Last fall, a writer for New York magazine declared, "Pumpkin is the new bacon." Her point? Suddenly, it seems, every eatery from Dunkin' Donuts to critically acclaimed restaurants had something pumpkin on the menu.

But in some cases, only the flavor of the warm, yummy spices used to give this bland vegetable appeal were in-volved and no actual pumpkin was included. That was true particularly in over-sweetened, over-caloric drinks such as pumpkin latte.

My purpose is to keep pumpkin's popularity strong by using the real thing. As a healthful food, it's hard to top. Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, particularly alpha- and beta-carotene, and a half-cup of unsweetened, canned pumpkin provides three times the vitamin A in the FDA's recommended value.

In addition, all pumpkin is relatively low in carbs, while a half-cup of canned pumpkin contains 4 to 5 grams of fiber. Plus you get all this for just 40 calories in one half-cup serving. Nutritionally, that makes canned pumpkin hard to beat.

For many people, canned pumpkin also is hard to love or even to consider eating. But I have found the secret to enjoying canned pumpkin. Simply make it your "plus-one."

As this creamy, golden mac'n'cheese shows, canned pumpkin can be added deliciously to many dishes. Its taste and texture harmonize well with dairy foods, in tomato sauce and combined with fruits, particularly apples and pears.

Pumpkin itself, as a member of the squash family, is actually a fruit we eat as a vegetable. I also like it stirred into a pot of chili, particularly meatless versions, mixed with hummus or included in lentil soup.

Fresh pumpkin, diced into generous cubes, can take the place of butternut squash in stews or a Moroccan tagine. Also look for calabaza, a very large pumpkin-like squash with orange flesh that is moister and sweeter than pumpkin, which is so popular in Hispanic and Caribbean cooking.

And those warm pumpkin pie spices (such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and allspice) you like make perfect seasoning for many savory pumpkin dishes, so keep them in mind when cooking with pumpkin.

American Institute

for Cancer Research

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese


•n Canola oil cooking spray

•n 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

•n 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

•n 1 tablespoon canola oil

•n 8 ounces whole-wheat rotelle pasta

•n 1 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk

•n 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

•n 1 tablespoon flour

•n 1 1/2 cups sharp light

•(50 percent) Cheddar cheese

•n 1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin

•n 1/2 teaspoon mustard


•n 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

•n Pinch of cayenne pepper

•n 1/8 teaspoon ground

•nutmeg, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 6-cup baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

To breadcrumbs, add 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Add oil and toss to coat breadcrumbs, then set mixture aside.

Boil 4 quarts of water. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until slightly al dente. Drain in colander, and set aside.

While pasta cooks, heat milk until it steams, and set aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking slowly.

Off heat, gradually add milk while whisking to avoid lumps.

Return pot to medium-high heat and simmer sauce until it thickens to consistency of stirred yogurt, 3 minutes.

Add cheddar, remaining Parmesan cheese, pumpkin, mustard, black and cayenne peppers and nutmeg, if using, and stir until cheddar melts.

Mix in cooked pasta. Spread mac and cheese in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs over top.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are crisp and golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 289 calories, 9 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 37 g carbohydrate,17 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 307 mg sodium.

Servings: 6