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How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If you’ve never made your own pumpkin puree to use in your pies, breads, soups, etc,. then you’re in for a treat.  Canned pumpkin works great and is still a good source of nutrients, but the nutrients and flavor of fresh pumpkin puree just can’t be beat.  Here’s a how-to guide for making your own pumpkin puree.

1. Start with a pie pumpkin. pie_pumpkins


"Pie pumpkins," also called “sugar pumpkins” are smaller, sweeter, and less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual larger jack-o-lantern types which tend to have watery and stringy flesh, so they’re not a great choice for cooking with. Sugar pumpkins are much better for your pumpkin recipes. They have a firm, sweet flesh that is smoother and cooks up to a much more pleasant consistency than that of a larger pumpkin. They can be used for roasting, making soups and for making homemade pumpkin puree.  Grocery stores usually carry pie pumpkins in late September through December.  

They are small, usually only 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  As a general rule, one pie pumpkin will yield about 2 to 3 cups of pumpkin puree. Typically you will get about a cup of puree for each pound of pumpkin. So a 2 ½  pound pumpkin will yield approximately 2 ½ cups of puree.



2. Cut the pumpkin in half.



3. Scrape out the seeds.  Remove as much of the stringy part that coats the inside surface of the pumpkin.   An ice cream scoop or a melon baller works great for this.pumpkinscoop










Note: Save the seeds!  They have great nutritional benefits.  Clean them and then air dry and eat raw or roast on low heat of 200 degrees until dry. 


4. Cook the Pumpkin


There are several ways to cook the pumpkin; just choose use your preferred method.  You can steam on the stovetop, bake in the oven, or use a pressure cooker.



Put a couple of inches of water in a large pot, place the pumpkin is a steamer basket or colander, cover the pot, and turn up the heat to boil the water.   (I typically just put some water on the bottom of a large stock pot and add the pumpkin halves into it.  No steamer basket needed!  It works great.)


You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit.  The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will be to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterwards.


Steam the pumpkin for 15 minutes, check to see if it is soft, then repeat in smaller increments of time until it is soft enough to scoop the innards out.  Normally it takes 20 or 25 minutes in total.pumpkin_steaming


You can also bake the prepared pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash.  This method takes longer.  Put the prepared pumpkin in a shallow baking dish flesh side down and add about a half-inch of water to help prevent it from drying out.  Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, until soft.  The pumpkin will be done when you can easily insert a fork through the peel to the flesh.pumpkinbaking

5. Scoop the cooked pumpkin away from the peel. 

Whether you steam or bake the pumpkin, once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the flesh with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon).  Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin.  It should separate easily and in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.

If your pumpkin is watery (there should not be any free water), you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes in a colander and then pour off any free water.  That will help prevent your puree (and pies) from being too watery.ppie-pumpkn-scoop

6. Puree the pumpkin

Use a food processor, Vitamix, or regular blender to puree the pumpkin, or do it by hand with a stick immersion blender, a potato masher, or even just a hand mixer with time and patience.PumpkinPureeProcessedFlesh

7.  The pumpkin puree is done!

The pumpkin puree is now ready.  Use as you would canned pumpkin in any recipe that calls for it.  

 It can be frozen in freezer-safe containers (like Ziploc bags or glass jars, just exclude as much air as you can).  So be sure to cook up a big batch of pumpkins and freeze the puree in measured  portions so that you are all set for a scrumptious season of pumpkin smoothies, pies, and  soups!


Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe! PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, October 08, 2016

Pumpkins contain zinc and other minerals that have an anti-inflammatory effect, protect you against prostate cancer, and even osterporosis!

Here's the link to my Pumpkin Smoothie recipe: Link to Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

If you have other recipes you'd like to add, go ahead and submit some here


The Great Pumpkin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Wednesday, October 05, 2016

pumpkinsFall is a treasured time of year, and its signature seasonal squash is the brightly colored orange pumpkin.  When ripe, pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted.  Once cooked, the pumpkin flesh can be eaten as is with some butter or spices for flavoring, or it can be pureed and used to make a variety of delicious dishes including oatmeal, smoothies, corn bread, chili, soup, risotto, lasagna, pies, custard, soufflé and my personal fave—pumpkin bread!  The possibilities for healthy food ideas using pumpkin are endless!


Not only is pumpkin versatile enough to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, its loaded with nutrients that offer a wide range of health benefits.


 Here’s what’s so great about pumpkins:

Great for the Eyes:A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that aids vision, particularly in dim light.  The gourd gets its bright orange color from the carotenoid beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A for additional eye protection.  Two other carotenoids found in pumpkin—lutein and zeaxanthin—also promote eye health and guard against macular degeneration.

