In the fall, grocery stores and markets overflow with pumpkins of every kind. Cinderella pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins, giant pumpkins, and miniature pumpkins. Many of the pumpkins for sale are for decorative purposes. But, some of those pumpkins are intended for eating. Cooking with fresh pumpkin is really not too difficult and allows you to control what goes into your food. To cook with fresh pumpkin, you have to start by buying the right kind of pumpkin. They are called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins and are usually about the size of a basketball.
Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin and brought it home, be sure to wash off the rind well. With a large sharp knife, slice off the stem and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Be sure to save the seeds to roast for a healthy snack. Place the pumpkin halves flesh-side down in a 9x13 glass pan, and add enough water to reach about one inch up the sides of the pumpkins. Microwave the pumpkin for 20 or 30 minutes or until a fork slides easily into the flesh. You can also cook the pumpkin in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes. Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it comfortably. The hard rind should peel off the flesh easily. Discard the rind. Place the flesh in a food processor and process until smooth. At this point, you can use the pumpkin puree in any recipe that calls for pureed pumpkin. You can also put it in freezer bags or containers and freeze for later use. Here’s a fun recipe to get you started using fresh pumpkin.
2 cups or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup great northern beans
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 small tomato
Puree the pumpkin, beans, half of the chilies, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and chili powder in a food processor or blender. Spread the mixture in an 8-inch pie plate or an 8x8 square pan. Top with the remaining chilies, the onion and tomato. Chill in the refrigerator for two to four hours. Serve with whole grain crackers, raw vegetables or baked tortilla chips.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Save your pumpkin seeds and separate them from the stringy pulp. Rinse the seeds well and pat dry. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they just start to brown. Check the seeds every 10 to 15 minutes because they can burn quickly. For some variety, toss the pumpkin seeds with your favorite spice blend before roasting.