Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pumpkin Butter in a Crockpot

Pumpkin "Butter" made in a crockpot
The theme for this month’s Recipe Redux is to share a recipe that uses a crockpot. Crockpots are used today more than ever by busy families. The NPD Group, a market research firm, found that in 2008 usage of slow cookers had reached an all-time high with 12% of households using them. Although I haven’t seen recent figures, I venture to guess that number is much higher today as our lives continue to get busier and busier.

I love fall and one of the reasons I do is because I love pumpkins. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin breads, pumpkin soups, even pumpkin chili. So when I saw the challenge for this month, I decided to do something with pumpkins. I wanted to see if a slow cooker could be used to make pumpkin butter.

Pumpkin butter is a little misleading as there really is no butter in the recipe. It is really a spread. The traditional way to make pumpkin butter is to cook the pumpkin and other ingredients on a range top. However, the pumpkin splatters and can make a mess. With a crockpot there is no splattering and no mess.

I found baby pumpkins at a nearby garden center.

Because the outer layer of the raw baby pumpkin was difficult to cut with a knife, I started by roasting the pumpkin whole, on a baking sheet for an hour.

Roast whole pumpkin on baking sheet

Once the pumpkin comes out of the oven, let it cool. Then cut in half. Scoop out seeds and guts.

Scoop out seeds and guts

Mix roasted pumpkin pulp with other ingredients

Then transfer the pulp to a crockpot. Add other ingredients and mix well. Cover and let cook on low power for about 4 hours.

So now that you’ve made the pumpkin butter, what do you do with it? My favorite way is to spread it on whole grain toast. Yum. You could use it on pancakes or waffles. You could stir it to cooked oatmeal. You could make a parfait, alternating rows of pumpkin butter, slightly sweetened Greek-style vanilla yogurt, and granola. You can dip fresh fruit into it, such as apples, Asian pears, or banana slices.

Pumpkin Butter will keep in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks

Here is the complete recipe:

Pumpkin “Butter”


1 pumpkin (about 3-1/2 lbs)

Non-stick cooking spray

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place whole pumpkin on baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake whole pumpkin for 60 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

Remove stem from cooked pumpkin and slice pumpkin in half. With large spoon, remove seeds, guts, and strings. (Seeds can be washed and roasted, if desired.) Scoop out cooked pumpkin flesh with spoon and place into crockpot. Mash. Stir in maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla; stir well. Cover and cook over low heat for about 4 hours, depending on desired thickness of pumpkin butter. Turn off heat. Stir in lemon juice. Serve. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 2-3/4 cups (or 22 2-tablespoon servings).

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 tablespoons):

28 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g protein, and  1 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of vitamin A.

Cost per Serving: $0.33

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except pumpkin which was featured for $2.50 each.

 Be sure to check out these other crockpot favorites.




Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sweetpotato Oatmeal Cookies Sure to Please

I received free samples of California sweetpotatoes mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Sweetpotato Oatmeal Cookies

Although I now live in the Northeast, I grew up in California. I never knew California grew sweetpotatoes. So, I was excited when I learned of the sweetpotato recipe contest by the California Sweetpotato Council.

I learned that California sweetpotatoes prefer to use one word (not sweet potatoes) to differentiate themselves from other sweet potatoes. As part of this contest, I was sent a box of sweetpotatoes that I have to tell you were the most beautiful sweetpotatoes I have ever seen. They were clean, had no scars or scratches and came in three beautiful colors, orange, tan, and red (see below). Here is a brief description of the three varieties:

     • Orange (Covington): rose colored skin and super sweet orange flesh; a favorite for mashing or roasting.
     • Tan (O’Henry): has a pale copper skin and white flesh; ideal for soups and stews.
     • Red (Diane): has red skin and deep orange flesh; perfect for sweetpotato fries or to add color to dishes.

California Sweetpotatoes are Colorful and Beautiful

I learned that California sweetpotatoes are grown in soft sand and are hand sorted to minimize scarring and scratching, resulting in a better looking sweetpotato (a huge difference from the typical sweet potatoes I see in my local supermarket). One medium California sweetpotato provides 105 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, a good source of vitamin C, and more than a day’s worth of vitamin A.

Many people mistakenly think sweetpotatoes are yams. Sweetpotatoes are sweet and moist. In contrast, yams are dry and starchy and, surprisingly, are not readily available in this country. Adding to the confusion over whether it is a sweetpotato or yam, there are varieties of yams called sweet potatoes. Also just to be clear, sweetpotatoes are not members of the white potato family.

For this contest, I experimented with several recipes. I made some hash brown sweetpotato patties using shredded sweetpotatoes, onion and egg. I thought about making sweetpotato mini donuts. Or a breakfast burrito with shredded sweetpotatoes, egg, and cheese. Or, cut them into them slices, season them, and bake them for chips. Sweetpotatoes are so versatile. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or dessert.

But I finally decided to make an oatmeal cookie, to see if I could substitute mashed cooked sweetpotato for applesauce in recipes. It works. Many recipes seem to suggest using applesauce to cut down or eliminate some of the butter or fat in recipes. Well, now it appears that pureed sweetpotatoes work in much the same way as applesauce. These oatmeal cookies are loaded with good nutrition. One cookie provides 141 calories, 2 grams each of fiber and protein, and an excellent source of vitamin A. Here is the complete recipe. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sweetpotato Oatmeal Cookies


1-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed cooked California Sweetpotato
4 Tbsp unsalted stick butter-margarine blend, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

 In medium mixing bowl, wish together oats, flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine sweetpotato, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir just until blended. Gently stir in raisins, nuts, and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with hand or back of large spoon. Bake cookies until golden brown and just set, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes 20 cookies.

Nutrition Information per Cookie: 141 calories, 5 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g protein, and 78 mg sodium. One cookie provides an excellent source of vitamin A.

Cost per Cookie: $0.19 Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

Be sure to check out these other sweetpotato-inspired recipes from fellow Recipe Reduxers.