Everything’s coming up. . . pumpkin!

Everywhere I look, every door step I approach, every market I enter I’m greeted by my favorite color and one of my favorite flavors. . . pumpkin!

Are you a pumpkin lover too?

And are you fantasizing about your Halloween treats over there, like I am?

You might laugh at what constitutes a goodie for me over the holidays. (My body has zero tolerance for sugar).

Yet even with my comparatively tame excesses, I’ve felt a bit tuckered moving into the cold, wet autumn. Fall is a time to turn inward, slow down, and retreat and the start of this season has been anything but quiet.

Instead it’s been riddled with new beginnings, travel and family health challenges.

Thankfully, the bounty of pumpkins, lurking around every corner, are a welcome reminder that the season is reminding me to rest and digest.

And I’m happy to do that with one of my favorite pumpkin treats.

Happy Halloween!

Warmly,

Andrea Nakayama

P.S. If the thought of Halloween (and all those sugary treats) has you shaking in your costume boots, check out some of my favorite Halloween-inspired recipes (minus the sugar bomb, of course!).


Pumpkin Cream “Cheese”

Everything's coming up. . . pumpkin!Pumpkins are not just about Halloween. In fact the pumpkin is an indigenous Native American plant that sustained many folk through the cold months of winter due to its hardy skin and its ability to be stored for long periods of time.

This pumpkin cream “cheese” was inspired by a Thanksgiving pie I made several years ago. I came home and tweaked that recipe a bit, lost the crust, and wa-la, we’ve found a new family favorite.

We’ll eat it on buckwheat date-pecan quick bread, flax crackers, and all by itself, sliver-by-sliver, until only the tiniest morsel is left in the dish in the fridge. I know what I’m having for my afternoon snack!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked one to three hours
  • 1-1/2 cups pureed, cooked pumpkin (directions below)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (choose a BPA-free option)
  • 1/2 cup gently melted coconut butter (Artisana brand or Nutiva Coconut Manna)
  • 30 drops liquid stevia, vanilla flavored or 3 tablespoons raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons liquid vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preparation
Drain the soaked cashews, discarding the water. Place the nuts into a food processor and process them until a butter forms.

Add the remaining ingredients to the processor and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste to be sure that it meets your tastebuds. Since all pumpkins will be of varying degrees of sweetness, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve satisfied your taste buds before pouring the mixture from the food processor.

When the mixture meets your taste requirements, pour or spoon the contents of the bowl into a rectangular glass container in which you can store the cream “cheese”.

Allow the “cheese” to set in the fridge for at least two hours before trying to slice. You can store it covered there for up to four days. (Ours didn’t last so long!)

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

It’s easier than you think. And the pumpkins and winter squashes are plentiful throughout fall and winter. Look for a small (and sweet!) sugar pumpkin. Acorn or kabocha squash work well too.

With a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin or squash in half. Continue to cut those halves into half along the ribs into wedges, until you have eight wedges.

Scrape out all the pulp from the pumpkin’s cavity.

Remove the outer skin with a vegetable peeler.

Boil or steam slices until the flesh turns bright orange and soft. About 20 minutes. (You can prick with a fork to test its done-ness.)

When soft, remove the slices or chunks with a set of tongs. Let cool to room temperature.

Scoop out the soft flesh (from the shell). Blend or puree in a food processor until smooth.


Pumpkin’s Perks

 Pumpkins and winter squashes are best eaten when fully ripe. Yet its the younger and smaller gourds that will have the sweetest flavor. That taste is earthy and rich and nutritionally fibrous.

The Health Benefits of pumpkin include:

  • Everything's coming up. . . pumpkin!Pumpkins are a great source of carotene ~ one of our major antioxidants that helps to protect us against certain kinds of cancer (particularly lung cancer), as well as heart disease.
  • Diets rich in carotene ~ like our orange fleshed pumpkins ~ also offer protection against the development of diabetes. Pumpkins in particular are helpful in the body’s management of blood sugar metabolism and beneficial for the health of the pancreas, where our blood sugar regulating insulin is produced.
  • Pumpkin provides some good vitamins and minerals including:
    • vitamin C
    • several B vitamins including B1, B6, folic acid & niacin
    • potassium
    • dietary fiber
    • plus those pro-vitamin A carotenes!
  • Pumpkins are helpful in the relief of bronchial asthma. They promote the health of the lungs and throat as well. In fact, in European folk medicine pumpkin is acknowledged as a potent remedy in the treatment of respiratory and digestive ailments.


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Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!