Carving pumpkins for Halloween is a long-standing tradition and a great way to spend quality time with your family. But, pumpkins are good for more than just porch décor.
Pumpkins are a favorite fall flavor that goes well with not only sweet spices but also savory spices, like curry, cumin, chili, hot peppers, paprika and cayenne.
Pumpkins are in the squash family so most winter squash (acorn, butternut, buttercup and hubbard) are interchangeable in recipes using pumpkin. Sweet potatoes can also be a good substitute. Pumpkins, along with their seeds, are a good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly beta-carotene which has been linked to the prevention of several types of cancer.
When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, do not use big field pumpkins — save those for your jack o’ lanterns. Instead, select smaller “sugar” pumpkins or other pie varieties as they are more tender, flavorful and less watery. A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1-1/2 cups of mashed pumpkin. When choosing a pumpkin, make sure it is blemish free, has an intact stem and feels heavy for its size (the same as picking out a watermelon). Look for a dull exterior because a shiny skin means the pumpkin was picked too soon. Pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a month.
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To start the cooking process, cut the pumpkin in half, discard the stem and scrape away the stringy pulp and seeds (save the seeds for roasting). Rinse the halves under cold water then proceed with one of the following cooking methods.
Boiling/steaming method: Cut each of the halves into large pieces and place them in a large kettle or steamer basket with about one cup of water (add more water if necessary). Cover the pot and gently boil for about twenty to thirty minutes or steam for about ten to twelve minutes or until fork tender. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid for another use.
Oven method: Cut the pumpkin halves into quarters. Place them cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until fork tender.
Microwave method: Place each pumpkin half (or if it is too big for the plate cut it into quarters) cut side down on a microwave safe plate. Cover the pumpkin with waxed paper and microwave on high for about fifteen minutes or until fork tender.
After the pumpkin is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the pumpkin pulp, discard the skin and mash into a puree with a potato masher or for a smoother puree, use a food processor.
Fresh-cooked pumpkin puree can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen in containers or plastic freezer bags for up to a year. Don’t forget to label and date the packages. Use the puree in breads, desserts, butters, soups, creamy sauces, casseroles, muffins, pancakes, waffles, cakes, custards, pies and cookies. Pumpkin puree also makes great baby food.
If you don’t have time to make your own pumpkin puree, you can use the canned variety. I use pumpkin pie filling to make my favorite pie: Caramel-pecan pumpkin pie. To make it, I use the recipe from the back of the pumpkin can. While the pie is baking, I make a streusel topping which consists of 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons butter, softened and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
After the pie has baked for about 25 minutes, I sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top and continue to bake the pie for another 20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and the topping is golden and bubbly.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Rinse, drain and clean the pumpkin seeds (use your fingers to remove all the stringy pulp).
Pat them dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel then spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.
Toss the pumpkin seeds in olive oil, melted butter or spray with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with your choice of seasonings (salt, garlic powder, seasoned salt, cinnamon-sugar, etc. — get creative).
Toss to coat.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line the cookie sheet with non-stick foil and spread the seeds out in a single layer.
Bake for 25 minutes, stirring often until the seeds are crispy and golden brown. Cool the pumpkin seeds before eating.
Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling
1 clean kitchen towel
1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on the towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup solid pack pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
6 ounces (2 packages) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (to dust on the exterior of the roll)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15x10-inch jellyroll pan then line it with wax paper. Grease and flour the paper.
Sprinkle the towel with powdered sugar and set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in the pumpkin. Stir in the flour mixture.
Spread evenly onto the prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts (optional).
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when touched, do not over bake.
Turn the cake out onto the powdered sugar towel and carefully peel off the wax paper.
Roll up the cake and towel together, starting with the narrow end.
Cool on a wire rack.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth.
Carefully unroll the cake; remove the towel. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake. Re-roll the cake (no towel).
Wrap the cake in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Remove the wrapping and sprinkle the exterior with powdered sugar before serving.
Source: My Cousin Michelle’s recipe