There Is More to Pumpkin than Pie

It’s pumpkin season. Pumpkins come in all sizes and shapes; some are ugly, warty and ribbed, others are smooth and round. Some are used purely for decoration while others are the stars of masterful meals. The meat of the pumpkin is also used for beauty and skin. Pumpkin pie, a fall favorite, isn’t the only thing that pumpkins are good for. The fabulous orange squash can be used for a million things.

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Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is good for better vision, helps fight infection and keeps skin healthy. Vitamin C supports the immune and cardiovascular systems, improves mood and can help ease the effects of colds and flu. Pumpkins also contain zinc, which improves immunity, facilitates digestion and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Calcium, which helps build and maintain strong bones and also aids in muscle function and regulates blood pressure and cholesterol levels, is in pumpkin, too.

Healthy and delicious the pumpkin is good for us. One half a cup of pumpkin is only 24 calories per serving, is fat free and includes 1 gram of protein and fiber.

Pumpkin can be roasted, baked, grilled, steamed and mashed. The innards of the pumpkin can be eaten, along with the meat of the pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds are an excellent snack. The stringy stuff can be used for pumpkin stock or broth, so don’t toss it.

Pumpkin for breakfast is delightful. Pumpkin muffins, pancakes, waffles, French toast and oatmeal are great ways to enjoy a fall morning meal. Pumpkin bread and pumpkin butter are also delicious.

At this time of year, it’s hard to justify eating dessert without the popular squash. Pumpkin desserts abound from cookies and pies to custards, cheesecakes and milkshakes.

Pumpkin soup, stuffed pumpkin and pumpkin gnocchi are some unique ways to prepare pumpkin for a meal. I love the idea of using the shell of the pumpkin as a serving bowl for hot dips and soup. You can even stuff a pumpkin with mushrooms, quinoa and veggies or make pumpkin chili — the recipes are endless.

Pumpkin fries and baked pumpkin chips are fun sides to serve with a meal. Try a pumpkin kale salad with feta cheese and pumpkin seeds or pumpkin goat cheese pasta with peas. Creating unique recipes with pumpkin is a most adventurous way to cook.

What are the best pumpkins to cook with? Definitely not the kind you find in your local pumpkin patch. Generally, they are tough and raised primarily for carving and decoration, not eating.

Baby Pam Sugar Pie, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, white Lumina, Cinderella and Fairy Tale are only a handful of edible varieties. The best way to choose a pumpkin is to pick ones that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Keep them in a cool, dark, place for up to two months.

The unpretentious pumpkin is packed with skin-loving nutrients and antioxidants. Pumpkin flesh can help to nurture, brighten and fortify skin, as well as boost collagen and help tame the signs of aging. Try do-it-yourself face masks, body sugar scrub or body butter. If your skin is in need of exfoliation, pumpkin makes a bang-up base for a sugar scrub. And it’s a great way to use leftover pumpkin.

Cook the pumpkin
Fresh pumpkin may be a bit more work to get to the meat, but so worth it. There are some shortcuts. If you are looking to make mashed pumpkin and you don’t intend to keep the seeds, roast the pumpkin.

Slice off the top of the pumpkin and remove the seeds and pulp. Set aside the seeds for roasting. Discard the pulp.

Place the whole pumpkin in a shallow baking dish with an inch of water. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until pumpkin is tender (longer depending on size of pumpkin).

Roast the seeds
If you want to roast the seeds, cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and stringy stuff. Rinse the seeds and toss them with olive oil and salt and roast at them in a 350-degee F oven until golden brown.

Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin
From the Kitchen of Priya Hutner

1 small pumpkin, cut off top & remove seeds and innards
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery sliced
1 C mushrooms, chopped
1 C kale, chopped fine
1½ C cooked quinoa
1 C breadcrumbs
1 C Parmesan cheese
1½ t salt
1 t pepper
¼ t cayenne; optional
1 C shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Slice off the top of the pumpkin (save the top) and remove the seeds of the pumpkin and set aside for roasting. Discard the fibrous pulp.

Place the whole pumpkin in a shallow baking dish with an inch of water. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until pumpkin is tender (longer depending on size of pumpkin).

Heat oil in pan and sauté onion, garlic and celery until translucent.

Add mushrooms and kale. Cook for 5 minutes.

Put cooked ingredients in a mixing bowl and add quinoa, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1 T olive oil. Mix well.

Remove pumpkin from oven and stuff with ingredients. Top with Gruyere cheese.

Bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts to a golden brown.

Serve it whole with or without the top. Scoop out stuffing along with flesh of pumpkin for a delicious vegetarian main course or side dish.


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Priya Hutner
Priya is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of The Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. Priya writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. She loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks.