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Food of the Month: Pumpkin

Jack-o’-lanterns are a symbol of Halloween. But don’t overlook pumpkins as a source of nutrition.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The beta-carotene present in pumpkin seeds and flesh has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of pumpkin can protect against joint inflammation and arthritis.

Eye Health

Pumpkins are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, substances that protect the eyes against free radical damage and may help prevent the formation of cataracts as well as reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Protein Source

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a rich source of protein. One ounce of pumpkin seeds provides about 7 grams of protein.

Post-Workout Energy Source

A cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium than a banana—564 milligrams compared to a banana’s 422. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.

Weight Loss Aid

Pumpkin is an often-overlooked source of fiber, but with three grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories. A fiber-rich diet seems to help people eat less, and thereby shed pounds.

Boosts Immunity

A one-cup serving of pumpkin puree supplies 3.4 grams of iron, a mineral that helps keep you from getting sick by supporting a strong immune system. It also contains 1,906 micrograms of vitamin A and provides about 15 percent of your daily vitamin E needs. These help keep your immune system working properly. Pumpkins are also a solid source of Vitamin C.

Serving Suggestions

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  • Stir pumpkin puree into soup, stew, or chili. The flavor won’t change significantly, but your meal will have more nutrients.
  • Replace a portion of the oil in your favorite bread and muffin recipes with pumpkin puree.
  • Add the puree to a bowl of oatmeal, or stir it into a carton of yogurt.
  • Include pumpkin puree in pasta sauce or add it to a hummus recipe.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack, used to top salads, or added to sautéed vegetables.
  • Next time you make burgers, whether they are veggie, turkey, or beef, add some ground pumpkin seeds.
  • Fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree can be used to make puddings, cookies, and smoothies.
  • Pumpkin-seed oil can be used in cooking or as a salad dressing.

Tips for Selecting and Storing Pumpkin

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  • Look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem left. If the stem is cut down too low, the pumpkin will decay quickly or may be decaying at the time of purchase.
  • Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. It should be heavy for its size.
  • A whole pumpkin can be stored in a cool, well-ventilated place for up to a month, or in the refrigerator for up to three months.
  • Cut sections should be wrapped and placed inside the refrigerator where they can keep for a few days.
  • Bigger pumpkins have tougher meat than smaller ones; that’s why pie pumpkins, also called baking pumpkins, are so much smaller than the ones used for carving. You can still cook and eat the meat of a carving pumpkin; it just won’t be quite as soft.

Recipes

1. Pumpkin Apple Rice

Pumpkin Apple Rice

Makes 6 cups

1 3/4 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 small honeycrisp apple, diced
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, unsalted
1-3 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

To Make:

1. Prepare brown rice – set aside in large mixing bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, cider vinegar, and spices. Warm in microwave. Mix well. Add this mixture to the warm brown rice. Fold until well distributed.
3. Fold remaining ingredients into the rice mixture and salt to taste.

Serve warm.

2. Crock Pot Pumpkin Oatmeal

Crock Pot Pumpkin Oatmeal

Serves 4

1 cup steel cut oats

3 cups water (add an extra 1/2 cup if you prefer a less thick oatmeal)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Optional: 1/2 cup honey or 2 teaspoons vanilla liquid stevia

To Make:

Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

3. Curry Pumpkin Soup

Curry Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons red curry paste

3 cups vegetable broth

1 (28 ounce) can pureed pumpkin

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk

salt & pepper to taste

To Make:

      1. In a soup pot add butter and olive oil. Cook over medium heat until butter has melted. Add in onions. Cook until onions are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in curry paste, cook 1 minute. Pour in vegetable broth. Stir in pumpkin and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
      2. Slowly pour in coconut milk. Allow to cook for another 15 – 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm soup bowls.

4. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, from fresh pumpkin(s)

Fine grain sea salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Spices (if preferred)*

To Make:

1. Clean the seeds. Rinse really well with water in a strainer.

2. Add the pumpkin seeds to a medium-sized pot of water along with 1-teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. This method produces a crispy outer shell during roasting.

3. Drain the seeds in a colander and dry lightly with a paper towel or a tea towel.

4. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2-1-teaspoon). Massage oil into seeds and add a generous sprinkle of fine grain sea salt.

5. Roast seeds at 325F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Roast for another 8-10 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of roasting, remove a few seeds and crack open to make sure the inner seeds are not burning (you don’t want the inner seed to be brown).

6. Remove from oven, add a bit more sea salt. There is no need to remove the outer shell. Enjoy!

* You can experiment with different flavors such as: garlic powder, cayenne, rosemary, brown sugar and cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, curry powder, etc. You can also substitute coconut oil for the olive oil.


Food of the Month Archives

September 2013 – Quinoa

August 2013 – Cucumber

July 2013 – Watermelon

June 2013 – Avocado

May 2013 – Kale

April 2013 – Chia Seeds


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