The Great Pumpkin

November 24, 2008

halloween_pumpkinSince I can remember, I have always associated pumpkins with Halloween because each year, like many other families, my family would display a pumpkin on the front step of our house. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that I realized that pumpkins have benefits that go beyond traditional Halloween and Thanksgiving décor.

Not only are pumpkins delicious, they are packed with many healthful nutrients. The rich orange color that helps to identify pumpkins comes from beta-carotene, which converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for normal vision, immunity, growth and reproduction.

Pumpkins are also rich sources of Vitamin C and Potassium. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects cells against damage, and reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Vitamin C also helps wounds to heal, fights infections, promotes healthy bones, teeth, gums and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron.

Potassium maintains heartbeat and is important in many metabolic reactions. It can also help normalize blood pressure. A high potassium diet might also help prevent bone loss and kidney stones.

One cup of pumpkin contains only 30 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, and 0 mg sodium.

pumpkinseedsEven the little pumpkin seeds that most people tend to throw away are actually filled with nutrition. They are good sources of minerals- phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, vitamin K, and also protein. Pumpkin seeds have been shown to promote prostate health; protect men’s bones; have anti-inflammatory benefits in arthritis; and may help to lower cholesterol.

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to experiment with a variety of pumpkin recipes. Here are a few recipes that you can try at home to help you to get the health benefits of pumpkin:

Pumpkin Souppumpkin-soup1

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh pumpkin, roasted and diced (see note) or canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves
3 cups chicken broth, low-sodium
1 cup 1% milk

1 pinch each of salt and pepper

Instructions
1.) In a stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion, carrot, apple, roasted pumpkin, and sage in 2 tsp. of olive oil until all are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2.) Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Return the puree to the stockpot, add the chicken broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the milk and simmer for 5 more minutes, lowering the heat if necessary so it does not boil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
3.) Divide soup among 4 soup bowls and serve immediately.

NOTE: To roast pumpkin, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut whole pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Discard seeds or reserve for another use. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until tender but not falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin, and dice.

Serving Size: 4

Pumpkin Raviolipumpkinravioli1

Ingredients
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 6 wonton wrappers
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup chicken broth
• 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Chopped parsley

Instructions

Combine pumpkin, Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Spoon about 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle, pinching edges to seal. Place ravioli into a large saucepan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; cook 7 minutes and drain in a colander. Place chicken broth and butter in pan; bring to a boil. Add ravioli, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.
Yields: 6 servings (serving size: 4 ravioli).

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookiespumpkincookies

Ingredients

1 c. pumpkin
2 egg whites, whipped
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. walnuts or chocolate chips

Instructions

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine pumpkin and egg whites. In a separate bowl combine sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, oats, and raisins. (Batter will be very dry at first.) Mix ingredients together just until moistened.

Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, 2″ apart. You can leave the cookies in the shape of a ball (the baked cookie will still be a ball) or flatten them out with the bottom of a glass before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

You can also try sprinkling some pumpkin seeds on to your cereal or salad, or eat them as a snack after roasting.

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