Fall is in the air – cool mornings, trees glowing with color, the smell of warm apple cider – my favorite time of the year! What makes fall even more delightful is the abundance of in-season produce like apples, Brussel sprouts and pears. My daughter and I plan on making a variety of fall family favorites including apple crisp and sweet potato and black bean chili. It is hard to think of this time of year and not think about all things pumpkin. From pumpkin pie to pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin is the ultimate symbol of fall. Many people may only think of pumpkins as Halloween decorations; however, this versatile produce item is a great addition to any meal or snack. You can use fresh pumpkin or the canned varieties. Additionally, there are many nutritional benefits:
- High in vitamin A for immunity and eye health
- Rich in antioxidant content that may help to lower risk of cancer
- Low in calories and can help promote weight maintenance (1/2 cup of pumpkin has 15 calories)
- Good source of potassium and fiber which has been shown to benefit heart health
In addition to pumpkin, the warming combination of pumpkin spice also is one of my favorites during the fall season. This seasoning mix is a perfect blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and all spice. This spice mix is not just for pumpkin pie. You can add it to soups and stews, on poultry or in grain dishes. Just like pumpkin, it boosts a wide array of health benefits. Cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar, ginger has been shown to strengthen the immune system and cloves have anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are five ways to enjoy the fall flavors of pumpkin and pumpkin spice this season:
1. Pair pumpkin for more flavor and crunch
- Fruits and vegetables: cauliflower, cranberry, eggplant, or pear
- Spices: cinnamon, vanilla, chilies, nutmeg, ginger, or cayenne
- Nuts and Dairy: hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, mozzarella, or gorgonzola cheese
2. Roast the pumpkin seeds for a boost of heart-healthy fats
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss 1 cup pumpkin seeds with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread out pumpkin seeds and bake for 3-5 minutes.
- For a spicier flavor, toss together 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper.
3. Cut up fresh pumpkin and sauté – a great addition to a stir fry
In a skillet add 2 tbsp butter, 1.5 lb. pumpkin (seeded, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks), ¼ tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper, Sauté for 15 minutes.
4. Use fresh or canned pumpkin in soups and stews like chili and bisques.
Try this recipe: Pumpkin Lentil Stew
5. Incorporate pumpkin spice into savory dishes and snacks including hummus, poultry and meats as well as pasta dishes.
Try this recipe with pork: Pork Chops With Spiced Butternut Squash