Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PROBLEM:  You decided to take advantage of the fall harvest bounty and have purchased a number of fresh baking pumpkins.. You are now in pumpkin overload.  

What do you do with your baking pumpkins if you cannot use all your pumpkin right away?  

SOLUTION:  Get a handle on how much pumpkin you have and measure portions for different uses for recipes you plan to make by freezing cooked pumpkin puree.   This puree is super handy to have on hand especially for holiday entertaining!  See?  We Solved It – another problem – how to prepare in advance to feed a crowd!   

By freezing your cooked pumpkin puree ahead, you can whip up seasonal dishes to feed the masses just by defrosting your frozen pumpkin puree in the microwave to use right away to whip up amazing dishes. 

First of all, fresh pumpkin needs to be cooked before they are turned into puree. After removing all the seeds (to roast in the oven later!) and strings – you have several options.  You can either bake it in the oven (cut into pieces) for an hour at 400 degrees; boil chunks of it the way you would boil potatoes before mashing or simply microwave your pumpkin pieces about 6 or 7 minutes per pound. 

Once you have cooked pumpkin – use a masher, hand blender or food processor.  Fresh pumpkin is interchangeable with canned in recipes – so start searching for other ways to use it.
While you can freeze some puree in order to make your pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, you may automatically be tired of pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread.  Now what? 

Don’t be afraid to experiment and use pumpkin in a number of unexpected ways. They all don’t have to be sweet, but if you choose to indulge in sweets – you can even experiment here with pumpkin pancakes and scones.  But why stop here?

Use the pumpkin in SAVORY ways!  

Of course you can always make pumpkin soup.  Remember you can freeze the soup if you make excess. 

You can use the pumpkin puree and mix it with ricotta cheese, herbs like fresh sage, black pepper and salt and make yourself a tasty ravioli filling.  

You can also use the pumpkin puree as a sauce for chicken, pork and pasta!  

Start with a roux of butter and flour, cook for a minute or two to cook out the flour taste. Add the pumpkin puree and some heavy cream.  Season liberally with salt, pepper and herbs and you have yourself a versatile sauce.  Whether it’s chicken breasts, pork chops, or rotelle pasta – you’ll find this sauce to be delicious as a compliment to whatever you cook.  

You can use this same sauce over enchiladas (add in chopped jalapenos for a kick!) or make a pumpkin mole for your chicken.  You can also make your own pumpkin lasagna replacing tomato sauce with this lovely thick and creamy pumpkin sauce and use root vegetables like thinly sliced parsnips and beets in between layers of cooked ground or shredded turkey.  It’s a delicious fall harvest comfort meal that’s healthy!  

Use this same sauce over broccoli and bake it with thick slices of onions and add in your favorite shredded cheese and chicken and top with croutons in the oven for a delicious and comforting casserole. 

You can use fresh pumpkin puree in place of any recipe that calls for a can of cream of mushroom soup.  By doing so, you have a more nutritious, vitamin-packed dish that has more fiber, less sodium and less calories automatically, plus you’re adding the power of another vegetable to the mix.  So how about that old dusty recipe for green bean casserole… won’t it be a fun and interesting twist this holiday to have pumpkin puree in there instead.  You can still add in sliced mushrooms and onions if you’d like and top with French-fried onions.  No one will be expecting the pumpkin twist!  

Remember that pumpkin is like squash – it is very adaptable for many recipes.  Use it where recipes call for butternut squash.  You will find more possibilities open up when you remember that vegetables can compliment other vegetables and often replace them in other ways.
Whatever you do - you can feel good about it.  Pumpkin packs lots of vitamins and beta carotene and fiber!  It also makes a fantastic smoothie! 

Be creative. Try something new and different with your sea of pumpkins you turn into fresh puree.  Enjoy new dishes and celebrate the season. 

~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It


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