Right now the pumpkins and winter squash are ripe and ready. Pumpkin and winter squash are a rich source of Vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients you get from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin/squash has only about 80 calories!
While it is much easier to use canned pumpkin, you can use fresh pumpkin and squash that you have cooked and pureed for your favorite recipes. There are several varieties of winter squash available including butternut, Hubbard, turban, buttercup, acorn, banana, mammoth, sweet dumpling, and the pumpkin.
Follow these tips for easy and safe pumpkin cooking:
- Choose pumpkin or squash that has a bright colored skin, is firm and heavy for its size, with no damaged areas. Smaller pumpkins/squash may produce better products.
- To use, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down in a baking dish and bake in a moderate (350 degree) oven until the pulp is soft. Let it cool slightly and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You can puree it in a blender or food processor to make a smoother product and it is ready for pies, pumpkin bread, cookies or other product made with pumpkin puree.
- To freeze pumpkin, first rinse the outer rind with cold water. Then cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label container and freeze. Freeze in quantities that can be used at one time, for example, enough for one or two pumpkin pies.
- Thaw pumpkin and squash in the refrigerator – not on the counter- before using.
- To can pumpkin, you must can the pumpkin in chunks. Wash the pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch slices and peel then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes to a saucepot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes, do not mash or puree. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with boiling hot cooling liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
- When you are ready to use the pumpkin, drain off most of the liquid and mash or puree and use as you would commercially canned pumpkin.
- Check stored pumpkins occasionally and discard any that become soft or moldy
Orange Date Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup al-purpose flour
2 tsp backing powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 large seedless orange, scrubbed and cut into 8 sections(peel left on)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2/3 cup fresh unseasoned pumpkin puree
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup honey
3 Tbsp canola oil
¾ cup pitted dates, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray.
Whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl. Puree orange sections in a food processor or blender. Add egg, egg white, pumpkin, sugar, honey and oil and process until mixed good. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients: add the wet ingredients and dates. Stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts. Bake the muffins until the tops spring back when touched lightly approx. 18-20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 min and empty out onto wire rack to cool before serving.
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