Pumpkins have been grown in the Americas for thousands of years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus. There was probably some kind of pumpkin served at the first Thanksgiving Feast.
Pumpkins, gourds, and other varieties of squash are members of the family Cucurbitaceae.
Pumpkin King of Pies
Photo Source: Esther Mudge
Baking with pumpkins during the holiday season has become a popular tradition. Pumpkin pie is king of the holiday pies.
Freshly baked pumpkin dishes are a delicious delight. It may surprise you that pumpkin is classified as a fruit, not a vegetable. Pumpkin is an excellent source of many nutrients. Pumpkin is rich in minerals like phosphorus, calcium, and iron. The pumpkin is also rich in carbohydrates. It contains vitamin A as well.
Small to medium size pumpkins are best for baking and cooking because they have a finer textured flesh than large pumpkins. Look for heavy pumpkins, and ones that do not have a hollow sound when you thump on them.
To use fresh pumpkin rather than canned pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and cut into small even pieces. The pumpkin can be peeled before or after cooking. Boil the pumpkin until tender and then mash it and use to prepare a variety of pumpkin dishes.
I like to cut the pumpkin in half, place the cut side down on a glass plate, and microwave on high for 20-25 minutes, depending on the pumpkin’s size, until tender. Then I remove the skin and beat the pumpkin in a mixer until smooth (strings will remain on the mixer blades). It’s now ready to use in any recipe.
One cup of raw pumpkin yields about ¾ to one cup of cooked, pureed pumpkin. It takes about 1 ½ to 2 cups of cooked pumpkin for a well-filled 9-inch pie.
When you carve that jack-o-lantern, don’t throw away the seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a delicious, nutritious snack anytime and can be easily prepared in the microwave. See recipe below.
Pumpkin pie usually comes to mind first when the fall pie season arrives. However, pumpkin lends itself to a variety of bread, cookies, pancakes, muffins, butters, and a variety of other sweet treats. Happy Fall!!
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS (in the microwave)
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
- Remove any fiber clinging to pumpkin seeds.
- Wash and drain well.
- Spread seeds in a single layer to dry, stirring occasionally.
- Line a 9-inch pie plate with two layers of paper towels. Sprinkle seeds on the towels.
- Microwave on HIGH 13 -14 minutes or until seeds are dry but still white, stirring every 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Place butter in a 2-cup measure and microwave until melted. Add seeds and salt; stir and coat.
- Serve as a snack.
FRESH PUMPKIN PIE
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 ¾ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cup of fresh pumpkin (cooked and drained)
- Frozen 9-inch-deep pie crust
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Place the oven rack to its lowest position. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prepare fresh pumpkin as directed above. Be sure to drain the pumpkin after cooking. Now you are ready to use the pumpkin in recipes. To prepare filling, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin and stir with a whisk until smooth. Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Bake at 425ºF for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack. To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and beat until blended. Serve with pie. Yield 1 Pie, about 6 -8 pieces.
Eating healthy is not something that just happens by going on a particular diet. In fact, the best kind of diet is where the right choices are made, and it becomes a way of life. Sometimes we need to know some ways to change the bad habits we have developed. There is no ‘quick fix’.
Tune Up Your Lifestyle
Photo Source: UF/IFAS
With today’s fast-paced lifestyles sometimes we feel we don’t have the time to do the things we know we should. For instance, to get more exercise, do things like park a distance from the store when you go shopping, walk up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk to lunch, or even turn up the speed on regular activities you perform around the house.
When grocery shopping choose foods from the basic food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and reduced-fat dairy products) to round out a healthy meal plan.
Convenience foods are a part of today’s lifestyle, but they often lack nutritional quality, texture, and flavor. Preparing foods at home can be healthy and economical. You can boost nutrition and flavor by adding fresh herbs, spices, and aromatic vegetables to the meal menu.
Foods and beverages high in sugar add empty calories to the diet and contribute no nutritional value. Read labels to determine the amount of added sugar in food products. Choose lower calorie beverages.
Experiment with new food items. Try adding different fruits, vegetables, or grains to your diet. For example, try tropical fruits such as mango, guava, papaya, or grains as quinoa, barley, or millet, to add vitamins, minerals and fiber to the diet.
Before you go out to eat, don’t starve yourself. Drink water before the meal to avoid overeating or eat a snack before dinner and you won’t be tempted to overeat.
When socializing don’t meet at eating places. When you do dine out, cut out fried main dishes or ones with heavy sauces and gravies. Eat smaller portions and don’t go back for seconds. Order low-fat foods when possible. However, keep in mind that you too need to allow for indulgence along the way.
Be active! Physical activity has health benefits. Being physically active not only burns calories, it aids in physical strength, and cardiovascular health. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend being physically active at least 150 minutes a week for adults. (https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/).
Chances are, along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, your tune up will result in living a healthy lifestyle.
For further information, contact:
Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.
UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County
3740 Stefani Road
Cantonment, FL 32533-7792
Herbs are like people; each herb has its own personality. Some herbs have bold flavors and should be used with care while others are mild and can be used more freely. View Shopping for Health: Herbs and Spices for more about this.
