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Pumpkin is too good to save just for dessert

Pumpkin is a food with unlimited possibilities and we really should be using it for more than just pies and desserts.

Pumpkin’s light, natural taste and the fact that it is a nutrient-dense food makes it the perfect blend for a wide variety of other foods. Naturally golden in color, pumpkin adds nutrition, moistness, rich flavor and smooth texture to an impressive assortment of both sweet and savory dishes.

Holiday meals are all about traditions and most families don’t like changes, but you might make a change in holiday meals by trying a pumpkin stuffing to accompany this year’s holiday turkey. Or serve potatoes and pumpkin au gratin as a side dish with poultry or ham.

You can add food value to breakfast with pumpkin pancakes, waffles, spiced pumpkin monkey bread, pumpkin coffee cake, apple pumpkin fritters or pumpkin muffins or quick breads. For a pleasant sweet and spicy spread for toast or muffins, try pumpkin butter — you can also add pumpkin to your oatmeal or baked oatmeal.

Pumpkin also adds a unique flavor to soups. Recently on vacation I had the pleasure of trying more than one hearty soup that had been created with squash or pumpkin. It was delicious.

For your holiday parties, think about using pumpkin to create party appetizers such as a pumpkin cheese ball, or a creamy fruit dip made with pumpkin, yogurt and orange marmalade. Other pumpkin possibilities for parties include a sandwich with a mixture of sweetened pumpkin and cream cheese.

Local restaurants are preparing delicious entrees with pumpkin or squash, such as pumpkin-stuffed ravioli. You can try it at the restaurant first or just be creative at home. Try different dishes like a pumpkin pasta with pecan cream sauce, pumpkin-sauced chicken, pumpkin crepes, pumpkin chili, pumpkin soufflé and pumpkin quiche.

Next time you’re creating your own barbecue sauce, add pumpkin for nutrition, thickness and flavor. To create a rich sauce that goes great with pork, beef and chicken alike, blend pumpkin with brown sugar, mustard, onion, garlic and spices.

And then, of course, there are all the desserts that can be made with pumpkin. After pumpkin pie, one of my favorites is pumpkin cheese cake. Other desserts include frozen pumpkin dessert squares, pumpkin torte, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin-spice cookies and different kinds of pies, puddings, candy and sauces to serve over all kinds of fruits.

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