All Things Pumpkin
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Happy fall y’all! How fortunate are we that we get all four seasons here in NC? I love when the seasons change. There’s just something about the leaves turning and the crisp air in the fall that is so exciting. It also means new foods to look forward to! Fall has so many delicious produce options, many of which can be thrown into the crockpot for a tasty bowl of soup! The most common food we see this time of year are all things pumpkin – pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin flavored creamer. You think of it and they’ve got it! However, one thing we don’t seem to consume much during this time is the vegetable itself. Sure we have things that taste like pumpkin, but do they really?
Pumpkin is a winter squash that has a mild flavor. Many times we consume pumpkin in the form of pumpkin puree which is added to sugared up breads, muffins, and pies with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. If you were to eat that puree by itself you would find it does not have a ton of flavor. Pumpkin actually tastes very similar to other winter squash like acorn and butternut, and its flavor comes from how it is cooked as well as what it is seasoned with. Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which gives it that beautiful orange hue. When beta carotene is ingested, it is converted to Vitamin A in the body which helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (think of eye health), reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer, and protects against heart disease. Like many of our other vegetables, pumpkin is loaded with fiber and contains a long list of other vitamins and minerals that are key to a healthy diet.
The pumpkins we eat are not the same as the pumpkins we put on our front porch carved with funny faces. Make sure you look for any of the “sugar” varieties, such as Sugar Pie pumpkins or Small Sugar pumpkins. They are usually smaller in size but can still easily feed a family of six or so. If you just see “pie pumpkin” that will also work! My favorite way to cook pumpkin is the same way I enjoy most of my vegetables, roasted. I love to make a big batch of roasted vegetables for the week and heat them up in my air fryer to give them a little crunch. Lately, I’ve been enjoying them on-top of my salads with a little goat cheese or feta cheese and garbanzo beans. You can also save the pumpkin seeds and roast them in the oven for a crunchy snack, or to top your delicious salad!
Pumpkin is also an excellent substitute for oil or butter when baking! Use canned pumpkin puree if you are trying to lighten up a baked dish or to just add extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber to whatever you’re making. I also love to give a little to my pup as an extra snack. Pureed pumpkin is often used in dog treats and is a healthy, low calorie option for your pooch. Remember, your pets can get diabetes, heart disease, and cancer the same as we can, so it’s important to give them heart healthy treats to reduce their risk of these illnesses.
Try out this simple roasted pumpkin to use as a delicious side dish for your next meal!
- 1 sugar pumpkin
- Olive oil
- Seasoning of choice
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Rinse pumpkin under running water and pat dry.
- Cut in half and remove seeds (or set aside to roast later)
- Drizzle inside of pumpkin with olive oil. Season as you like (I love salt and pepper, but if I’m using roasted pumpkin in a sweet dish or craving a little sweeter vegetable I’ll omit the pepper and add cinnamon)
- Place on a cookie sheet cut side down
- Bake for about 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin until flesh is soft and can be pierced easily with a fork.
- When cooled, remove from outer skin and enjoy!