If there’s one flavor that defines the holiday season for me (besides maybe peppermint for Christmas) it’s pumpkin. (Have I mentioned this before?)
I love pumpkin. I love it in pies, cakes, breads, lattes, fudge, you name it. But, those things don’t always fit in with my mission to stick with wholesome, natural, real foods. Pumpkin is very healthy and nutrient-rich, but all the sugar, whipped cream, and other things we muck it up with are most definitely not.
That’s why I love the days between Halloween and Thanksgiving, when pumpkins and winter squash are abundant, and super cheap! If you haven’t already visited your local farm stand, drop what you’re doing and go. NOW!
I did, and I brought ALL these beauties home for a mere $3 total! The Cinderella pumpkin alone should yield at least 16 cups. How’s that for maximizing your food dollar?
What? You’ve never cooked a pumpkin? You’re not alone. Most people I come across tell me that they would, but they don’t know how. Pumpkins (and all winter squash), with their hard, intimidating exterior can be offputting. But, fresh pumpkin has SO many benefits:
- Your purchase can help support a local farmer.
- Fresh produce hasn’t lost any nutrient content through processing.
- No can! Cans can leach toxic things into your pumpkin, not to mention they have to be transported, recycled, blah, blah, yuck.
If these things are important to you, you’re in luck! It really is extremely easy to prepare a pumpkin for your favorite recipe! There are several ways, but here’s my method:
- Wash pumpkin.
- Split pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Cut halves into wedges if they are large.
- Put pumpkin, cut side down, into a baking dish with about 1″ of water. (Check water and add more if it gets too low during baking.)
- Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender.
- Remove from oven, let cool. Scoop out flesh (use an ice cream scooper!) and use in your favorite recipe! (I like to put mine in the food processor for a quick whirrr if it looks fibrous. )
My favorite way to use our stash of fresh pumpkin puree? Pumpkin Butter!
Find details on my recipe here.
Keep pumpkin butter in your fridge throughout the fall and winter. You can use it on toast, in oatmeal, for baking, even over ice cream. And if you’re heading to or hosting a party, here’s the easiest holiday recipe ever!
Pumpkin Pie Dip
- 1 cup pumpkin butter (the thicker, the better)
- 8 oz neufchatel cheese
Combine ingredients in a bowl; whip until smooth. Add extra cinnamon or nutmeg to taste. Serve with gingersnaps or graham crackers. (For a little extra flair, serve dip in a tiny, hollowed out sugar pumpkin!)
*This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
Is it healthy? Well, that’s all relative, isn’t it? Sure, it has a little fat and some sugar, but if you’re looking for the true taste of fall made with real ingredients, fresh produce and nothing artificial, this might be right up your alley (and you’re probably supporting a local grower while you’re at it! :D )
Put it on the buffet and watch it fly! Happy entertaining, everyone!