It’s that time of year again for pumpkins.
And these days nutrition experts are so pumped up about pumpkin they’re urging Americans to continue feasting on the squash throughout the winter months.
Pumpkin’s bright-orange skin signals that it is loaded with beta-carotene, a carotenoid that has been linked to the prevention of prostate, breast, colon and lung cancer.
Carotenoids protect plants from sun damage, and scientists say they also may protect our own skin from dangerous ultraviolet light.
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The early colonists relied on the winter squash as a staple food that is high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, and they found the taste so enjoyable they turned it them into a hallowed holiday pie tradition.
Modern cooks only need to open a can to get all the good-for-you nutrients, but incorporating a fresh pumpkin into a menu is a nice change of pace. This recipe for Stuffed Pumpkin uses the squash as an edible bowl perfect for entertaining. The pumpkin can be cut into wedges and eaten along with the bread stuffing.
Shopping tips: Don’t eat the jack-o’-lanterns! For cooking, choose “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins. Whole pumpkins will store for up to a month at room temperature.
Look for country-style croutons in the aisle where stuffing mixes are sold.
Thrifty tip: Pumpkin seeds, or “pepitas” in Spanish, are rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and plant-based omega-3 and omega-6. Air-dry them on a cookie sheet overnight, and then drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
q 1 (3-pound) pumpkin
q 1 tablespoon butter
q 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
q 1 garlic clove, minced
q 2 1/2 cups country-style stuffing croutons
q 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
q 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
q 1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
q 1 cup shredded Gruyere
n Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash outside skin and carefully cut the top off the pumpkin. Clear away strings and seeds; set aside.
n Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Toss onions with stuffing, thyme and sage. Gently stir in broth and Gruyere. Pour stuffing mixture, with liquid, into pumpkin and replace top. Place in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 80 to 90 minutes or until flesh is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove top and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes.
n To serve, either take it to the table whole and scoop out the dressing with pumpkin or cut the pumpkin into wedges for serving.
n Makes 4 to 6 servings
n Per serving, based on 4: 306 calories (33 percent from fat), 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 34 milligrams cholesterol, 39 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 344 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.