• Simply Fresh (Wk 17) Raspberries and Pie Pumpkins

    A Note on Raspberries

    The raspberry bushes are in peak form and yet we risk an autumn frost. Thus we have the privilege of being able to harvest a LOT of raspberries this week. There are two things I want to point out about the raspberries before you head out to the fields.

    First, don’t be lulled by the huge, almost burgundy, perfect looking red raspberries that are disappearing quickly off the bushes. Yes, they are beautiful and plump, but don’t be fooled into thinking that because they are so much more eye catching than the dull pink ones they are that much more desirable. Take a gander over to the less glamorous looking bushes and have a taste of the other variety. They may look dull and marred, but when you take a taste of a nice pink or especially dark rose-colored one, you will feel like you are eating candy. Truly they are sweeter and less acidic than the red variety and may soon become your favorite. So don’t allow the lady in red to lead you astray. Try the pretty in pink too.

    Secondly, don’t be afraid to take your full share even if you think you can’t eat all the berries in one week. Freeze them. Frozen raspberries are perfect for smoothies, baked goods, and sauces well after the harvest is over. To freeze raspberries so that they don’t clump together in a large chunk of ice, try the following method.

    frozen-raspberries

    Individually Frozen Raspberries

    Gently rinse raspberries in a colander being careful not to crush or break them apart (do it in batches if you think that will help). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with 2-3 sheets of paper towel. Turn the rinsed and drained raspberries out on to the baking sheet and shake gently back and forth to move the berries around on the baking sheet so that the towel absorbs the excess moisture. Using the paper towel as an aid, pick up the whole bunch of berries and gently turn them over onto a clean and dry rimmed baking sheet. Gently spread the berries apart trying to keep them from touching one another. Place berries in the freezer just until they have frozen through. Then transfer the berries to a sealable freezer bag or another airtight container. As long the berries stay in the freezer, they should stay individually frozen so you can remove small amounts as needed.

     

    Featured Item—Pie Pumpkins
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    We all know pumpkins. They are the things you decorate your house with or carve for Halloween, right? Yes and no. There are pumpkins bred for decoration and carving (aptly called carving pumpkins) and there are pumpkins meant for eating.   These are called Pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins, and they come in several varieties of their own. Sadly, many folks aren’t too familiar with these particular winter squash. We’ve all had pumpkin pie so we know pumpkin is edible, but how often are we really exposed to other dishes made of pie pumpkins? To add insult to injury, the “pumpkin” you typically buy in cans at the grocery store and make into soup or pumpkin pie tend not to contain any pumpkin at all, but instead consist of other varieties of winter squash such as butternut, Hubbard, or Boston Marrow (Libby’s brand does contain a variety of pie pumpkin, however). So alas, unless you’ve actually cooked up your own pie pumpkin, it is entirely possible that you have never really eaten pumpkin at all. I hope to change that.

    Unlike carving pumpkins, pie pumpkin pulp is smoother, less stringy, and frankly, more appealing. Its flesh is similar to butternut squash, although butternut has a reputation for being a bit sweeter and smoother. However, if you are looking to make a puree in order to make pie, soup, puddings, or baked goods, I find the two are basically interchangeable.

    Like other winter squash, pie pumpkins are a nutritional powerhouse, containing high amounts of vitamins (especially A and C), minerals (potassium and manganese), dietary fiber, and antioxidants (beta carotene). Just one cup serving of pie pumpkin contains 3 grams of fiber, most of which is the soluble type, thought to help the body regulate blood sugar. One cup of pie pumpkin also delivers 245% of the daily value of vitamin A and 19% of the daily value of vitamin C, important for immune functioning. Research is beginning to show that antioxidants and certain kinds of starches in winter squash may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and insulin regulatory properties (Worlds Healthiest Foods). In addition to all these health benefits, pumpkin is also fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. So, given all that, are you sure you want to make your pie pumpkin a centerpiece rather than a meal on your family table?

    Now if you decide to take on the challenge and actually eat your pie pumpkin, there is so much you can do with it. But rather than make things really complicated, I’m just going to say this, “Use pie pumpkin any way you would use butternut squash”. There, now wasn’t that easy? As a bonus, below I offer you a “recipe” for making real “Canned Pumpkin”, which can be used in any recipe in place of those imposter cans of other winter squash.

    I will say one specific thing about cooking pie pumpkins; I find them easiest to roast whole with the following method.

    How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the pumpkin well and then cut off its stem (it tends to burn in the oven). Poke the pumpkin in a few places with a sharp knife. Place in a baking dish filled with about ¼-inch water. Bake until knife inserted into its flesh goes in and out without resistance (it should be soft).

