Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Carve and taste fresh pumpkins

Just like leaf peeping, carving and tasting pumpkins is an expected fall treat in the High Country. Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o'-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking, and not as sweet as baking varieties. Pumpkins are members of the squash family.

Similar to pumpkin baking varieties, there are many types of winter squash that grow well here, including Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut, Blue Hokkaido, Hubbard, Kobocha, and Delicata. Go ahead and stock up, since if stored in a cool place, they last for up to three months. 

Nutritionally, one cup of mashed pumpkin contains only 49 calories, but boasts 245% of your recommended daily value for vitamin A, converted from the brilliant orange beta-carotene. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and help the retina absorb and process light. This large amount of A also helps your body fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. Plus, pumpkin is packed with nearly 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of daily vitamin C, which may help you recover from colds faster. People who eat a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer.

A five pound pumpkin or winter squash should yield around 4½ cups mashed. This may be used in all recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Here is an easy way to transform an uncooked winter squash into the puree used in baking:
Pumpkin puree for recipes
Scrub with a vegetable brush under running water just before cutting. Cut in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp.
In a baking dish, place the two halves face down. Add an inch of water to the dish.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1½ hours, or until tender.
Once it has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.

You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to a year, enabling you to enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.

This recipe is moist, not too sweet, and freezes well.
Winter squash bars
2 cups cooked and pureed winter squash or pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
Beat together in a mixing bowl.

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Stir together, then mix in with other ingredients. Pour into sprayed 11 x 17 inch jelly roll or similar pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

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