Chock Full of Nutrition, Pumpkins Are Not Just For Jack-O-Lanterns

Let’s talk orange, and not the candy corn in the candy isles this time of year, I’m talking about bright orange versatile pumpkin. Ok, I’ve had my share of the colorful sugary candy, but now I am opting for the vitamin rich delicious orange pumpkin. The beauty of pumpkin is the way it can dress up cookies, pancakes, smoothies, soups, and much more. The options are endless. I looked up a recipe my daughter shared with me for oat filled delicious Pumpkin Pie Bars. I knew pumpkin was rich in vitamins, but I didn’t realize how amazing that Jack-O-Lantern could be until I read the article, What Are the Health Benefits of Pumpkins?, from MedicalNewsToday

The hefty orange orb can be eaten as a fruit or vegetable to pump up the vitamins and fiber in a multitude of dishes. Sweet or pie pumpkin varieties are best when baking with fresh pumpkin. Fresh is best, but canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) can also enhance your recipes. Consider adding a pumpkin delight to your bag of halloween tricks this year.

After reading about the benefits of pumpkin, I bought some canned pumpkin, since I already had a fresh winter squash to cook and wanted something an easy addition to some of my favorite pumpkin treats like Pumpkin Pie Bars and Pumpkin Coconut Flour Pancakes (I either made the pancakes or plan to). Find pumpkin recipes at:

Pumpkin Recipes to Delight Kids and Families This Fall

Delicious Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie Bars
Pumpkin Bars with Coconut Flour from Ambitious Kitchen
Sugar Free Keto Pumpkin Coconut Flour Pancakes

Pumpkin is the delightful fall squash that that can be enjoyed sweet or savory in a variety of dishes. Full of vitamins and fiber you can enjoy in treats, smoothies, soups, and more.

Gluten Flour Experiment

Our Observations on the four experiment
  • This experiment took much longer than expected.
  • With 3 of us each working with different types of flour, it was harder to compare. A 7-year-old was less patient than her 11-year-old brother with running water over the flour ball.
  • Max couldn’t wait to get the flour off his hands and did not want to taste anything.
  • Lexi, 7-years-old, loved the experiment. She enjoyed touching and comparing the dry flour, squeezing the wet flour, and she even tasted one of the gluten balls. She said it tasted awful! 
  • They both enjoyed reading about gluten and seeing how the flour changed. 
  • In our experiment, the whole wheat bread flour was slightly smaller than the unbleached all purpose flour. I expected the bread flour to have more gluten. 
  • We enjoyed doing the experiment.
The flour gluten experiment

The full experiment can be downloaded below. Make your own predictions and observations.

Science Experiment with Flour

Why is gluten so important? Without it, there would be nothing to hold the gas that makes bread rise.

Think of gluten as the rubber of a balloon: The stronger it is, the more gas it can hold. 

But stronger isn’t always better. For many baked goods, like pastries and pie crusts, it’s important to avoid gluten development.

That’s why different flours contain different amounts of protein, depending on how they are meant to be used. A high-protein flour will make a dough with strong gluten, good for hearty yeast breads. Pastry chefs, on the other hand, prefer low-protein flours that yield delicate, tender doughs. 

The following activity is a great way to get a feel for gluten, and to find out why using different flours can lead to such different results.

What you will need:

  • Two or three different flours made from wheat such as whole wheat bread flour, gluten flour, cake flour, pastry flour or all-purpose flour (You will need one cup, plus a couple pinches extra, of each flour type.)
  • whole wheat flour bread flour, all-purpose flour, other flour
  • water (1/2 to 3/4 cup for each flour you’ll be using)
  • bowls (one for each flour you’ll be using)


Which flour do you think will have more gluten?

Which flour do you expect will be softer?

Do you think the cooked gluten will taste like bread?

  1. Into separate bowls, measure out 1 cup of each of your flours. If your bowls look different, remember which one contains which type of flour. If not, label them. How do the different flours feel in your hands?
  • Slowly add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup water to the flour in each bowl stirring until the mixture holds together. Sprinkle the same flour on hands and work surface. Knead each mixture until it forms a soft, rubbery ball of dough. Let the dough balls sit for about 10 minutes.

3.      In the sink, run cold water over one of the dough balls. Be careful not to let the dough disintegrate; try cupping your hands around the ball and squeezing gently to remove the starch. With low-gluten cake or pastry flours, you may want to put the dough in cheesecloth in order to hold it together.

4. You’ll notice the water turning milky as it washes away the starch in the dough. Keep pouring out the cloudy water that collects in the bottom of the bowl. Slowly, your dough ball will become a gummy, slimy network of gluten strands.

5.      When the water no longer becomes milky, you know there’s no more starch in the dough, leaving nearly pure gluten. Notice how much smaller your ball has become—and how much more stretchy!

6.      Repeat steps 3 to 5 for each of your flour types. How does the texture of each one differ as you wash away the starch? Does it take the same amount of time for each one? Are the gluten balls all the same size, or are some larger than others?

7. Now try baking your gluten balls in the oven for about 15–30 minutes at 450°F. When you take them out of the oven, you’ll notice they’ve puffed up and hardened, which is exactly what happens to the gluten in a loaf of bread as it bakes

When you knead dough, you help two proteins in wheat flour, gliadin and glutenin, form gluten. But flour also contains many other components—starch, lipids, sugars, and enzymes—that contribute to the consistency and nutritional value of bread. When you run water over dough in this activity, you wash away most of these other substances, isolating the gluten in the dough. In the oven, the steam produced as the gluten heats up expands the ball. Finally, the gluten hardens, and you have a finished gluten ball.

