Birdsong of Masada

The clear, haunting notes of a songbird pierce the chilly breeze at the top of Masada.  Perched on a rock ledge, I notice what looks like a cousin of the red-winged blackbird that inhabits the summer cattails surrounding the pond back home. He looks directly at me, cocking his head in that strange, questioning way of one creature attempting to comprehend another.  We lock eyes for only a few seconds, but he and I both understand the unspoken eternity locked in that one moment.

A small group of us have come to Israel to see the land and people that make up so much of the historical background of our faith.  Almost everything we have gazed at or walked upon was ancient long before Columbus set sail for the New World.  The scope of Hebrew history – the ancient port of Jaffa, the sacrificial altars at Tel Dan, the ruins of a second-temple synagogue on the Sea of Galilee, the 1967 Syrian trenches along the Golan Heights border, and the colorful collage of Jews, Muslims, and Christians with their separate and unique, yet interwoven cultures mingling on the streets of Jerusalem – is so alien and, yet, eerily familiar to pilgrims coming to the Holy Land.

Named after Isaac’s youngest son, Jacob, Israel has been the focal point of conflicts throughout history.  The Canaanites, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moslems, Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks and British all laid claim to this land at one time.  Strategically situated between Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea, the numerous conquering armies  left behind a variety of languages and cultures along with the ruins of their civilizations.

Biblical scriptures tell us that this land was given to the twelve tribes of Israel when they left bondage in Egypt with Moses.  Generations later, after the death of King Solomon, the mighty Hebrew empire split into two kingdoms:  the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah.  The Northern Kingdom, comprised of 9 ½ tribes (half of the Levites stayed with the Southern Kingdom), was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC and eventually dispersed throughout the world (known as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel). The Southern Kingdom, comprised of the remaining tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the other half of the tribe of Levi, was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the first Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed.  However, unlike the fate that befell the Northern Kingdom, they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and the land of Israel to build the second Temple seventy years later.  These people are the “Jews” referred to in New Testament scriptures, and are the lineage from whence came the Savior, Yahshua Messiah.

During the first century BC, the Kingdom of Judah, or Judea, lost its independence to the Romans.  The Jews rose up against the oppressive Roman rule in 66 CE.   The conquering Romans brutally responded to the Jewish rebellion, destroying the second Temple, slaughtering or enslaving the inhabitants and laying waste to Jerusalem.   Approximately 960 zealots escaped to a mountain fortress, called Masada, built years earlier by Herod the Great in 37 BC as a place of refuge for himself should conflict threaten his rule.

Masada is not mentioned in biblical scriptures, yet its history tells a dramatic story of a people’s struggle to remain free in the face of formidable odds. When the Romans were destroying Jerusalem, it is believed that some Jews were able to escape through a drainage tunnel leading from the Pool of Siloam at the foot of the Temple to just outside of the Western Wall.  Walking through the dark, narrow passageway must have been terrifying to those fleeing with only oil lamps to guide them.  The refugees that made it to the mountain fortress were able to live in relative security for three years, until the inevitable day came when 15,000 Roman soldiers breached its walls.  What the Romans found, however, was not what they expected.  Only one woman and a few children remained, the others having chosen suicide instead of slaughter or slavery.  Historian Josephus Flavius and archaeological finds provide evidence that the Jews drew lots and chose ten men to slay all of the rest.  After they had performed their grisly mission, the ten chosen executioners again drew lots to kill the remaining nine, the last man taking his own life.

Seventy years following the tragic events at Masada, the Jewish people rebelled again.  They were able to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel for three years before another defeat by the Romans.  The Roman Emperor Hadrian, in his effort to wipe out the identity of Israel-Judah-Judea, renamed the country Syria Palaestina.  The Jews that weren’t killed, enslaved or exiled remained to face persecution, indignities, deprivations and horrors.  Those that were sent into the Jewish Diaspora (dispersion or scattering) were likewise mistreated, the Inquisition and the Holocaust being the most infamous.

