin in recipes. First, here is some information about cooking fresh pumpkin in preparation for using it in recipes.

Roasting or Cooking Fresh Pumpkin

There are several ways to cook fresh pumpkin. Roasting pumpkin is easy to do and brings out its natural sugars and mild sweet flavor. Click here to learn how to roast pumpkin. Becky shows you how easy it really is!

You can also cook pumpkin on the stove-top in a saucepan with a small amount of water. Cut peeled and cleaned pumpkin into pieces that fit into the saucepan. Then cook the pumpkin until it is fork-tender. Check out this roasted pumpkin recipe for detailed directions.

My suggestion is to place 1 cup cooked pumpkin in resealable plastic freezer bags since this is the typical amount of pumpkin used in recipes. Label and date the bags and freeze them until you want to make a pumpkin recipe. To defrost a package, place into the refrigerator to thaw.

When deciding about using fresh or canned pumpkin in a recipe, use an equal amount of fresh-cooked pumpkin for the amount of canned pumpkin.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite ways to use fresh pumpkin:

Pumpkin for Breakfast

There are a number of quick bread, scone and pumpkin muffin recipes that are delicious when complemented with Land O’Lakes Cinnamon Sugar Butter Spread or another sweet, flavorful spread.

But, this year I discovered Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Cream as a fall weekend breakfast specialty.

They are served with a creamy maple sauce you can make ahead of time.

Pumpkin Soup Served In Mini Pumpkin Bowls

Recently in the Test Kitchens we developed four new pumpkin soup recipes: Harvest Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Curry SoupSpicy Pumpkin Soup and Thai Pumpkin Soup.

We varied the basic soup, Harvest Pumpkin Soup, with unique, ethnic ingredients that make flavorful soups for this season.

A creative way to serve any of these soups is to carve mini-pumpkins and use them as bowls. Check out how simple it is to make:.

1. Wash and dry the outside of the mini pumpkin and make sure it is clean.

2. Mark line as a cutting guide around top to the size bowl you want. Using a large serrated knife or a serrated pumpkin carving tool, cut the pumpkin on the marked line.

3. Lift the top of the pumpkin off.  Remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the mini pumpkin. I used several kitchen tools to remove the seeds and stringy pulp: a tableware spoon, small serrated knife and melon baller.  I scraped the inside of the pumpkin so it could make a perfect soup bowl. Wash and dry the pumpkin after you have completed the carving of the bowl.   

4. At serving time fill each pumpkin with hot soup. The Harvest Pumpkin Soup  was just perfect for this individual pumpkin bowl.


One More Recipe for Pumpkin…

I don’t want to forget that pumpkin is a perfect ingredient in a rich and creamy pasta sauce with ravioli and chicken. This recipe, Pasta & Chicken in Pumpkin Cream Sauce, is complemented with fresh sage and toasted pecans and it’s a little more of a gourmet recipe, but it is a recipe you will not forget. The unique flavor is truly satisfying!

I have not mentioned pumpkin pie, a classic recipe year after year at Thanksgiving. You might make a pumpkin pie—but I challenge you to consider trying the recipes above or other pumpkin recipes, and using a fresh pumpkin in your baking or cooking this fall. I would love to hear how you use fresh pumpkin in recipes.

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