    When choosing pie pumpkins, choose medium sized pumpkins that feel heavy for their size, have a smooth skin, and no soft spots or splits. It is best to store winter squash in cool, dark areas like a cellar with a temperature of around 50 degrees. When stored properly, acorn squash can be kept upwards of 3 months. Once refrigerated, it will only last about two weeks before the skin starts to soften and develop mold.

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    Interested in substituting the real thing for your so-called canned “pumpkin”? Here is a version made with 100% pie pumpkin.

    For recipe conversion purposes, one pound of pumpkin yields about one cup puree. One 15-ounce can of “pumpkin” is about two tablespoons shy of two cups pumpkin puree.


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    Real “Canned” Pumpkin

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 or 2 pie pumpkins, washed well, stem cut off, poked in a few spots with a sharp knife

    – water

    METHOD:

    1. Place oven rack in center position. Preheat oven to 400℉. Pour about 1/4-inch water in a baking dish. Place pumpkin in the dish and place in oven. Bake until a knife comes in and out easily with no resistance (likely 30-60 minutes depending upon size of your pumpkin and whether or not you are baking more than one). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut the pumpkin in half. Using a spoon, gently scoop out seeds and stringy flesh attached to the seeds of each half and set aside. Use spoon to remove the rest of the pumpkin flesh from the skin. Place flesh in a blender and blend until very smooth (you can add a bit of water to help it along). The puree is now ready for soups; however, continue on if you wish to use it in baked goods, puddings etc.…where low moisture content is needed.
    2. Place puree in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until puree thickens up considerably and begins sticking to the pan (but don’t let it cook so long that it begins to burn on the bottom). This can take at least 30 minutes. Mixture should be thick and free of visible liquid. Remove from heat and either place in refrigerator, where it will keep for about 3-4 days, or use immediately.  The puree can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

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    Roasted pumpkin seeds are good, but pumpkin seed brittle is even better. This recipe would work equally well with butternut squash seeds. I like how this version does not use any refined sugar yet is a sweet, fall flavored indulgence.

    Maple Pumpkinseed Brittle

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2/3 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, (from about 1 medium pie pumpkin) rinsed well and separated from stringy pulp

    – 2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably Very Dark, Robust

    – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    – 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    – 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter, preferably grass fed

    METHOD:

    1. Preheat oven to 325℉. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. If using parchment paper, butter the center of the parchment where you will place the seeds.
    2. Lay the seeds out on a couple of layers of paper towel.  Cover with another couple layers of paper towel and press down to absorb water from the seeds.  Try to get them as dry as possible.
    3. In a small bowl, toss the dried seeds with the maple syrup, kosher salt, cinnamon, and melted butter. Turn out onto the center of the prepared sheet. Spread in a single layer so that the seeds are close together and touching one another (remember, you are making a brittle that should cohere together, not end up as coated individual nuts). Place in the oven and cook for 12 minutes. Stir with a spoon or a spatula and re-assemble the seeds as you did in the beginning in one single, yet touching layer. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until seeds are medium dark golden brown and crispy (maple mixture will still be gooey but will harden up once it cools). Watch carefully in the last 5-10 minutes as the seeds can burn easily. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, break into pieces and enjoy.

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    Quick overnight oats have become a sensation in the food world. I love to change up the flavors for various seasons. This is my go-to fall favorite. These oats are high in fiber and very low in sugar (with no added refined sugar), thus they should stick with you for a while.

    For those who like more bite to their cereal, try making this with steel cut oats instead of the more processed rolled oats.

    Pumpkin Spiced Overnight Oats                  Serves 1-2

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1/2 cup Organic Old Fashioned Oats

    – 1/2 cup milk of choice

    – 1/4 cup water

    – 1 tablespoon organic raisins

    – 3 tablespoons Real Pumpkin Puree

    – 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    – pinch ground cloves

    – 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    – pinch salt

    – 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    – 1 teaspoon oat bran

    – 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed

    – 1-2 tablespoons mashed banana

    -toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

    METHOD:

    The night before you wish to serve the oatmeal, mix all ingredients in a cereal bowl or jar. Stir well. Cover and chill overnight. When ready to eat, stir mixture well. Add additional milk if desired. If you wish to eat it warm, heat briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds just before serving.

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    Julie Wern is a Integrative Nutrition health coach, food writer, and cooking instructor who is passionate about health, food, and joyful living.  For direct comments or inquiries please use this contact form to send a message to Julie.  To comment on the blog, scroll down further to the blog comment section:

2 Responsesso far.

  1. Tara says:

    The brittle is fabulous, well worth fighting the pumpkin goo to get them. Mine are just out of the oven and I find myself picking at it around the edges unable to wait until it cools. The oatmeal was good too. Didn’t have a banana but put in an apples instead.

  2. Julie says:

    So glad you liked the brittle and oatmeal. I couldn’t stop eating the brittle myself. In fact, I must admit I ate the whole batch before anyone else could get to it. Thanks for the feedback!