The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is nothing short of a miracle.  Today Masada is a symbol of national pride and courage in Israel as its memory evokes the declaration, “Masada shall not fall again!”  Perhaps this is the message that the bird was singing as he flew off the cliff, soaring freely in the updrafts from the valley below.

by: Debbie Reed

A Poor Woman’s Challenge

Yahshua said, “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living,” Mark 12:43-44.

I can relate to this verse because my financial situation is similar to what this “poor widow’s” probably was and, like her, I still tithe. I want to share my story to encourage believers not to forsake tithing because you think you can’t afford it or think that it’s an option.

I first learned of the Truth in 2010. After much study and research, I found Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry in the latter part of 2011. I made a commitment to this Assembly in early 2012 and was baptized at the Feast of Tabernacles later that year. Once I committed myself to Yahweh, I had to make a huge change in my life, which would include a large loss of income.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, nor was it a popular one with my family and friends, but if I was going to dedicate my life to Yahweh then it had to be a 100% dedication. I was not going to be a lukewarm believer as Yahshua warned the Laodicea Assembly in Revelation 3:14-21.   

In Matthew 19:16-26 Yahshua tells of a man who came and asked how he could have eternal life. Yahshua told him to obey all the commandments. The man said that he had done that since his youth but still lacked something. Yahshua told him to go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor and he would have treasure in Heaven. Well, the man walked away sorrowful because he had a lot of possessions and probably did not want to part with his riches. In verse 24 Yahshua said “…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Yahweh.”
For me, this chapter verified that I had to give up my life as it was, in order to have a life in Yahshua.  I’m not saying that everyone should go sell all they own or anything like that. My situation that I was in required that type of change in order to live according to Yahweh’s commands.

In my new life, I now live on quite a considerable amount less per month than what I used to get, less than some people get in a week.  Some months I may make more, depending on whether I get to work an extra job, but my normal income is much less. At first it was quite an adjustment, but as Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

So I have adapted. And on that income, I do tithe! After all, Yahweh tells us to! Leviticus 27:30 reads: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is Yahweh’s: it is holy unto Yahweh.” This means that we are to give to Yahweh the first 10% of whatever income we make by giving it to the ministry to support His work. Yahweh also says that if we don’t tithe then we are robbing Him. Malachi 3:8 says, “Will a man rob Elohim? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

I don’t know about you, but I surely don’t want to rob the Creator of the universe! So I give Yahweh His portion no matter how little that leaves me with. After all, Yahshua doesn’t promise us wealth in this life, but if we obey and follow Him then we will be blessed in the Kingdom. That is what I am looking forward to: life eternal in the presence of our Father and Savior.  If I have to sacrifice and live a very poor life on this earth, that’s okay; I can do that.

I’m sure you have figured out that I do not have a luxurious life, by far. Nor is it easy, but I can tell you this: since I made my commitment, I have not been in need of anything.
I have not gone hungry or without clothing and I have a roof over my head.
I have made it to each Feast, with the help of brethren.
Yahweh even replaced my computer with a new one when my old one broke down. When I was living in Pennsylvania, the internet was my only way of joining in for Sabbath services and keeping in touch with the Assembly. When one of my Sisters found out, her family got together and bought me a new laptop. It was hard for me to accept it, but they said that it was a gift from Yahweh to make sure I was able to watch Sabbath services, join in the Bible Study and to stay in touch. Yahweh’s blessings are beyond our understanding when we are faithful to Him. He makes a way when there seems to be none.

There are many other circumstances that Yahweh has gotten me through but my point is:  don’t think that you can’t tithe because you are poor. I am living proof that you can. When you do, Yahweh will make sure your needs are met.  He gives us everything we have so, actually, when we tithe, we are just giving Him back what’s His to begin with. And He’s letting us keep the majority of it.

There really is no excuse for a believer not to tithe, no matter what the situation is or how small your tithe might be. Every dollar counts when it comes to sharing Yahweh’s Word with the world. It’s a large task that YRM is committed to and they are doing a great job. I have never met such a selfless, caring, and dedicated group of people as this ministry has. But they can’t do it without the help of faithful, dedicated believers.

