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Now, on to the recipe. I've been chatting with a friend who lives in South Africa about the importance of pumpkin pie to Americans. She wanted to experience it, but had no access to pumpkins. Guess what? Butternut squash, banana squash, sweet potatoes or yams, acorn squash, pretty much any orange colored squash, can be substituted for pumpkin. They will have slightly different flavors and textures, but overall, can be exchanged freely between recipes. My kids really prefer butternut squash or yams instead of pumpkin in the pies.
To prepare fresh yams or any of the winter squash, like those listed, just scrub them to remove any surface dirt, jab with a fork a few times, then roast at 350° until they are tender. Yams take anywhere from an hour to two, depending on size. If you want, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds, then bake. If you turn them cut side down, they don't dry out. You can also put a tablespoon or so of butter into the seed cavity and bake them cut side up. Squash takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on thickness and size of pieces.
Take them out of the oven and let cool just long enough to handle, or longer if you prefer. Scoop out the insides and toss the peels. Now you have big buckets of squishy orange deliciousness. Serve it plain or with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Or use it in one of the recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Use 1 c. baked squash or yams in place of 1 c. canned pumpkin.
And canned yams? Ew. We tried them one year and no one would eat them. Buy them fresh and bake them if you can. The baked innards freeze quite nicely in freezer bags or containers. They'll keep for 6-9 months. Just thaw and use.
Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins
2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1 c. cooked sweet potato
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. orange juice
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen or dried
Cream sugar and eggs. Add salt, soda and spices. Cream until fluffy. Stir in sweet potato and oil. Add cranberries and flour. Stir just until mixed. Scoop into muffin cups. Bake at 400° 13-15 minutes for mini muffins, 18-20 minutes for regular muffins. Makes 2 dozen regular muffins, 5 dozen mini muffins. Use paper muffin liners, trust me, it makes life so much easier.
Substitutions (because that's what I'm all about when I cook):
Dried Cranberries - dried cherries, blueberries, currants, or other dried berries, chopped if necessary, semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts
Fresh Cranberries - fresh or bottled cherries, fresh or frozen blueberries, semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts
Cooked sweet potatoes or yams - cooked squash or pumpkin