it's a great pumpkin smoothie, charlie brown!

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

there are three things i have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and
the great pumpkin. 

Religion and politics aside for today, we're chatting the great pumpkin.  Typically, the colorful vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, are said to be packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, and the bright orange pumpkins that decorate our front lawns each Halloween are no exception. Although this nutritious harvest vegetable (actually a squash) is consumed mainly as a pie during the fall months, it can actually be enjoyed in a large variety of ways, such as soups, in cookies and breads, and smoothies!

The primary healthful qualities of pumpkin are the large amounts of antioxidants and beta-carotene. Antioxidants  help strengthen our immune system. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A and helps reduce the risk of cancer and other dangerous diseases.

Pumpkins by themselves are also very low in fat and calories, and high in potassium. They possess a fair amount of vitamin C and other nutrients, such as niacin, vitamin E, calcium and iron.
Additionally, because pumpkin has a high water content and fiber,  an it is an ideal choice for a snack helping to provide a food source of water, provide satiety, or feelings of fullness, while being low in fat.

it's a great pumpkin orange smoothie, charlie brown!
serves 4
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup rice milk (you can substitute any milk you prefer, or yogurt, as well)
4 T frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T ground flax seed
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup strong brewed coffee

combine all ingredients in blender jar.  process until smooth. pour into glasses and garnish with flax seed and nutmeg combo.

a few notes:  this smoothie was developed to have the lowest calorie, highest fiber and nutrient density, while being quick and easy to make in the morning (when, admittedly, I am not at my best).  Canned pumpkin was used for speed.  You are welcome to use fresh pumpkin puree, but be aware that canned pumpkin actually has a higher beta carotene value than a store-bought fresh pumpkin.  Transport time causes the pumpkin to lose scads of nutrients.  If you  have a pumpkin patch of your own, by all means, go pluck a lovely fresh one to avoid the nutrient loss.  For more on canned vs. fresh pumpkin, see this study by the University of Illinois.

Rice milk was utilized for it's low calorie, low fat, but full flavor.  Cinnamon, for all its blood sugar-stabilizing goodness.  Orange juice for a little extra cold-fighting vitamin C, and flavor. Flax seed, for its omega-3's.  Whole flaxseed does not metabolize as well as ground, so grind right before serving to get the best of its benefit.  

Coffee was added...well, I'd say it has antioxidants, which is true, but for me, it's used for the get-up-and-go.  I'm not a morning person.  I need me some caffeine.  Thank you. 

If you find you'd like it sweetened, agave nectar would be the healthiest choice here.  Also, this is good with added peaches, apricots, or mandarin oranges.  A banana ups the potassium content and makes a smoother smoothie.  If you'd like a frozen smoothie, reduce the liquids, and add 1c ice to your blender jar.

A Look at Canned Pumpkin

We compared the canned pumpkin available on our area. What we found:

Nutritional Content
Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin

Parade Solid Pack Pumpkin

Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin
1.68/15 oz

1.29/15 oz

 1.99/15 oz
best pumpkin flavor

bland, mealy—clearly

slight bitter after-bite
disappointing texture
calories-40 per ½ c.
carbohydrates-net 4g
calories-50 per ½ c
carbohydrates-net 8g
calories-50 per ½ c
carbohydrates- 6g

For us, Libby's came out the clear winner.  The price was in the middle ground, the flavor was the best, the nutritional content, with nods to high fiber and lower calories, was impressive. 
Drawbacks:  While the label states no preservatives, it is not USDA organic, as was the Farmer's Market brand.
Parade brand was the lowest priced, but perhaps not the best value.  The pumpkin was watery and not as richly flavored as was Libby's.  Nutritional values lagged a bit behind.
Plusses:  Lowest cost, and although not USDA organic,  Parade brand also states that it contains no preservatives.
Farmer's Market brand finished a disappointing last.  This was the most expensive, least flavorful of the tested products.  Nutrition lagged behind the other two, as well.
Plus:  It is an organic product. 
Had it been flavorful, that might have made up for it's drawbacks.  It was not, and did not, unfortunately.  It appears we find ourselves in agreement with good company.
So what are your thoughts?  And your favorite ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet?  It's that time of the year and we're making our pumpkiny-plans. 
We'd love your input!

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