What isn’t pumpkin flavoring added to these days? I could easily write a Forrest Gump style list of all the squash related dishes that show up on menus and in cookbooks at this time of year but that would be annoying. Not to mention the beverages — alcoholic and caffeinated — supplemented with pumpkin intent. So I won’t.
I won’t even mention that the native to North America squash is quickly becoming a standard in today’s Thanksgiving repertoire. What I will do is give you a few ideas and a recipe for the best dish to sneak the creamy golden ooze into.
But here are a few fun facts that you may not be aware of, and this nugget of information, might have you considering how to gild some of your meals with squashy golden goodness. One cup of pumpkin contains thirty calories, and is high in vitamins A and C. It is also full of potassium.
Step one is to choose a pumpkin with lots of meaty flesh that is easy to handle. The giant orange Jack-O-Lantern type is NOT what you want for this purpose. A small sugar pumpkin, jarrahdale, or a blue hubbard are all good choices.
Step two is pretty simple. Cut your pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Set the two halves cut side down on a lightly oiled baking dish or roasting pan and roast in a 350 degree oven until a knife pierces through the skin easily. About forty five minutes to an hour should do it, depending on the size. When the pumpkins are cool, scoop the flesh into a bowl and discard (compost) the shells. Purée the flesh in a blender and voila, you now have fresh home-made pumpkin purée. Of course you can make your life easier and skip this step. Just pick up a can in the supermarket, but where’s the fun in that?
Step three is where you add pumpkin flavor to your favorite recipes. I like to make a creamy soup out of it. I also add it to thick Greek yogurt with a teaspoon or so of honey, topping the bowlful off with some gluten-free granola. But that’s just me. Aside from pumpkin pie, and who doesn’t love pumpkin pie — especially as a wrap up to a Thanksgiving feast — add pumpkin to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. Don’t make a face! It’s ooey-gooey decadent and delicious. It also turns the mac casserole a gorgeous shade of make-you-smile sunshine yellow.
My recipe is gluten-free, but it’s just as easy to make this with traditional elbow macaroni.
Under-cook the macaroni by at least a full minute leaving it more than a little al dente (it will continue to cook in the oven) Add macaroni to an oven-proof baking dish.
In a medium size saucepan melt butter into oil and sauté onion until just translucent. Add milk, cream and pumpkin purée, heating slowly until just bubbling. Add 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, mozzarella, and stir until smooth. Add spices and stir through. Pour the cheese sauce over macaroni in baking dish.
Now, this is a very important step! Add the reserved cheddar cheese to the top of the casserole and sprinkle the potato chip shards on top of that. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and lightly brown on top. Let cool for ten minutes before serving.