At Halloween, carved pumpkins line sidewalks and porches, but pumpkins are for more than just carving. Pumpkin’s best-known baking use is pie, but fresh pureed pumpkin is versatile and can be cooked in a variety of other ways such as cheesecake, pancakes, and even baby food.
How to get started:
- Pick your pumpkin. Typically, baking or pie pumpkins are much smaller than carving pumpkins. I prefer Jarrahdale pumpkins; they have a flat and ribbed shape with a bluish green color on the outside and deep orange color on the inside. Their inside flesh looks similar in color to a cantaloupe and is almost as sweet, too. Pumpkins are best picked after the first frost of autumn.
- Wash the outside of the pumpkin, cut in half and remove seeds.
- Bake at 350 degrees, checking at 30 minutes and then every 15 minutes until soft, and remove from oven. Or cut into smaller slices and steam on the stovetop until soft. It’s soft enough when you can stick a fork into the pumpkin and it slides in and out easily.
- Remove the fleshy fruit from the skin with a spoon or paring knife and put it in a blender or food processor. Puree, adding a little water if needed to help get a smooth consistency.
- Choose a recipe or freeze for later use. To freeze: measure portion (I measure based on my recipe needs – 1/2 cup, 1 cup, etc.), put in freezer bag, seal and put in freezer.
Pureed pumpkin is a great base for baby food. You can use it by itself as one of baby’s first foods or mix it with other foods as baby discovers new tastes. One of my son’s favorite homemade baby foods was chicken, pumpkin and rice.
1 chicken breast, boiled
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown rice puree*
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. Baby food can be frozen and thawed at a later date.
* Brown Rice Puree
Put 1/2 cup uncooked rice in a food processor and blend into a powder. Combine brown rice powder and 2 cups water in a saucepan, bring to boil, simmer 10 minutes, whisking constantly. You can also use this rice recipe to make baby rice cereal by mixing prepared rice with formula, breast milk, or fruits/vegetables.
1 1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I use a mix of light and dark brown sugars)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (can substitute with cooking oil)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla
chocolate or fruit as desired
In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl lightly beat eggs with oil. Add milk, pumpkin and vanilla to egg mixture. Stir liquid ingredients into dry mixture with a whisk until slightly lumpy.
Two cooking methods:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill lightly greased cupcake trays half full with batter or 1/3 full with batter and add chocolate or fruit. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown (insert a toothpick in the center, and when it’s done it should come out clean).
- Heat a lightly greased griddle over medium low heat. Add chocolate or fruit to the batter. For each pancake pour 1/4 cup batter onto griddle. Cook until golden, turn when tops are bubbly and edges are slightly dry (1-2 minutes per side).
Makes about 10 pancakes on the griddle or 24 muffin pancakes.
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 packs of whole graham crackers)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Place oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an eight-inch spring form pan with coconut oil or butter (you can also use a 10-inch spring form pan for a larger but thinner cheesecake).
For Crust: In a medium-sized bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the cheesecake filling.
For Cheesecake: In a separate bowl, stir to combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) beat cream cheese on low speed until smooth, about two minutes. Gradually add sugar mixture and beat until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (about 30 seconds). Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in vanilla and pumpkin puree.
Place spring form pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips and pour the filling over the chilled graham cracker crust. Place a cake pan, filled halfway with hot water, on the bottom shelf of your oven to moisten the air. Bake cheesecake for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake the cheesecake for another 10 to 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed but the center is still wet and jiggles when you gently shake the pan.
For Topping: Whisk together sour cream, vanilla and sugar. Pour sour cream mixture over the top of the baked cheesecake and evenly distribute. Return cheesecake to oven and bake about 8 minutes to set topping. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Loosen cheesecake from pan by running a knife around the inside edge. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan so the cheesecake will cool slowly. When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, preferably overnight, before serving.