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How To Eat Your BOX! (Week of 11/27/16)

Sugar Pie Pumpkins:

The first time I roasted a pumpkin, I failed to realize that the stringy insides are actually not the part we want to eat. Lucky for me (and you) I’ve come a long way since that first roast.

Sugar Pie Pumpkins are ideal for…you guessed it: pie! They are sweet and have a soft silky texture when roasted.

To roast, preheat your oven to 350°F. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Okay, so here’s where I admit that roasting pumpkins or squash often terrifies me. Really it’s just the part where you have to hack it in half. I always fear that I’ll walk away less a finger or two. That’s why I roast the pumpkin whole (or even microwave for a couple of minutes) for 10 minutes before cutting in half. The pumpkin starts to soften so the knife slides through the skin and flesh without much pressure. Let it cool slightly then cut in half and scoop out the stringy bits and seeds. Return the pumpkin to the oven, flesh down, and continue to roast until a fork easily slips through the skin and flesh.

Once cool, peel away the skin using a spoon to help scoop out the soft flesh. Pureé the pumpkin in a blender or food processor then use as you would canned pumpkin.

Breads, muffins, cakes and such are all lovely places for pumpkin pureé to live, but let’s not forget about milkshakes (a scoop of pureé along with organic vanilla ice cream and a bit of pumpkin pie spice) or smoothies (pumpkin pureé mixed with plain yogurt blended with honey or dates along with pumpkin pie spice and perhaps a banana if you’d like).

Or, take your pumpkin down the savory route by combining it with a flavorful stock and a bit of paprika. Warm it up, season and stir in a bit of sour cream or créme fraiche for a rich tang. I like to stir a bit of the pureé into my homemade macaroni and cheese, it adds a bit of rich flavor and nutrition that kids never complain about.

We’ve covered dessert, lunch and dinner, but let’s not forget about breakfast. Stir a bit of pureé into yogurt or oatmeal, sweeten with maple syrup and add a bit of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

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Pumpkin Season

SquashSugarPiePumpkin_web-500x500Fall is definitely pumpkin time. Shoot, even McDonalds and Starbucks are advertising PSL on the radio and billboards. (Just in case, you are more like me than not, PSL stands for Pumpkin Spice Latte.) Well, on the farm we grow pumpkins and lots of them—sweet pie pumpkins. This growing season was very good for all the varieties of squash. 

Last fall, I visited a pumpkin/vegetable trial from our local seed supplier. Trials evaluate plant performance and yield to benefit vegetable gardeners. At the trial, there was this new sugar pie pumpkin that was incredibly delicious and uniform in size. I am always on the lookout for great tasting vegetables and, while our tried and true small sugar pie variety was excellent, this new one caught my attention. The flavor is bar none, off the charts, with dense meaty flavor. The outside is also unique, with a light orange color and a netting overlay. It is also more uniform in size. 

Being the quintessential dreamer that I am, I jumped in whole hog and switched to this Winter Luxury variety. About six weeks ago, I called my seed representative and sent her a picture of the basketball-sized pumpkins growing in my field. (Do you know why farmers often have less hair? Because we do a lot head scratching trying to figure out what is happening with our crops, the weather, etc.) Sorry I digress, but the yield I was getting was definitely a head scratcher. This new variety, grown on my farm, out grew itself and now I have a lot of 8 to 10 pounders that won’t fit into our delivery boxes.

Want to help your farmer this week??? Feel free to order an extra pumpkin (or five ☺) for only $5 each and we will deliver it with your next order: http://www.klesickfamilyfarm.com/cart/index.php?route=product/category&type_view=&path=2&page=8

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The Nutritional Power of Pumpkins

by Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
 
Pumpkins are not just Halloween decorations — they’re also total nutritional powerhouses. 
 
In fact, both the flesh and the seeds of pumpkins contain a number of beneficial nutrients that can help prevent disease and promote health. 
 
So before you trash the remains of that freshly carved pumpkin you’ve put on your porch for Halloween, consider giving both the flesh and the seeds a try.
 
Don’t be surprised if your taste buds and body thank you for tricking them into a new treat-of-choice.

Pumpkins are a Figure-Friendly Food

If you’re watching your weight, you should definitely work pumpkin in your diet. And no, we’re not just talking about pumpkin pie.
 
The orange “meat” is very low in calories (30 calories per cup) and carbs, with about 8 grams per serving1. It’s also rich in fiber, which helps to fill you up.
 
Pumpkin works great as a side dish with your favorite meals and has fewer calories than a serving of rice or potatoes.

Pumpkins are Rich in Antioxidants

The nutrient content of pumpkins, specifically in terms of antioxidants, is another great reason to start eating them. Here are two key antioxidants that make pumpkins such an excellent choice.
 

1. Carotenoids

The pumpkin’s beautiful orange color is due to beta-carotene, a disease-preventing antioxidant. You should make it a point to get enough daily.
 
