GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many people think of pumpkins as just a Halloween decoration or flavor for their Thanksgiving pie. There is much more to this plump orange plant than many may know. 

Pumpkin is a highly nutrient-dense food, rich in vitamins and minerals, and can be utilized in many ways. Pumpkin seeds, leaves and juices all contain a variety of nutrients as well. Pumpkin is one of the best-known sources of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights against free radicals in the body and provides orange fruits and vegetables with their vibrant color. It is also rich in fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C, while remaining low in calories and carbohydrates.

Registered Dietitian Rebecca Serra from Mercy Health shares the nutritional value of pumpkin and the delicious ways in which it can be prepared.

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

Ingredients
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions 
In a medium bowl, mix together Greek yogurt, almond milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla and maple syrup until well combined. Stir in oats, chia seeds and spices. Pour into a glass jar or container and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight. Makes 1 serving of pumpkin overnight oats.

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients
1 small pumpkin
1 eggplant
2 red bell peppers
3 large handful of fresh spinach
1 can of chickpeas
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds or ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon of vegetable stock paste
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans (800g) of diced tomatoes
2 cans (800ml) of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
brown rice to serve

Instructions

  1. Wash eggplant and red bell peppers and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and cut into bite-sized pieces as well. Wash the chickpeas under running water. Place everything into a Dutch oven or large saucepan.
  2. Finely chop the garlic, or crush it with a garlic press
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 390°F
  4. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and sauté it on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add spices and another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté for another minute. Be sure not to let it burn. Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable stock paste, coconut milk and soy sauce, and bring to a boil.
  5. Pour the coconut-tomato mix over the vegetables and place the Dutch oven into the oven. Cook at 390°F for about 30 minutes. If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can place everything into a large saucepan and let the curry simmer at medium heat for about 30 minutes on the stove. The next steps are identical no matter if you are using a Dutch oven or saucepan.
  6. In the meantime, cook the rice according to instructions on the package and wash and dry the spinach.
  7. Once the curry is done, place the spinach into the Dutch oven or saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until it is wilted. This should not take more than 3 minutes.
  8. Serve the curry with rice and add more spices or vegetable stock paste according to taste.

Creamy Pumpkin Spaghetti

Pumpkin Sauce Ingredients
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup tomato puree or tomato sauce
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup cream or half and half
pinch of cinnamon

Pasta Ingredients
8 ounces spaghetti
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Garlic Kale Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
Parmesan cheese for topping

Instructions

  1. Sauce: In a large pot over medium high heat, add the sun-dried tomatoes and a few tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and garlic with the sun-dried tomatoes and sauté until soft and fragrant. Add the pumpkin puree, tomato puree, chicken broth, basil and cinnamon. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, adding more water or broth as needed to keep the sauce from getting too thick. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender directly in the pot until mostly smooth. Stir in cream and season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for heat.
  2. Pasta: Boil the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is boiling, brown the turkey in a large skillet with the onion, chili powder and garlic powder. Add a few tablespoons of water if necessary, to keep everything moist.
  3. Kale: Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the kale and sauté until wilted.
  4. Toss the turkey, sauce and pasta together. Serve with the kale.

Courtesy: Rebecca Serra, RD

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