In closing I will say again, we can’t be half-hearted, partly committed or lukewarm in our worship and dedication to Yahweh. We must do our best to obey all of the commandments even when we think it’s impossible. Keep in mind what Yahshua said in Matthew 19:26: “But Yahshua beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with Yahweh all things are possible.”   

May Yahweh Bless You!

by: Dreama Simmons

why?

Why?

Anyone who has ever been around children knows that at about 3-4 years old their curious little minds begin wondering about all things around them and they start asking, “Why?”  It seems as if every sentence or command out of your mouth is in return punctuated with this question out of theirs.  Some are easily answered: “Why do birds have wings?”  Other queries, especially as the child gets older, are not so readily answered and might send the parent scurrying to see what Google says about the matter.  Soon, though children discover how to find the resources to answer their own questions.

If only finding answers to life’s questions was always that simple.  But somewhere along the journey, more complex and troublesome events occur and somehow the response to that little inquiry, “WHY!?”, is not so forthcoming.

There always seems to be some sort of glitch in this path of life that causes us to have to stop and wonder why  this event or that crisis is happening.  If there were some forewarning we could possibly take precautions, but alas, usually these happenings seem to come out of nowhere, blind-sighting us as they drop stumbling blocks in our way.

There are times that events happen in our lives, that we’re not sure why they’re happening at that moment; however, we can surmise the reason later on.  I will never forget an early December trip to Canada one year.  We had planned to travel through Buffalo, NY, and had a map in hand (these were pre-GPS days) to make certain the correct highways were followed.  After a while we began to see road signs indicating cities that we didn’t recognize as being on our route.   Upon closer scrutiny of the map, we discovered that somewhere (we never figured out where) we missed a turn-off and were now headed northward instead of northwest , 75 miles off our designated course.  We were too far along to backtrack so we just planned a different route.  Imagine our amazement, when  that evening we heard on the news that Buffalo, NY, had just experienced one of its worst snowstorms to date!  Sometimes it’s hours, but many times it weeks, months, or even years, until we have that “Aha!” moment.

And then there are those events that we just can’t figure out–a dramatic change in our lives, health issues, or a death.  There just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason.  In our minds there is nothing obvious or logical to what is occurring.  Paul states in 1 Cor. 13:12,  “….for we now see through a glass darkly.”  As humans we like things bundled up in nice, neat, little logical, controlled packages.  But we may have to come to grips with the fact that we might never know the reason behind it all, as well as the realization that we are not the ones in control.

What we do have to understand is that Yahweh is the One in control and sometimes He allows certain situations for different reasons.  Is what is happening a correction, a sort of, “let’s get back into line” kind of thing?  Possibly.  Are we being tested to see what our reaction will be?  Probably.  Is there a lesson to be learned?  Oh, you can count on it!  For Yahweh, dutiful parent that He is, does not let a teaching moment slip by.

Certainly, we ask our Why’s, our If’s, and our When’s.  We question if there’s something that we could have done or not done in the unchangeable past to have averted our situation.   We wonder when we’ll see “the light at the end of the tunnel,”  and we wonder if there is anything we can do that we haven’t already  tried to ease the position we’re in.  But we know that adversity helps build good character and that patience is a virtue, and so we are consoled  with these edifying thoughts.

Ultimately, though, we need to trust Yahweh whole-heartedly, knowing that He has our best interests at heart.  No, we may not always understand why Yahweh thinks the way He does, and Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Yahweh.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  But He is the Sovereign Ruler and He always knows what is best for us.  Yahweh has His own plans and His own time frame in which to accomplish them.  We just need to be patient (Lk 21:19), working out our own salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), and wait upon Yahweh (Lam. 3:26); and someday we may just find out: Why?

by: Debbie Wirl

hope

Our Hope

Don’t cry for me when

I’m gone;

For my heavenly Father and Savior,

They live on.

They’ve taken my spirit

To keep it safe

Until the time of the resurrection

When they will raise me up that day.

As you think of me,

I’m only asleep,

Just getting some needed rest,

So don’t weep.

