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Pumpkin: Not just for dessert!

October is in full swing, which means pumpkin is on the menu: Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, cookies and cakes… Do you see a common theme here?  Pumpkin certainly reigns supreme when it comes to fall desserts!  But try not to pigeonhole pumpkin only as an ingredient in your favorite fall sweet treats.  It’s very versatile and can add a lot of high quality nutrition to your dinner plate as well!  A 1/2 cup serving of pureed pumpkin contains 300% of your daily needs for Vitamin A along with 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein for a mere 40 calories! The great thing about pumpkin is that you can purchase it canned without any added ingredients or preservatives, so it’s just as nutritious as fresh and super convenient too!  When buying canned pumpkin, just remember to check out the NuVal score to ensure you’re getting the right kind.  Pumpkin pie mixes contain added sugar, salt and seasonings, whereas plain pumpkin is just 100% pure pumpkin goodness! Plain canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie mix are often stocked right next to each other on the shelf, so make sure you toss the one that scores a 94 into your cart! This autumn, think outside the pie and try adding pumpkin into some of your favorite dishes!  Here are a few unique ways to get you started and help you give pumpkin a starring role in your kitchen: If you aren’t convinced just yet, give this Easy Pumpkin-Pasta Bake a try and you’ll be hooked! Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish or 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, cook sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked thoroughly. Stir in garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce (reserve jar). Add water or wine to jar; cover and shake. Pour into skillet along with pumpkin and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Stir well. Stir in cooked pasta. Spoon into prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese; cover. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove cover; bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. For more unique ways to incorporate pumpkin into some your favorite foods (like mashed potatoes, hot cocoa, and corn muffins), visit the Libby’s Pumpkin website.

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