Pick A Pumpkin and Enjoy

 

Nature’s landscape is turning to shades of orange and gold. Fall decorations, including pumpkins and gourds, are appearing on the doorsteps of homes in our neighborhood.

When my 9-year-old daughter brought in a little orange pumpkin from our garden, I remembered an exchange we had when she was younger.

“I like brownies, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies!” my then 4-year-old announced as I read her a book about favorite foods.

“Which do you like the best?” I asked, mentally noting that grapes and apples hadn’t made her top list of treats.

“Pumpkin pie is the best!” she exclaimed, surprising me a little. She usually loves anything chocolate.

“Do you want to help me make a pumpkin pie?” I asked.

“No, you can’t bake a pie now. There’s no snow outside. We only can have pumpkin pie in the winter!” she said.

That comment threw me for a second.

Yes, I guess there’s usually snow on the ground at Thanksgiving, when we enjoy pumpkin pie. Within five minutes, I gathered my ingredients to make a pumpkin pie.

She grinned like a jack-o-lantern when it came out of the oven.

Sometimes we get in a rut with foods. The grocery list might be similar every week, and we enjoy some of our favorite foods only once a year. While enjoying food at certain times makes foods memorable, you might consider mixing up your menus a little.

Pumpkin can be on your menu beyond the traditional Thanksgiving pie. Add variety to your menus with pumpkin bread, muffins and pancakes. Be adventurous; try making fiber-rich pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin is packed with nutrients. Naturally low in fat and sodium, pumpkin has about 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber per cup. It’s an excellent source of beta-carotene, a pigment our bodies use to make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps keep skin and tissues healthy, helps our eyes see normally in the dark and works as an antioxidant nutrient that could lower our risk for certain kinds of cancer.

You can start your pumpkin recipes with canned or fresh pumpkin. When choosing a pumpkin, get the right pumpkin for the job. Pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns usually are larger, with stringier pulp. Sugar pumpkins generally are smaller, less stringy and work well in recipes.

To prepare your pumpkin for recipes, wash it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and microwave, bake or boil the pumpkin until the pulp is soft. Remove the skin, then mash it by hand or puree it in a food processor or blender.

Don’t toss the pumpkin seeds. They’re fiber-rich snacks. After removing the pumpkin pulp, wash off the seeds and blot them with a paper towel. Toss them with a little olive oil or vegetable oil, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees until light brown (40 to 50 minutes), stirring every five to 10 minutes. If you like, add seasoned salt or other spices of choice.

Here is the recipe that has received the most compliments in all the years of writing a column, and it features healthful pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 c. low-fat milk
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. canned pumpkin, mashed
2 c. stale bread cubes, cut small
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

In medium-sized bowl, combine milk, sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla and pumpkin and then blend thoroughly. Stir in bread cubes. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. While pudding is baking, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture on top of the pudding. Return pudding to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes more. Served chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes six servings. Each serving (without whipped cream) has 210 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 41 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 300 milligrams of sodium.

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