We all could use a little comfort this year, and pumpkin and pumpkin spice items are there for us!
Pumpkins are Versatile and Nutritious
Although we tend to consider pumpkins their own “thing,” technically they are a winter squash, just like Acorn squash or Butternut squash. All the hard winter squashes can be used interchangeably. Thanksgiving pie can be made with Blue Hubbard squash, and squash soup can be made from pumpkin. You can even turn uncut Halloween pumpkins into pies, breads and other goodies.
Pumpkins are full of healthy cancer-protecting nutrients. They also help lower blood pressure, promote heart health, and boost immunity – especially important during a pandemic!
How to Use Pumpkin
- Roast, puree and freeze fresh pumpkin for later use.
- Add cubes of fresh pumpkin to soups, stews, casseroles, and pilafs.
- Make pumpkin muffins or quick breads from pureed pumpkin.
- Thinly slice pumpkin and use in homemade lasagna instead of noodles – low carb!
- Make risotto with cubed pumpkin, brown rice, and chopped hazelnuts.
- Serve fresh pumpkin as a side dish. Steam and then mash fresh pumpkin. Add a little brown sugar and butter before serving.
What is Pumpkin Spice?
Pumpkin spice on the other hand, may or may not have anything to do with actual pumpkins. Pumpkin-spice flavored everything has captured the nation’s taste buds. We can get a pumpkin spice latte at the local coffee shop, a glazed pumpkin donut at the local donut shop, and pumpkin spice bread at the local bakery. There are pumpkin M & M’s®, pumpkin spice Jell-O® pudding, and even pumpkin spice Cheerios™!
Most of these items include no actual pumpkin; they are flavored with pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice is merely a mix of spices that we associate with pumpkin, because we use them to make pumpkin pie. Pumpkin spices are the warm, aromatic spices we associate with pumpkins and squash and apples and molasses. There is no single pumpkin spice combination, but pumpkin spice mixes always contain cinnamon. Allspice, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cardamom, and/or cloves may also be included. There are pre-mixed pumpkin spice mixes, although every brand is different and you never know exactly what is in each, or you can make your own.
Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Mix
If making your own keep this in mind, at least one-half of the total amount should be cinnamon. The remainder can be made up of various amounts of spices. For example, I don’t care for nutmeg, so I never add nutmeg to my spice mix, sticking to ginger, cloves and allspice.
Cloves are very pungent and can quickly overwhelm any spice mix, so use them sparingly.
Pumpkin spice flavoring is similar to gingerbread flavoring. The difference is: pumpkin spice is primarily cinnamon flavored, whereas gingerbread spice is primarily ginger flavored.
Sprinkle your pumpkin spice mix in your cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or hot tea. Add to homemade baked goods like sugar cookies, quick breads, or pumpkin pie. Mix into frosting or cream cheese. There’s no limit to pumpkin spice creativity!
To make ½ cup of your own pumpkin spice mix, combine the following:
- 5 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger or ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom or ground ginger or ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg or ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves or nutmeg