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It's that time of year when you're inundated with pumpkin everything: drinks, cookies, cakes, pies, etc. While this lovely squash is amazing at lending its flavor to all things sweet, there are so many wonderful things you can make with this amazing plant.
This North American native plant is so versatile in many dishes. It's high in vitamin A and fibre, and even has trace amounts of vitamin C. Almost all parts of the pumpkin are edible. You can cook down the flesh for many different dishes, or you can roast and season the seeds for a quick tasty snack. The leaves are also used in some Korean dishes. While not widely used, pumpkin oil made from the pressed seeds can be used as a salad dressing for soups and salads.
The easiest thing to make is soup. Pumpkin soup can literally be as simple as mixing stock, pumpkin, and spices for a quick and easy soup. Of course, you can doctor it up by adding coconut milk, or roasted seeds on top. Try this quick and easy recipe from the Minimalist Baker.
Now that you've made the soup, you can move on to pasta. Basically make your soup a little thicker, add some stronger spice flavors and throw in your favorite pasta. It's great on fettuccine, or shell-shaped pasta. You want something that can hold onto a thicker sauce, and won't fall apart when mixed. The rule of thumb, is the thicker the sauce, the bigger the pasta.
Staying along the same lines, you can move up to a lovely pumpkin stew. The flavor of the pumpkin goes great with beef or lamb and blends wonderfully with the rich, earthy taste of a stew. Make your best beef stew recipe and mix in a couple cups of pumpkin puree. Your family will love the rich, deep flavor that pumpkin can bring. And the best thing is that it will taste even better the next day. Letting the stew sit will allow the spices and pumpkin to meet and get more intimate. So make enough for leftovers. This works well for chili, too.
Of course, the easiest way to enjoy pumpkin is to roast it. You just roast the pumpkin as you would with a butternut or acorn squash. You want to get a pumpkin that is good for cooking. Don't be tempted to reuse the one you've carved into for Halloween. Those pumpkins have too much water in the flesh. They are great for easy carving, but if you use them for cooking, you'll end up with soft, watery flesh on your roasting pan. Preheat your oven to high, about 450F. Cut the pumpkin into one-inch cubes and throw them into a large bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of oil, some salt and pepper to season, and then place on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake until tender, 20 minutes or so, and place back in the bowl. Toss with some maple syrup. Add some chopped walnuts and feta and you have a great side to go with any meal.
After that full meal of pumpkin goodness, you can start your morning with a pumpkin smoothie. I'm not talking about the caffeine-filled syrupy sweet drink you can get at your local coffee shop. Combine pumpkin, banana, yogurt, a little milk and some cinnamon in your blender. Blend until smooth. While it's a little sweet, it's not dessert and is a lot healthier for you. You can even add some chia seeds for fibre.
Remember, pumpkin is a great source of fibre and can be added to any meal. Throw some roasted pieces on a salad, or the seeds on top of your ice cream. Get out there and enjoy the great pumpkin!