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Pump up your diet with pumpkin!
by Laurel |  Aug 24, 2012

These orange members of the squash family may be most well-known for their adorable decorative qualities, but they pack a punch in nutrients, too. As you might of expected from their hue, they are loaded with beta carotene, an important antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer on people who eat food rich in it. It also has lots of potassium. Plus, this low-calorie, mushy food is perfect to add moisture in baking recipes, and has a mild flavor that makes it taste yummy with a variety of seasonings. Orange you glad there is such a tasty way to pack in the vitamins?

Breakfast: Pumpkin smoothie

Pumpkin muffins and pancakes are yummy, but if you're craving a fresher start to your day, add some pumpkin to your smoothie! If you usually make a fruit or veggie smoothie, just toss it in as another fruit - you might love the smooth texture it gives!

For a super-seasonal flavor, try this recipe from Cooking Light: blend vanilla yogurt, canned or fresh pumpkin, orange juice and one frozen, ripe banana with ice cubes. Add a little bit of brown sugar for sweetness, and mix in cinnamon, nutmeg and some ground cloves. How's that for pumpkin spice!

Lunch: Pumpkin, shrimp and goat cheese bruschetta

Sometimes, you just need a little snack, but this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens provides enough nutrition for a whole meal (not to mention makes a super classy appetizer for guests).

To make 20 of these, you'll need:

-20 fresh jumbo shrimp
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fresh arugula
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup Italian vinaigrette salad dressing
- 20 ¾-inch-thick slices French baguette
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved

Start by cooking the shrimp, then slice the baguette and set aside. Whisk together the pumpkin, goat cheese, lemon juice and honey, then set aside. Combine the shrimp in a bowl with arugula, red onion, pumpkin seeds and salad dressing, then set that aside too.

Brush the slices of bread with olive oil, then arrange on a baking sheet and broil them on both sides. Spread the pumpkin-cheese mixture on each slice, then top with one shrimp and some of the arugula mixture. Voila! We'll just call you Martha.

Dinner: Mac 'n' Cheese with a seasonal twist!

When its chilly and crisp outside, I always get a craving for comfort foods. What's more comforting than macaroni and cheese? When its made with pumpkin, I can tell you for a fact: nothing!

Basically, you just have to add one can of pumpkin (or a cup or two of fresh pumpkin) to your cheese sauce once it's made the way you normally make it. Use Fontina cheese, and add the pumpkin and some fresh sage when you add the cheese to the sauce.

Would you try any of these pumpkin dishes? What's your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin?

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