Fall is fleeting so enjoy the pretty days with a walk or special family get together.
Pumpkins are such cheery sights in the autumn that we often think of them only as decoration. But pumpkins are loaded with nutrition. The list of nutrients is amazing -- vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, iron magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, niacin, folate and fiber. So if there is a way you can fit pumpkins into your diet, by all means do it.
Pumpkin pie is always a favorite at our house, but other ideas include breads, muffins, soups, cookies and more pumpkin seeds are also a very nutritious snack.
If you've never used a whole pumpkin for baking, here are some tips. Although you can use any type of pumpkin, pie pumpkins or sweet pumpkins top the list for pies (jack-o-lantern pumpkins are larger). Look for a heavy pumpkin without soft spots.
To make pumpkin puree to use in recipes, preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half, then clean out the seeds. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place the halves on the baking sheet with the cut sides down. Cook for 60 minutes or until pumpkin is soft. Cool. Remove pumpkin skin. Cut the pumpkin flesh into pieces and blend until smooth. Use with your favorite pumpkin recipe -- referable with the collaboration of the nearest available child. Children will also enjoy smelling the spices that are used for pumpkin pie and other holiday foods, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. A game of identifying the spice is fun, too.
To roast the pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack, preheat the oven to 350-degrees and clean off the seeds.
Toss them in a bowl with olive oil or melted butter (two teaspoons oil per one-and-a-half cups seeds is about right), and seasonings to suit your taste -- perhaps garlic powder, onion powder, salt, or Mrs. Dash.
Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, or about 20-30 minutes. Cool completely before eating.
Now some simple tips to help your children have a fun -- and safe -- Halloween.
* Children shouldn't snack while they're out trick or treating. Urge your children to wait until they get home and you have had a chance to inspect the contents of their "goody bags,"
* To help prevent children from snacking, give them a light meal or snack before they head out -- don't send them out on an empty stomach,
* Tell children not to accept -- and especially not to eat -- anything that isn't commercially wrapped,
* Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys, and
* Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
For parties at home, remember this
* If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria,
* No matter how tempting, don't taste raw cookie dough or cake batter,
* Before going "bobbing for apples," an all-time favorite Halloween game, reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt, and
* "Scare" bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream cheese frostings. Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. And don't leave the food at room temperature for more than two hours.
The family Nutrition Program in Clay and Owen counties is for families, single adults, youth and special audiences. We provide lessons free of charge at locations convenient to you or your group. A wide variety of topics is available, including nutrition information, budgeting, how-to-do-it demos, and more. Contact our offices at Clay County (448-9041) or at Owen County Extension (812-829-5020) for more information.
Sources: Purdue Extension FNP October Newsletter; and the FDA website (http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm187021.htm).