Pumpkins here, pumpkins there, pumpkins just about everywhere!!! As soon as the leaves start to change colour and fall is in the air pumpkins start popping up – on doorsteps, front porches, in grocery stores, kitchens, on social media, everywhere I look I see pumpkins.
I know they’re great to make jack o’lanterns out of (a tradition that my husband takes very seriously) and 99% of the pumpkins marketed in North America are used for this purpose but this variety are often too stringy to eat. Sugar or pumpkin pie pumpkins are a smaller variety that are sweeter and a better choice for cooking.
Pumpkins are in fact a fruit and part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with cucumbers, squash, canteloupes and gourds.
Pumpkins are super nutritious, low in calories and they provide you with fiber, zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C & E so instead of just using them for Halloween decorations, try one of my 3 favourite ways to use pumpkin.
1. Pumpkin puree – it’s really simple to make, just put the whole thing in an oven safe dish and bake for about an hour at 400 degrees. Remove from oven, cut in half and scoop out the seeds then scoop out the flesh. Put the flesh in a food processor and puree (adding a little water if you prefer a smoother texture). You can add this to smoothies, muffins, pancakes, soups and much more. If you can’t use it all at once it freezes really well.
2. Pumpkin pie smoothie
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ frozen banana
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 serving of vanilla protein powder (I like Vega French Vanilla or Vanilla Chai)
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and enjoy!
3. Pumpkin, Spice and Everything Nice Muffins – these are my favourite muffins from the Looneyspoons collection.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use light spelt flour)
1/2 cup wheat bran or whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat flour)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice – If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, make your own using the following:
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I used Greek yoghurt)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or liquid honey (I used maple syrup)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine first 6 ingredients (flour, whole wheat flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, maple syrup, butter, egg and vanilla. Tip: Melt butter in a ramekin in the microwave for 15+ seconds. Stir in carrots.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just to moisten. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Batter will be thick.
Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Tip: wipe the surface of the muffin pan clean of any spatter or oil for more even cooking. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack (at least long enough so you don’t burn your mouth on the meltied ooey gooey chocolate chips…)
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget about the pumpkin seeds, they are a great source of protein, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Whole roasted, unshelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10mg of zinc per 3.5 ounces and shelled roasted pumpkin seeds (which are often referred to as pumpkin seed kernals) contain about 7-8mg. Just rinse & dry them, season with salt, pepper and some spices such as chilli powder or tamari, place on a baking sheet and bake at 160 degrees for 15-20 minutes.