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In praise of pumpkins

In praise of pumpkins

by Health & Wellness Team - October 16, 2015

Round and orange they grin and glow, unmistakable signs of fall.

But, pumpkins don’t shine only as jack-o’-lanterns. These nutritious golden stars of the harvest season—packed with fiber, potassium and vitamin A—have a long history of lighting up many a delish dish.

In times past, pumpkin was a Native American staple that was roasted over an open fire. And when colonists filled the plump orange gourds with milk, spices and honey and baked them in hot ashes, it was the precursor of our classic Thanksgiving dessert.

The pie’s not the limit.

Today, pumpkin is in everything from summertime smoothies to specialty coffees that taste like autumn.

In fall and winter, try fresh pumpkin in:
• Chili
• Enchiladas
• Pasta dishes
• Soups and stews
• Stir-fries

Be sure to pick a blemish-free pumpkin (labeled as sweet or pie) that’s heavy and free of soft spots and has a 1- to 2-inch stem still attached. Peel it, cut it into cubes—and it’s ready to cook.

Sound like too much work? Try plain, solid-packed canned pumpkin. It’s as nutritious as fresh—and available year-round. The puree can add savory goodness to dips, breads, muffins, puddings and smoothies.

So whether you classify pumpkin as a fruit (as botanists do) or a veggie, carving out space for it in your menu can boost flavor and nutrition all year. And that’s something to grin about.

Pumpkin by the numbers

One cup of cooked pumpkin (fresh or canned) contains:

• 2 grams of protein
• 3 grams of fiber
• 49 calories
• 564 mg of potassium
• 22,650 international units of vitamin A

Check out this recipe from Shannon Food & Nutrition Services for a delicious pumpkin treat:

Pumpkin Custard

Preparation time: 30 min. Assembly time: 15 min. Cooking temperature: 350°
1 10 oz. can Pumpkin filling
1 Carton (2 lb) Egg Beaters
2 1/3 C Sugar
9 C Evaporated Skim Milk
2 tsp Salt
2 2/3 tbsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Ginger
1 ½ tsp Cloves

Preparation instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing until smooth.
2. Pour ½ cup of batter into foil baking cups.
3. Place baking cups in a water bath, on a sheet pan. Slowly add six cups of water per sheet pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove carefully and drain water. Test the custard by flipping over and checking for firmness.
5. Chill. Serve with a small dollop of whipped cream.

Nutrition facts: (1/2 Cup serving) 85 calories, 5.3 gm protein, 0.1 gm fat, 20 gm carbohydrate, 169 mg NA

   

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