Pumpkins are not only full of flavor, but they pack quite the nutritional punch. Nikki Tierney, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer at A Healthy Balance in Quincy, noted that pumpkins are low in fat and calories and are loaded with vitamins A, C and E. The pumpkin gets its bright orange color from all of its carotenoids – antioxidants that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals.
“I explain free radicals as these little wild children that run around inside you and interfere with your cell function,” Tierney said. “Antioxidants pick up free radicals and scrub them away.”
Tierney said a little bit of pumpkin can go a long way in adding flavor and nutrition to a wide variety of foods. She turns plain pancakes into pumpkin pancakes by adding a quarter cup of canned pumpkin filling to her whole wheat pancake mix.
Tierney’s cookbook, “Be a Healthy Chef,” includes a recipe for “Wicked Good Wicked Easy Brownies,” which calls for mixing a box of brownie mix with a 15-ounce can of pumpkin – while skipping the eggs, oil and any other ingredients the mix calls for. The recipe then says to bake the brownies according to the directions on the box.
“They come out a little more fudge-like than normal brownies,” she said. “The pumpkin gives them just a little bit of pumpkin taste, but it’s not overwhelming because of the chocolate.”
Tierney also recommends infusing your breakfast with the fruit by adding two to three tablespoons of pureed pumpkin, along with cinnamon and walnuts, to oatmeal.
“You’re adding in some antioxidants to your oatmeal,” she said. “And it’s delicious.”
Pumpkin seeds are also a solid source of fiber, protein and essential fatty acids. Tierney suggests combining pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, walnuts and dried cranberries – and either enjoying it as a trail mix or sprinkling the mixture onto yogurt.
Bea Cox, who lives in Quincy, loves the flavor of pumpkin, so she adds canned pumpkin to soup, pies and muffins – not just during the fall months, but year-round.
“The flavor is strong enough that you need to add sugar to it, but it has an earthy flavor that’s not too overwhelming,” Cox said. “You can add it to so many things.”
2 packages of instant fat-free vanilla pudding
2 cups skim milk
15 oz. can of pumpkin
8 oz. fat-free Cool Whip
1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice
18 mini pie crusts
Make pudding according to package directions. Fold in the rest of the ingredients. Spoon into pie crusts (about 1/4 cup each).
From “Be A Healthy Chef” by Nikki Tierney
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seltzer water
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a blender, combine the milk, oil, eggs and pumpkin puree until smooth. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to cook the pancakes, add the seltzer water and baking soda and blend for 10 seconds.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Heat a skillet over medium.
Coat the skillet with cooking spray, then ladle onto the skillet 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until the pancakes bubble, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until lightly browned.
Place the pancakes on a baking sheet and keep warm.