Hey there and welcome everyone to another installment of the Meal Plan. And so we’ve come to the last week of October. Halloween is this Saturday, and come Sunday we’ll be into November and getting ready for Remembrance Day. So for our final blog in the tenth month of the year, we’ll be following a similar style as our Thanksgiving blog. We’ll start off talking about Halloween itself before finishing off with some information about Halloween’s signature gourd, the pumpkin.

The history of Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve, traces its roots back to ancient Celtic culture. The ancient Celts held a holiday known as Samhain, which was celebrated at the end of their harvest season on November first, and consisted of harvesting their crops en mass. This is because they believed that, on October 31st, the worlds of the dead and living overlap, and the dead would come to their homes to ruin their crops, spread sickness, and other suck havoc.

To appease the spirits, the ancient Celts would leave food and wine outside their doors, or carved faces into turnips—known as Jack-o’-Lanterns—in the hopes of scaring the spirits away from their homes. The people also wore masks whenever they left their house so that they would be mistaken for spirits as well. This way the Celts kept their houses, crops, and themselves safe from the spirits mischief. Then, on Samhain, the Celtic druids would light huge bonfires and offer sacrifices to their gods, and in return they would be gifted with insight about the coming year.

When Christianity came to England and overtook the Celts, they turned Samhain into All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day. The day before became known as All Hallows Eve until it was shortened to Halloween as we know it today. In the 19th century, Irish and Scottish immigrants to America revived several of the then forgotten traditions of Halloween, such as Souling and Guising. Souling involved saints traveling door to door asking for pastries called soul cakes, and if given, they would pray for the people’s dead relatives. With Guising, children would dress up and accept gifts such as food, wine, and money from people in exchange for entertaining them with jokes, poetry, song, and dance. These two traditions would be combined into Trick or Treating as we know it today.

These days, Halloween is the second most profitable commercial holiday after Christmas. It’s estimated that the United States spends approximately six-million dollars on costumes, candy, and decorations. And among those decorations is the North American replacement for the turnip in the carving of Jack-o’-Lanterns: the pumpkin.

Pumpkins are among the largest members of the gourd family, generally growing between 4 to 6 kilograms in weight, and the largest usually weighing in at 25kg. Generally a pumpkin is orange in colour, but it can also develop green, brown, white, or even red colourings depending on the species. It is one of the most popular commercial crops grown around the world, both for its use in Jack-o’-Lantern carvings, and as a food source.

There are many health benefits in pumpkins to consider while you’re carving them this year. For starters, pumpkins are pretty low in calories. 100 grams of pumpkin flesh provides approximately 26 calories. It’s also rich in dietary fibers, which help in digestion and balancing out your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Pumpkins are also rich in Vitamin A, C, and E, which aid in vision, fighting off sickness, and strengthening your circulatory system respectively. Finally, the seeds of the pumpkin contain their own cornucopia of nutrients, including high protein contents and mono-unsaturated fatty acids.

I’m positive that everyone who has ever worked with pumpkins has tried either pumpkin pie or roasted pumpkin seeds at some point. Let’s face it, they are both amazing! However, these are just scratching the surface of pumpkin related foods.  We could do soups, pastas, loaves, cakes, muffins or cheesecakes, as proven in today’s recipe from food.com.  The Cheesecake Factory makes amazing cheese cakes.  I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy!

pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin Factory – Pumpkin Cheesecake

http://www.food.com/recipe/the-cheesecake-factory-pumpkin-cheesecake-by-todd-wilbur-46780

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 T sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste.
  • Put foil partway up the outside part of an 8-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes, and then set aside until you are ready to fill it.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 C sugar, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the filling into the pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top turns dark. Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool.
  • When the cheesecake has come to room temperature, put it into the refrigerator. Once chilled, remove the pan sides and cut the cake into 8 equal pieces.
  • Serve with a generous portion of whipped cream on top.
  • Makes 8 servings.

This past weekend I made some pumpkin cheesecake tarts using this very recipe – they were delicious!

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Have a safe and happy Halloween – see you next week!