Buffalo News Refresh Blog – October 2016

Pumpkins hold their nutritional value long past Halloween

By: Holly R. Layer

I would be remiss if I didn’t address everyone’s favorite fruit (yes, because it develops from the flower of the plant) this month: the pumpkin. The giant orange globes have been decorating doorsteps for weeks now, local pumpkin patches are crowded with young families and we’re all flocking to Starbucks for a PSL at the hint of a chill in air. What is it about the pumpkin that we like so much?

First, a little background: According to history.com, the tradition of pumpkin-carving came from Ireland, where the story of ‘Stingy Jack,’ his deals with the devil and the burning turnip he carried, which eventually led to the ‘jack-o’-lantern,’ a staple of Halloween here in America. Last year, 47% of US households carved their own pumpkin. Little-known fact: 90% of the pumpkins grown in the US come from a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Ill., and most of those are turned into pumpkin puree or pie mix. There are many different kinds of pumpkins, some bred for carving and some for eating. If you plan on buying a pumpkin for cooking, look for varieties such as: Cheese, Cinderella, Jarrahdale, Lumina, Peanut and Pie pumpkins.

Second, we probably associate fond memories of mom’s pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, along with the delightful smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, wafting every which way this time of year. Pumpkins represent the best of our childhood memories of fall: raking leaves, hayrides and sweet treats.

Finally, there really IS a lot to like about the pumpkin. Not only are pumpkins high in Vitamin A itself, they are also high in carotenoids, which our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Carotenoids are what give the yellow-orange color to fruits and vegetables, like carrots, and aid in vision and eyesight. Pumpkins are also high in fiber, which helps us feel full on fewer calories and could lead to weight loss, and their seeds have been shown to help lower our LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. Lastly, consider eating some pumpkin after a workout—they’re higher in potassium than bananas!

Here are some of my favorite pumpkin goodies—time to break out the loaf pan!

-Smoothie: ½ C pumpkin, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 C liquid

-Oatmeal: mix ¼ C pumpkin and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice into prepared oatmeal, top with granola

-Dip: replace roasted red peppers with pumpkin in your favorite hummus recipe

-Chili: add diced or canned pumpkin to any recipe

‘Made Over’ Pumpkin Bread

1/3 C butter

2 C sugar

4 eggs

1 can (16 oz) pumpkin or 3 C shredded zucchini (2-3 medium)

1/3 applesauce or buttermilk

1 ½ C all-purpose flour

1 ¾ C whole-wheat flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1/3 raisins, soaked and drained

1/3 walnuts, toasted and chopped


Heat oven to 350 and grease 2 loaf pans.

Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs, pumpkin and applesauce or buttermilk. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. Add nuts/raisins if using. Pour into pans. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake 1 hour or until wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Servings: 24 Calories: 150


Holly R. Layer is a Registered Dietitian and a freelance writer. She works as a clinical dietitian at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda and also provides nutritional counseling at Weigel Health Center at Buffalo State College, as well as teaching fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA. She lives in the village with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native. She blogs at www.thehealthypineapple.com and her work appears monthly in the Refresh Buffalo Blog. Questions to Holly can be emailed to eanews@eastaurorany.com.





Pumpkin-Red Pepper ‘Hummus’

This is a really neat alternative to regular hummus, especially in the fall.  It’s pumpkin-y with a hint of red pepper and garlic–very savory!  I like it with multigrain pita chips!

Pumpkin-Red Pepper “Hummus”

(adapted from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, Sept/Oct 2011)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

2 red bell peppers

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 C walnuts, toasted

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Place red peppers under the broiler, char until skin on all sides is almost black and wrinkled.  Immediately place both peppers into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Place pumpkin puree, minced garlic, toasted and chopped walnuts and salt into a blender or food processor.  Once cooled, peel skin from red peppers and roughly chop.  Place peppers and olive oil into blender or food processor.  Pulse until consistency is smooth and uniform.  Add more olive oil or water if necessary.

Nutritional Information: per 1/4 cup

62 cal, 8.73g fat (.88g sat), 0g cholesterol, 422 mg sodium, 7g carbs, 3.6g fiber, 2.46g protein

Pumpkin Granola

I found this recipe online when I was searching for something to do with some leftover pumpkin puree that had been sitting in my fridge.  I played with the recipe I found at Two Peas and Their Pod and switched a couple amounts and ingredients around based on what I had on-hand at the time.  This was some of the best granola I’ve ever had–tasty enough to eat with plain yogurt!

Here’s what I did:


5 C rolled oats

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 C brown sugar

1/2 C pumpkin puree

1/4 C applesauce

1/4 C maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 C each raisins, dried cranberries, chopped pecans and pepitas


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine oats, spices, salt, pecans and pepitas. Mix well.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla.  Pour over oat mixture and stir until combined.  Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet.

3.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove pan from the oven and stir.  Return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes or until granola is golden and crisp.  Remove from the oven and stir in dried fruit.