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North Carolina Seasonal Sensation – Pumpkin Recipes

Fall is finally here! And that means it’s time to snuggle up with warm, comforting foods as good for the body as they are for the soul. Here in North Carolina,  pumpkins are grown more than any other veggie in the month of October. And as a dietitian, I couldn’t be more excited.

Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system, promote healthy vision and eye function and reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Both the pumpkin’s flesh and its seeds are rich in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, zinc and vitamin A. So eat those pumpkins, but be wary of the delectable treats the pumpkin is deliciously know for.

Usually found in pie, cake, bread, muffins and cookies, pumpkin can quickly go from a healthy choice to one that piles on those unwanted pounds. But don’t worry; there are tons of pumpkin dishes ready for the making and as healthy as they are delicious. Let’s start with savory wild rice and pumpkin cakes and hearty pumpkin soup.

In honor of this month’s seasonal sensation, here are deliciously healthy pumpkin recipes straight from WakeMed’s Heart Smart Cooking Series and the chefs at the WakeMed Raleigh Campus cafeteria, Cafe 3000.

Wild Rice and Pumpkin Cakes
From WakeMed’s Heart Smart Cooking Series
Serves 6

1 cup wild rice blend, cooked and cooled
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced small
1/3 cup carrots, diced small
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
¼ cup part-skim milk mozzarella, shredded
1 cup pumpkin puree
olive oil or cooking spray
Mesclun greens

Cook rice according to the directions on package. Fold in cranberries, apricots and carrots for the last 10 minutes of the cooking time. (You just want to cook the carrots and plump up the cranberries and apricots.) Gently fold in pecans, cheese and pumpkin. Divide rice into 10 balls, flatten each into a cake, and place on an oiled, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 35, or just to heat through, serve over a handful of mesclun greens.
Per serving (one patty): 200 calories; 8 g fat; 27 g carbohydrates; 79 mg sodium; 3 g fiber

Pumpkin Soup
From Jennifer Lagrand and Chris Zebney, WakeMed’s Café 3000 Chefs, WakeMed Food & Nutrition Services
Serves 8, 1 cup per serving
3 lbs pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 shallots, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 stems fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 large bunch fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 to 3 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds. Using a knife or fork, poke several holes through the pumpkin’s skin. Drizzle olive oil over the flesh of the pumpkin and season very lightly with salt and cracked pepper. Lay the pumpkin on a baking sheet with the flesh facing down. Roast until the pumpkin is soft and a fork passes through smoothly – about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and shallots. Let the shallots sweat for 5 minutes, stirring until they start to caramelize. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the ginger.
Scrape the pumpkin away from the skin and add it to the pot. Add the stock, cider and thyme. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, then cover and cook until the pumpkin is very tender.

Let the the pumpkin cool for several minutes then, working in batches scoop the mixture into a blender or food processor, being very careful not to overflow the container. Once you transfer the mixture to the blender, allow it to cool a few additional minutes, then puree until smooth. Transfer pureed pumpkin soup into another pot and keep warm on the stove. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds, cracked pepper and a few shavings of Romano parmigiano cheese.
Per serving: 148 calories; 6.5 g fat; 330 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 1.7 g protein

This post is part of the NC’s No Diet Diet series.  View previous posts here: February Sweet Potato, March Lettuce, April Strawberries, May Broccoli and Cabbage, June Peaches, July Vegetables, August Watermelon, September Muscadine Grapes

Tina Schwebach is a clinical dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital.