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Frightfully Good Pumpkin Recipes

By Jude Buglewicz

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Pumpkin recipesPumpkins appear in markets and roadside stands everywhere in the U.S. in October, when 80 percent of the pumpkin crop becomes available. Like most people, you'll probably buy a few pumpkins to make scary jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween. But while the kids are getting creative carving frightening faces, why not spend a few minutes roasting the seeds for tasty treats and making pumpkin puree for moist, yummy low-fat cookies packed with pumpkin's potassium, fiber, and vitamin A? Try these easy recipes!

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin pureeGet those jack-o'-lantern pumpkins for the kids and the variety called "sugar" pumpkins for making puree they're much better in baked goods. Figure that a four-pound sugar pumpkin will yield about two cups of puree. Two cups of pumpkin puree equals one 16-ounce can of pumpkin. Since your homemade version will be runnier than canned pumpkin (pumpkins are 90 percent water) you may want to strain it overnight in the refrigerator before using it for baking.

Start by thoroughly washing your pumpkin, then cut it in half and hollow out all the seeds and stringy stuff. (Save the seeds for roasting!) You can soften the pumpkin either by baking or boiling it.

Baking: Place the two halves, cut side down, in a roasting pan or large casserole dish with a quarter cup of water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until very tender, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Scoop the flesh into a bowl to cool.

Boiling: Cut the pumpkin halves into chunks and boil until soft. Drain, let cool, then slide the skin off each piece.

Blend cooled pumpkin flesh for a couple minutes in a blender until smooth. If you want thicker puree, strain the pumpkin for a few hours. Line the strainer first with coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloth, then put the strainer in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator. Your strained puree will last in the fridge for three days, and up to six months in the freezer. So go ahead and freeze a few pumpkins' worth for those Thanksgiving pies next month!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seedsSeeds, rinsed, from one medium pumpkin
Olive oil
(Optional coatings: 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or garlic powder, 1 Tbsp. curry powder or seasoning salt)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place seeds in a saucepan with water (2 cups water to every half cup of seeds) and salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then drain. Spread a tablespoon of olive oil over a cookie sheet, then spread pumpkin seeds on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until seeds are lightly browned. Let cool completely in a medium-sized bowl. For spicy seeds, coat with one or more suggested spices before roasting.

Low-Fat Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin cookies1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. ginger
1 cup rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup raisins or dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend together first five ingredients. Mix in spices, oats, and baking soda, then fold in flour, raisins or dates, and nuts. Drop by tablespoons onto a nonstick cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Yields 2-1/2 dozen cookies.

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