By Jenni Wolf
October is a time for fall and pumpkins.
But pumpkin flavored food items have made an earlier appearance, hitting grocery store shelves, popping up in coffee shops and gracing restaurant menus since mid-August.
What about in your home? Have you bought your first can of pumpkin yet? I have to admit I cracked my first can on Labor Day weekend!
While I have nothing against a classic pumpkin spice latte, there are so many other fun and tasty ways to incorporate one of fall’s favorite flavors into your meals and snacks at home.
Pumpkin is part of the squash family and packs a punch of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and other antioxidants such as beta-carotene (thanks to its vibrant orange color). Read on below for five of my favorite ways to use pumpkin that go beyond the basic pumpkin spice latte.
Note: You’ll need a can of plain pumpkin puree to try out these ideas, which can be found at most grocery stores in the baking or canned fruit and vegetable aisle.
1. Add a pumpkin punch to your breakfast. Swirl a few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree into a warm bowl of oats or a creamy cup of yogurt. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
2. Make a smoothie snack. Blend together 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon and honey to enhance taste.
3. Add it to your favorite game-day chili recipe. Sounds weird, tastes great—trust me. Don’t worry, the pumpkin flavor isn’t strong but adds a wonderful creaminess to your chili and is great to add body and texture to a vegetarian version. If you’d like to highlight the pumpkin more, try adding a dash of cinnamon.
4. Give some fall flavor to your favorite pasta dish. Stir 1 to 2 cups of pumpkin puree into your favorite homemade or jarred marinara or alfredo sauce. Heat until warm and blended, stir in parmesan cheese and serve with pasta.
5. Get your bake on—from pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to homemade pumpkin granola to classic pumpkin bread—pumpkin puree is wonderful to bake with. My favorite pick is a batch of fluffy pumpkin muffins dotted with dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Made even better if you surprise your neighbor with half the batch!
Favorite Pumpkin Muffins
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup canola or light olive oil
¾ cup chocolate chips, dried cranberries, walnuts, etc.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In large bowl mix together eggs, pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and oil. Stir until blended well.
3. To the liquid mixture, add dry ingredients: flour, soda, powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Mix well until just combined, don’t overmix, you still want it to have some lumps in it!
4. Gently fold in add-ins, if using.
5. Scoop into lined or greased muffin tins and bake for 20 to 26 minutes or until set in center and toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let cool for five minutes in pan and then enjoy! Or remove from pan to cooling rack to cool completely before storing.
Jenni Wolf lives in the Como neighborhood and is a practicing, registered dietitian who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.