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Think outside the pie tin: 3 surprising ways to savor pumpkin this fall

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Think outside the pie tin: 3 surprising ways to savor pumpkin this fall

Few flavors say “fall” more clearly and tastily than pumpkin.

The squash that’s synonymous with autumn is also packed with vitamins, fiber and protein, making it a perfect ingredient for a variety of dishes – not just for everyone’s favorite holiday pie. Canned or fresh, pumpkin works in savory and sweet dishes alike.

Americans have been feasting on pumpkins since colonial days, when Native Americans first shared the secrets of this nourishing, easy-to-grow, prolific squash. In fact, along with corn, pumpkin is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Americas. While early Americans didn’t use pumpkins to celebrate Halloween, they did use virtually every part of the squash, from seeds and flowers to the vine and flesh. Today, whether you opt for fresh pumpkin or canned, there are even more ways to enjoy this classic fall food.

Here are three fresh ideas to help you think outside the pie tin this fall, so you can work pumpkin into your meals before the season is over.

Better breakfast

Pie to pudding, pumpkin often gets relegated to dessert dishes. But it’s a great way to add seasonal flavor – and a punch of nutrition – to the first meal of the day. Of course, you can always bake up a batch of pumpkin muffins, but why not try giving some other popular breakfast foods the pumpkin treatment?

Protein bars, granola and scones all benefit from the addition of pumpkin. Incorporating the squash into breakfast can be as simple as adding a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree, some pumpkin pie spice and chopped pecans to your morning oatmeal.

If a smoothie gets you going in the morning, it’s easy to make a pumpkin smoothie that will deliver flavor, fun and even fiber!

For a quick and healthy pumpkin smoothie, combine with a banana, scoop of yogurt, a spoonful of nut butter, about one-third cup of skim milk, some ice, and cinnamon and honey to taste. For a boost of high-quality protein, throw a raw pasteurized egg in there, too. Try this Pumpkin Smoothie recipe from Davidson's Safest Choice:

Ingredients:

1 banana

1 Safest Choice Egg (because they’re pasteurized in a warm water bath, they’re safe for all no-bake and no-cook recipes)

1/2 cup low fat yogurt

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1/3 cup skim milk

1/2 cup ice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Exciting treats

Of course, if you want a seasonal treat, it’s hard to beat pumpkin. Coffee houses know this, and every year pumpkin pops up on menus across the country. You don’t have to shell out $4 per cup for a pumpkin spice latte. Just make your own latte at home and add a couple tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin can also be a spirited treat, making its appearance in classic cocktails such as a Pumpkin Martini. For an eggnog guests won’t soon forget, try this recipe from Safest Choice Eggs:

Shaken Eggnog Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoon milk

1 1/2 ounces brandy, bourbon or dark rum

1 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup or agave nectar

1 Safest Choice pasteurized egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

ice to taste

pumpkin pie spice (optional garnish) to taste

Directions:

Place cream, milk, brandy, simple syrup, egg, vanilla and ice in cocktail shaker. Shake well until blended. Pour into two glasses rimmed with pumpkin pie spice, if desired. Dust with additional pumpkin pie spice.

Making it your main squash

If you think squash as a main course begins with spaghetti squash and ends with zucchini casserole, think again. Pumpkin is a great main course ingredient. Whether you’re whipping up a hearty batch of pumpkin chili to warm your family on chilly fall days, or adding it for color and flavor to a shrimp curry, pumpkin works as a main course – either as an ingredient or the star of the show.

You can use pumpkin to replace the ricotta in lasagna, creating a nutritious, flavorful and vegan variation on this popular dish. Or, you can stuff a roast pumpkin with your favorite seasonal fillings to serve up a meal that is as eye-catching as it is delicious.

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