Thinking beyond pumpkin pie

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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It’s fall and thoughts turn to pumpkins and Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Young children can enjoy creating jack-o-lanterns by drawing the eyes and mouth on the pumpkin with markers, then the pumpkin is still safe for eating later.

We usually think of using the pumpkin for pie, but there are many other recipes with pumpkin that are great this time of year and also serve as an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene, that offers protection against heart disease.

In order to prepare the pumpkin for use in recipes, first work on a clean surface. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.

Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. Next, cut in half. In any case, remove the stem, scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. It’s a messy job, but it will pay off. The pumpkin should be cooked in one of three ways – boiled, baked in an oven or cooked in a microwave.

To boil/steam: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander.

To bake in the oven: Cut the pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until fork tender.

To cook in the microwave: Cut the pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary, continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

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