Great for Managing Diabetes and Blood Sugar: Diets rich in beta-carotene also appear to offer protection against developing type 2 diabetes, with pumpkin consumption being the most effective.  Pumpkin flesh contains a compound that increases the level of insulin in the bloodstream, which helps lower blood sugar. Two other major compounds in pumpkin—trigonelline and nicotinic acid—are effective in lowering blood sugar levels by improving insulin resistance and suppressing the onset of diabetes. Trigonelline and nicotinic acid also inhibit the accumulation of triglycerides in the blood, a danger that often accompanies diabetes.


Pumpkin also holds promise for type 1 diabetics:  Chinese researchers found that pumpkin extracts can increase insulin production and regenerate damaged pancreatic cells. This could reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections in type 1 diabetics.


Great for Boosting the Immune System:Pumpkin is a great source of Vitamin C, which helps fight free radicals and improves immunity. They are also high in phytosterols, which have been shown to enhance the immune response and decrease the risk of certain cancers.  The zinc in pumpkin seeds also boosts the immune system.

Great For Preventing Cancer:  Pumpkins contain compounds called cucurbitacins, which have been found to be effective at inhibiting the development and growth of cancerous tumors of the breast, colon, lung and central nervous system. Cucurbitacins offer the greatest protection against colon cancer. The oil in pumpkin seeds has also shown to be effective in the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer. The high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and carotenoids in pumpkins also offer protection against various forms of cancer.

Great for the Skin:  The high amount of Vitamins A, C and E as well as alpha-hydroxy acids present in pumpkin all reduce signs of aging in skin and give it a healthy glow.  Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which also prevents appearance of wrinkles and helps to keep your skin hydrated and nourished. 

pumpkin seedsGreat for Lifting Your Mood:  Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid L-tryptophan, a compound important in the production of the neurotransmitter seratonin, which is responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds regularly can keep your spirits high and prevent depression. 

Great Source of Fiber:Pumpkin flesh contains abundant quantities of dietary fiber—a one-cup serving of cooked pumpkin contains three grams.  It is extremely effective for treating gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation and indigestion. The high amount of fiber curbs the appetite and reduces fat absorption, which can assist with weight loss. It also helps in lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and regulating blood sugar levels.

Great Anti-Inflammatory Effect: The beta-carotene in pumpkin seeds and flesh has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of pumpkin can protect against joint inflammation and arthritis. Pumpkins have been known to provide relief from inflammation quickly, without the harmful side effects of anti-inflammatory medicines.

Great for Lowering Blood Pressure and Preventing Heart Disease:  Pumpkin is loaded with potassium and Zinc. Studies show that eating a potassium-rich diet can prevent onset of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.  Additionally, studies have shown that the phytosterols in pumpkin reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

Great for Preventing Kidney Stones:  Eating just 5 to 10 grams of pumpkin seeds every day stimulates the kidneys and prevents the formation of calcium oxalate stones.

Great Source of Protein and Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are a rich source of protein and essential fatty acids.  One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 7 grams of protein. The essential fatty acids present in pumpkin oil offer several health benefits from providing protection against serious health diseases such as high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer to promoting healthy skin and improving brain power.


Given the wide-ranging benefits of all parts of the pumpkin, it’s time this orange squash makes its way into the kitchen now that its role as a Halloween decoration has passed.  For a picture tutorial on how to make your own fresh pumpkin puree, click here.


The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods PDF Print E-mail
Friday, September 30, 2016



It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables, fruits and milk are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. .

Boosting Your Immunity for the Flu Season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Whether or not you decide to get a shot this season, you should know that there is another way to escape getting the flu. Stay away from processed foods, especially refined sugars and flours, and eat a processed-free diet rich in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and chemical-free lean proteins. This is the best way to keep your immune system healthy overall, but there are active compounds called phytochemicals in a variety of everyday foods that have powerful anti-viral and flu-fighting abilities.

Your Amazing Immune System

We hear so much about keeping our immune system healthy, but what exactly is the immune system and how does it work? By understanding some of the basic elements of the human immune system and how they work, plus the overall role the immune system plays in your health, you can take responsibility for your own health and ward off the flu at any time of the year.

How the immune system works to keep us healthy is truly amazing. In its simplest terms, the task of the immune system is to identify those things that naturally belong in the body (such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) and those that are foreign or otherwise harmful substances (such as drugs, pollutants, and chemicals that are not from natural sources), and then to neutralize or destroy the foreign substances. The immune system is unlike other bodily systems in that it is not a group of physical structures but a system of complex interactions involving many different organs, structures, and substances, among them white blood cells, bone marrow, the lymphatic vessels and organs, specialized cells found in various body tissues, and specialized cells called serum factors, that are present in the blood. Ideally, all of these components work together to protect the body against infection and disease.

The human immune system is functional at birth, but it does not yet function well. This is termed innate immunity-the immunity you are born with. Immune function develops and becomes more sophisticated as the system matures and the body learns to defend itself against different foreign invaders called antigens. This development of the immune system is called adaptive immunity.

