Just a few days past Labor Day, a phenomenon hits where almost all foods have some variety that includes a pumpkin flavor. On a recent trip to an area store, there was pumpkin cereal, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin cinnamon rolls and pumpkin ravioli.

This native North American fruit is a member of the squash family that has a delicious and hearty taste and is ideal for these crisp fall days. Pumpkin contains vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. It is a great source of vitamins A , B, C and E and contains potassium, iron and manganese.

Because pumpkin is full of fiber, it can help curb your appetite - so it is weight loss friendly.

Of course, getting your pumpkin in sugary sweet drinks or calorie laden desserts will negate some of the health benefits. However, pumpkin is versatile and easy to add to recipes. Pumpkin can be sliced and roasted, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and eaten just like any squash.

Remember, the seeds of this fruit are also edible and are highly nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are filled with potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. They contain about 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein in 1 1/2-ounce servings, which makes them a great snack.

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How do you incorporate a bit of this nutritious fruit into your everyday meals?

  • When making a sauce, substitute pumpkin for half the amount of cheese and add a bit of garlic, onion and a spoonful of Parmesan cheese. This will add creaminess and give your dishes an exceptional flavor.
  • Make a healthy dip by combining pumpkin with yogurt and spice it up with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Add pumpkin to your waffles or pancakes. It can also be added to muffins and cupcakes.

The list of pumpkin dishes is endless and includes salad dressings, soups, pastas, french fries , pies and puddings.

There are better ways to enjoy pumpkin than drinking that small pumpkin latte that has almost 400 calories, 14 grams of fat and more than a smidgeon of salt. Pumpkin is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and adds a sweet and savory flavor to dishes.

Enjoy the season by serving one of fall's tastiest and adaptable fruits. Happy Eating.

Spiced Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from https://www.verybestbaking.com

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners into a muffin pan (pan should make 12 regular sized muffins) or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Combine pumpkin and milk in another small bowl.

In another bowl, place the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar and beat until creamy. Add the egg and beat until fluffy. Alternately add flour and pumpkin mixtures to butter mixture; beating just until blended.

In a small bowl toss the blueberries and 1 tablespoon flour. Stir gently into mixture.

Spoon the batter gently into prepared muffins cups.

For the topping, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a fork, cut in 1 tablespoon butter until the mixture is crumbly. Spoon or sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool.

Add chocolate chips to this spiced pumpkin bread for a tasty fall treat. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent
Add chocolate chips to this spiced pumpkin bread for a tasty fall treat. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ to 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, apple juice, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture just until moistened. Add the chocolate chips and stir just until mixed in. Spoon or pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, just until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.