Pumpkin: Delicious, Healthy, and Versatile!

October 26 is Pumpkin Day. Most people associate pumpkins with Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, and pie. Pumpkins are one of the many varieties of squash. There are carving pumpkins that are festive and fun and there are edible pumpkins. Edible pumpkins have a thicker, softer flesh than carving pumpkins, along with a rich, sweet flavor. Pumpkins are nutrition powerhouses, rich in fiber and antioxidants.

Check out the many varieties of fresh, edible pumpkins available in the produce department at McCaffrey’s, including Sugar Pie, New England Cheddar, Blue Doll and more. Keep in mind, fresh pumpkins can be enjoyed roasted and stuffed, just like other winter squashes. Or, make a pumpkin purée to use in any number of ways.

To make pumpkin purée:

  • Cut a pumpkin in half with a sharp knife. Remove the stem, scoop out the seeds and scrape away the stringy mass. After rinsing with cold water, place the pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender. Once the pumpkin has cooled, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and purée.
  • FYI: 5-pound edible pumpkin will yield about 4 1/2 cups of mashed, cooked pumpkin.

Fresh pumpkin puréed is great, but convenience is key. This is where canned, cooked pumpkin can’t be beat. No fuss, no muss. When shopping for canned pumpkin, be sure to read the label. It is easy to grab a can of pumpkin pie filling by accident. A 16 ounce can of pumpkin yields about 2 cups of puréed pumpkin.

If you are wondering how to enjoy puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned, the options are endless.

  • Stir a few spoonfuls of pureed pumpkin into a warm bowl of oatmeal.
  • Make pumpkin sauce by adding a tablespoon or two of pumpkin purée into applesauce.
  • Prepare this healthy Pumpkin Dip in minutes and serve with fresh apple slices.
  • Make pumpkin butter by mixing a little pumpkin purée into softened butter along with a bit of brown sugar and some warming spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Spread on toast or an English muffin.
  • Blend a bit of puréed pumpkin into any creamy vegetable soup for some added nutrients and a hint of fall. Or try this low-fat Pumpkin Lime Soup as a heartwarming first course or side dish.
  • Toss some puréed pumpkin into a pot of chili for a sweet, earthy undertone.
  • In this fall Pumpkin and Arugula Pasta recipe, pumpkin purée makes a rich, creamy sauce without the high fat and calories of heavy cream.
  • Spread some pumpkin purée on a bagel with a little maple syrup instead of butter and cream cheese.
  • Substitute pumpkin purée for eggs and oil in baked goods. A rule of thumb: Add 1/4 cup canned pumpkin for each egg and an equal amount of canned pumpkin for the oil called for in the recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 3 eggs and 1 cup of oil, you will add a total of 1 3/4 cup canned pumpkin.
  • Enjoy this Pumpkin Bread where all the flavors of fall come together. Wrap up individual slices for a quick on-the-go snack or breakfast.
  • Pumpkin purée freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled purée into one cup portions, place in freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze for up to one year.

The uses of puréed pumpkin, fresh or canned, are endless, from baked goods to dips, chili to soups. Power up with pumpkin today!

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