The immune system has the ability to learn to identify, and then to remember, specific antigens that have been encountered. It does this through two basic means. One is through white bloods attacking foreign invaders. White blood cells called T-lymphocytes identify and then destroy cancerous cells, viruses, and microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. The T lymphocytes, or T-cells, mature in the thymus gland (hence the "T" designation). The thymus, a small gland located behind the top of the breastbone, is a major gland of the immune system. In the thymus, each T cell is programmed to identify one particular type of invading enemy.

The second way involves the production of antibodies. These are not cells, but special proteins whose chemical structures are formed to match the surfaces of specific antigens. When they encounter their specific antigens, antibodies either damage the invasive cells or alert the white blood cells to attack. The antibodies are produced by another group of white blood cells, the B lymphocytes, which are manufactured in the bone marrow. When a B lymphocyte is presented with a particular antigen, it engineers an antibody to match it and stores a blueprint of the invader so that it can initiate the production of antibodies in case of subsequent exposure, even if a long period of time elapses in between.

What You Eat Makes A Big Difference in Your Immune Function

While the immune system is designed to keep us healthy, it can only do so when it is kept in good working order. It is aided mainly by phytochemicals and other compounds in foods that can prevent antigens from doing any harm, or destroy them altogether. The following is a list of some of the best immune boosting foods.

Orange foods - these foods contain a compound called glutathione, an immune-system component that works to destroy antigens like flu viruses. Orange foods also contain the phytochemical called beta-carotene (which is responsible for their orange color), which converts in the body to vitamin A. Orange foods include oranges, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, and cantaloupe.

Fermented foods - these foods contain probiotics, or good bacteria, that help keep the digestive tract healthy. Many viruses live in the digestive tract, especially the large intestine, so it's important to keep a proper balance of disease fighting probiotics in the large intestine. Probiotics stimulate white blood cells. Fermented foods include yogurt (plain, organic, and unsweetened is the best), kefir, and kombucha tea. Probiotic supplements are often a good way to ensure that you are getting enough probiotics.

The Anti-Viral Foods

Certain foods work extremely well against viruses. These are foods that basically stop viruses in their tracks and prevent them from attacking healthy cells.

Garlic - one of the best and strongest anti-viral foods you can eat because it stimulates immune cells. It contains the active compound called allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. One clove of garlic a day can have a powerful effect on boosting immunity.

Coconut Oil - contains a high amount of a special type of fatty acid called lauric acid, the main component found in mother's milk, which is responsible for strengthening the immune system and protecting against viral and bacterial infections. Studies show it has many healing properties, including its effectiveness with treating the HIV virus. The way it treats protects against viruses and bacteria is amazing. Many viruses are enveloped by a protective membrane composed of fats. Current research indicates that the fatty acids in coconut oil destroy viruses and bacteria by dissolving the fatty envelope surrounding them, essentially causing them to disintegrate.

Green and Black Tea - a recent Harvard University study showed people who drink 5 cups of black tea a day for two weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting chemicals in their blood than those who drank a placebo drink. The amino acid responsible for this immune boost is also abundant in green tea, and in the decaffeinated versions of both. Green and black tea contain a host of antioxidant compounds which help keep us healthy overall.

Flush Your Immune System to Keep it Healthy

Water - The immune system must be flushed with water daily to rid the body of toxins, viruses, and other antigens. This is one reason why keeping yourself hydrated is important. Do not underestimate the importance of drinking adequate amounts of water. The required amount of water per day is different for everyone. To determine how much water you need, divide your current weight by two. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you need to drink daily.

Green Foods - Any food that is dark green in color is considered a green food, such as broccoli, spinach, kale and lettuces. Green foods also refer to green tea and a number of commercially available products containing dehydrated barley grass, wheat grass, or algae sources such as chlorella or spirulina. Such formulas are rehydrated by mixing with water or juice. They may also be placed into a smoothie. Green foods-packed full of phytochemicals, especially carotenes and chlorophyll-are especially helpful in boosting the immune system and flushing the body of dead toxins.

Vitamin C Foods - vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least three hundred metabolic functions in the body. It aids in the production of anti-stress hormones and interferon, an important immune system protein. Vitamin C has the ability to combine with toxic substances, such as certain heavy metals, and render them harmless so that they can be flushed from the body. Vitamin C is found in berries, citrus fruits, and green vegetables. Good sources of vitamin C include asparagus, avocadoes, beet greens, black currants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, grapefruit, kale, lemons, mangoes, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papayas, green peas, sweet peppers, persimmons, pineapple, radishes, rose hips, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip greens, and watercress.

Orange juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, but only if it is freshly juiced and has not undergone heat pasteurization.

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