Recognized in the literary world with stories such as Cinderella; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; and Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, the pumpkin is no stranger to the spotlight. Each year, Americans carve thousands of pumpkins into jack ‘o lanterns and many pumpkin pies are eaten at holiday celebrations.
Pumpkin is excellent for your health. It has no cholesterol, is low in fat and sodium and rich in vitamins. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that it is loaded with the antioxidant beta- carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease and other aspects of aging.
On top of being good for your health, pumpkins taste good too. That’s why they are eaten in almost every country in the world. You can introduce pumpkins to children ages 8-10 months (cooked and pureed).
Pumpkins are easy to place on any menu – breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert – whether pancakes, muffins, seeds for snacking, hearty soup, stuffed pumpkin or tasty pie. Here are five ideas for adding more pumpkin to your family meals:
- Add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) and 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to your pancakes for breakfast. They taste terrific with maple syrup and chopped pecans.
- Add 1-2 cups of pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) to your favorite chili recipe.
- Use pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned) instead of banana in your favorite banana bread or muffin recipe.
- Make mashed potatoes with 1/2 white potatoes 1/2 pumpkin.
- Bake pumpkin like a squash. Before baking, drizzle the pumpkin meat with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey and chili flakes.
Here are a few simple recipes to incorporate more pumpkin in your diet this fall.
Like applesauce, this side dish can go with any meal and is delicious as a spread on bread too.
2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree (see below)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup of honey
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve.
Refrigerate for 2-3 days. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Fresh Pumpkin Puree
1 small to medium pumpkin.
- Wash, cut in half, and remove seeds. Cut each half into four pieces.
- Place the pumpkin in a microwave-safe dish with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover. Cook 13-15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Pumpkin is done if you can pierce it easily with a fork.
- Scoop out the pumpkin meat into a blender or food processor. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Discard skins. Process. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup additional water to develop smooth texture.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Don’t waste pumpkin seeds after cooking or making jack ‘o lanterns. It’s easy to roast the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. The hulls are a great source of fiber and the seeds contain a high amount of phosphorus. Let your kids slosh through the slippery seeds and pick out the fibers.
1 quart water
1 Tbsp salt
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter (optional)
- Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Pick through the seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible.
- Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds, spread them on a kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.
- Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter.
- Spread the seeds evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean- up.
- Place the pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30-40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
- Cool the seeds. Eat or pack the seeds in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.