A pumpkin can be more than a jack-o'-lantern. As anyone who's been to a Thanksgiving dinner knows, pumpkin can be a pie. It can also be a cake, a bread, a muffin, a salad, a custard, a stew or a soup. Some even think it can be an ice cream.

A pumpkin can also be anything that any other winter squash can be. A member of the gourd family, which includes watermelon and squash, its meat has a mild, sweet taste. Its orange color signals the presence of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer.

Pumpkins are available in the fall and winter months, and pured canned pumpkin is on supermarket shelves year-round. If using fresh pumpkin, the smaller ones are usually more tender and tasty.

Don't try to recycle your Halloween jack-o'-lantern, which probably has watery, stringy pulp. (But do save and toast the seeds for snacks.) For cooking, use small, sweet jack-be-littles, cheese pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. Ask the grocer or local farmers market for a recommendation.

Look for pumpkins that are unblemished and heavy for their size. Whole pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for up to a month and in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Colonists first learned to cook pumpkins from the Indians, but gradually, pumpkin was eaten less and used more for Halloween decoration. In recent years, fresh pumpkin has made a comeback in the kitchen as cooks discovered it's as flavorful as their hard-shelled, winter squash relatives.

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Roasting miniature pumpkins is as easy as baking an acorn squash. Just clean out the interior and bake until the pumpkins are soft when pierced with a knife. Cooked pumpkins can be filled with steamed green beans or other vegetables.

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Canned pumpkin is the easiest way of adding distinctive flavor to a dish. This recipe uses both sweet potato and canned pumpkin to provide a velvety soup that is quick to make. Cubes of fresh apple add a nice contrast in taste, texture and color.

Pumpkin Soup

Makes 6 servings.

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
  • 5 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut in 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 can (about 16 oz.) pured pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tsp. minced fresh chives, for garnish (optional)
  1. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saut apple and leek until leek softens, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add broth, sweet potato, pumpkin and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until sweet potato and apple are soft when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Transfer soup to a blender or food processor and pure. Pour into 6 bowls. Garnish each bowl with chives (if desired) and serve.

Per serving:
88 calories,
3 g. total fat (less than1 g. saturated fat),
15 g. carbohydrate,
3 g. protein,
3 g. dietary fiber,
488 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Vegetable, 1/2 Fat


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