BY ZHANGLIN KONG, MS, Registered Dietitian at Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center
Fall is the season for harvest, foliage and Halloween. As it is getting colder outside, what can make you feel better than a fresh-baked pie or a bowl of homemade hot soup? Maybe you have been buying pumpkins just for carving and planting kale in your garden. Let’s look into how to turn these two fall-winter items into delicious seasonal dishes.
Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and fiber, which are the nutrients that most Americans lack in their diets. An adequate amount of these nutrients help damaged cell repair, eye health, cholesterol reduction and the health of digestive system.
Pumpkins vary in size. The little ones can be in the size of your palm and the big ones can grow more than 75 pounds. A four-pound sugar pumpkin the size of volleyball can be enough to make two pumpkin pies. If you usually use canned pumpkin for pies, try the following method to make pumpkin puree out of fresh pumpkins.
Select a pumpkin that is firm, with no bruises or soft spots, and with a good orange color. After washing the pumpkin skin with warm water, cut it into halves. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and seeds and put them aside. Then the pumpkin can be cooked in several ways: you can easily put the halves into the stove, or cut them further, then microwave or steam it.
1. Bake the pumpkin halves in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. You need to cover the halves with foil and put the foil side up.
2. Cook for 15 minutes on high in the microwave and check to see if the pumpkin is soft. If not, cook for a few more minutes until it is soft enough to peel the skin off. Normally it takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the microwave’s wattage.
3. Cook in a steamer or a large pot with a steamer basket at medium heat. It is ready when you can poke the pumpkin through easily.
The pumpkin softens after being cooked, and you should be able to easily peel off the skin. Then use the blender or food processor to puree the cooked pumpkin. Or you can simply use a knife to mince it. If your pumpkin turns out to be watery, you can further cook the puree to evaporate the water. When the desired texture is reached, your pumpkin puree is ready to be used in the classic fall pumpkin pie!
Classic Fresh Pumpkin Pie Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups pumpkin puree
1.5 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup packed brown
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1. Prepare pie crust by mixing together the flour and salt. Cut butter into flour, add cold water gradually to mixture. Mix dough and repeat until dough is moist enough to hold together.
2. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into a ball. On a lightly floured board roll dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. With a sharp knife, cut dough 1.5 inch larger than an upside-down 8- to 9-inch pie pan. Gently transfer and ease the dough into the bottom of the pie pan.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin with evaporated milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Pour into prepared crust.
5. Bake 40 minutes or until when a fork is inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.
Other than making pumpkin pie, there are several ways you can play with the pumpkin puree. Include a pumpkin smoothie into your healthy breakfast. Simply blend your fresh-made pumpkin puree, fat-free milk, frozen vanilla yogurt and a dash of cinnamon. Also, you can make pumpkin butter by further cooking the pumpkin puree with sugar and cinnamon until it is thickened. Pumpkin butter is a wonderful spread for toast and muffins.
Kale is a nutritious winter vegetable that many Chinese are not familiar with. It is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and contains some calcium. Also, it is rich in antioxidant carotenoids and flavonoids, which can help prevent or fight cancer. The best way to cook kale is to make soup using chopped kale leaves. Here is a simple recipe that you can easily use at home.
Heartwarming Winter Kale Soup
1 bunch kale, chopped
Half yellow onion, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
3 potatoes, cubed
1 can of low sodium beans
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
1 tablespoon of either olive oil, canola oil or vegetable oil
Minced garlic, salt and pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot; cook the onion and garlic until soft.
2. Stir in the kale and cook until wilted.
3. Stir in the water, chicken broth, tomatoes, potatoes, beans.
4. Simmer soup on medium heat for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This post is also available in: Chinese