When Life Gives You Pumpkins…

I came back from Africa to a little pumpkin patch ready to be eaten. August seems a bit early to be busting out the pumpkin but I’m like, “When life gives you pumpkins, make pumpkin everything!” I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of cooking up a whole pumpkin and are much more apt to grab a can of puree from the store. In a pinch, maybe, but I’m telling you–its easy! I used to be a little scared of them too!

For every health benefit the orange goddess offers, so there is a different way to consume it. I mean, the possibilities are really endless here. I’ve been known to take spoonfuls of puree straight from the jar….but here are some other ideas that I love to use pumpkin for:

In oatmeal!
In a smoothie!
Pumpkin Soup with coconut milk
Pumpkin Curry
Pumpkin pudding
Pumpkin butter
Pumpkin cookies
pumpkin muffins/bread
and of course pumpkin pie (I’m actually not really a fan)

Benefits of Pumpkin:

  • Full of Vitamin A (all the better to see you with my dear) and fiber (keeps you feeling full and less likely to over eat as well as keeps you regular–lets face it–pooping is important).
  • Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols which help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease! Boo-ya heart disease.
  • Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotenes which may help reduce your risk of cancer and also keep your skin looking less wrinkly. Boo-ya Cancer and wrinkly skin!
  • Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan which helps boost serotonin levels making you feel gooood. Pass on the turkey–eat pumpkin seeds instead! Boo-ya pissy mood!
  • Potassium, People, Potassium. Bananas get all the credit but pumpkins (and dates and many other plant based foods) are full of electrolyte balancing potassium. Awesome after a workout. Perhaps in a smoothie? Boo-ya cramps.
  • Immune boosting power of vitamin C. Its almost cold and fiu season. Instead of taking vitamin c tablets, eat fruit and veg! Its natures way. Boo-ya cold and flu season.

Like apple sauce, it makes a great replacement for oil in many baking recipes! Don’t be shy, experiment! Here are the steps I use to bake and prep my pumpkin for use in recipes. I also try to save some for later use. I’ll show you how I do that as well!

Pumpkin Baking 101

Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice Pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Place seeds in a colander to be cleaned.

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Step 2: Place pumpkin halves upside down in a baking pan with about an inch of water on the bottom and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes. It will be done when you can easily pierce the skin with a fork.

Step 3: Scoop out pumpkin flesh into a blender. Blend until it it smooth.

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Step 4: Scoop into a jar to be used within the next few days OR measure out 1-2 cups to be stored in freezer bags. Remove air from bags and lay flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer until you have a nice flat pumpkin slab for easy storage.

As you can see, precise really isn't my thing.  This is about 2 cups.  My pumpkins make 3-4 cups each.

As you can see, precise really isn’t my thing. This is about 2 cups. My pumpkins make 3-4 cups each.

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Step 5: Clean seeds and lay them to dry overnight on a kitchen towel.

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Best done on cute owl towel but any will do!

Best done on cute owl towel but any will do!

Step 6: Preheat oven to 250 degrees Toss seeds with a smidgen of oil (coconut, olive oil, what have you) and some seasoning. I love Trader Joes garlic salt!

Step 7: Bake seeds for about 40 minutes stirring everyone 15 minutes or so!

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Cape Town, My Cape Town

I’ve been in Cape Town now since Monday. As the plane landed I got my first glimpses of Table Mountain, I felt simultaneously so at home but also so far away from Leif. I was at the bottom of Africa. So much has changed since I last set foot in South Africa. I’ve gone through a pregnancy and become a mama. We’ve bought a house and began putting roots down for the first time in our marriage. Yes, life is much different than it was 3.5 years ago but something remain the same. Table Mountain still stands watch over the beautiful city of Cape Town. My heart still flutters to life at the thought of running its trails or even just the roads at its base.

11755762_10105300697212191_3214751473326671806_nAfter 30 hours of travel, and a long time standing in line to get through immigration–in which I couldn’t connect to the wifi to let Samiya know about said line– I was so so happy to hear her call my name in the airport! Its funny, 3.5 years have passed since we have last seen each other in person and it might as well have been yesterday. She’s that kind of friend.

After a quick stop at Woolworths to make sure I had vegetables, we strapped on our runners and went for a brisk walk in the South African wintery sun… We talked of marriage (which she is embarking on this week) and babies and family and giggled like school girls. Life continues to change and we continue to age but in my heart, we are still the 25 year olds we were when we met. I think we always will be.

After an incredible sleep last night, I woke up and ran this morning. My goal—Rhodes Memorial and back. I’m not that familiar with Samiya’s families’ neighborhood so she drew me a map to get to my old turf. Of course, I got lost and just wove my way toward the mountain, under the train tracks, and finally to roads I recognized. I could run those roads in my sleep. By the time I got to the base of the road to Rhodes, I was already 5 miles out (longer than we had estimated) but thought, “well, I’ve come this far, I’m going to run to the top of this”. The hill is steep but so ridiculously peaceful and comforting to me. As my lungs burned and my healing hamstring tugged at me, I smiled. I couldn’t stop smiling. I think a few tears came down my cheeks as I ran up, up, up. This felt like home. This hill. These legs. The pounding in my chest.

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After enjoying a moment at the memorial overlooking the city, I ran quickly down the hill trying to make up for the extra time it took me to get there. I stopped at the bottom to ask for directions when I realized I’d dropped my map. Several times I asked kind people for help and finally, about 2 miles from home, I decided I’d better call for help. I ducked into a café to use their wifi and SOS’d Samiya’s mom to have her come fetch me.

The rest of the day was spent at the spa with Samiya’s female family members. Massages, pedis, tea, and a sauna. For all of you who imagined me roughing it in Africa, I’m not.

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Tonight, Samiya’s mom made me vegetable biryani and we laughed with her parents, brothers and their wives and all the aunties, uncles, and cousins that trickled through the house.

More Stories and photos to come!