By Chef Lauren, Closer to Your Food

Every Halloween I grab at least one pumpkin, carve it and plop it on the front porch for the neighbors and trick or treaters alike to enjoy. When you ask children about pumpkins today, they will say that they carve them on Halloween, eat them in pie at Thanksgiving and they’ve heard that mommy drinks it in her gourmet coffee. The interesting thing is that most people do not know of the many health benefits pumpkins have.

Pumpkins are rich in beta carotene and contain over 200 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A. Pumpkin seeds are rich in phytosterols while the flesh of the gourd contains over 3 grams of fiber per serving. Additionally, pumpkins have about 30 percent of your RDA in vitamin C, contain more potassium than a banana, help your body produce serotonin, and they are great for your skin! Pumpkins, I love you.

Instead of letting your pumpkin shrivel away outside in the elements after Halloween, think about bringing it in for a couple quick recycling tips.

Dog Food:ctyf-dog-food

Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are a great dietary supplement for your furbabies. After Halloween, I take at
least one leftover Jack O’ Lantern, cut the skin off as best I can, and chop up the flesh. Then boil it in a little water for about 20 minutes and puree it with a little bit of the water until it is very smooth. I store it in an air-tight container or pour it into ice cube molds, then into a plastic bag once they are frozen. The pumpkin puree will keep for months in the freezer. Whenever one of my dogs is constipated, has diarrhea, or is starting to get an itchy/dry coat, I add in about a tablespoon of the pumpkin to their food until their symptoms improve. My dogs love it!

Compost:

Pumpkin is an amazing addition to your compost because of its rich nutrients. Be careful to take the seeds out, or you might accidentally get a bunch of pumpkin sprouts! If you don’t have a compost pile, consider starting one or leave it out for the birds and critters to nibble on as a seasonal treat – they’ll appreciate it.

Fresh Juice:ctfy-juice

Pumpkin makes a delicious fresh juice. Here’s my favorite recipe (PS: it’s really good for you too!)

1 cup fresh pumpkin, juiced
1 cup fresh cashew milk (or nut milk of choice)
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg

Mix all of these ingredients together evenly. Enjoy fresh with or without ice, or try it blended.

The Seeds:

Pumpkin seeds are yet another nutritious powerhouse, so don’t waste them!
Many people prefer the shelled ctyf-seedsseeds also known as pepitas, but the seeds with hulls have much higher fiber content. When you de-seed your pumpkin before carving, transfer the seeds to a bowl and fill it with water. Let the seeds soak overnight. Remove them from the water and transfer onto dish towels, trying to remove as much of the stringy orange flesh as you can. Pat the seeds dry. I toss them in another bowl with a tablespoon of oil, a teaspoon of sea salt and any fresh herbs and/or spices I have lying around. My favorite combination includes garlic powder, a little cayenne and some lemon juice. Spread them on a baking sheet, roast at about 375°F until golden brown. Keep a bowl of them on your kitchen counter or in a baggie in your car to encourage healthy snacking.

Face Mask:ctyf-mask2

Our skin loves pumpkin. When recycling your pumpkin, make a puree out of the flesh by boiling it until fork tender and

blend it in a food processor with some of the water you cooked it in until very smooth. Take a half cup of the puree, mix in 1 egg white, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of high-quality coconut oil. Mix these
ingredients together evenly and transfer to
an air-tight container. This will keep in the fridge for about a week. I spread the mask evenly on my face and neck and leave it on for about 20-30 minutes. It helps reduce wrinkles, clean pores and leaves your skin vibrant and smooth.


 

Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit www.closertoyourfood.com and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.