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Silver Plum Monthly

Ingredient Spotlight: Pumpkin

Who doesn't love a pumpkin?  It's versatile, nutritious, and delicious; what more could you ask for?

Pumpkins can be roasted, boiled, steamed, braised, or darn near any other method of cooking.  And, of course, in pies!  But for cooking, avoid the Jack-o-lantern types that are best reserved for carving; the flesh tends to be harder and more stringy.  Instead, stick to the smaller Sugar Pumpkins, which are much tastier.

I love a simply roasted pumpkin, with hardly more than butter, salt, and pepper.  You can find a super-simple recipe over at Chez Pim, where she uses a Delicata squash, but you can certainly switch that for your favorite type of pumpkin.

As for nutrition, the pumpkin is a powerhouse.  Low in calories, but full of antioxidants and minerals, they also provide a healthy dose of fiber.  And be sure to save those seeds; they're known as an excellent source of zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, protein, and a host of other beneficial nutrients.  Don't forget about pumpkin oil, either.  It's fantastic on a salad or drizzled over soup (try my pumpkin soup recipe), and has a gorgeous dark-green color.

And for all of you trying to eat more local foods, Illinois is by far the top pumpkin-producing state in the nation.  As much as 95% of the nation's pumpkins intended for processing come from our state.  That can of Libby's in your pantry?  It's probably local.

So go find a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, or just grab a can at the store, and get cooking with the incredible, edible pumpkin!


Safety First!

What kind of cutting board do you use: wood or plastic?  If you said "plastic", you'll want to reconsider after reading this research.  Scientists at the Food Research Institute, Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison studied how long bacteria lived on wood and plastic cutting boards.  The wood boards vastly outperformed the plastic types, because of wood's natural ability to absorb moisture (killing bacteria quickly as their environment dries out).  Additionally, soap and hot water alone will sanitize a wooden board, while plastic boards require a strong bleach solution or a spin in an industrial-grade diswasher.  Make mine wood, please!


Boo!

Halloween's almost here, and I'm excited!  Spooky ghosts, black cats, and everyone's favorite part: candy.

If you're feeling extra-ambitious this Halloween, you could always make your own candy bars, or dip your own apples into red wine caramel.

But for those of us feeling a little less Martha Stewart, there's other top-notch options.  Vosges Haut-Chocolat here in Chicago offers creepy skulls on sticks, in three incredible flavors.  If you love Fair-Trade chocolate, Divine Chocolate's mini pieces of 70% dark will make you the most popular house on the block.  Helliemae's makes some of the best salt caramel I've ever had, and have their limited-time apple caramels in store right now.

Whatever candy choice you make this year, make sure it's extra spoooooky!

Note: I'm not paid or otherwise compensated to talk about these companies; I've just tried their stuff and it's amazing and I like to share amazing things.

From my kitchen:
Fall is definitely here!  Warm up these cool nights with some beautiful Red Pumpkin Tahini Soup.

Speaking of Soup....
There's a whole lotta wonderful soups out there these days.  Why not try them all?
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cilantro Walnut Pesto, from A Sweet Spoonful

Creamy Turkey Potato Soup, from White on Rice Couple

Thai Carrot Soup, from Happy Yolks

And to top any of those soups, try a drizzle of Tarragon Oil, from 101 Cookbooks
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