It’s no secret that pumpkin is the ingredient du jour. You will find it everywhere. At popular coffee chains, pumpkin is in everything from lattes to muffins to breads.
In the fall, grocery stores devote more shelf space to canned pumpkin – and often it’s on sale. Don’t confuse it with pumpkin pie filling, which also comes in a can. Check the label: Pumpkin puree should be nothing but pumpkin.
One of the most popular uses of pure pumpkin, of course, is in pumpkin pie. But there are plenty of other ways to use this antioxidant-rich ingredient.
You can make pumpkin soup or stir it into stews and chiles. Swirl it into yogurt. Add some to mashed potatoes. Or use pumpkin to replace some of the fat in cookies, muffins and breads.
It’s all good. And, for the most part, good for you. Adding pumpkin to recipes adds vitamins and antioxidants, as well as a good dose of fiber.
A 1/2 cup of pumpkin has only 50 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Mayssoun Hamade, clinical manager and registered dietitian for St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich., says pumpkin meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture vegetable requirement of eating 2 cups of orange vegetables weekly.
“The two things that pumpkin is high in are vitamin A and beta carotene – an antioxidant,” Hamade says. “They protect the body and the cells from getting damaged.”
Pumpkin is available year-round but it’s during the fall holidays when producers such as Libby’s see a jump in sales. Libby’s sells more than 80 percent of the commercial pumpkin products.
Pure pumpkin is what you get after cooking sugar or pie pumpkins (don’t use carving pumpkins, which have watery flesh) until their inner flesh is soft. Once soft, the flesh is mashed or processed into a puree. While it’s easy to make your own, it’s just as cost-effective to buy canned. A 15-ounce can of 100 percent pumpkin is about $2. Larger 29-ounce cans are about $3.
A pie pumpkin weighs about 4 pounds and averages about 79 cents a pound. Once you roast it, the flesh softens and shrinks some, yielding about 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin.
Here are few ways to use pumpkin:
Chili: Brown 1 pound bulk spicy Italian pork sausage (or turkey sausage) in a large pot; pour off fat. Add 1 cup chopped onions, 1 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers and cook until softened. Season with chili powder, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Stir in 1 3/4 cup canned Great Northern beans, 2 (14.5-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1 cup vegetable broth and 1 1/2 cups pumpkin. Simmer 20 minutes. (Recipe adapted from www.bonappetit.com.)
Mini muffins: Mix one package devil’s food cake mix with one 15-ounce can (about 1 3/4 cups) pumpkin. Scoop batter into mini muffin tins. Bake according to package directions.
Pasta sauce: Stir 1 cup of pumpkin into 3 cups of pasta sauce for a thicker consistency.