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It's the Great Pumpkin Puree, Charlie Brown!

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

With the end of October and the beginning of November, it's time to start bringing in plants and fall decoration as an anticipated first frost will be here soon. For my family and friends in Minnesota they are experiencing the first blizzard of the season today! Yesterday, I received several pictures of snow falling in the upper Midwest while I was sitting on my patio in a sweatshirt, crazy weather! Winter is my favorite season, but I can get on board with the snow coming a little later than early November. I've slowly started the process of bringing in my pumpkins, but in an opportunity not to let the fall fruit go to waste I decided to try my hand at doing a homemade pumpkin puree. Please note I wouldn't recommend doing this to a previously carved pumpkin from Halloween if it has been sitting outside. The inside of the fruit has been exposed to the outside elements for an unknown amount of time, and is susceptible to bacterial growth. Canned pumpkin puree has become a staple for creating the all American pumpkin pie, so what is the difference between canned and fresh? In this case both are full of nutrients, such as vitamin A, potassium, iron, and magnesium just remember to read the nutrition label. Canned pumpkin can sometimes contain added sodium or calories compared to the fresh puree.

Creating a pumpkin puree

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a sharp knife, remove the stem, cut the pumpkin in half, and remove all the seeds and the stringy fibers inside. When I did this, I put newspaper all around me and threw all the stringy fibers from the inside of the pumpkin into a plastic bag for disposal. Using a spoon to scoop out the stringy fibers is definitely a must!

Don't throw out the pumpkin seeds! You can dry/roast them for a crunchy snack.

I put mine in a food dehydrator at 115 degrees F for one hour. Another option is putting them in a warm oven for 3 to 4 hours. Read the recipe below for a great honey roasted pumpkin seed recipe.

Once all the seeds and stringy fibers are removed, place the pumpkin halves on a clean cookie sheet, with the inside of the pumpkin faced down. I cut the pumpkin into small pieces to better fit the cookie sheets.

Put the pumpkin on the middle rack of the oven for one hour. After about 30 minutes, my apartment began to smell like a pumpkin candle. Definitely, a wonderful fall smell.

After an hour, the pumpkin should be tender. Let it cool before removing the outside rind. If you are like me, and can get a little impatient, you can put the pumpkin in cool water to help speed up the cooling process.

Use a small sharp knife to peel off the pumpkin rind. 
This was probably the longest part of the process for me. I had some excess stringy fibers, so I used the knife to peel off the remainder of those as well.

The pumpkin I had was tender, but after I peeled the pumpkin rind off I cut up the pumpkin into cubes and put them into a bowl prior to processing.There are several ways to puree pumpkin. I started out with a small food processor, but after doing this a few times I discovered this was becoming much more time consuming than I predicted. Being I don't have a blender in my apartment, I used the next best thing--a smoothie maker. With my smoothie maker, I was able to puree the pumpkin much faster and in larger quantities. I could have made myself a pumpkin-banana smoothie right then!

Other methods to puree pumpkin include using a potato masher, food mill, ricer, or a strainer.

The pumpkin I had made 16 cups of pumpkin puree! I love pumpkin, but not enough to use 16 cups at once. There are a few different ways to preserve pumpkin puree.

  • Canning pumpkin puree is NOT recommended. The only safe way to can pumpkin is cubed with the flesh still present.
  • The best method for preserving pumpkin is freezing. Keep pumpkin puree in rigid containers with at least ½ inch head space.
  • I used Tupperware and separated it out by 2 cup measurements for easy recipe use in the future. Make sure to label and date the containers for future reference.
  • To save space, pumpkin puree can be stored in zip like freezer bags on a tray where they can freeze flat.

The pumpkin will maintain the best quality for 6-8 months in the freezer and fresh cut pumpkin will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

Looking for more recipes or looking for more fun facts and information about pumpkins? Go to:  http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/recipes.cfm

The University of Illinois also has excellent recipes for Thanksgiving catered to diabetes on: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/diabetesrecipes/

Other resources for preserving pumpkin can be found at: http://nchfp.uga.edu/tips/fall/pumpkins.html

Gingersnap Pumpkin Cookies

3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce

3/4 cup sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour or make half whole wheat pastry flour and half all-purpose
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.Mix apple sauce, sugar, molasses, pumpkin and vanilla extract together

3. In a separate bowl combine the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix into the liquid ingredients

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough will be easier to handle once cooled

5. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, roll tablespoon sized balls of dough in sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes

Nutrition facts: 1 cookie per serving, makes 36 cookies, 50 Calories, 13 g. Carbohydrates, 1 g. Protein

 

Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups of pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoon of honey

¼ teaspoon of chili powder

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Dry pumpkin seeds in a warm oven for 3-4 hours or in a dehydrator at 115-120 degrees F for an hour

3. Toss the pumpkin seeds with the ingredients above and separate out on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or parchment paper.

4. Place seeds in the oven for 15 minutes, flipping them around the 7 minute mark.

5. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before eating. Store in air tight containers.



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