In Season: Pumpkins

Pumpkins, part of the Cucurbitaceae family, are a gourd-like squash with thick orange or yellow shells. They are planted in early July and are ripe in September or later. Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps with overall health in the body. Avoid pumpkins that have blemishes, soft spots, or a short stem. Most pumpkins are sold for commercial use, but they are also used for food and recreation. Around Thanksgiving, pumpkins become a popular food to have on the table.

>>Pumpkin Nut Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl beat two egg whites slightly. Add 1 cup cooked pumpkin purée and 1/2 cup melted butter. Beat until smooth. In another bowl, combine 2 cups oats, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup shredded and toasted coconut, 1/2 cup wheat germ, and 1 cup chopped nuts of your choosing. Fold oat mixture into pumpkin mixture to form stiff dough. Press dough into a lightly greased 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch jelly roll pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely. Recipe courtesy of University of Illinois.

>>Pumpkin Soup

Heat 6 cups chicken stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 cups pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, 1 minced clove garlic, and 5 whole black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Purée soup in small batches using blender or food processor. Return to pan, bring to boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream. Serve hot in soup bowls with fresh parsley for a garnish. Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com.

>>Mexican Style Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Wash 2 cups pumpkin seeds well in water. Dry them with paper towel. Put 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, a pinch of cayenne powder, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 lime (cut in half and squeezed) on seeds and mix well. Spread seeds on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes, or until crispy, dry, and fragrant. Serve. Recipe courtesy of pumpkinrecipes.org.