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Eating Healthy: Spotlight on: Pumpkins

  • Many people do not know that pumpkins are made up of 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins also contain other great nutritional aspects including potassium and vitamin A.
  • The bright orange color of pumpkins also tells us that they are a great source of the important antioxidant, beta carotene.

Healthy Pumpkins

Recipe: Traditional Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 ¾ cups (one 15oz. can) unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(For crust us a pre-made store bought crust or a homemade crust) In a small heavy saucepan, stir the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and salt together until mixed.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and shiny.  Scrape the mixture into a mixer or food processor for 1 minute. With the motor on, add the milk and cream, mixing until incorporated completely.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each egg.  When you add the last egg, also add the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.  Bake the pie for 50 - 60 minutes at 375 degrees.

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 whole black peppercorns

Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.  Return to pan and bring to boil again.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered.  Stir in heavy cream.  Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

Food for Thought: Understanding Fats

Good fats? Bad fats? You will not find these terms on food labels. Instead you will see words like polyunsaturated and trans fats. This article will give you a brief explanation of the four types of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats) and how they affect your body.

Understanding Fats

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are fats that stay solid at room temperature, such as lard, coconut oil and cow butter. Saturated fats are considered “bad fats” because they raise your bad cholesterol level, thereby raising your total cholesterol level. People whose diet consists of many foods high in saturated fats typically are at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats have a lower melting temperature than saturated fats, which means that they do not stay solid at room temperature.  These types of fats can be found in: peanut oil, olive oil, nuts and avocados.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are fats that can stay liquid even at lower temperatures, such as corn oil and sunflower oil.  Polyunsaturated fats are also found in soybeans, fish, fish oil and in grain products. Dieticians consider polyunsaturated fats the “good fats” as they lower cholesterol and they help prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering the amount of fat in the blood. 

Trans Fats

Trans fats are man-made fats that are created during the hydrogenation process.  These types of fats are unnatural and toxic to your body.  Trans fats are abundant in packaged and processed foods. Dieticians consider trans fats the “bad fats” as they can cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, birth defects, low birth weight babies, and sterility.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Sweet Potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and vitamin C.
  • The nutrients in sweet potatoes are also anti-inflammatory, which means that besides being great tasting, sweet potatoes can help reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6.

Sweet Potatoes

Recipe: Golden Sweet Potato Brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and finely shredded sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in the shredded yam. Spread the batter evenly in the greased baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Mix together the confectioners' sugar, butter and milk until smooth. Spread over the brownies while they are still warm.

Recipe: Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

  • 6 sweet potatoes cut into French fries
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a plastic bag, combine the sweet potatoes, canola oil, taco seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Close and shake the bag until the fries are evenly coated. Spread the fries out in a single layer on two large baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until crispy and brown on one side. Turn the fries over using a spatula, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until they are all crispy on the outside and tender inside. Thinner fries may not take as long.

Food for Thought: Understanding Lactose Intolerance

If you are lactose intolerant or if you know someone who is, here are some things that will help you to learn more about this condition:

  • Our bodies produce an enzyme called lactase and when you drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, lactase helps to break down the milk sugar, or lactose, into simpler sugars that are eventually absorbed into your bloodstream.  People that are lactose intolerant have a lactase deficiency.
  • Many other illnesses have symptoms very comparable to lactose intolerance.  It's best to check with your doctor regarding your symptoms and he/she may suggest that you cut out dairy and denote any changes.  A breath test or tests of your stool can determine whether you are lactose intolerant.
  • Undigested lactose can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, typically within two hours of having a dairy product, including nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea.  Although some people may have a lactase deficiency and have none of these symptoms at all.
  • While a few babies are born with a lactase deficiency, most people become lactose intolerant from age 2 to 12.  And even though most people become lactose intolerant during their childhood, they typically do not show signs of the intolerance until late adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Almost 65% of people worldwide or nearly 30 million Americans suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance.  It is more common among Asians, Africans, Hispanics, or Native Americans and less likely if your ancestors are from northern or western Europe.
  • Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as a milk allergy.  If you are allergic to milk, then your body is fighting dairy as if it were a harmful intruder in your body.  Symptoms are far more severe than lactose intolerance and may include itchy eyes, rash and wheezing.  People who are allergic to milk must avoid it entirely.
  • People with lactose intolerance can consume some amounts of dairy without any symptoms.  Most people can drink up to a half-cup of milk without it affecting them at all.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Tomatoes

  • Besides containing 40 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, it also contains 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 8 percent of your daily value of potassium, and 7 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of iron for women and 10 percent for men.
  • Lycopene, what gives tomatoes their red pigment, acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body.
  • Studies show that men who at least eat 10 servings of tomatoes a week can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by a whopping 45 percent.

Health benefits of tomatoes

Recipe: Tomato Casserole with Sweet Onions

  • 6 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 large Vidalia onion or other sweet onion
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, or scant ½ teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or scant ½ teaspoon dried leaf thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Place peeled tomato wedges on paper towels to drain.  Peel onions and slice into ¼-inch rings.  In separate bowl combine dill, thyme, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.  Layer half of the tomatoes and onions in a lightly buttered baking dish and top with half of the minced garlic.  Sprinkle with half of the bread crumb and seasoning mixture, half of mozzarella cheese, and drizzle with half olive oil.  Repeat layers.  Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until bubbly.

Recipe: Corn and Black Bean Salsa

  • 3 to 4 small ears of corn
  • 1 can (15 to 16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 large tomato, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno or poblano pepper
  • Juice of one lime, about 3 tablespoons
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro
  • Dash salt and pepper, to taste

Grill or broil corn to char slightly; let cool. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Cut corn from cobs and add to the mixture.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving time.

Great alternative to sauces, and is especially tasty on grilled fish, chicken or pork!