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What's round and orange, has a wicked smile and great health benefits?

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Was Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater as bad as people thought? As a husband, we don’t know, but as a pumpkin eater, he was quite smart.

Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are high in vitamin A, protein, fiber, zinc, iron and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Health benefits of eating pumpkin include: healthy cardiovascular system (mono and polyunsaturated fats), healthy skin (vitamin A), healthy vision (vitamin A), decreased osteoporosis (zinc), decreased arthritis (less lipid peroxidation), decreased prostate enlargement (helps prevent conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone) and decreased colon cancer (fiber). One cup of mashed pumpkin contains 49 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol and 2,651 International Units, IU, of Vitamin A. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 153 calories, 13 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol and 108 IU of Vitamin A.

In addition to the health benefits, pumpkins, from the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family, are a versatile fruit with many options for preparation and serving. Consider the following carving tips, decorating suggestions and recipes for this fall favorite.

· To roast pumpkin seeds, remove them from the pumpkin and rinse in a colander, pulling pulp or strings from the seeds. Place seeds on a cookie sheet. Add butter (2 tablespoons to 1 cup of seeds) and soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and onion salt to taste. Bake at 250 F for one hour, turning every 15 minutes.

For carving, draw your design on the pumpkin with a water-based marker. Then cut the lid at an angle with a sharp, straight-edged knife. (This prevents the top from falling in the pumpkin when it shrinks.) Remove seeds and pulp. Use slow, steady saw strokes when carving, and carve the facial features closest to the center first, working outward. Cut out the larger features in sections. Remove carved portions by gently pushing them into or out of the pumpkin. If a section is accidentally removed, reattach it by using a toothpick to pin it back in place. Avoid digging too deep, since the pumpkin can become prone to rot. Use candy attached to toothpicks to brighten up the face (candy corn can be used for teeth and gum drops for the iris of the eye).

For fall decorating, colorful flower arrangements can be placed in the pumpkin. Remove the top of the pumpkin and discard. Remove seeds and roast as described above. Choose wild flowers of purple, yellow or orange to complement the orange pumpkin. Don’t limit yourself with type or variety. Potted plants can also be placed inside of the pumpkin.

For cooking with pumpkin, try these recipes:

Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake

24 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup pumpkin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

One-quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg

Graham Cracker crust (use pre-packaged or 1 and one-half cups crushed graham crackers, one-third cup sugar and one-half cup butter mixed together and pressed into a 9 inch pie plate. Chill).

Beat cream cheese, three-quarter cup sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat. Reserve half this batter. Stir one-quarter cup sugar, pumpkin and spices into remaining batter until well mixed. Spoon pumpkin and cream cheese batters alternately over graham cracker crust. Cut through batters with a knife several times to marble. Bake 55 minutes or until center is almost set. Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Replace water and half the oil in a chocolate cake mix recipe with pumpkin. Frost with orange colored icing.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 and one-quarter teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 and three-quarter cups milk

One-half cup pumpkin

1 large egg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (plus more for greasing the skillet)

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a large bowl. Then combine milk, pumpkin, egg and vegetable oil in a medium bowl, mixing well. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened (may be lumpy). For a thinner batter, add more milk. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Pour batter by quarter cupfuls onto hot griddle. Cook until bubbles begin to burst, then flip pancakes and continue cooking until golden brown (about 1.5 to 2.5 minutes). Makes about 1 dozen 3-to 4-inch pancakes.

For further information on pumpkins, visit the Pumpkin Grower’s Web site at

http://www.backyardgardener.com/pumkin.html.

Posted on 7 Oct 2005

Nedra Christensen
Utah State University Extension Dietician

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