Healthy Cooking: Pumpkin Power, by Val Wilson

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Before you know it, there will pumpkins everywhere!

This signals it is Halloween time. The temperature will start to cool down, all the colorful leaves will fall from the trees, and many of us will take part in an ancient celebration of our ancestors. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st. At the end of summer, the Celts thought the barrier between our world and the world of ghosts and spirits became thin. As part of the celebration, people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. To outsmart these ghostly beings, people would put on masks when they left their homes after dark so the ghosts would think they were fellow spirits.

Every year around October, people start asking for pumpkin-flavored desserts.

Pumpkin is very versatile. I have used it in many sweet dessert recipes, and created many savory pumpkin dishes too. It is in the winter squash family of vegetables. Pumpkin is high in fiber, making it a great food for heart health. It’s also high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that turns into Vitamin A in your body, which can help your body fight off infections and strengthen your immunity. Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that help protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. This incredibly healthy vegetable also contains potassium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, E, and several forms of B.

Pumpkin used in baked goods, such as cookies or muffins, gives an incredibly moist texture and tremendous flavor. If you use fresh pumpkin instead of canned pureed pumpkin, look for the small pie pumpkin. It’s smaller, sweeter, and has better overall flavor than the others. Leave the large pumpkins for decorative carving. Simply cut the small pie pumpkin in half, lay flat side down on an oiled cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until fork tender. Let cool, then scoop out the flesh, and puree for a smooth texture.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup dried apricots
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup brown rice syrup
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. each: ginger, allspice, cloves
Pinch sea salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 cups oat flour
Raisins

Put the apricots, pumpkin puree, olive oil, brown rice syrup, spices, and sea salt in a food processor. Puree to chop the apricots into small pieces. Put the rolled oats and oat flour in a mixing bowl. Add the pureed mixture and mix all together. Spoon the dough onto an oiled cookie sheet. Press the cookie dough down with a fork. Decorate the cookies with raisins to create faces on the cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Adapted from Year Round Healthy Holiday Cooking, copyright 2019, Valerie Wilson.

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Year Round Healthy Holiday Cooking, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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