Herbs can be divided into two categories. Accent herbs and herbs that add character to dishes. Parsley, chives, and dillweed are a few of the accent herbs. They are milder in flavor and are often combined within the same recipe. The character herbs; basil, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, sage, and tarragon add dominant flavor to dishes.
Getting to Know Herbs
Photo source: Beth Bolles
A little heat releases the flavor of herbs. Herbs are bitter, however, when cooked too much. Add accent herbs during the last few minutes of cooking time. Character herbs, such as bay leaves, can withstand longer cooking times and usually are added at the beginning of the cooking process.
When selecting fresh herbs, look for plants with an all-over green color. Yellowing indicates old plants, while black, watery areas are a sign of bruising.
To refrigerate fresh herbs for future use, rinse herbs under cold water, pat dry, wrap in paper toweling and refrigerate in a plastic bag. To use, just cut or pull off leaves. Most refrigerated herbs will retain freshness for up to four days to a week.
Herbs can be frozen or dried for longer storage. To freeze fresh herbs, wash herbs, pat dry and freeze in airtight bags or containers. Frozen herbs should be thawed just before use. Fresh herbs can be dried for later use.
When experimenting with a new herb, pull off a leaf and crush it, let it warm in your hand. If it has a delicate aroma you can add more. If it is strong and pungent, use it sparingly. It is always easier to add more of an herb than subtract.
Dried herbs are more concentrated. When cooking with dried herbs use one third of the dried leaves to substitute for the fresh. One teaspoon of dried leaves is equal to one tablespoon of fresh. The fresh leaves are more pungent than the dried.
Cooking with Herbs
Try these herb blends to enhance the flavor of beef, poultry, and seafood dishes.
Salt Free Blend
1 Tablespoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons parsley
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons thyme
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dill weed
2 teaspoons savory
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoons lemon peel
3 Tablespoons dried parsley
3 Tablespoons dried basil
3 Tablespoons dried thyme
3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
3 Tablespoons dried rosemary
3 Tablespoons dried chives
3 Tablespoons paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
“What is paradise, but a garden of herbs full of pleasure and nothing there but delights”
William Lawson, 1617
Photo source: Dorothy Lee
Tis the Season Merry and Bright:
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are greater incidences of stress and tension related headaches and migraines. Family stresses, long shopping lines, and unrealistic expectations are enough to trigger tension headaches even in people who are not headache prone. To avoid these aches and pains a strategic plan may be necessary.
Planning is crucial not only at the holidays but throughout the year. Having a plan and being organized makes everything easier and more manageable. The key is to start early and don’t wait until December. This is where Christmas in July becomes useful thinking.
The following are some tips to help avoid stress during the holiday season. Make a schedule that includes all tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed. This is why Santa makes a list and checks it twice.
- Start shopping early to reduce time wasted in long lines with early-bird hour sales
- To avoid long period of times wrapping, shop in stores where gift wrap is free
- Shop on-line while drinking your coffee in your pajamas
- Track your purchases in a notebook or in note section of your cell phone
- Prioritize your social events and don’t spread yourself too thin
- Use your computer for online postal mailing to avoid lines at the post office
- Instead of mailing gifts, order gifts on-line, and have gifts directly sent to gift recipient
- Practice relaxation and stretching to reduce stress
- Establish a spending limit and stick to it
Be realistic about how much you can do as nobody likes a cranky Santa. By following these tips, you will be as jolly as old Saint Nick.
Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends as it is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And remember, laugher is the best medicine for stress!
Bowl of apples
Photo source: bing
October is National Apple Month. “A” is for Apple. We have all heard this childhood saying as well as other apple idioms.
The Fall season has arrived and along with cooler weather, shorter days, and autumn leaves comes the bounty of Fall………apples.
In Autumn, apples fill farmers market and grocery store bins with seasonal shades of red, green, yellow, and russet. Popular varieties of apples grown in the United States include Mcintosh, Fuji, Red Delicious, Gala, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Granny Smiths, and Golden Delicious.
A large raw apple contains about 95 calories. Apples provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Apples are low in calories and high in antioxidants.
Each apple variety has its own distinctive flavor and texture. When purchasing apples choose a variety suitable for your intended use. Best apples for eating cooking baking The surface of the apple should be smooth, firm, unbroken, and free from bruises.
Apples are delicious eaten raw. Simply rinse, cut into quarters and remove core from each section and slice. Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to peel apples for cooking. To core apples for cooking push an apple corer through center of fruit from top to bottom, pull out core and stem. Coat peeled or sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent darkening. A bag of medium sized apples yields about 3 cups diced fruit or 2 ½ cups sliced fruit.
Cooking with Apples
Apples are the most versatile of all fruits. They are suitable for a variety of cooking techniques and can be used in a variety of recipes. Apples can be baked, grilled, poached, and even sautéed. Add diced apples to salads or dried and added to granola cereal. Sauté to accompany meat dishes and add to pancakes or waffle batter. For desserts, pair apples with a variety of cheeses.
Apples ripen faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator. Store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to help retain moisture.
Celebrate the bounty of Fall with apples at their peak of flavor.