Diets rich in beta-carotene may protect against cancer2 and heart disease3. Also, it plays an important role in the skin, where it helps to guard against sun damage.4
 
Other carotenoids found in pumpkin flesh include zeaxanthin and lutein,1 which enhance vision.5 

2. Gamma-Tocopherol

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of gamma-tocopherol,6 a potent form of vitamin E.
 
Gamma-tocopherol plays different roles in the human body. Scientists have discovered that it protects the brain from Alzheimer’s disease.7 In addition it’s been shown to prevent LDL oxidation, a risk factor for heart disease.8

Pumpkins Contain Lignans — Powerful Anti-Cancer Compounds 

Pumpkin seeds contain lignans,9 which are estrogen-like compounds that are good for your body. Lignans are “weak estrogens” that favorably bind to estrogen receptors to help protect against cancerous growths.
 
Studies indicate that a diet rich in lignans may prevent different types of cancers, including cancers of the prostate10 and colon.11 
 
One study found that eating pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and soybeans (all rich in lignans) was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.12

Pumpkins Protect Prostate Tissue

Pumpkin seed extract blocks the activity of 5-alpha reductase,13 an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a very potent form of testosterone.
 
DHT causes prostate tissue to grow and is implicated in conditions like prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (non-cancerous prostate growth), and even male pattern baldness. Levels tend to be elevated in aging men.
 
One study showed that men with benign prostatic hyperplasia had improvements in urinary flow and frequency after taking pumpkin seed extract.14 
Recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup
This fall make it a point to try pumpkin in a few different ways. For example, here's a recipe for a delicious pumpkin soup that will give your taste buds a serious treat, courtesy of the website Epicurious.
 
Ingredients:
2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups) 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced 
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger 
2 teaspoons ground cumin 
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes 
2 (15-oz) cans solid-pack pumpkin (3 1/2 cups) or fresh pumpkin puree
4 cups water 
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (12 fl oz) 
1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat) 
1/4 cup olive oil 
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds 
8 fresh curry leaves 
 
Preparation:
Cook onions in butter in a wide, 6-quart, heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, and cardamom and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, pumpkin, water, broth, and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a large bowl, and return soup to pot. Keep soup warm over low heat.
 
Heat oil in a small, heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Then cook mustard seeds until they begin to pop, about 15 seconds. Add curry leaves and cook 5 seconds. Then pour mixture into pumpkin soup. Stir until combined well and season soup with salt.
 
Happy Halloween, everyone – enjoy!
 
References:
1. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2600/2
2. Molecules. 2012 Mar 14;17(3):3202-42.
3. Ann Epidemiol. 1995 Jul;5(4):255-60.
4. Dermatology. 2010;221(2):160-71. 
5. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2012 Mar-Apr;22(2):216-25.
6. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1996 Apr;202(4):275-8.
7. Nitric Oxide. 2002 Mar;6(2):221-7.
8. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Oct;4(4):219-226.
9. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Feb 26;51(5):1181-8.
10. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2006 Dec;31(24):2021-5, 2093.
11. Carcinogenesis. 1996 Jun;17(6):1343-8.
12. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):652-65. 
13. Nutr Res Pract. 2009 Winter; 3(4): 323–327.
14. Br J Urol. 1990 Dec;66(6):639-41.
 
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Plenty of Pumpkins

The summer toys were still strewn all over the yard and the leaves were just starting to think about their annual transition from green to shades of red, orange and yellow, and yet I was already dreaming of pumpkins.

Every year it is my mission to try and squeeze pumpkin into as many meals as possible. This is a skill I am very gifted in. I roll out of bed and make myself a homemade pumpkin spice latte. For breakfast I eat pumpkin muffins. For lunch it’s pumpkin soup. Dinner is some sort of pasta dish with pumpkin, sage, parmesan and bacon. Dessert is pumpkin rice pudding.

As a newlywed, I was determined to make a pumpkin pie completely from scratch for my contribution to our first Thanksgiving. I had heard rumors that it was possible to make a pie from the actual pumpkin rather than using what is found in the can. So, I got myself a pumpkin, clumsily hacked off the top and began to remove the innards. That’s where my project came to a halt. “What part do I roast?” I asked myself. I’m ashamed to admit it, but up to this point in my kitchen career pumpkin had always come from a can. I was in foreign territory. With the help of the internet, my questions were answered and I continued on my mission. The results were well worth the effort. I was rewarded with a pie rich in fresh pumpkin flavor and the thrill of telling people that this pie was made completely from scratch.

Since that embarrassing kitchen fiasco, I have roasted many a pumpkin. I have also turned back to the trusted canned pumpkin on several occasions and there is nothing wrong with that.

From the 1st of October to the last bite of my second helping of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I get my fill of pumpkin. This is enough to last us the rest of the year, which gives me plenty of time to figure out all the recipes that I can squeeze pumpkin in to for the next season.

by Ashley Rodriquez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com