Nothing reminds me of the fall more than cooking with pumpkin. A great source of several vitamins- most notable being vitamins A, C, and better yet a great source of fiber- pumpkin adds a nutritious and unique flavor dimension to cooking and baking recipes.
First things first, what is the difference between using canned and fresh pumpkins in recipes? Luckily, there isn't much difference in the nutrition facts, but using fresh pumpkin can taste oh-so-good. So how do you do it? There are several ways to puree fresh pumpkin including baking, boiling, steaming, and even microwaving.
To start, cut the pumpkin in half and remove the stringy portion and pulp. Be sure to save the seeds for roasting later on! Once you're to this point, choose your cooking method. If you decide to boil or steam the pumpkin, peel both halves and cut the pumpkin into bite-size pieces or slightly larger. Either drop the pumpkin pieces into a saucepan, cover with lightly salted water, and bring the water to a boil ...OR place the pumpkin in a colander over boiling water and cover. As a rule of thumb, steaming will take twice as long as boiling. A medium-sized pumpkin (4-5 pounds) will get tender from boiling in 20-25 minutes and should ultimately yield 1.5-2 cups of pumpkin puree.
If baking is your method of choice, place your two pumpkin halves (face down) in a shallow baking dish and cover it with foil. Bake the pumpkin at 375 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Wait for the pumpkin to cool, then scoop out the flesh and puree it.
As an alternative, you can microwave chunks of pumpkin on high for 6-8 minutes. Stirring and turning pieces promotes even heating.
Once you've cooked the pumpkin, put it through a food processor or food mill, or mash it with a potato masher until you achieve the desired consistency.
Tanya's Tip:Enjoy the flavor of fresh, local pumpkin year-round by storing your puree in the freezer for up to six months. Otherwise, the puree lasts safely in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Interested in using a recipe of your choosing? Calculate the nutrition facts using this recipe calculatorto see if it fits your diet's needs.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyinthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.