[Because it’s fall, because it’s October, because I wait ALL YEAR to immerse myself in pumpkin-everything–and mostly because I’m elbow-deep in house project dust and homework–I’m re-posting last year’s (almost to the day!) post on pumpkin.  Enjoy!]

It wouldn’t be fall without the mention of the season’s favorite vegetable: the pumpkin!  The infamous orange gourd finds its way into our coffee (can anyone say Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?), our quick breads and, ultimately, our hearts.  But WHY do we seek out all-things-pumpkin this time of year?  That, my friends, probably has more to do with the blend of spices (allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, along with ample amounts of sugar) than the vegetable itself.

This fall, break free (at least once!) from the traditional pumpkin dessert and give it a chance to shine as a savory centerpiece!

Eat What:

-The US produces 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin per year, 95% of which is grown in Illinois

-Pumpkin is one of the best canned items around; stock up now and keep some on-hand all year long

Eat When:

-Pumpkins are in season as early as late August through October

-Look for small, round “pie” pumpkins for cooking; the larger ones are really just for show

Eat Right:

-Main nutrients include lutein, potassium, folate and alpha- and beta-carotene (Vitamin A)

-A 1 C serving of canned pumpkin has 3-5g of fiber (that’s more than a slice of whole-wheat bread!)

-Pumpkin seeds contain protein, zinc, vitamins, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium and are said to help lower cholesterol

-It’s a natural antioxidant, helps maintain skin and vision and may help prevent certain types of cancers

Eat More:

-Mix a cup canned pumpkin into your favorite pancake mix; add pumpkin pie spices for even more flavor

-Add a dollop onto hot oatmeal and mix in cinnamon and raisins

-Cut-up a pie pumpkin and roast at 400 degrees with onions, garlic, fresh sage and olive oil

-Make a cream sauce with canned pumpkin, light cream (or whole milk), butter and Parmesan cheese; serve over cheese ravioli with fresh sage and toasted hazelnuts

*Because I LOVE pumpkin almost more than life itself, you’ll find not one but TWO recipes to try this week!

Pumpkin-Red Pepper “Hummus”

(adapted from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, Sept/Oct 2011)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

2 red bell peppers

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 C walnuts, toasted

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Place red peppers under the broiler, char until skin on all sides is almost black and wrinkled.  Immediately place both peppers into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Place pumpkin puree, minced garlic, toasted and chopped walnuts and salt into a blender or food processor.  Once cooled, peel skin from red peppers and roughly chop.  Place peppers and olive oil into blender or food processor.  Pulse until consistency is smooth and uniform.  Add more olive oil or water if necessary.

Nutritional Information: per 1/4 cup

62 cal, 8.73g fat (.88g sat), 0g cholesterol, 422 mg sodium, 7g carbs, 3.6g fiber, 2.46g protein

Holly’s Healthy Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

1/3 C butter

1/3 C applesauce (no sugar added)

2 C sugar

4 eggs

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

2/3 C water

1.5 C unbleached all-purpose flour

1.75 C white whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/3 C dried cranberries

1/3 C toasted walnuts, chopped

pumpkin seeds (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together in bowl of electric mixer.  Add applesauce, eggs, pumpkin, water and mix until blender.  Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda and powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Add to wet ingredients and mix until just blended.  Fold in cranberries and walnuts.  Pour into two greased loaf pans.  Top with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Loaves are finished when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

Nutritional information: 1/12th of a loaf

150 cal, 4.58g fat (1.92g sat), 42g chol., 173mg sodium, 15.66g carb., 2g fiber, 3.42g sugars, 5.55g protein


Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician.  She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related.  She is currently living with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native, and their giant dog in a hotel while they house-hunt in the area.  You can find her at www.thefrozenpineapple.com.