Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Life Fit with Laura Lewis: Fall's Fountain of Youth Foods

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Life Fit ... Mind. Body. And More.

Being Life Fit is about your total health, including the health of all of your relationships. Life Fit is a journey, not a destination. It is a process of continuous growth: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Check in each Tuesday to Life Fit with Laura Lewis, author of "52 Ways To A Healthy You," as we explore our total life fitness. Then, weigh in with your own thoughts over at Laura's "Life Fit Chat" each Wednesday through Friday for further discussion on the week's topic. For more information visit Laura at www.LauraLewis.com.

Living in Texas, autumn is always a welcome reprieve from the intensity of the summer heat. While autumn may come a little later here than in other parts of North America, we are at least fortunate enough to reap the benefits of the fabulous foods of the fall harvest.

The fall harvest is abundant with "fountain of youth foods" such as carrots, winter squash, pumpkin (which is actually a squash) and sweet potatoes. As a matter of fact, you can tell a lot about a food by its color. Orange hued foods are packed full of carotenoids which actually protect against the kind of DNA damage that happens with age.

Orange foods are also rich in vitamin A. One cup of pumpkin actually has 117% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A. Vitamin A plays an important role in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. Vitamin A also helps is to see in dim light and is essential for proper bone growth, tooth development and reproduction.

Most people think pumpkins are for decorating and whatever is in pumpkin pie comes out of a can. But, you can actually eat the "flesh" from the real thing! Try out this recipe I borrowed from Barbara Kingsolver's most recent, must-read book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollinsPublishers 2007).

Pumpkin Soup In Its Own Shell
  • 1 five-pound pumpkin (if smaller or larger adjust the amount of liquid): Cut a lid off the top, scoop out the seeds and stringy parts, and rub the inside flesh with salt. Set the pumpkin in a large roasting or deep pie dish.
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 quart milk or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves (use less if dried)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Pepper to taste
Roast garlic cloves whole in oven or covered pan on low heat, until soft. Combine with liquid and spices in a large pot, mashing the cloves and heating carefully so as not to burn the milk. Fill the pumpkin with the liquid and replace the lids, putting a sheet of foil between the pumpkin and its top so it doesn't fall in. (If you accidentally destroy the lid while hollowing the pumpkin, just cover with foil.) Bake the filled pumpkin at 375 degrees for 1-2 hours, depending on the thickness of your pumpkin. Occasionally open the lid and check with a spoon, carefully scraping some inside flesh into the hot liquid. If the pumpkin collapses or if the flesh is stringy, remove liquid and flesh to a blender and puree. With luck, you can serve the soup in the pumpkin tureen.

Enjoy a bowl full of this healthful harvest soup!

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