To quote one of my favorite cartoons Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! And, although the great pumpkin didnt make his appearance for Charlie Brown, Linus was not all that far off with his description, because the pumpkin is great indeed. Not only is it tasty prepared in a variety of ways, but it is loaded with important antioxidants, the bright orange color gives evidence to the presence of beta-carotene. When foods that contain beta-carotene are consumed (like pumpkin) the body converts the beta-carotene into Vitamin A, by way of the liver. Beta-carotene has been associated with reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and can also protect against heart disease. Beta-carotene aids in neutralizing free radicals. Vitamin A helps prevent a number of eye problems including night blindness, is helpful for many skin disorders such as acne and is also said to slow some degenerative aspects of aging.
However, taking large quantities of Vitamin A for long periods of time can be toxic to the body, especially to the liver. Several conditions can occur from this, abdominal pain, enlarged liver, hair loss, itching, joint pain, water on the brain and cracks on the lips and corners of the mouth. Yet, no overdose occurs from taking beta-carotene. Although, if you take in too much beta-carotene your skin may turn a bit orange or yellowish, like the great pumpkin.
All and all, Cup for cup, pumpkin has more of some vitamins than some green vegetables have. A half-cup serving (cooked) contains 5.2 mgs of Vitamin C, 281 mg of Potassium, and 18 mg of calcium. It also contains fiber, iron, and protein and is fairly low in carbohydrates. And, of course, its generous supply of beta-carotene has the added bonus of protecting your eyes and your skin.
When buying and storing pumpkins it is good to keep in mind that while larger pumpkins are decorative and fun to carve, the smaller ones are juicier. For the best pumpkin flavor, choose one that is firm, blemish-free and heavy for its size. Un-cut pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for up to a month or refrigerate for up to three months.
Below are a couple of my favorite ways of preparing pumpkins; one is Pumpkin Soup and the other is Pumpkin Cheesecake. Even though, the later may not be as much of a health conscious choice as the soup, it certainly is tasty!
Pumpkin in the Shell Soup.
For this you will want to choose a shorter and fatter pumpkin. It will stand better than a taller thinner one.
Wash the pumpkin with warm soapy water, rinse and dry. Then with a sharp knife, cut away the top to form a lid. Scoop out the seeds (reserve for roasting:-) and stringy mass.
Lightly oil the pumpkin inside and out, sprinkle the inside with salt and place on a cookie sheet that is also lightly oiled. Bake a 325°F for 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the shell. Be careful not to over bake the pumpkin, if the shell becomes too soft it will not be able to hold the soup. Bake just long enough to make the inside soft enough to scoop. Gently scoop out the soft pumpkin for preparation of soup. For the recipe below you will need about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin.
In saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery, garlic and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent. Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a 9-inch spring form pan, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom and sides of the pan.
Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
In a large bowl using electric mixer or food processor, whip cream cheese until smooth. Stir in brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Add pumpkin and add egg yolks one at a time, blending each until smooth. The same with the egg whites, add 1/2 the egg whites, then blend and then add the rest and blend.
Finally add cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, Amaretto and whipping cream.
Pour mixture into prepared crust. Set spring form pan in a large roasting pan and fill with 1/2-inch tap water. Bake 1 hour, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove and chill 6 to 8 hours.
Serve topped with whipped cream if desired.
|This article is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical advice if you have any concern about your health or physical condition, and you should always consult your physician before following the recommendations presented here.|
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© Melt Magazine 2003