The Not-So Starving Student—Pumpkin for Any Occasion

The entire fall and winter season highlights the importance of pumpkins.  Whether it’s pumpkin carving, pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin pies, or more, we savour the king of squashes not only for its bright colors and delicious pulp but also for its nutrient content.  Pumpkin is a specially cultivated member of the gourd family, abundant in vitamins, minerals and plant sugars.  Whereas the skyrocketing obesity rates can be traced to the movement toward greater consumption of processed sugars, pumpkins and other traditional starchy plants provides a sugar form that helps control blood glucose (Kwan et al., 2007).  So how can you incorporate this delicious superfood into your daily meals? We’ve scouted out some simple recipes that a busy AU student like yourself could use.

Breakfast
Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Cookies: If you only have 5 minutes for breakfast, this is the perfect breakfast for you! For those rushed mornings before finals, these will come in handy and give you enough nutrients to last until your next fill.

1 cup of pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1 egg
1/2 cup of ground flax seeds
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
2 cups of old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

Add all ingredients into a large bowl and mix completely with a wooden spoon.  Give approximately 15 minutes for the mixture to thicken.  In the meantime, read over some notes, quiz yourself with some flashcards, and return to the kitchen to divide the mixture into ping pong-ball sized dough and press gently onto a parchment paper.  Through the mixture into the oven at 350° F for 15 minutes and you have your breakfast prepared for the week.

Lunch
Roasted Pumpkin and garlic: roasted pumpkins can be an effortless addition to your lunch.  Besides the minor preparation needed, the oven will take care of the rest which means more time for your part-time job and studying for a final exam.
 
2 kg of peeled, cubed pumpkin pieces
4 garlic cloves
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil

First, preheat the oven to 200° F.  In the meantime, toss your pumpkin cubes with seasoning and oil and pack them onto a parchment paper.  Place the parchment paper on a baking tray and bake for around 40 minutes or until a soft “mashed” texture is achieved.

Dinner
Pumpkin Chili: Meal prep can be boring if you’re not willing to try something new.  Pumpkin chili will not only be a taste-bud pleaser but can be a dinner party sensation as well.  They’re simple to make and add a blast of flavor into the traditional chili.  Here’s how you make them with fresh ingredients (alternatively you can use canned chilli to add to fresh pumpkins).

2 lb ground beef
1 large onion diced
1 green bell pepper diced
2 cans of kidney beans
1 can of tomato juice
1 kg pumpkin diced
Pumpkin spice to taste
1 tablespoon of chilli powder
¼ cup of white sugar

In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until brown, drain stir in onion, peppers, beans and pumpkin.  Season with spices and simmer for 1 hour.  Alternatively, if you’re in a time crunch like me, toss the ingredients into a slow cooker for up to five hours and serve.

Snacks:
Rosemary Pumpkin seeds: You may have just struck gold (literally) when you make these.  Pumpkin seeds are a great way to convert your typical kitchen scraps into healthy study snacks.  I like to add my favorite herbs to spice my baked seeds and use them for dessert toppings such as yogurt parfaits.  Pumpkin seeds are so versatile that you can’t go wrong with filling an entire mason jar with them.

1.5 cups of raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp of butter
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of your favorite herbs

First, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  In the meantime, toss the seeds with butter, salt and herbs into a bowl to mix thoroughly.  Then, spread the seasoned seeds in a single layer over a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

References
Kwon, Y. I., Apostolidis, E., Kim, Y.  C., & Shetty, K.  (2007).  Health benefits of traditional corn, beans, and pumpkin: in vitro studies for hyperglycemia and hypertension management.  Journal of Medicinal Food, 10(2), 266-275.
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