Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Pumpkin

Fall is upon us and I know this not just because of the weather but because I see pumpkins popping up everywhere. Tell tale sign that fall is here.  Originating in the ancient Americas this member of the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes, cucumbers, melons, and gourds is actually a fruit. It’s seeds, flowers, & leaves are edible as well as the fruit itself. It is 90% water and contains nutrients including lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, as well as dietary fiber.  These gourds are grown all over the world and are part of many culture’s cuisines. The only continent that it isn’t crown on is Antarctica! Cultivated for human consumption as well as feed for livestock it is also grown for ornamental purposes. The Native American’s relied on it as a nutritious winter food source and the Pilgrim’s were said to make beer from it (surprise)! In the late 19th century Halloween was turned into a celebration with an emphasis on neighborhood activities and bringing the community together (I love this!!!) Activities included of course carving of the Jack O’ Lanterns which have a history in legend themselves, but in short are thought to ward of any evil spirits that might be roaming around. The largest pumpkin grown to date weighed over 1800 pounds!

Pumpkins are extremely versatile in the kitchen as well. Literally any thing can be made with pumpkin, soup, vegetarian entrees, desserts, breakfast, lunch and dinner…you name it pumpkin can do it.
Here are just a few of my favorite recipes using pumpkin… (even dinosaurs like the Fall Granola Bars!)

Super Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
15-16 ounces pumpkin puree (make your own, see below or canned is fine) about 1 3/4 c.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons to top the muffins
1/4 cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup plain full fat yogurt
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup pepitas (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together the flour through salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree through yogurt.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined.  Stir the raisins if you are using.  Using a disher scoop out the batter into a standard muffin tin top with brown sugar and pepitas if using.  Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Pumpkin Puree: Cut a 5 pound pie pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place cut side down on a lined baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until tender.  Allow the pumpkin to cool then scoop the flesh and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Can be frozen for later use.

Pumpkin Fact: Pumpkins provide: protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, Fiber, Iron, and complex carbohydrates.

Oat Fact: Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain.  Which means: it turns into a viscous gel and moves through the body more slowly making you feel fuller longer.

What is White Whole Wheat Flour:  from King Arthur:
White whole wheat flour is milled from a white variety of wheat lacking the phenolic compounds that give traditional whole wheat its distinctive strong flavor.  Think of it as an albino variety of wheat, with no genes for coloring the bran”.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup - Serves about 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion, about 1 smallish
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon mild yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon hot red curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2, 15 ounce cans of pumpkin puree, about 3 1/2 cups
3 cups stock/broth, vegetable or chicken, preferably homemade
1, 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
1/2 small red chile, minced, optional
6 splashes fish sauce, optional
Juice of 1 lime
Greek style yogurt, for garnishing
Chopped fresh basil, mint, and cilantro for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the ginger and stir, then add all of the spices and allow them to cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the pumpkin, stock, coconut milk and chile if using and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the fish sauce and cook for 5 minutes more.
Puree with an immersion blender, add the lime juice and taste for seasoning. 
Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh herb mix.

Fall Granola Bars  - Makes about 24-ish 11/2 inch squares

3¼ cups rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1,15 ounce can pumpkin purée, about 1 3/4 cups

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds/peptitas
Heat an oven to 350° F. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan and set aside. Whisk together the oats, spices, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour over oats and stir well, until all of the oats are moist. Stir in the chocolate and rest of the goodies. Evenly press the mixture into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before trying to cut. I store mine in the fridge but you can also freeze part of them if you wish.
*** To toast seeds: put in a dry sauté pan over medium heat and cook tossing frequently until beginning to brown and become fragrant. Times will vary based on the size and amount.


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