Fall is Pumpkin Time!

Fall is pumpkin season!  Pumpkins are not just fun to carve, but also great to eat.

Pumpkins are a member of the squash family.  This vegetable can be cooked, pureed, and used in a variety of dishes including soups, breads, and desserts.  Pumpkin is a low calorie food, and a very good source of dietary fiber and Vitamins A and C.  Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack adding fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins to our diet.

When selecting pumpkins, consider the variety, size and shape you will need.  Select a "pie pumpkin" or "sweet pumpkin" for cooking.  These are smaller than the large jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and the flesh is sweeter and less watery.  Look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem, and free of blemishes and soft spots.  It should be heavy; shape is usually unimportant.  One pound of raw pumpkin will provide about 1 cup pumpkin puree.

Below are some great ways to use locally-grown pumpkins to make hearty and delicious treats.  Look for a "Cinderella" or bowl shaped pumpkin to serve as your soup bowl when preparing the soup.  Save seeds from a bigger pumpkin for roasting.  Enjoy!

Hearty Soup in a Pumpkin
Serves 8

Ingredients:
Medium-sized pumpkin ("Cinderella" or bowl shape)
4 chicken breasts
3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 large carrots
2 celery stalks
1/2 cup of scallions
1 can low-sodium cream of chicken soup
1 can low-sodium cream of celery soup
1 can low-sodium chicken alphabet or noodle soup
1 can of water
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:
  1. Wash the outside of the pumpkin with water.
  2. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and clean out the inside of the pumpkin with a spoon.  (You can put the seeds aside for roasting later).
  3. Cut up the chicken into small pieces and cook in 2 Tablespoons of butter in a pan on the stovetop until golden brown.
  4. Remove the chicken and set it aside.
  5. Wash and cut carrots and celery into small bite-sized pieces.
  6. Wash and chop 1/2 cup scallions.
  7. Cook the carrots, celery and scallions in 1 Tablespoons of melted butter using a large frying pan until tender.
  8. Add 1 can each of cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, and chicken alphabet or noodle soup. Stir.
  9. Stir in 1 can of water, 1/3 cup sour cream and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.
  10. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and pour the mixture into the hollow pumpkin and add the cooked chicken.
  11. Stir and place the pumpkin top over the pumpkin.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
  13. Carefully  remove and serve.  Scrape the side of the pumpkin when serving.  



Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
Seeds of hollowed out pumpkin -- rinsed and dried
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Rinse and remove pumpkin from seeds and place on paper towel to dry.
  2. Spread dry seeds out in a single layer across a cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to mix.
  5. Baked at 325 degrees for 7 minutes or until light brown and crisp. 

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall