The season’s clock has turned to autumn. The air is crisp, vibrant shades of red and orange color the trees, cozy sweaters appear from the back of the closet and pumpkin everything seems to have hit the store shelves.
From pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin spice donuts, even pumpkin pie spice Pringles potato chips! It seems as though we have forgotten the important, all-star vegetable amongst this madness: pumpkin itself!
Pumpkin is a versatile vegetable brimming with nutrition that can be used in many different forms. Pumpkin provides a wide range of health benefits including helping keeping your vision sharp and waistline slim. Here are some of the health benefits of pumpkin:
- Vitamin A to perk your peepers: Chock full of the antioxidant beta-carotene, the dark orange hue provides greater than 200% of the RDA for Vitamin A in a 1-cup serving. Eating foods high in Vitamin A helps protect your sight, especially night vision.
- Cut cancer risk: Speaking of those important antioxidants, beta-carotene can help prevent certain cancers, particularly skin cancer. The deep orange carotenoids are also found in carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
- Fiber for weight control: Eating foods high in fiber can keep you full on fewer calories thereby eating less. With 3 grams of fiber and just 49 calories in a 1-cup serving, eating more pumpkin is a great way to assist in your weight loss efforts (not recommended in pie form, unfortunately).
- Vitamin C to beat a cold: Pumpkin contains 20% of your daily value of Vitamin C, which is helpful in strengthening your immune system and warding off colds.
- Potassium for recovery after a grueling workout: The next time you throw a banana in your post-workout smoothie, consider using pumpkin instead. Pumpkin contains 564 mg of potassium per 1 cup, an important electrolyte that is lost from sweating. Potassium can also help to prevent strokes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The “Sugar” or “Pie” pumpkin varietals are smaller and sweeter than the giant Jack O’ Lantern gourds and are recommended for use in recipes. Canned pumpkin can also be used if you do not have the time to roast and puree a whole pumpkin.
Autumn Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin
Original recipe by Sarah Lawson, RD – serves one hungry person or two adults
- 1 small Sugar pumpkin (~2lbs)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 small purple onion
- 1 cup Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned
- 1/2 cup red grapes
- 1/2 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 2 tablespoons pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 450°. Using a sharp knife, cut ~1” down from the top stem crosswise to make a “cap” like you would carving a jack o’ lantern. Remove seeds and scoop out any stringy plump. Use 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the inside, outside, and bottom of the pumpkin and cap, season generously with salt and pepper. Place pumpkin and cap off to the side on a cookie sheet and place in oven.
(Cook’s note: I place my pumpkin in the oven while it’s heating up. Gives the pumpkin time to pre-roast before filling it with the goodies.)
While the pumpkin is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-hot heat in a large skillet. When hot, add diced onion, sauté 2-3 minutes, adding a pitch of salt to help the onion “sweat” (release liquid). Add Brussels sprouts next, making sure to coat them in the oil and brown nicely, ~5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for ~1 minute.
Add mushrooms and grapes next, tossing with the rest of the vegetables allowing them to cook down and soften. Add sage and rosemary, salt and pepper to taste.
Off the heat, add pecans and goat cheese. The residual heat of the vegetables will cause the goat cheese to melt and make a creamy mixture.
Carefully remove the roasting pumpkin from the oven. By this time your oven should have reached 450°. Stuff the pumpkin with the vegetable mixture, top with the pumpkin cap and return to the oven.
- Cook stuffed pumpkin for ~30 minutes or until you can easily insert a knife into the pumpkin.
(Nutrition information: 342 calories; 21g fat (5g saturated, 6g monounsaturated, 1g polyunsaturated); 118mg sodium; 923mg potassium; 32g Total Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 11g protein. Percent Daily Values based on a 2,000 calorie diet: 250% Vitamin A, 36% Vitamin C, 8% Calcium, 16% Iron.)