By Libby Hopkins

Everyone has some form of a food addiction. Some may be addicted to pizza, while others are addicted ice cream. Me, I’m addicted to pumpkin. As soon as fall sets in, I begin my quest for all things pumpkin. If there is pumpkin in it or on it, I’m going to eat it! Now being addicted to pumpkin is not a bad thing. Pumpkins have many health benefits. They are a storehouse of vitamins, minerals and other healthy nutrients. Pumpkins owe their bright orange color to the high amount of carotenoids present in them. Carotenoids assist in staving off free radicals in the body and can help in preventing premature aging, cardiovascular diseases and other infections. Pumpkins seeds are a rich source of essential fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits. They provide protection against high blood pressure, arthritis and promote healthy skin as well as improving brainpower.

In addition to the health benefits, pumpkin tastes great. I’ve tried many pumpkin treats and drinks all over the Brandon area and so far, my favorite pumpkin drink comes from Sumatra Bistro in Brandon. I love their Pumpkin Latte. I’ve had it hot and cold; both are delicious. Michael Wahl is the general manager and chef at the bistro and he makes sure that all the pumpkins he uses to create various foods and drinks are bought locally.  “We try to use local seasonal products in all of our foods and pumpkins are in right now, so we have it on the menu,” Wahl said.

I have tried just about every pumpkin dessert there is in the area and my favorite is the Pumpkin Gooey Cake from Moreno’s Bakery in Brandon. It is amazing! Susan Moreno, who is the owner of the bakery, said she came up with the idea for her Pumpkin Gooey Cake after she and her husband were on vacation and had Vanilla Gooey Cake. “I love pumpkin pie and I thought it would be yummy to add pumpkin to the Vanilla Gooey Cake and turn it into a Pumpkin Gooey Cake,” Moreno said. Now, it is a best seller!

I have spent hours upon hours doing Internet searches to find new and different recipes that include pumpkin. My latest find was called “Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Shells.” They are pasta shells stuffed with ground beef and spinach topped with a pumpkin and cheddar cheese sauce. I thought they tasted good, but then again, I am a pumpkin addict and to me, everything tastes good with pumpkin!  Moreno’s Bakery is located at 906 West Robertson Street. Sumatra Bistro is located at 1602 Oakfield Drive.

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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.