By Chris Watson
Pumpkin is everywhere. Or at least pumpkin spice. Candles, lattes, pies, cookies, candy, muffins, cakes, air freshener, rolls (with or without cream cheese), soups, soufflés, laundry detergent, beer, Triscuits….
Triscuits?!? Yes, even the humble wheat cracker has been assimilated. Linus of Charlie Brown fame has to wait no more. The Great Pumpkin has risen and he rules. If you really want to to be amazed check out 27 of the weirdest pumpkin things from Offbeat.
However, just because pumpkin spice has become culinarily pedantic, it isn’t wise to overlook this humble ingredient. Pumpkins, like its close cousins squash and sweet potato, have been shoved into the culinary corner for a long time, playing a more decorative and ceremonial role than a food centerpiece. Although Triscuits might be a bridge too far pumpkin has an excellent role to play in our winter cuisine.
The Healthy Pumpkin
Most of us would never associate pumpkin with health food. We should. According to Medical News Today (October 13, 2016) 1 cup of pumpkin provides a good deal of fiber and protein along with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It has been listed as one of those constantly debated “super” foods.
The problem, of course, is that a cup of pumpkin on its own tastes
terrible. Really, really, terrible. So, we compensate for the slimy texture and nasty taste with lots of butter, sugar, eggs and cream and then we pour the whole thing into a fatty, white flour crust and top the whole concoction with more sugary cream. In other words, we make pie.
Soups aren’t much better. Pumpkin soup is traditionally loaded with heavy cream and butter. Although delicious it is anything but “healthy.”
Finally, if you live in a smaller size household, one can of pumpkin makes a really big pie or a large pot of soup. Even if find lighter, less fat laden ways of making your pie and soup you still have to content with eating way too much.
One can, Two Recipes
Splitting up a can of pumpkin isn’t like splitting the atom. It can be done easily and safely. First, your standard 15 oz can of pumpkin is 1 3/4 cups. As usual with trying to cut things in half this is a difficult split. However, it comes down to 3/4 a cup plus a couple of tablespoons or you can use a scale and measure 7.5 oz. Or you can eyeball it. In the case of these two recipes a little bit one way or another will not make any difference.
Second, pumpkin will freeze. If you like pumpkin soup but don’t want to eat it for 3 days you can make a smaller batch and freeze the left over pumpkin.
All that being said the obvious answer is to make two different recipes with your single can of pumpkin…one sweet and one savory. Even if your significant other doesn’t like pumpkin you can still have your pumpkin fill without it becoming pumpkin burnout.
Finally, most pumpkin recipes call for some type of evaporated milk. fortunately for us they sell very small cans of evaporated milk. However, in the recipes that follow you are also spitting a regular size can of milk so it is a win win.
Pumpkin custard may be the best fall dessert…ever. Basically it is just pumpkin pie filling without the crust. Custard is, of course, a great way to produce a pumpkin dessert gluten free. However, even the best pie crust is somewhat lost on a pumpkin pie anyway. The answer is a custard.
Most people don’t like custard recipes because they either make too much or they are fussy. Many recipes require a “water bath” and individual ramekins to make the custard. Lots of fuss for not a lot of payoff. What follows is a simple custard recipe that avoids all of that. It does require a smaller glass dish, which in our size household you should have handy (see Size Matters Part One: Hardware). Regardless of your dish size make sure you adjust the cooking time and check your custard early and often to prevent over cooking and burning. And don’t forget, you can make this dish in individual ramekins. You will have to adjust your time for the smaller dish.
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ can pumpkin (7.5 oz or a little over ¾ cup)
- ½ can fat free evaporated milk (6 oz or ¾ cup)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ginger
- ⅛ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 325
- In a medium bowl beat the egg then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until combined
- Spray a small glass dish (8x6 or 40-50 square inches) with non stick spray
- Pour mixture into dish and place in oven
- Bake 35-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cook time will vary depending on the oven and the size of the dish. Pumpkin dishes tend to take longer than the test recipe.
- Serve with whipped cream.
Pumpkin soup is really delicious and it is fairly easy and heathy if made right. Here we use up the rest of our evaporated milk and pumpkin along with using some low fat chicken stock (reduced sodium). Most pumpkin soup recipes call for you to transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree. This breaks down the onions. You are certainly at liberty to do so. However, another option is to do that ahead of time by either grating the onion or using you food processor to puree the onion ahead of time. Same is true for the garlic. Either a garlic press or grating the garlic will allow you to skip the puree step. Or, if you don’t really care about some soft onion, just dice the onion fine.
This recipe calls for some cinnamon and ginger. We are grating fresh ginger and adding a small amount. You can add powdered ginger as well. However, watch the amount! In this soup cinnamon and ginger will quickly overpower the savory nature of the soup. Finally, you need to add a little heat. Without at least a bit of cayenne or hot sauce this soup will be absolutely flat.
- 2 Tbs butter
- ½ small onion, grated
- 1 small clove garlic, grated
- ½ tsp fresh ginger, grated (or ⅛ tsp ginger)
- ½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
- ¼ tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
- Dash to ⅛ tsp red pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 2¼ cups low sodium chicken stock
- ½ can (7.5 oz or a little over ¾ cup) pumpkin
- ½ can (6 oz or ¾ cup) fat free evaporated milk
- In a heavy sauce pan melt butter.
- Saute onion, garlic, ginger, salt, black and red pepper until onion is soft
- Add chicken stock and bay leaf. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
- Add pumpkin and milk. Return to a simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
- Test for salt and heat. Add more red pepper and salt if necessary.
- Serve with smoked paprika and a spoonful of sour cream if desired