I’ll wake up one day;

It won’t be long,

And we will all be together again

When His Kingdom comes.

Our Father and His Son planned this all out,

And if we change our life,

And conform to His, even though we die

As is appointed to man, we shall live.

The plan of salvation

Is so neatly laid out;

Straight and narrow is the way,

There is no doubt.

There will be no sickness,

No sorrow, no hunger or pain,

No drought or desert

For lack of rain.

Peace and plenty will

Be everywhere;

We will live in safety

Without worry or care.

Yes, Yah’s Kingdom is coming

And it won’t be long;

We will all be together

With the Father and Son.

by: Brenda Scott Riddle

simon

Simon’s World

He arrived somewhat portentously during a full moon on Friday the 13th with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.  The skillful ministrations of the four midwives in attendance made short work of the problem and a beautiful auburn-haired baby boy made his entrance into this life as we know it.  Simon was ecstatically welcomed with armfuls of love and visions of hope for his future.

Over the next several days, I watched and listened as Simon’s mother rocked him, sang songs and softly whispered to him of the discoveries and joys he would experience in his life ahead.  She told him of books he would read, foods he would relish, bicycles he would ride and rivers upon which he would canoe.  Simon’s mother spoke of people he would love, animals he would cherish, sunsets he would behold and laughter that would light up the wonderful world he had entered.

As Simon’s grandmother, I experienced gladness, pride and fulfillment along with the relief that I could enjoy my grandson without the parental dilemma of sleep deprivation. I look forward to the delightful duties of introducing Simon to our farm:  gathering eggs, milking cows, and harvesting honey from the beehives.  I dream of taking long hikes in the forest to identify birds and trees while foraging for edible plants.  I have blissful thoughts of baking Simon his first pumpkin pie and tucking him into bed on overnight visits.  I imagine sitting in the bleachers at his little league games and cheering each and every time he catches or hits a baseball.  So much happiness to come!

And, yet…what will our world be like as Simon grows?  He is off to a good start.  Blessed with good health, Simon has two parents who are educated, financially secure, married to each other and committed to loving, nurturing and protecting their young son.  In addition, Simon has two sets of doting grandparents, two older brothers and several aunts, uncles and cousins to round out his familial fortress.  Many children do not possess such blessings.

But, beyond the security of food, shelter, clothing, and family, what else will Simon need to give peace and purpose to his life?  I see the challenges ahead and know how trying they will be.  He will experience scrapes and bruises to his knees as well as to his heart.  He will face problems and be required to make choices.  He will also make mistakes and endure guilt.  There will be disappointments he will encounter and grief he will suffer.

Will Simon primarily seek entertainment and pleasure or will he find productive and virtuous activity to fill his days?  Will he spend most of his time cloistered and gazing at screens in a virtual world or will he find knowledge and satisfaction in the natural world around him? Will he follow the whims of the ever changing popular culture or hearken to a universal truth? Will he grow to be a man of integrity, compassion and faith?

I want Simon one day to find life’s meaning.  I want his zest for life to remain undiminished as he matures and encounters the emptiness that will eventually come.  I want Simon to know Yahweh.  And, knowing Him, he will heed His call.  And, heeding His call, he will not let the world turn him away.  And, by not turning away, not be lost in the void.

But, these are the musings and fears of a grandmother who forgets at times to trust in Yahweh and His purposes.  In prayer I will give my worries and trepidations to Him while I joyfully watch this precious boy grow.

by: Debbie Reed

fotprep

Feast of Tabernacles Preparation

Each year as the fiery days of summer begin to wane and thoughts enter into our minds of shorter days and cooler weather, a most wonderful event happens.  For eight complete days Yahweh commands us to leave our homes and live in temporary dwellings so that we can observe one of His pilgrim Feasts, the Feast of Tabernacles, along with the Last Great Day.

Symbolizing Yahweh’s millennial Kingdom and the “Great Beyond,” these days are important to Yahweh and therefore should be important to us as well.  While some may think this is an inconvenience and a hardship to disrupt their secular course of life for this short period of time, we who have kept these High Holy and interim days know otherwise:  it is indeed an enjoyable experience and truly a blessing.

