Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pumpkin Pointers

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love Halloween and Thanksgiving! Here are some great tips on using pumpkins as they will soon be all over the grocery stores. Do you have any great recipes for pumpkins? I am always looking for new ones to try!

*Don't Eat Jack! Field pumpkins -- the kind sold for carving Jack o' lanterns -- are bland and watery compared to the sweeping array of other pumpkins and winter squash varieties sold specifically for eating. For baking and cooking, choose from sugar pumpkins or cheese pumpkins, or other winter squash such as butternut, acorn, delicata, Hubbard, kabocha or dumpling -- all are similar in texture and flavor and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

*Puree Your Pumpkins! So how do you turn a thick-shelled squash into a pile of puree ready for pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, ice cream, soups and sauces? It does take a bit of time, but it's super simple! Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters and scoop out the guts and seeds. Now you can either bake it at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about an hour or microwave it on high for about 7 minutes per pound, until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Let it cool enough to handle it, then scoop the flesh out of the shell. Puree it in the food processor or push it through a sieve and it's recipe-ready!

*Save those Seeds! Picking through those pumpkin guts is worth it in the end for a big bowlful of toasted seeds for snacking. First rinse the seeds in a colander and blot them dry with paper towels. Toss them on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil and the spices of your choice. Try chili powder, ranch dressing mix, lemon pepper, curry powder, Cajun seasoning, cinnamon and sugar, or just plain salt. Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

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