Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkins Aren't Just for Carving Jack-O-Lanterns Anymore

Pumpkins aren't just for carving jack-o-lanterns anymore. People are putting this savory-yet-sweet squash in anything they can get their hands on. From baking with it, to roasting it and eating it plain, to drinking it, to using it as their vegetable serving, whether you are an expert chef, domestic diva, or cooking beginner, we have all the easy and delicious recipes for you to incorporate into your fall dishes.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

In the winter, a lot of nutritious foods are unavailable, especially fruits. Pumpkin is jam-packed full of disease-fighting vitamins and also gives you a lot of health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, and low in fat and calories.

Pumpkin has a lot of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene which are antioxidants that are pro-vitamin A carotenoids. This means that the body converts them into vitamin A to strengthen the immune system and create healthier vision. Alpha-carotene is supposed to slow the aging process, reduce cataract development and prevent tumor growth. Beta-carotene has been proven to reverse skin damage and act as an anti-inflammatory. The carotenoids that both have also lessen the risk of heart disease.

There are 5 grams of fiber per serving and a lot of vitamin C. This reduces bad cholesterol levels, fights against heart disease, and controls blood sugar levels. There is also a lot of potassium that can control blood pressure.

Pumpkin seeds contain vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Prepare a Pumpkin for Baking

Baking with pumpkins is easy, but you have to do a little bit of prep work first. First you want to cut the pumpkin in half and get rid of the stem and the stringy pulp and seeds. You can save the seeds for later!

Now, you can either bake, boil, or microwave your pumpkin.

To bake your pumpkin, place the two pumpkin halves face down and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one and a half hours, or until you are able to scoop up and mash the pumpkin flesh.

To boil your pumpkin, peel it and cut it into chunks. Place it in a saucepan and cover it with water. Bring it to a boil and cook it like you would boil a potato. You want to let the chunks cool and then mash or puree them.

To microwave your pumpkin, microwave the half a pumpkin on high power for seven minutes per pound. You want to cover them and make sure to turn them every few minutes.

Cooking with Pumpkins

You can incorporate pumpkin into almost any type of cuisine. It pairs great with sweet flavors as well as savory dishes. It is a favorite in baking. Try baking a pumpkin spice cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pudding, a pumpkin mousse, or gluten free pumpkin muffins. You can even incorporate it into a penny-wise pumpkin pasta recipe for vibrant color and a satisfyingly creamy sauce.

Nothing goes to waste when it comes to pumpkin. You can even toast the pumpkin seeds. These are surprisingly salty and meaty and can be thrown on top of a salad or even eaten plain.

Don't leave out the cocktails! Pumpkin has a not-too-sweet, cinnamon flavor that goes well in a delicious pumpkin martini. Your guests will be surprisingly satisfied with the seasonal twist on a classic favorite.

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