The Great Pumpkin

For many, when we first think of pumpkins, we picture fall décor, pumpkin pie and jack-o’-lanterns. However, in addition to being carved into fun, Halloween decorations and enjoyed in pie at Thanksgiving, pumpkin can be enjoyed in other ways too! With October being National Pumpkin Month and Oct. 26 of this year being National Pumpkin Day, what better time to find out a little more about this nutritious, orange plant.

Nutrition

Pumpkin is a nutritious plant that is low in calories and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. In 1 cup of cooked pumpkin, there is approximately 550mg of potassium, which can help with blood pressure regulation. In addition, pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that is important for eye health and has been linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Beta-carotene is what gives a pumpkin its bright orange color. Pumpkin is a good source of fiber as well. Fiber is important for blood glucose control, heart health and gastrointestinal health.

Uses

The flesh of a pumpkin can be made into pumpkin puree, which can be used for more than just pumpkin pie filling. First, it can be used as a fat substitute in baking. If you have a recipe that calls for oil that you would like to replace, you can use pumpkin puree with a ratio of 1:1. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, you can use 1 cup of pumpkin puree instead. If you would like to replace butter in a recipe, you will want to use a ratio of 3/4:1. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup butter, you will use 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree.

In addition to a baking substitute, pumpkin puree can be stirred into oatmeal or applesauce for a different flavor, blended into soup for a smooth, creamy texture, or added to chili for a unique twist. The options are endless!

Try the recipe below to make your own pumpkin puree!

Easy Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients:

1 (4-6 pound) baking pumpkin, washed and dried

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers.

3. Lay the pumpkin halves flesh side down on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Roast until a paring knife or fork can be easily inserted into the skin of the pumpkin, about 30-45 minutes.

4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool. With a large spoon, remove pumpkin flesh from the skin and add to the bowl of a food processer or blender. Process or blend until smooth.

5. Store in fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Rachelle Deutz is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.

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