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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