Stacked in seasonal displays at Herman's Farm and Orchard, at local grocery stores and in piles at roadside stands, fall pumpkins are hard to miss.
And while you might see them merely as Jack' O'Lanterns or as a pumpkin pie ingredient, I see more. Pumpkin has potential.
Pumpkin is perfect for recipes ranging from soup to breads as well as cooked into candy to slow-roasted around a pot roast. The fact is, few vegetables offer as many culinary options as pumpkins. The only trick is knowing how to prepare the pulp.
To cook a fresh pumpkin cut them in half (larger pumpkins cut into pieces) then, scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers. Brush cut side with oil and place cut side down in a shallow baking dish. Pour about 1/2 inch water in the baking pan and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork tender. Remove from the oven and cool. Scrape the pumpkin pulp from the shell, place in a bowl and mash or puree using a hand blender.
Pumpkin is good for you. It's loaded with vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C, E and K along with antioxidant carotenoids, and beta-carotenes. It’s a good source of fiber and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Even its seeds have value. Pumpkin seeds, which are great toasted and tossed into a salad, seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis.
Whether you’re cooking a fresh pumpkin or opening a can of puree, pumpkin’s popularity has spawned a variety of seasonal recipes from pie to soup, to cheesecake and ravioli.
Celebrate the harvest season beyond pumpkin pie. Make warming soup or a few gifts from your kitchen featuring fall’s signature vegetable. Recipes compliments of Libby's and from my Dierberg's harvest cooking class.
Spiced Pumpkin Fudge
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 2/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 cups Nestle Toll House Premier White Morsels
- 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract
Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil.
Combine sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter and spice in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 to 240F (soft-ball stage).
Quickly stir in morsels, marshmallow creme, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously until morsels are melted. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Let stand on wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cooled. Refrigerate tightly covered. To cut, lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 3 pounds.
Mini Pumpkin Pecan Orange Soaked Cakes
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 package (18.25 ounces) spice cake mix
- 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- Orange syrup
Preheat oven to 35O degrees. Grease and flour two 6-cake mini Bundt pans. Sprinkle nuts over bottom. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, vegetable oil and eggs in large mixer bowl. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until blended. Beat for 4 minutes on medium speed. Spoon about 1/2 cup into each mold.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven. With back of spoon, carefully pat down dome of each cake to flatten. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes.
Invert cakes onto cooling rack(s). Poke holes in cakes with wooden pick. Spoon a tablespoon of Orange Syrup over each cake. Allow syrup to soak in. Cool completely before serving or wrapping for gifts. Makes 12 cakes
Orange syrup: Place 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water and 2 teaspoons grated orange peel in small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons orange juice.
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 1 can (29 ounces) pumpkin puree
- 8 large eggs
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup orange juice or water
- 2 cups sweetened dried, fresh or frozen cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour four 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in extra large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in large bowl with wire whisk; mix until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries. Spoon 4 cups of batter into each prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Once completely cooled, wrap loaves in plastic wrap.
Cream of Pumpkin Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped white onions
- 1 cup finely chopped leeks
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 cup cream or half and half
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Tabasco sauce to taste
In a large soup kettle, heat butter and add the onions over a medium high heat.
When onions become translucent, stir in the leeks and celery. Sweat the vegetables until soft and celery is tender. Add pumpkin and garlic; cook for a few minutes to blend flavors. Add the stock and sage. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cream and heat through. Adjust to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Makes 8 large servings.