Pumpkins: Not Just for Carving
Chilly mornings and golden leaves mean it’s time to stock up on candy for the ghosts and ghouls who will soon be ringing your doorbell, but those pumpkins sitting in your supermarket’s produce section are good for a lot more than turning into jack-o-lanterns. These beautiful gourds are packed with nutrition and endless culinary possibilities.
Pumpkin is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, the substance that gives the “King of Squash” its orange color, according to “The Doctor’s Book of Food Remedies.” Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off heart disease and cancer. Pumpkins also have luiten, which is good for your eyes, and fiber, which helps your digestive system. Pumpkin is even good for your waistline, with a cup containing a mere 30 calories.
At the Store
Most of the large pumpkins you see in bins outside your local supermarket are intended for use as decorations, not food. According to the University of Illinois, large pumpkins will have watery, bland flesh. Instead, look for “pie” pumpkins or “sugar” pumpkins. Choose specimens without blemishes and that feel heavy for their size.
In the Kitchen
Pumpkins are not exactly easy to disassemble. Food network chef Alton Brown recommends using an inexpensive Japanese-style vegetable cleaver and tapping the handle with a rubber mallet, then removing the seeds with a sharp-edged ice cream scoop. To cook, roast the pumpkin in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, until the flesh offers no resistance to the point of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the pumpkin to cool, and then scrape the flesh from the skin. Then, either puree, cut up and use in soup, or eat with a little butter or margarine as a side dish.
Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
The Internet and cookbooks abound with healthy pumpkin recipes, but most of them focus on pies and breads. Pumpkin can do more than that. You can use pumpkin to make a refreshing smoothie by putting ½ cup of pumpkin with ¾ cup of soy or reduced-fat milk in a blender, adding half of a frozen banana (broken into pieces), ½ tsp of pumpkin pie spice, and sweetener to taste. You can use canned pumpkin for this, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of cutting up and roasting fresh pumpkin.
If you must have pie, consider making it crustless. Most of the fat in pie comes from the crust. To make a crustless pie, use a standard pie filling recipe and pour it into a pie plate that you’ve sprayed with nostick spray, and bake according to the recipe’s original directions. If your recipe calls for evaporated milk and eggs, you can substitute fat-free evaporated milk and use three egg whites instead of one whole egg. Some recipes also recommend using sugar substitutes, but many people find those bitter, so go with your own taste.
There are lots of other healthy pumpkin recipes available online and in healthy cooking cookbooks. Try a few for your taste buds and your health.