The Tastiest Pumpkins

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Tastiness isn’t always our first concern with pumpkins.

Ornamental appearance such as quirky shapes, nobbliness or shear size are often the feature most apparent in a pumpkin.

As we approach Halloween, ease of carving scary faces is vital. Howden pumpkins are the best for carving and were developed by John Howden in his backyard garden in Massachusetts in the 1960s. They have become the classic jack-o’-lantern pumpkin. These are the pumpkins that you most often see offered for sale in stores. The fruit is deep orange and ribbed and can weigh up to 30 pounds.

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Bland flavour, fibrous flesh and tough outer skins are off-putting and the requirement for sweetness has dominated mass pumpkin production. However cooks and vegetable growers have long enjoyed the huge range of flavoursome pumpkin varieties.

 

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There are so many varieties as seen by the images above including the brilliant orange Uchiki kuri, the green Buttercup and the sweet and nutty Butternut pumpkin. All delicious and versatile in soups, scones or roasted.

 

Nutrition Knowledge:

Being 92% water, pumpkins will never get labelled as super foods, but they do have a few useful qualities. That bright orange flesh is a clue to the carotenoids present, a 100g portion of pumpkin provides almost twice our daily requirement for vitamin A. They have a little vitamin C and folate, but not much protein, so we need to add other ingredients with extra nourishment to our pumpkin recipes.

 

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However – the seeds are a different story. A rounded tablespoon of whole roasted pumpkin seeds has about 5g protein, 5g dietary fibre and a little iron. A generous sprinkling of the seeds over our pumpkin salad or scones will make a big impact on the nutritional quality.

Walnuts – the crunch!

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Walnuts – the edible options are endless.

Eaten Spanish style with cheese and honey is divine, in homemade cake or banana loaf is scrumptious, tossed in a salad or over breakfast cereal is a treat. The flavour is fabulous and the soft crunch under the teeth gives a brilliant texture.

Healthy Walnut Research

The University of Barcelona has been working on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for years. The inclusion of a 30g daily serve of tree nuts, – mostly walnuts, with almonds and hazelnuts too, produced a massive 30% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

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What’s good in Walnuts?

Lots of poly and mono unsaturated fats – and to stop these fats going rancid, there are lots of antioxidants – all wrapped up in a crunchy fibrous structure.

Fats come with calories, it’s not surprising that 100g walnuts have 654 kcal – our Spanish friends recommend a modest 30g per day. Walnuts are 15% protein, 7% dietary fibre – a smattering of iron, calcium and selenium with bits of the antioxidant vitamins E and A, and some B vitamins folate and niacin. The high protein value means that a small serve of walnuts provides a big feeling of satiety.   This comes with very little sodium and low carbohydrate.

The fancy chemicals are the flavanols, the anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These guys are the antioxidants associated with protecting us from heart disease and stroke.

Walnuts also contain a little choline which is showing promise in research on the prevention of cognitive decline in old age.

Storage – keep cool. All nuts are high in fats, to avoid them getting bitter and rancid we need to eat them promptly or keep them cool – and check the ‘eat-by’ dates when we buy them.

There’s lots more interesting info on walnuts, here’s a taster !

Guacamole – our favourite avocado recipe

Guacomole

INGREDIENTS

1 medium sized ripe avocado

6 cherry tomatoes, chopped

½ small red onion, finely chopped

½ lime, juice

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 small bunch fresh coriander

INSTRUCTIONS

Mash avocado in a small bowl with chopped tomato, onion, lime juice and chili sauce.

Save a few coriander leaves for garnish. Chop remaining leaves and mix in.

Add extra chili if required.

Delicious served with corn chips, tacos and wraps. In the Mexican style of refried beans, rice and cheese or with barbeque meats or veggie kababs.

Enjoy!

Guacomole

AVOCADO – Our top five AVOCADO attributes:

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We love the tastiness and effortless preparation. Here are five extra nutritious reasons to eat avocados.

  1. Alpha-linolenic acid – an essential fatty acid that we use to synthesize omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is plant based, can’t be synthesized by humans and is thought to have a role in reducing inflammation.

  2. Oleic acid – a mono unsaturated fatty acid and like alpha-linolenic, a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. These fatty acids are associated the prevention and treatment of heart disease and a reduced risk of breast cancer.

  3. Dietary Fibre – 100g of avocado has 7g dietary fibre which is close to 30% of our recommended daily intake. There is a mixture of soluble and tougher fibre types, all good for feeding bugs in our digestion and keeping bowl contents happily moving along.

  4. Beta-sitosterol – one of the phytosterols similar to cholesterol which help reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.

  5. The cardiovascular/blood sugar dream – no sodium, very low carbohydrate and cholesterol free. We all need healthy levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.

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A regular portion of avocado also contains a smattering of B vitamins, a little vitamin E and protein. Unlike most vegetables it is fairly high in calories, around 170Kcal per 100g (1 avocado, no skin or stone = about 135g).

A Mediterranean type diet gives us the best chance of keeping healthy throughout our lives. We need very little meat and processed foods, some oily fish, lots of vegetables, whole grains and nuts, fruit and olive oil. Avocados are a perfect fit.

Read more about the health benefits of avocado here.

 

What We Like About Quinoa…

 

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Check out our recipe for Quinoa porridge with mango and berries.

A slow release carbohydrate at breakfast helps maintain a steady blood glucose level over the morning.  Adding protein keeps us satiated.

Quinoa boiled in water contains about:

21% carbohydrate

4.4% protein

2% fat, most of which is mono or poly unsaturated

2.8% dietary fibre.

It has a little iron and vitamin E

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This is fairly similar to other staple cereals (although strictly speaking it’s a grass seed).

Boiled quinoa has a little less protein than cooked pasta but a little more than oats.  Generally speaking, these staples need extra ingredients to up their nutritional value.

Quinoa is special because it is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the amino acids humans can’t synthesise and must obtain through the food we eat.  This is great for vegetarians.

Our breakfast recipe combines Quinoa with ground flax seeds and a little milk.  This seriously increases the quantity and quality of protein – and essential fatty acids.

 

Quinoa porridge with flaxseed, mango and blueberries

 Try this quick, tasty breakfast for a healthy start to the day.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

Half a cup/90g quinoa flakes

One and a half cups/360ml  water

1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed

A few chunks of mango (fresh or frozen)

Two tablespoons of blueberries

One quarter cup/60ml milk

Honey or maple syrup to taste

Instructions:

Place water in pot and bring to the boil.  Add quinoa flakes and cook for 90 seconds stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Pour in milk. Sprinkle flaxseed, mango and blueberries on top. Drizzle honey or maple syrup to taste. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

Smoked salmon and pasta salad

Try this delicious and nutritious mediterranean pasta dish. The bright colours indicate a myriad of phytochemicals, while the cooked and cooled pasta gives us our low GI carbs.  The inclusion of raw olive oil and salmon provides valuable omega 3 fatty acids.

Pasta with smoked salmon

 

 

Ingredients:

100g smoked salmon slices, cut into strips

2 cups (180g) bowtie (farfalle) pasta

2 zucchini/courgettes sliced

1 red capsicum cut in thin strips

1/2 red onion sliced

Ground black pepper

50ml extra virgin olive oil

Small bunch fresh dill leaves, washed and chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, washed and chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Small handful of continental parsley

 

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to instructions on the packet, and let cool. Gentry fry zucchini and capsicum in a little olive oil until soft.  Make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper and dill leaves.  Combine pasta with smoked salmon, red onion, cooked vegetables, capers and dressing. Sprinkle with pine nuts and continental parsley to garnish.