During the holiday season, whip up some tasty, antioxidant-rich pumpkin and squash dishes.
While enjoying the fall harvest of pumpkins and squash, you're also helping protect yourself against cancer and heart disease. More than 600 carotenoids have been identified as the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. The powerful carotenoid antioxidant beta carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A) gives pumpkins and squash their brilliant orange hue and may help prevent cancer and heart disease.
To benefit from these fall beauties, try the following recipes where pumpkins and squash are both a filling and a container, too.
Antioxidant Soup In A Pumpkin
Served in a pumpkin, it makes a grand opening to a holiday meal.
1 medium pumpkin or 6 mini pumpkins
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash or any orange flesh winter squash
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup filtered water
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 apple, cored and diced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Wash pumpkin, cut off top and reserve for a lid. Using a spoon, scrape out seeds and fiber.
2. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and fiber, and peel if waxed. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and set aside.
3. In a large saucepan combine all ingredients Cover and boil. Reduce to simmer, cook for 30 minutes or until squash and vegetables are tender.
4. Transfer one-fourth of the squash and broth mixture to a blender or food processor. Carefully blend, covering your blender or food processor with a towel and don't overfill it while you work in order not to splash the hot liquid. Repeat until all of the mixture is blended. Stir to blend the batches.
5. Serve hot in a large hollowed-out pumpkin or mini pumpkins.
Giant Stuffed Roasted Turban Squash
Enjoy as a whole meal for a holiday feast.
1 turban squash, pumpkin, or other large squash (5 pounds)
Olive Oil Spray
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup apples, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 boneless, skinless organic chicken breast half (3 ounces), cubed
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, warmed
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Wash the squash and with a sharp knife, cut the "topknot" from the turban squash. If using a pumpkin, cut out the stem end in a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Reserve top. Carefully scoop out pulp and seeds. Spray the cavity with olive oil. Place the lid back on the pumpkin, wrap in aluminum foil and bake on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Test doneness by piercing squash with the tip of a sharp knife -- it should slide in easily. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove and save foil.
2. Meanwhile in a large bowl combine parsley, apples and cooked quinoa. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon.
3. Remove the squash from the oven and when cool enough to handle, gently peel back the foil on top and remove the lid. If necessary, scoop out some flesh to create a deeper cavity. Place the chicken in the bottom of squash. Top with quinoa stuffing evenly over the chicken. (Leftover stuffing can be placed in a casserole dish and baked on the side.) Ladle the broth into the squash, replace the lid, rewrap with the reserved foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. It is ready to serve when the inner flesh is cooked within 1/2 inch of its skin. Check by removing the lid and piercing the pumpkin with a the tip of a sharp knife.
4. If desired, garnish the turban squash with fresh greens, parsley and washed autumn leaves.
5. To serve, dish out a helping of the stuffing, then dig into the sides for a serving of savory squash.
Elaine Gavalas is co-founder of SimplyCentered.com and an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, yoga therapist, weight management specialist, and healthy recipe developer.