Use Versatile Pumpkin in Fall Meals

Posted: November 17, 2011

Pumpkins are a popular fall fruit. Not only are they good for carving, but they are nutritious as well as versatile since they can be prepared and served in many ways.

      Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are high in vitamin A, protein, fiber, zinc, iron and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. The bright orange color of pumpkin is an indication that it is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. Foods containing beta-carotene may reduce one’s risk of developing certain types of cancer and provides a protective effect against heart disease.
     One cup of mashed pumpkin contains 49 calories, .2 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2,651 International Units (IU) of Vitamin A. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 153 calories, 13 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, and 108 IU of Vitamin A.
     To roast pumpkin seeds, remove them from the pumpkin and rinse in a colander, pulling pulp or strings from the seeds. Place seeds on a cookie sheet. Add butter (2 tablespoons to 1 cup of seeds) and soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and onion salt to taste. Bake at 250 F for one hour, turning every 15 minutes.
     To cook pumpkin, use one of three methods: boil/steam; oven, or microwave. To boil or steam a pumpkin, cut it into large chunks. Rinse in cold water and place the pieces into a large pot with one cup of water. Cover the pot and boil for 20 – 30 minutes or until tender. If steaming the pumpkin, steam for 10-12 minutes. Use a fork to check for doneness. Drain the liquid.
     If using an oven to cook pumpkin, cut it in half, scrape the inside out, rinse and place the pumpkin cut side down on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for one hour or until tender.
     To microwave pumpkin, cut it in half, place it cut side down on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 15 minutes. Check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking for 1-2 minute intervals until the flesh is fork tender.
     Below is a pumpkin loaf recipe which you can try. 

Holiday Orange Pumpkin Loaf
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup orange juice
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
1 cup raisins, optional
      Beat together pumpkin, orange juice, butter, sugar and eggs. Stir in dry ingredients and blend well. Pour into 3 greased loaf pans and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.