By Mary Ann Wilcox

Canned pumpkin puree has gotten really expensive as of late. My last price check was $1.20 for a 15oz. can. To me, that’s crazy! Pumpkin puree is so easy and inexpensive to make yourself, why would you ever buy it in the can for that much? Thanks to Halloween, pumpkins are everywhere and chances are you have a few that you could set aside for winter.

Each year around this time, I take my pumpkins left over from Halloween, bake them, peal them, and puree them. Then I put 2 cups of puree into zipper bags and freeze it; 2-3 pumpkins is all I need to get me through the year until Halloween comes again. It’s a super easy way to get what you need from what you already have.

If you don’t what to risk the freezer space, dry your pumpkin like you would fruit leather. Dry it until it is brittle, then turn it into powder in your food processor. Then it is shelf safe and can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin: pies, cookies, cakes, soups, stews, etc. I have just finished my second edition of the “Just Add Water” book that address how to process pumpkin powder and how to use it in all your recipes.

Pumpkin Alternatives

If you find you are short on pumpkin and short on money, use one of these great alternatives — that’s right, I said pumpkin alternatives. You may be shocked and a little bit intrigued to know that BEANS make the perfect pumpkin alternative. It’s true! My family loves pumpkin pie, but I can totally fool them by using an alternative such as soybeans, navy beans or sweet potato paste. By adding the same seasonings that you do in your favorite recipe, the beans and potatoes imitate pumpkin perfectly and provide a great gluten-free alternative if you need one. Here’s what you do:

Beans (check out my “Cooking & Using Beans” book for more great recipes):

1. Soak your beans overnight to soften them and release the simple sugar that causes gas.

2. Drain and rinse the beans.

3. Add 3 cups of water for each cup of beans.

4. Cook in a pressure cooker, on top of the stove, or in a crockpot until soft and tender.

5. Drain the beans, but save the water.

6. Place the beans in a blender and blend until a smooth paste. Add bean juice (the water from the cooking process) a little at a time, until the beans have the same consistency as pumpkin.

7. Substitute the same amount of bean paste for the amount of pumpkin called for in the recipe.

Sweet Potatoes: If you are using canned sweet potatoes, drain the can and save the juice. Blend the potatoes, adding enough juice to make a paste the same consistency as pumpkin. Substitute the sweet potatoes for the amount of pumpkin called for in the recipe. Because sweet potatoes have the same color and similar flavor to pumpkin, they can be interchanged in any recipe calling for pumpkin without adding additional spices.

If you are using fresh sweet potatoes, scrub the outside and bake them in a 350 degree oven until soft. Skin the potatoes while they are still warm and blend them until smooth. You might have to add a little water during the blending process to moisten them if they are too dry. Substitute the sweet potatoes in any recipe calling for pumpkin.

Here’s my family’s favorite pumpkin pie recipe using bean paste.

Bean Paste Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 1/2 C. Navy Bean, Soybean, or Sweet Potato Paste
2 Eggs
3/4 C. Sugar
1/2 t. Salt
1 2/3 C. Evaporated Milk (13oz. Can)
1 3/4 t. Pumpkin Pie Spice OR 1 t. Cinnamon 1/2 t. Ground Ginger 1/4 t. Ground Cloves

Mix all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Pour into an unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45 minutes. Top will be golden brown. Let it sit until it is room temperature and then refrigerate until serving. Add a little whipped topping to each piece and enjoy.

For other great pumpkin recipes to try with these alternatives, check out these fun blogs at Wassail & Pumpkin Dip, Pumpkin Cream Pie, Pumpkin Bean Mac and Cheese, and All Things Pumpkin.

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