Think of this as an opportunity to worship Yahweh, to get to know Him and His ways better, for eight days, without the encumbrance of this world.  It’s an occasion for fellowship, creating a bond of friendship and brotherhood with like-minded believers.  It is these friendships that help to bolster us when the winds of adversity blow our way and we struggle with the trials of this life. It’s a time to gain spiritual and emotional strength and fortitude in order to stay the course, especially through the dark days of winter until the next Feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes around in the spring.  Most importantly, though, Yahweh commands that we obediently observe these days, and so we should.

It’s still not too late to get prepared for this significant gathering.  At the very top of our priority list should be readying our hearts and minds to meet with Almighty Yahweh, as this is the ultimate reason for our attendance.

Concerning our temporal needs, below is a general list of items that you might find useful to scan through when packing. Of course, you’ll have to personalize your own list to suit your needs.  Since there is a generous mix of worship services and various indoor/outdoor activities throughout the Feast, you will need both dress clothes and casual attire.  Remember that autumn weather can be quite fickle at times, so be prepared for any type of weather and temperatures. Camping equipment and supplies will depend on the type of lodging in which you will be staying.

May you have a spiritually uplifting, joyful Feast of Tabernacles!

  •         Bedding

        – (sleeping bags, blankets, pillows)

  •         Towels / wash cloths
  •         Camp chairs
  •         Fluorescent lights
  •         Heater
  •         Tarps & ropes
  •         Personal care products
  •         Umbrellas
  •         First-aid kit
  •         Dress clothes

        – (ladies, remember your head coverings)

  •         Casual / sporty attire
  •         Rain boots
  •         Jackets
  •         Flashlights
  •         2nd tithe
  •         Bible / notebook
  •         Ice chestby: Debbie Wirl
usda organic

USDA – Organic

We all know there are compelling environmental reasons to choose organic food. Many of us buy organic out of a belief that it must be healthier. In terms of avoiding the potential toxicity of pesticide residues, it is. But the case for organic food actually being more nutritious has been harder to determine. Over the last few years, though, there has been a growing body of research demonstrating not only that organic food is better for us, but how.

Scientists haven’t yet demonstrated that all organically grown food is more nutritious than conventional. Studies have focused on individual crops, and even then there are so many variables that it is difficult to isolate the impact of organic management practices. Still, research on a variety of fruit and vegetable crops has shown that organic methods yield produce with higher levels of certain nutrients and other good things. Research has established, for example, that organically grown spinach, peppers, oranges, pears, peaches, strawberries, and tomatoes all have higher levels of Vitamin C than their conventionally grown counterparts. Other studies show significantly higher levels of antioxidants and other phytochemicals important for disease prevention.

So the research is beginning to back up what intuitively seems like it must be right: nix the noxious toxins, treat the soil well, and the resulting food will be more nutritious. But exactly why is this?  The first reason may be that plants respond well to the somewhat increased stress level found in organic systems.  It’s true: plants are less protected from weeds and pests in organic systems, and that puts a little more strain on them. Taken too far, the plants will not produce. There seems to be some optimal level of stress, though, where the plants’ response may be to produce more antioxidants. That turns out to be a boon for human health.

The second hypothesis on how organically grown produce comes to be more nutritious has to do with plants’ self-defense system. As insects start to gnaw on plants, the plants fight back by producing compounds to make the plant unsavory to insects and, like the antioxidants produced under stress, many of those compounds are good for us.

The above applies to produce, but the dairy story is equally interesting and possibly more impactful. The main known nutritional benefit of organic dairy is the high level of omega-3 fatty acids it provides. As many are aware, diets low in omega-3 but high in omega-6 fatty acids are linked to increased rates of many diseases, and increasing one’s level of omega-3s is a good thing for your health. In a study released last December, organic milk was shown to have a significantly lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than found in conventional milk, making it a very healthy choice. The reason is believed to be because in organic systems the cows are required to be on pasture longer, and the fresh grass they consume there leads to milk rich in omega-3s and low in omega-6s.  The pasture rule in the organic law was put there for the cows’ well-being, but it turns out that more time in pasture means healthier milk, so everyone wins. The study’s authors encourage people to leverage their findings to maximum benefit by minimizing the intake of foods high in omega-6s while also shifting some of their fat intake to full-fat, organic dairy products.

