Power of Pumpkin: Fall favorite packs nutritional punch

Published 11:14 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

By Staff
Pumpkin pie is a healthy food, and I plan to remember that as I devour my favorite fall dessert.
If you don't think pumpkin pie is healthy, let me enlighten you. By eating one-half cup of pumpkin, you consume 245 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. To further prove my point, vitamin A has been proven to help prevent and fight certain kinds of cancer among other diseases.
When I was researching this information, I found wonderful details on how beta carotene (found in pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes) can actually help slow down the effects of aging including Alzheimer's disease.
In a six-year study, 5,000 participants over the age of 55 were shown to have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's due to high intakes of vitamins C and E and beta carotene. That information alone is worth eating more pumpkin.
When you couple the health benefits with the wonderful taste of pumpkin dishes, who can pass up an opportunity to consume the vegetable?
For your enjoyment, I've come up with a few recipes that use plenty of the pumpkin to help you fight off diseases and make your tummy happy.
First, I think directions on how to prepare fresh pumpkin for recipes are needed in this spot. You'll find the method at far right.
I can remember cleaning out the pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, but I don't remember how my mother prepared it for eating.
Now on to some recipes you can use that prepared pumpkin in to make a wonderful dish.
First of all, I think it's necessary to put in a pie recipe. Pumpkin pie just happens to be my son Landon's favorite dessert.
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
2 cups mashed pumpkin
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. each nutmeg and cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter
1 pie crust
Beat egg yolks until light and add other ingredients. Prebake piecrust until lightly browned. Pour pumpkin mixture into partially cooked crust and place in a 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until set (center may be soft). Allow to cool completely before refrigerating.
For something a little out of the ordinary for many Southern tables, I'm passing along this recipe for pumpkin soup. I've had squash soup before and likeed it fairly well. This is probably pretty good so I suggest giving it a try.
Pumpkin Soup
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
5 whole black peppercorns
Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender. Return to pan, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in heavy cream. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.
Roasted pumpkin seeds seem to be pretty popular among snackers. I don't particularly care for them, but a lot of people do. Based on the number of little bags in the snack food section, pumpkin seeds are enjoyed by lots of people.
Here's one method on roasting the seeds for snacking purposes.
Roasted Pumpkin seeds
Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.) Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat.
If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
For a variation in flavors, substitute salt for garlic powder, cinnamon sugar, seasoned salt or your favorite seasoning. If you want a spicy seed, substitute regular salt with Cajun seasoning and try adding a few drops of Tabasco sauce while the seeds roast. Be sure to stir often during the roasting process so the Tabasco will be evenly distributed and absorbed.
Here's a favorite recipe with a healthy twist. If you use dark chocolate chips, you'll get an anti-oxident boost. Who knew cookies could be so healthy?
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.