Pumpkins: Delicious and Nutritious

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It is fall. The time we begin thinking of making pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is so very versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pumpkin is delicious added to soups, stews, pancakes, waffles, muffins and desserts. Try adding pumpkin to your favorite soups and stews as it is amazing in chili and really amps up the nutrient value.

Pumpkin only has around 30 calories per cup with no fat or cholesterol and is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K. You can tell by the bright orange color that pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant. When you eat pumpkin, the body turns the beta carotene into vitamin A. Foods high in antioxidants can be beneficial in helping fight chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Pumpkin is
also an excellent source of fiber which helps slow our digestion and helps you stay full longer.

pumpkins

Pumpkin is found fresh, canned, and frozen. Canned pumpkin is sometimes a combination of winter squashes but pumpkin is winter squash. Canned pumpkin is delicious and easy to use, inexpensive, and readily available any time of year.
Pumpkin seeds are delicious too but their nutritional value is quite different. The seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper, and zinc. They are loaded with beneficial fatty acids that help maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with dietary fiber. One cup of pumpkin seed supplies over 500 calories, but is very high in nutrients so a small portion is all you need to get the benefits. Sprinkled over cereal, ice cream, yogurt, soups, and stews are great ways to incorporate them into the diet.

Below is a pumpkin recipe off of the EFNEP blog. For other recipes and ideas go to ncefnep.org under tips and recipes.

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

  • 12 jumbo pasta shells (1/2 of 12-ounce package)
  • 1 1⁄4 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 3⁄4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup pasta sauce

Directions

  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, separate onto baking sheet and let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, Parmesan, and spices. Reserve 1 Tablespoon Parmesan for topping.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Choose a baking dish that holds all the shells in a single layer.
  4. Spread pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Fill each shell with about 3 Tablespoons of pumpkin mixture, and place shells close together on sauce in baking dish.
  5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes more.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.