In Part I of “The Perks of Pumpkin,” I discussed some of the great health benefits of pumpkin. In Part 2, I am some great ways to incorporate pumpkin into your daily diet. What is especially nice about this orange-colored vegetable is that it is great tasting and extremely low in fat and calories. That makes it a delight to cook and back with. You can easily add a few scoops of pumpkin to chili, macaroni and cheese, and even spaghetti sauce. The following are just a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes to get more pumpkin in your diet.

Pumpkin Oatmeal: Mix together 1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats and 3/4 c. milk (or as needed) in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high for 1 to 2 min., stirring once. Add more milk or oats to achieve desired consistency and cook for another 30 sec. Stir in 1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree, 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, and 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar. Heat through, and serve.

Pumpkin Scones: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. In a large bowl, stir together 2 c. all-purpose flour, 2 c. whole wheat flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, and 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda. Mix in 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 3 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, cream 1/4 c. butter (softened) until fluffy. Mix in 1/2 c. applesauce, then slowly stir in 2 1/4 c. sugar until well blended. Mix in 2 eggs (beaten) and 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir in 1 c. finely chopped pecan and 2 c. golden raisins. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between scones. Flatten scones with back of the spoon. In a small bowl, stir together 3 tbsp. of sugar and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, and sprinkle on top of scones. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 to 14 min. Remove, and let cool on cookie sheets 5 min. before removing to wire racks to cool.

Pumpkin Chili: Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté 1 c. chopped onion, 1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper, 1/2 c. chopped yellow bell pepper, and 1 clove garlic (minced) until tender. Stir in 1 lb. ground turkey and cook until evenly brown. Drain. Mix in 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes and 2 c. pumpkin puree. Season with 1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, and 1 dash salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 min. Serve topped with 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese and 1/2 c. sour cream.

Pumpkin Protein Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 c. SPLENDA® Granular, 1 c. rolled oats, 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. soy flour, 1 3/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. ground nutmeg. Stir in 1/2 c. pumpkin puree, 1 tbsp. canola oil, 2 tsp. water, 2 egg whites, and 1 tsp. molasses. Stir in 1 tbsp. flax seeds (optional), if desired. Roll into 14 large balls and flatten on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 min. in preheated oven. DO NOT OVERBAKE: the cookies will come out really dry if overbaked.

Quick Tip: In general, pumpkins can keep for a long time in a cool dry place, ideally 50 to 60 degrees. Once cut, they will need to be used within a couple of days, or freeze it, as it can mold quickly. If cooked, it’s fine in the refrigerator four to five days.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.