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Verified by Psychology Today

Recipe: Smashing Pumpkins

With its antioxidants and rich flavor, pumpkin deserves more than dessert.

Over ninety percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are bred for carving—not at the dinner table but for jack-o'-lanterns. While that might put a seasonal smile on your face as well as the pumpkin's, in some ways it's a waste. That's because pumpkins prove to be one of the most satisfying of foods. Plus they're loaded with nutrients (but not calories).

That is, if you can find one of the smaller, denser varietals, often called sugar pumpkins, designed for eating and good for far more than pumpkin pie. There are worlds of taste and textural difference between the two. Farmers markets are usu-ally great sources. If you love Italian cuisine, you may already have swooned over ravioli or other pasta stuffed with pumpkin purée.

All pumpkins are edible, but some are tastier and less watery than others. There's even talk of pumpkin as that most exalted of edibles, a superfood. It contains an array of elements that not only meet nutritional needs but also have impressive bioactive properties.

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and boast a unique mix of A-precursor carotenoids that act as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They protect the immune system as well as the cardiovascular system, including the fine blood vessels of the brain. The alpha-carotene content may be an even more potent antioxidant than beta-carotene. It also plays a role in regulating the kind of cell-to-cell communication that keeps cancer in check. Pumpkins are also a great source of potassium, making them a food useful in controlling hypertension and preserving healthy brain function by yet another means.

Good as pumpkin meat is to eat, don't toss the seeds. Instead, make an ultra-nutritious snack out of them by roasting them for a few minutes. Pumpkin seeds boast not only carotenoids but omega-3 fats that counteract the inflammation of arthritis and other ills without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. They also contain cardioprotective phytosterols. That's a lot of benefit from something so little.

Bowled Over

Servings : 4

Total Time: 30 to 40 minutes active time plus 2 hours oven time.

An eating variety of pumpkin delivers the most flavor. Even kids love the taste of pumpkin soup.

Ingredients

1 whole 3- to 5-pound pumpkin

2 Tbsp olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 cups chicken broth

2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional) salt to taste fresh grated nutmeg to taste

½ cup half and half or sour cream

¼ cup parsley, chopped (optional)

Directions

Cut pumpkin into large sections, place flesh-side down in shallow baking pan. Bake 1 hour at 275 degrees. Let pumpkin sit in oven another hour. Scoop flesh from shell and purée in food processor. Set aside 3 cups of purée for soup. Slowly sauté onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil until soft. Stir in broth and pumpkin purée, add maple syrup if desired, mix well, and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt, nutmeg, and stir. Stir in cream, and mix well. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired. For wow factor, serve in a tureen created from a second, hollowed out pumpkin.