Recognized in the literary world with stories such as Cinderella, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, the pumpkin is no stranger to the spotlight. Each year in the USA, thousands of pumpkins are carved into jack 'o lanterns and many pumpkin pies are eaten at holiday celebrations!
Pumpkin is excellent for you. It has no cholesterol and is low in fat and sodium and rich in vitamins. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that it is loaded with the antioxidant, beta- carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease and other aspects of aging.
On top of being good for your health, Pumpkins taste good too. That's why they are a part of the diet in almost every country in the world.
Age to introduce: About 8-10 months (cooked and pureed).
Toddler Treat: Pumpkin Sauce
This is the not-so-well-known cousin of apple sauce -- a side dish that can go with any meal, delicious as a spread on bread too!
2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree (see below)
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup of honey
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve
Age to introduce: Over 12 months
Storage: Refrigerate for 2-3 days. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Fresh Pumpkin Puree: You will need 1 small to medium pumpkin.
Prep: Wash, cut in half, and remove seeds. Cut each half into four pieces.
Cook: Place in microwave-safe dish with 1 Tbsp of water. Cover. Cook 13-15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Pumpkin is done if you can pierce it easily with a fork.
Puree: Scoop out pumpkin meat into blender/food processor. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Discard Skins. Process. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup additional water to develop smooth texture.
Pumpkins for everyone
Pumpkins find their place across the menu -- breakfast, lunch and dinner and dessert -- whether its pancakes, muffins, seeds for snacking, hearty soup, stuffed pumpkin or tasty pie. Here are few ideas for adding more pumpkin to your family meals:
1. Add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) and 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to you pancakes for breakfast. They taste terrific with maple syrup and chopped pecans!
2. Add 1-2 cups of pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) to your favorite chili recipe
3. Use pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned) instead of banana in your favorite banana bread or muffin recipe.
4. Make mashed potatoes with 1/2 white potatoes 1/2 pumpkin.
5. Bake pumpkin like a squash. Before baking, drizzle pumpkin meat with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey and chili flakes.
Roasted Pumpkin seeds: Don't waste pumpkin seeds after cooking or making jack-o-lanterns. It is easy to roast the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. The hulls are a great source of fiber with the seeds containing a high amount of phosphorus. Let the kids slosh through the slippery seeds and pick out the fibers.
1 quart water
1 Tbsp salt
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible.
3. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.
4. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter.
5. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan (cover pan with aluminum foil for easy clean- up).
6. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
7. Cool the seeds, then eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Pumpkin Fun Facts
Original recipe for pumpkin pie: Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes.
About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.