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Getting The Most Benefit From Your Pumpkin-Spice-Everything

posted Sep 29, 2014, 8:53 AM by   [ updated Dec 31, 2015, 6:45 AM ]

Fall is officially here, and that means it's pumpkin season! The pumpkin trend has certainly taken retail by storm over the past 11 years, with the initial introduction of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte in fall 2003.  As the beverage grew more popular, other retailers capitalized on America’s love for pumpkin by promoting everything from pumpkin ravioli to Pumpkin Spice Oreos...and a few "flops" that probably should have never been "pumpkin-spiced".  While these treats are enticing and get us in the mood for fall, it certainly is a shame that very few of these products actually contain any real pumpkin!  These sugary treats are formulated to provide pumpkin-like flavor, without any of the health benefits of real pumpkin. 

Pumpkin, a member of the squash family, is rich in fiber, vitamin A, and beta carotene (as evidenced by its rich orange color).  When venturing to make your own pumpkin dish (desserts, pasta sauce, soups, risotto, or breakfast breads), steer clear of canned pumpkin pie filling and opt for canned 100% pumpkin puree OR roast a whole pumpkin yourself (see recipes below)!  Once you have your pumpkin puree, the sky’s the limit to what you can prepare.  You can even use pumpkin puree as a 1:1 replacement for oil when baking.  This decreases fat and increases nutrients and fiber in your favorite treats.

Basic Roasted Pumpkin 
  • 1 whole pumpkin (cooking time, oil amount, and seasonings will vary depending on size) 
  • ~2 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling (for a small-medium pumpkin) 
  • Salt, Pepper, and/or other desired spices to taste (we love cinnamon, clove, thyme, sage, Garam Masala, cumin, chili powder, or curry powder) 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Remove stem, slice in half, and scoop out stringy flesh and seeds (save seeds for roasted later*). Cut into 1 inch thick slices or cubes. The thicker the cubes or slices, the longer it will take for the pumpkin to roast. 
  3. Place the pumpkin slices/cubes onto a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and/or other spices of your choosing. 
  4. Roast the wedges for ~20 minutes, turning once after ~10 minutes. If the wedges are not tender to touch with a fork, continue roasting in 5 minute increments until the pumpkin is slightly brown on the edges and can easily be cut with a fork and knife. Pull flesh away from skin and discard skin. 
  5. Enjoy in these slices/cubes warm as a side dish or tossed in a salad or other mixed dish. 
  6. For pumpkin puree, simply place roasted pumpkin into a food processor or use an immersion blender to blend to desired consistency (you may need 1-2 tablepsoons of water or vegetable stock to help achieve a thinner puree). Refrigerate extra pumpkin puree for up to one week or freeze for up to one month. 
*Basic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 
  1. Once you’ve removed the stringy flesh and seeds from your pumpkin, place the whole mess into a colander and run under cold water to rinse and separate the seeds from everything else. 
  2. Drain and lay out flat on a paper towel to until completely dry. While the seeds are drying, preheat oven to 400-425 degrees F.
  3. Toss the seeds with oil and desired spices (garlic powder, curry powder, Old Bay, cinnamon & sugar…use your imagination!) and bake in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet until the seeds begin to brown. Once the seeds are cooked to your desired doneness, remove from the oven and cool before eating.