What’s good for the plants and animals is also good for humans and the environment. To learn more about organic research, visit Organic-Center.org.

by: Lora Wilson

abortion

A Mother’s Grief

The infant had died unexpectedly in the womb and the subsequent birth had been difficult.  I watched silently nearby as the mother hovered over the lifeless body of her daughter and leaned down to gently touch her face.   An unfathomable sadness emanated from her vacant, sunken eyes, she turned her head to look away in disbelief and pain.  It would be three days before she would eat or drink much of anything while she struggled to overcome the smothering grief.   Not knowing how to comfort her in this terrible loss, I placed my head against hers and cried.   Slowly I then led Fancy, my Guernsey cow, back to the barn to relieve her udders of the milk her calf would never suckle.

If a non-human creature can suffer such anguish over the death of her offspring, how can mankind, created in the image of Yahweh, condone abortion?

by: Debbie Reed

Yom Teruah

Yom Teruah

The way that thunder rolls across the sky from ten miles or more..you can count it coming as it rolls

Like shofars blowing from one tel to another tel

Across the land, across the whole world, how do we know; maybe across the universe

So comes Yom Teruah blasting, blowing, rolling

Like a wave across the lands made by Yahweh

From one end of the world the moon comes shyly rising

Till it shines in every place where it can be seen

With Jerusalem at the apex of that infinite moment

Of the calling of His bride to awake

by: Gayle Bonato

pumpkins

Clean Cuisine – Pumpkins

Mention the word “pumpkin” at any time of year, but especially in the fall, and most people can’t help but think of the enticing smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie wafting through the air.  In fact, so popular is this alluring smell, that many retailers have it on their shelves in the form of room sprays, body scents, and candles.

Native to the American continent, pumpkins are from the family of Cucurbitaceae, which also includes cucumbers, squash, and melons.  Scientifically speaking, they are considered to be a fruit, although seed catalogs will categorize them as vegetables. There are countless varieties of pumpkins, running the gamut from the small 2-5 pound “Baby Bear” to the 50-100 pound “Mammoth Gold,” or from the deeply ribbed “Fairytale” to the smoother skinned “Howden.”  Some have long necks, some are round, and some are more elongated.

Most often when someone thinks of eating pumpkin, it’s the orange to yellow-orange inside (although there are a few varieties that are white inside) that they’re thinking of.  However, this is one of those versatile foods, wherein not just the flesh is eaten, but the flowers, seeds, and peel can be consumed as well.  And it seems that each edible part is a powerhouse of nutrition.

Just like zucchini blossoms, pumpkin blossoms are also edible.  They are best the same day you pick them.  You will want to choose the thicker-stemmed male blossoms.  The female blossoms will have tiny little pumpkins growing at their base. If you don’t garden, you might be able to find these delicate blossoms (blooms) at your local farmer’s market.  Make sure these are grown organically since these fragile blooms are difficult to wash.  Most popular, it seems, are recipes wherein the blossoms are batter-dipped and fried, however, some prefer to eat these mildly sweet  flowers raw in salads, or stuffed with a cheese mixture and baked.  These delicate flowers are low in calories and are a good source of Vitamins A and C, as well as folate.

One of the things you will notice when cutting into a pumpkin is all the pulp and seeds.  Once separated, the pulp can be put into your compost pile, but the seeds can be rinsed (make sure all trace of the pulp is washed off), dried, and eaten raw or seasoned and roasted in a 170˚ oven for 10-20 minutes.  Also known as “pepitas,” these flat, asymmetrically oval seeds are packed with zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.  While the other parts of the pumpkin are fairly low in caloric value, the seeds pack a punch of 245 calories per 1 cup serving, which come mainly from protein and fats.  However, they provide beneficial amounts of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which can help to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good cholesterol (HDL) in your body.

