News & Opinion > Food News >

Great Pumpkin Meals

From Kristina Vanni

Kristina Vanni, winner of a recent international chef competition in Australia and frequent culinary guest on television morning show segments, has taken on the pumpkin. “Whether you purchase canned, make your own puree, or just buy one to carve for Halloween, there are so many ways to use this most versatile squash,” explains Vanni.  “Pumpkins can be turned into soups, casseroles, side dishes, breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and preserves.  In addition to its wonderful flavor, pumpkin brings a host of nutrients to the table, particularly Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium.”

So, buy that pumpkin and use these tips to get the most out of your purchase:

How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin

Start with small pumpkins, about 2-3 pounds.  The smaller pumpkins are not only easier to handle, they are sweeter in taste.  First, wash the pumpkins over running water and pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel.  Next, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and scoop out all the seeds (save them for roasting!) and stringy bits. Now you are ready!  Here are some easy options on how to cook the pumpkins chunks.  Use whatever method is best for you.   

1)  Oven-Roasting:  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pumpkin chunks, skin side up, in a glass baking dish.  Add 1/4 inch of water and bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes (depending on chunk sizes) until flesh is tender, checking occasionally to add more water, if needed. 

2)  Microwave:  Place pumpkin chunks, skin side up, in a glass baking dish.  Add 1/4 inch of water and cover pan with plastic wrap or wax paper, and vent.  Microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes (or about 5 minutes per pound) until pumpkin is tender.

3)  Steaming:  Heat water to boiling in a saucepan that fits a steamer.  Place pumpkin chunks in steamer container and place over pan.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. 

4)  Slow Cooker:  Place pumpkin chunks, skin side down, in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until pumpkin is tender. 

Easy-to-Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree:

For all methods after pumpkin is cooked, scoop out pulp and discard skin.  Pulp can be pureed in a blender or food processor, or stirred by hand until smooth, or you can keep it chunky, if desired.  Pulp keeps in the refrigerator for a week or it can also be frozen in airtight containers for 6 months.  A 2-3 pound pumpkin will make about 2-1/2 cups of puree.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

To make roasted pumpkin seeds, place seeds in a colander and rinse.  Pick out all pieces of pulp.  Place seeds on a baking sheet and pat dry.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle a little vegetable oil over seeds and sprinkle with some salt and toss.  Bake for 10 minutes, stir, and return to oven.  Bake another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until golden and crispy.

Also check out two of her pumpkin recipes in the links below. For more of Kristina’s recipes, cooking tips and culinary adventures visit her blog "The Daily Dish".