Fall is synonymous with a lot of things, especially pumpkins. Not only do pumpkins dot the landscape and decorations, they start showing up in the kitchen. If you’re cooking with pumpkin, you always can buy one, scrape out the insides, cut and peel it, then bake it. But, why go to all that trouble when you can get the exact same benefits from a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling).
Pumpkin dip is easy to make, and is great to have on hand for fresh fruit, shortbread cookies, and as a pancake or waffle spread. Whisk together one cup of pumpkin puree with one packet of vanilla or white chocolate pudding mix. Using a spoon, gently blend in 1 ½ cups whipped topping, 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 1/3 cup milk, and 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
To make easy cupcakes, combine one box of yellow or chocolate cake mix, with ½ cup pumpkin puree. Whisk until no lumps remain, then bake according to the directions. The cake mix flavor will be dominant, so if you prefer the pumpkin to be stronger, add two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. The cupcakes will be dense, but very moist. To make pumpkin spice cupcakes, start with a box of spice (gingerbread) cake mix, add ½ cup pumpkin (in place of oil) with ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, then assemble the ingredients according to the package instructions. These are great with cream cheese frosting.
Healthy Pasta Sauce
Pumpkin can be used to add vitamins and other nutrients to your favorite pasta dishes. A creamy pasta sauce comes together by combining one cup of chicken broth, one cup of cream or whole milk, one teaspoon of minced garlic, one teaspoon of salt (or more to taste), ½ cup pumpkin puree, ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper and a ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Whisk together and heat over medium until hot and well blended. Serve immediately over cooked pasta. This sauce is great over chicken. Top with grated fresh parmesan or feta for a salty component.
Pumpkin is a super food full of fiber, zinc, iron and Vitamin C. It’s also chock-full of antioxidants. Because it has no fat and little to no sodium, pumpkin can be used in place of butter in recipes. Simply reduce the amount of pumpkin by 25%; for one cup of butter, use ¾ cup pumpkin puree. It is also a great substitute for eggs — use ¼ cup pumpkin for each egg. In desserts, especially, pumpkin is very subtle compared with the other flavors.
Pumpkin is a great ingredient to play around with — try adding it to a variety of sweet and savory dishes to get extra vitamins and fiber. Or, substitute for oil, butter or even eggs (but not all 3 in the same recipe) to lighten the heaviest dishes. Be adventurous, try different flavor combinations, and you could create the new family favorite dish in time for Thanksgiving. Happy cooking!
– Tiffany Hughes, an Acworth resident and volunteer coordinator/scheduler for the Booth Western Art Museum.
• 1 cup grated fresh carrots
• 1 cup minced sweet onion
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic
• 32 ounces chicken broth
• 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon dried parsley
• Dash ground red pepper or hot sauce
• Crumbled feta for topping
In a large stock pot, heat 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Stir in carrots and onion. Saute until onion is translucent and carrot is tender. Add garlic and salt, stir well to blend, then add broth and pumpkin. Whisk until smooth, then stir in parsley. Cook over medium until heated through, without boiling (approximately 10-15 minutes). Add ground red pepper or hot sauce just before serving. Serve topped with feta cheese.
White Chocolate Pumpkin Bread
• 2 cups pumpkin puree
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon maple extract
• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 packet white chocolate pudding
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, combine the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, extract and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, then add the pudding mix.
With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the pumpkin. Blend well, then stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Spread batter in a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bars
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup peanut butter
• ¾ cup pumpkin puree
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
• 4 eggs
• 2 teaspoons. vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped pecans or peanuts
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream peanut butter, pumpkin, spice and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended, then add vanilla extract. With the beaters on medium, slowly pour in the flour. When the flour is incorporated, stir in nuts and chocolate chips by hand. Batter will be stiff.
Spread batter evenly in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Bake 25 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
1. Add ¼ cup dark cocoa powder (and increase the pumpkin puree to 1 cup) for chocolate pumpkin brownies.
2. Use flavored M&Ms instead of chocolate chips.
3. Make a maple glaze to top the bars by combining 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon of maple extract and ½ teaspoon of butter flavoring.