At only 49 calories in a 1-cup serving and low on the glycemic value scale, the flesh and the rind of pumpkins are a powerhouse of nutrition, rich with the anti-oxidant beta carotene, Vitamin A, and potassium.  Personally, I have never considered eating the rind, but according to nutritional reports, the peel is just as healthy for you as the flesh, having the same amount of nutrients, along with significant amounts of magnesium and iron.  The orange-hued flesh is what most people think of when they consider eating pumpkin  or pumpkin-based foods.  Some people prefer to cook or bake the pumpkin themselves, claiming they get a much richer taste.  Others opt for the simplicity of opening a can of store-bought puree.

When I was growing up, almost without fail, my Mom would buy one or two neck pumpkins each fall to cook and make pumpkin pie.  So when I got married, I figured I’d do the same thing and every fall for the first five or six years or marriage, I would get some neck pumpkins, and start the time-consuming process of cutting, peeling (no, I didn’t use the rinds), cooking, and mashing.  I even tried the technique my Grandma had used of roasting the pumpkin first; still it was a long drawn-out procedure.  To top it all off, if the pumpkin didn’t cook down enough, there would be excess moisture, thus making the pies a bit on the “runny” side.  One day as I was expressing my frustration to my Mom, I asked her if she could give me any cooking tips that would help me in my dilemma.  She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Oh, Debbie, I don’t do that anymore…I buy the canned pumpkin.”  And from then on, so did I.

Cooking pumpkin isn’t difficult, though, it’s just time-consuming.  There are a few different methods, two of which are roasting and boiling.  You’ll need the large round variety for roasting.  Simply cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the pulp and seeds, then put the pumpkin on a baking sheet, skin side up, in a 300 degree oven for about an hour.   When soft, scoop out the inside and mash into a puree to use in pies or other baked goods, or add some brown sugar to eat as a side dish.

A second method is boiling.  After cleaning out the seeds and pulp, cut up the pumpkin into uniform cubes (peeling it is optional), put into a cooking pot and add a few inches of water (enough so the pumpkin doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pot, but not too much that you are left with a watery substance if mashing).  After bringing to a boil, simmer for about 30 minutes or until soft.  At this point you can season the cubes and eat as is or mash for any recipe calling for pumpkin.

I understand there are two other methods as well.  One method involves cutting off the stem of the pumpkin and roasting the entire fruit intact, then cleaning it out after it comes out of the oven and cools for a while.  The second method is to prepare it just like in the boiling process but to microwave it instead.

Once the pumpkin is cooked, there are a variety of ways you can prepare it.  Of course, there are the delicious baked goods– pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, just to name a few.  And lest we relegate this versatile food to only the “sweet” category, let’s not forget the “savory” side where there are pumpkin casseroles, soups, and dips.

Joyous eating!

PUMPKIN BISCUITS

2 cup flour

3 tbsp. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup butter

½ cup milk

2/3 c. pumpkin

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, & cinnamon into a bowl.  Cut in butter until the mixture looks coarse.  Combine milk and pumpkin.  Add to flour mixture.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board & knead gently a few times.  Roll out to ½” thickness.  Cut with a biscuit cutter.  Set biscuits 1” apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Yields 12 biscuits.

PUMPKIN BREAD

1 2/3 cups flour, sifted

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup shortening

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin   

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Grease a regular loaf pan 9 x 5 x 3 in. or use a non-stick coated pan & do not grease.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, & nutmeg. In a medium mixing bowl cream shortening, sugar & vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Stir in pumpkin mixture.  Stir in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with water until just smooth.  Do not overbeat.  Fold in nuts.  turn batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  until a cake tester inserted in center of bread comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Servings: 12

LIBBY’S® Famous Pumpkin Pie  

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell

Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.  Yield: 8 servings.

****Did you know….The original “pumpkin pie” consisted of slicing off the pumpkin tops, removing the seeds, filling the insides with milk, honey, and spices, and then baked in hot ashes.****

by: Debbie Wirl