In baking, gluten is mainly used for the light texture and distinct taste it gives bread. But it’s also nutritious in its own right. It is, after all, almost pure protein. And because of its chewy texture, many people—especially vegetarians—find it to be an excellent addition to stir-fries and stews.

The gluten you extracted in the previous activity is technically edible.

Gluten experiment taken from:

Scrumptious Science: Great Gobs of Gluten

Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Gluten

We Love Pancakes!

Don’t judge me on my photography. The pancakes are delicious!

My daughter recently visited from Colorado and brought some of her sourdough starter that she has been feeding for years. I was amazed at the care she put into the sourdough bread she made for us. It was amazing! Since I didn’t have a pan for making the bread, Jenn used a pizza stone and the lid to my roasting pan with foil on one end to cover the exposed loaf. Sometimes you just need to improvise to make great bread. The sourdough bread made with starter is much easier to digest because the mix of flour and starter ferments the dough. I told my daughter she could leave the sourdough starter, and I was sure I would make sourdough pancakes. I was not sure if I would be diligent enough to make bread. It is easier to think about swimming on a sizzling July day on the west coast than it is to think about baking bread.

A week after Jenn left, I took out half of the sourdough starter (the discard) and fed the rest. If you are not familiar with sourdough, this may sound foreign to you as it did to me as a novice. But bear with me, I will share a favorite pancake recipe below that doesn’t require sourdough. Now, on with my story. I didn’t want to throw away the discard, so I looked up a recipe for pancakes and made Sourdough Discard Pancakes

The pancakes were delicious. As the recipe says, you don’t need a full cup of sourdough for amazing pancakes. Since I had only ¼ cup of sourdough discard, I decided to add a very ripe banana that needed to be eaten. I used 1:1 gluten free flour, added a little more vanilla, a dash of milk, and a couple of sprinkles of cinnamon.

These pancakes work very well when mixed the night before. So, the next day, I added some leftover pumpkin and more cinnamon. The result was amazing Gluten Free Banana Pumpkin Sourdough Pancakes. I like to experiment with recipes and add tasty nutritious ingredients. I need time for my writing and coaching business, so I often simplify recipes. Here is the recipe simplified with additions.

Gluten Free Banana Pumpkin Sourdough Pancakes
  • 2 C flour or 1:1 gluten free flour (I like King Arthur)
  • Up to 1 cup sourdough discard 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 1 ¾ – 2 C milk (or milk substitute)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TBS light oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice if desired)
  • Optional additions: banana, pumpkin, blended or grated carrots


Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (may be a little lumpy)

Cooking options: 

For crispier edges, cook pancakes in a buttered preheated cast iron pan.

For a softer pancake using less fat, I cooked pancakes in a dry green pan slightly preheated.

Gluten Free Blender Pancakes are a favorite quick gluten free pancake recipe. This is an excellent oil free recipe, but I enjoyed adding 1 TBS coconut oil and a carrot. If you love pancakes like we do, let us know how you enjoy your pancakes with added toppings or ingredients.

Colorful Vegetables A-K

Each vegetable color provides its own unique flavor, texture, and nutrition. Look for lots of color in your shopping bag and on your plate. When you get accustomed to a colorful plate, you will notice when it looks a little bland, and wonder what colors you want to add. Color is fun! Enjoy a rainbow of colorful vegetables. Here is a sampling.

Vitamin A beta carotene

Vitamin A beta carotene Helps form healthy teeth and bones and ward off bacterial and viral infections.

Vitamin B (folate)

Helps your brain function and supports your metabolism. Eat raw or steam to maintain the most folate.

Vitamin C

Helps you heal and protects against infections.

Vitamin E 

Protects your cells and helps you use vitamin K to repair muscle cells.

Vitamin K

Helps prevent excessive bleeding and maintain strong bones.

Vegetable Kids Cards are available from the author. Contact Nancy J. Miller. Add Colorful Vegetables Kids Will Love to every meal.

Share your favorite vegetables and how you love to eat them.

Nona’s Homemade Pasta Sauce

Blend on High speed

Blend together with seasoning (to taste) and vegetables:

3 (16 ounce) cans diced tomatoes 

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 med carrot cut in pieces

1 bunch spinach

Seasoning quantity will very with fresh, ground, or flakes.

Other vegetable options (be creative):

¼ bunch broccoli

1 wedge purple cabbage

Put blended ingredients in a medium to large crockpot and add:

2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) & ground pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (optional)

2 bay leaves (optional) take out before serving

If desired add:

1 ½ lbs ground beef or turkey cooked int 2 TBS olive oil with 1 medium chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic

Cook in the crockpot for 6 hours on high or 12 hours on low.

Make your own Italian Seasoning mix

2 tablespoons dried basil

2 tablespoons dried marjoram

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Seasoning with a zip

3 tsp oregano flakes crushed

½ tsp powder oregano

1/2 tsp rosemary flakes crushed

½ sage

2   cloves garlic

2 tsp garlic salt

¼ ea chili powder/paprika

2 bay leaves

Garlic Parmesan Pasta


  • 120ml (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 220g (8 oz.) fettuccine or angel hair pasta (cooked and drained)
  • 360ml (1 1/2 cups) broccoli floweretts (cooked tender-crisp)
  • 3 Tbsp. walnuts (chopped )
  • fresh, grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the basil, lemon juice, garlic powder and seasoned salt, blending well.
  3. Add the fettuccine, broccoli, walnuts.
  4. Blend well and toss to coat the fettuccine.
  5. After tossing, add fresh grated Parmesan cheese to top off the dish.

This article uses material from the Wikibooks article “Cookbook:Garlic Parmesan Pasta“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.