Enjoying Fall's Bounty of Pumpkins and Squashes (Eat Well, Spend Less)

October's Eat Well, Spend Less theme is about cooking with fall foods. I haven't been blogging much, but I sure have been enjoying the crisp days, sunshine, and having hot tea in the mornings. I can actually keep up with the yard work now (I love making it look beautiful!), and we've been getting outside on any days that are nice. Soon enough, the clouds and rain won't lift for weeks at a time...

But, on to the topic at hand: Using and enjoying delicious winter squash and pumpkins!

For more info on types of winter squash, see Aimee's great article about winter squash. (I haven't tried all the different types, but have tried some of the most common ones, and of course, pumpkin!)

I find that pumpkin puree and winter squash puree are interchangeable in most recipes. (Cooked and pureed carrots also can be substituted for pumpkin puree in most recipes.)

I usually end up using whatever I am given or find on sale. Some friends know that I love to cook with pumpkin and winter squash, and will give me their Fall pumpkins and squashes after they're finished using them for decoration. Other times, friends or relatives with gardens will give me some of their extra Autumn bounty. I don't think I've ever had too much pumpkin! :)

How to store pumpkin and winter squash:

Store pumpkins and winter squash in a cool dark dry and well-ventilated location until ready to use. It's best to store them on a soft surface, such as cardboard or a cloth/towel. Most varieties will keep for 3 months.

Before cutting into your pumpkin or squash, wash or rinse the outside with water to remove any dirt. I like to use a thin serrated knife to cut. (I actually use a bread knife!) Remove the seeds (save pumpkin seeds for roasting!) and stem before cooking.

How to cook pumpkin or winter squash on the stove top:

Cut into wedges to fit into a large stock pot. Add a couple inches of water to the stock pot. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the flesh is soft (test with a fork). Drain and allow to cool. Scoop flesh from the skin and discard skin.

(I find I prefer the stove-top method, especially when I have a lot of pumpkin or squash to cook, since I can fit a lot in a big pan.)

How to cook pumpkin or winter squash in the oven:

Place halves face-down on a baking sheet/pan and add 1/2-1 inch of water to the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-60 minutes (may take longer for larger halves), until flesh is soft (check with a fork). Cool; scoop flesh from the skin and discard the skin.

How to make pumpkin puree:

Puree pumpkin in small amounts in a blender or food processor.

Puree can then be frozen in bags or containers (I prefer containers).

Easy no-blender pumpkin puree tip:

I've also used a potato masher to mash the cooked pumpkin and while that didn't make a smooth puree, it did just fine in my pies, muffins, and pumpkin dinner rolls!

Pumpkin differences:

Smaller "sugar" pumpkins (or "pie" pumpkins) are more flavorful, sweeter, and less watery. They will make a pumpkin puree similar to the store-bought canned pumpkin puree.

Larger "carving" pumpkins are definitely edible, though lighter and more watery. When using these pumpkins, drain the excess water for best results.

You definitely don't want watery pumpkin puree for your baked goods, and the thicker your puree, the more flavorful!

Pumpkin raisin cookies recipe
Getting ready to bake Pumpkin Raisin Cookies in the bright (but cold) sunshine. A friend gave me this recipe when I was first married and I love it. It also uses lots of pumpkin! :)

How to drain the excess water from cooked pumpkin or winter squash puree (important!):

Place a strainer inside a bowl or clean sink. Spoon the puree into the strainer. Don't worry, unless your strainer has huge holes, the puree won't slide through! Allow the puree to drain until water stops coming out. From 1 medium-large carving pumpkin, I drained over a quart of clear watery liquid!

Pumpkin dinner rolls
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
: one of my favorite breads,
and a Thanksgiving tradition at our house! :)

Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes recipe
Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes, drizzled with maple syrup

More from the Eat Well, Spend Less team:

Fall Produce and Recipes (Katie at goodLife{eats})

Grocery sale outlook and predictions for Fall 2011 (Carrie at Denver Bargains)

Seasonal Soups (Aimee at Simple Bites)

10 Frugal Fall Snacks for Hungry Kids (Jessica at Life As Mom)

10 Things to do with Apples (Katie at Kitchen Stewardship)

How to Save on Thanksgiving (Alyssa at Kingdom First Mom)

Hearty Breakfasts for Cold Mornings (Shaina at Food For My Family)


I have found that for the best taste, I use a combination of pumpkin, butternut squash, and sweet potato. All can be baked together, so it's not any additional work. My kids love anything made with the "orange goo"--as in "can we have one of the orange goo muffins?"

I just froze some pumpkin puree and we have a couple more pumkins out in the garden. My daughter enjoyed baking pumpkin pies last week and wants ot make some more soon! :D

~Tanya - mama to 6 treasures plus one on the way. :)

These are such great tips! I'd add that you can interchange sweet potatoes with any squash or pumpkin -- we do this all the time. I'm excited to check out your pumpkin roll recipe -- that might need to make an appearance at our place soon.


I'm glad you mention the draining water tip with pumpkins. I don't see that mentioned very often, but without straining homemade pumpkin puree it does not perform as well as store bought cans.

If people are giving you pumpkins, then it is definitely frugal to make your own puree. In my own experience, however, after you drain all the water out of homemade pumpkin puree you end up with so little it costs more than buying the cans at Aldi.

Do you do the same with hubbard squash and butternut squash after pureeing?

I HAVE to make that Spaghetti Squash Casserole....I can't keep on going if I don't do it. Yum, yum!

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

I was reading your recipe for pumpkin dinner rolls and am wondering if the 1c. sugar is correct? Its seems like a lot of sugar for rolls?

Yes, because it is a very large recipe and the rolls are somewhat sweet. Not like a dessert, just like a sweeter bread. :) If you weren't feeding a crowd, you could easily halve the recipe! :)

Have you ever made the rolls with whole wheat? They look great!

Thanks Tammy

Can't wait to make the spaghetti squash casserole and, especially that pumpkin bread!! I updated a recent post of mine to add a link to it in AND put it on FACEBOOK!! That's how good it sounds to me right now!!!

Lisa @ http://hopewellmomschoolreborn.blogspot.com/2011/10/cool-seasonal-links-ii-all-recipes.html

I made this Sunday and it turned out delicious! My sheet pan is bigger than yours, so I ended up cooking it for a little longer in an 11x13 pan. I also only used 1/2c oil and added 1/2c unsweetened applesauce. It is so moist and delicious. You really don't miss the oil at all.

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