The following is by contributor Christen Babb.
Pumpkins inspire me. They are truly one of nature’s blank canvasses.
Pumpkins are best known for their ability to be carved into a myriad of artistic masterpieces, decorating the doorsteps of homes across America. However, this ever-versatile gourd can also play the starring role in both savory and sweet foods – from soups and raviolis to pies and even ice-cream!
Since I grew up not celebrating Halloween, I tend to associate pumpkins with the latter: food. Not only are they extremely versatile in recipes, their nutritional value is often underestimated. Known as a “superfood“, pumpkins pack a punch of B-vitamins alongside their mellow, inviting, and quintessentially American flavor.
Using pumpkin as my inspiration , I’m bringing you a nutritious and delicious pumpkin-packed meal: Healthy Chicken Bites (with Pumpkin!) + Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta Fries + Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
Healthy Chicken Bites (with Pumpkin!)
Add some Fall flair to proverbial chicken nugget by dredging them into a pumpkin puree before breading and baking. (Shhhhhh, your kids don’t even have to know. )
Photo by NurtureBaby
:: 2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
:: ½ cup All Purpose flour
:: 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
:: ¼ tsp. salt
:: ¼ cup pumpkin puree (if you used canned, make sure it’s plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling)
:: Water (a couple of tablespoons)
:: 1 cup panko bread crumbs
:: Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Line three small bowls next to each other, as if in an assembly line. In the first bowl, mix flour, poultry seasoning and salt. In the second bowl, mix pumpkin puree and water together until it is about the consistency of baby food. In the third bowl, pour in the panko bread crumbs.
Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, then coat with the pumpkin puree, and finish by enrobing in panko. Place chicken bites on cookie sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes until cooked thoroughly.
Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta Fries
Crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle, these are a satisfying yet healthy alternative to fries. They’re not overly “pumpkin-y” so they appeal to both kids and adults.
:: Cooking spray
:: 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
:: 1 cup lowfat milk
:: 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
:: 1 tsp. salt
:: 1 tsp. fresh thyme
:: 1 cup yellow cornmeal
:: 1 cup pumpkin puree (if you used canned, make sure it’s plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling)
:: 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Line a large 9 X 11 pan with parchment or wax paper, spray with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium stock pot, bring chicken stock and milk to an “almost” boil. (Don’t let it come to a full boil, as the milk will quickly boil over on your stove top.) Add olive oil, salt, and thyme. Turn down heat to low and add cornmeal while stirring constantly to avoid clumps. Add pumpkin puree and cheese , continuing to stir. Cook on low for about 5-6 more minutes.
Pour hot polenta mixture into lined pan spreading out to make an even layer. Allow to cool and then place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the prepared polenta into long strips, like fries. Place “fries” onto greased cookie sheet and bake in oven for 20-25 minute, until crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Serve alongside chicken bites for a healthy and delicious meal.
And last but not least, try the Oatmeal Pumpkin Bars. Complete your pumpkin inspired meal than with this healthy sweet treat, packed with B- vitamins and whole grains.
I’d like to hear from you! Do you have any creative uses for pumpkin – whether food related or otherwise?