Oh Pumpkin, My Pumpkin

‘Tis the season for pumpkins. For years, I overlooked pumpkin as anything more than a spooky Hallowe’en doorstep decoration until I realized the nutritional benefits of eating it. Pumpkin puree is quite easy to make, and adding it to muffins and smoothies seemed to be a simple and inoffensive way to ingest some extra vitamins.

Throughout the pumpkin experiment, I had a willing and captive audience, particularly with the smoothies. My son declined the offer to try the pumpkin seeds, which made my daughter very happy to have the lot pretty much to herself. He also refused to do more than smell the freshly roasted pumpkin. Once I had whipped it up into a buttery puree, however, he was willing to dip in a finger and give it a hearty “blech”.

Fortunately, I have plans to de-“blech”-ify it for consumption.

What’s in a pumpkin?

Cooked pumpkin nutritional information (per 1 cup):

Protein ………… 4%DV (1.8g)
Dietary Fiber …11% DV
Folate …………. 6% DV
Iron ……………. 8% DV
Vitamin A …. 245% DV
Vitamin C …… 19% DV
Riboflavin …… 11% DV
Zinc …………… 4% DV
Potassium ….. 16%DV (564mg)

Vitamin A can be dangerous if taken as a supplement in excessive quantities, however it is not possible to consume toxic amounts through dietary sources.

Pumpkin Puree

Making pumpkin puree is an easy but somewhat goopy task. I used two pie pumpkins, each about the size of a volleyball. You will need:

  • a large, sharp knife
  • large spoon or ice cream scoop
  • baking sheet covered with aluminum foil
  • olive oil
  • food processor

Preheat oven to 350F

Slice the pumpkin in half, and remove the stem.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, remove the seeds and pulp from the center. Save the pumpkin seeds for roasting later (see below).

Brush the inside of the pumpkin with olive oil and lay face down on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. (Parchment paper works too, just not for me personally. I seem to have a knack for setting it on fire.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Remove pumpkins from the oven and while they are still hot, peel away the skin and discard.

Add the cooked pumpkin to the food processor and blend until smooth.

Makes about 4 – 6 cups of puree.

Pumpkin seeds

Texture alert: Pumpkin seeds have a chewy, woody quality. They make a nutritious treat for those who aren’t bothered by the texture, however, if you don’t like them and don’t know anyone who does, they are also useful as an addition to the backyard composter.

For those who do enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds:

Preheat oven to 250º

2 cups pumpkin seeds (approx.)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

I managed to sneak a few when no one was looking.

In a colander, rinse the pumpkin seeds under tepid water, and remove any remaining bits of pulp. Pat dry. Pour into a large bowl.

Add 1½ tbsp of melted butter and 1½ tsp of salt. Toss seeds until well coated. Spread evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 2 hours.

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein (11.9g or 24%DV), magnesium (168mg or 42%DV) and zinc (6.6mg or 44%DV).

Smoothies

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I didn’t have time to take a picture. I put the smoothie in a cup and put it on the table while I went to get my camera. When I returned, the tell-tale signs of consumption were all over my son’s face.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 frozen ripe banana
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

This is a very lightly spiced recipe, adapted from Oh She Glows. (Incidentally, there is a picture over there). Feel free to add or reduce the spices to flavour to your liking.

Food critic verdict: “Awesome!”

Pumpkin Chocolate Smoothie

I was a little quicker with the camera for this one, which went down even faster than the pumpkin pie smoothie. This one gets thumbs up from both kids.

3/4 cup milk
2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 frozen ripe banana
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt

In a blender, add milk and cocoa powder and blend on low setting for 1 minute. Add pumpkin puree, banana and yougurt. Blend until mixed well. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

Food critic verdict: (sound of straw slurping the empty glass)

Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

These are just a little too easy to eat. I hate heavy, dry muffins that feel like I’ve just swallowed a cannon ball. These are light, fluffy and moist, and in true Hallowe’en form, marries a mild pumpkin flavour with chocolate very well.

Mini three-bite muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
2 ripe bananas
2/3 cup applesauce
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Blend together with a fork until well mixed.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas with a fork. We like the caramelized effect that small chunks of banana add to a cooked muffin. If texture is an issue, use a food processor to puree bananas before adding the pumpkin puree, applesauce, yogurt, vanilla and eggs. Mix together well.

Add pumpkin puree mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well and add in chocolate chips. Save a few for decoration.

Grease muffin tins and insert muffin liners. Fill each liner 2/3 full. Decorate top with a chocolate chip or two.

Bake for 11 minutes (mini muffins) – 15 minutes (large muffins).

This recipe yielded 40 mini and 15 large muffins. 11 minis and 5 large muffins mysteriously disappeared while they were cooling on a wire rack.

The pumpkin experiment was well received. The greatest achievement came at the grocery store yesterday, when my son added a box of butternut squash soup to the cart and asked if he could try it. He said it looks like the pumpkin puree we made last week. Maybe “blech” is six-year-old-speak for “this would be good as a soup”? I’ll let you know.

Regardless, I say that’s not too shabby for a spooky Hallowe’en doorstep decoration.

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