PUMPKIN, PRETTY PLEASE!: Fresh Ideas for this Pantry Staple

It’s officially autumn, and for some reason, our tastebuds just seem to start craving the earthy, sweet flavour of pumpkin. Sure, you can buy all the pumpkin-spice flavoured drinks, cookies, muffins, cakes, even cereal that you want, but what if you want to do a bit of your own cooking? What can you do with the humble, unassuming can of pumpkin puree that has been in your pantry since last fall?

It’s tempting to follow the predictable path and use it to bake up a luscious pumpkin pie like the one on our cover, but there is so much more you can do with a can full of this humble gourd!

A sauce for all reasons
Looking for a different fall dinner idea? Try using pumpkin puree to make a savoury sauce that comes together easily in a food processor or blender. Blend pumpkin puree with cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and use this as a base to mix into hot pasta along with mascarpone cheese, and then toss in a handful of spinach and walnuts. You could also pour the sauce over quinoa and roasted veggies, or even use it as a pizza sauce alongside garnishes like goat cheese, sage and peppers.

Sub for oil
Feel like baking on a rainy fall afternoon? Pumpkin puree can be used as a substitute for oil or applesauce in many cake and muffin recipes, adding a wonderful richness and “fall flavour” to baked goods. As an added bonus, by substituting pumpkin puree for oil, you up the vitamin A and fibre content—it’s a win-win! You can try substituting the puree for up to 3/4 of the amount of oil called for in a recipe (add it in with the wet ingredients) and note that your baked goods may cook slightly faster when you sub in the puree. Try this in pound cake, pumpkin spice muffins, or a party-worthy bundt cake with cream cheese glaze.

Trick with a treat
Sneaking a healthy veggie into the kid’s breakfast? Yes, our kids are smart—but it’s worth trying to slide pumpkin into the breakfast rotation during the fall season. Pumpkin puree easily substitutes for some of the oil in pancake and waffle recipes, and you can really get creative with the flavours by adding cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, even pumpkin pie spice to the batter. Or, whip up a batch of never-fail cinnamon rolls, making them even more autumnal by spreading on a layer of pumpkin puree before rolling up the dough. Who knows? The fam might even prefer the pumpkin version!

No boring brown bag
Looking to spice up another humdrum work Tupperware lunch? At this time of year, we love taking soup or chili for lunch in an insulated thermos—both are filling, warming and easy to prepare the night before. For a hearty soup, simmer pumpkin puree with chicken broth, cream and nutmeg, add shredded chicken, and top with croutons just before eating. If chili is on the menu, brown onion, pepper and ground beef, stir in pumpkin and tomato purees, and add your choice of canned beans. Season with your favourite chili spices and simmer the whole pot for an hour. Voila—office lunch is served!

Pot lucky!
Invited to a Thanksgiving potluck dinner? If your host asks you to bring an appetizer, try a fall-flavoured hummus. Simply mix a tub of store-bought hummus with around ½ cup of pumpkin puree, and top with shelled pumpkin seeds. Or why not offer to bring mashed sweet potatoes with a secret ingredient? Cook 2 pounds of quartered, peeled sweet potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain and mash with 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/2 stick of butter, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and salt to taste. For an extra festive touch, top with crumbled bacon.

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