I Love Everything Pumpkin!

It’s that time of year again. The landscape is devastatingly beautiful in the fall (at least where I live); and I get irrationally excited about everything pumpkin. My favorite moment yesterday was when I subscribed to a new website called Vanilla and Bean and their introductory email was about how to make pumpkin puree. No more canned pumpkin for me this holiday season. It really is quite easy (really!) to make your own and freeze it up for the whole season. That is, if you don’t use it immediately on one of the great pumpkin recipes you’ll find in this blog.

I love anything with pumpkin in it. Not only is it tasty (in my opinion), it is also very nutritious (see nutrition facts below).  In an effort to help you enjoy the bounty of this beautiful fall, I’m dedicating this week to my favorite pumpkin recipes.  If you have any of your favorites to share, please send them to me.

Pumpkin Leek Soup with Pumpkin Seed Crema

This recipe came from a Delicious Living magazine (October 2001) and was the first time I actually used fresh pumpkin.  It is a little work, but well worth the effort.  Please refer to the link above for baking your pumpkin. BTW, easier pumpkin recipes follow so don’t quit reading yet!

Pumpkin Seed Crema

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, roasted
2 tbsp. fresh sage
2 tbsp. low-fat milk
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt

In blender or food processor, mix all ingredients and blend well. Keep refrigerated until use.


3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
1 medium sugar pumpkin, seated and cubed (or 3 cups canned pumpkin)
1 32-ounce package vegetable stock
1 cup low-fat milk
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped sage, to taste
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
roasted pumpkin seeds, to garnish
sage leaves, to garnish
pumpkin seed crema, to garnish

1. Heat olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, potatoes, onion, carrot, leeks and pumpkin. Sauté over medium heat until the vegetables have begun to brown, about 7-8 min. (If using canned pumpkin, add with stock below.)

2. Add stock and milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10-12 min.

3. Add sage and purée mixture in blender or food processor. Add cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with a drizzle of pumpkin seed crema, roasted pumpkin seeds and a sprig of sage.

Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is my favorite dessert at Thanksgiving. I make it instead of pumpkin pie (much to my mother’s dismay). By the way, I’m still looking for the perfect pumpkin cheesecake recipe, so if anybody has one to send me please don’t hesitate.

8 ounces gingersnap cookies, finally crushed
3tbsp. butter, melted
2tbsp. sugar
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened (I never use low-nonfat cream cheese!)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin
1tbsp. flour
2tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2tsp. nutmeg, 1/2tsp. cloves, 1/2tsp. ginger)
whipped cream
pecan halves

1.    Preheat oven to 325°. Combine crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch cake pan or springform pan. Bake 15 min. Set aside.

2.   Beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

3.  Pour into prebaked crust. Bake for 50 min. or until filling barely moves when gently shaken. Cool, then chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and pecan halves. Makes 12 slices.

Pumpkin Bread (my mom’s recipe)

2 cups sugar (I actually use about 1-1/2 c. sugar and find that enough)
1 cup salad oil (or substitute ½ oil and ½ applesauce)
3 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin (or your own pumpkin puree!)
3 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Raisins (optional) – ¾ cup – but I always use them!
Nuts (optional) – ¾ cup – but I always use them!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the sugar and oil together, add the eggs and pumpkin, then the flour with all the seasonings. Add raisins & nuts.  Pour into two loaf pans that you’ve lined with wax paper.  Cook for 1 to 1-1/4 hr.

Roasted Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

I almost forgot about this delicious recipe.  I’m serving it at my next potluck! Leave out the pork and make the broth vegetable to create a vegetarian alternative to this recipe.

6 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean, boneless pork, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (13-3/4 ounces) beef broth
2/3 cup cream sherry or cooking sherry
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
2 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Cayenne pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
1 can (15 ounces) puréed pumpkin (or your own pumpkin puree!)
2 cups cooked black beans
Shredded cheddar cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced scallions, to garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and brown pork in batches over medium-high heat, adding more oil as needed. Once pork is browned on all sides, reserve. Add onion, garlic, pepper to the pot; sauté about 10 min. Stir in broth, sherry and tomatoes. Add spices, sugar, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Stir well. Add pumpkin purée, stirring until smooth. Add black beans and ground pork. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for one hour. Ladle hot servings.

And… just for fun!  Pumpkin Pudding

Easy, fast, and good! This recipe was taught to me by Leslie Alhanati, a psychology intern I worked with at the Long Beach VA hospital many years ago.

1 cup pumpkin
2 cups milk
Instant pudding mix (vanilla or butterscotch)
Pumpkin pie spices to taste

Follow directions on the instant pudding mix and enjoy.

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts

Pumpkin is high in fiber (high fiber diets aid the digestive process; helps with weight management by helping you feel fuller sooner; helps lower cholesterol; helps fight heart disease by reducing the tendency of the blood to clot.

  • High in Vitamin C (Vitamin C help the body’s immune functions; helps fight free radicals, which cause cellular damage; helps in the body’s production of collagen, which is very important for those recovering from wounds and injuries; may offer cancer fighting properties.)
  • High in vitamin E (Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, which are essential to skin health and skin care; offers anti-aging benefits for the skin; help regulate Vitamin A in the body; aids in treating sun burns and various skin irritations.)
  • High in Magnesium (Magnesium is an important mineral that is essential to many normal biological functions of the body; important in the formation of bones and teeth.)
  • High in Potassium (Potassium is an important mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and proper heart function.)
  • High in a variety of carotenoids (Dietary carotenoids assist in lower risk of a variety of cancers, heart disease, cataracts and blindness, as well as helping fight the effects of aging; provides inflammatory benefits; protects against cholesterol build up.)
  • High in Zinc (Zinc is great for reproductive health; helps to reduce prostate size)

I’m headed to the Farmers’ Market this Saturday to stock up on my pumpkins! Hope to see you there.