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As the Fall season kicks in, it’s easy to focus on the shorter days and look ahead with dread to the impending arrival of winter.

But let’s live in the moment, shall we?

Here in Connecticut we’ve had a run of beautiful dry days with crisp nights perfect for sleeping. After two less-than-spectacular leaf seasons due to the hurricanes, this year there’s an ever-changing visual cacophony of scarlet, yellow and orange trees, bushes and vines out there to enjoy. This show is totally free!

And speaking of orange, one of the best things about this time of year is the fabulous PUMPKIN.

The pumpkin is a real North American food, introduced to newbies to these shores by the Native Americans. I found some fascinating information about pumpkins on the web site of a small farm in California. If you like to do sustainable gardening, read the information on how they used to grow the “three sisters” together: corn, pumpkin and beans.

Every year my older daughter Lauren and I anxiously await the arrival of all the pumpkin products at Trader Joe’s: pumpkin butter, pumpkin chai, granola bars, biscotti and more! I can’t think of anything that doesn’t taste better with pumpkin added, sweet or savory.

Throw some in your morning smoothie and your body will thank you – check out the nutritional punch this stuff packs:

1 cup of cooked pumpkin yields:
Calories 49
Protein 2 grams (not too shabby)
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg
Vitamin A 2650 IU (wow!)
Vitamin E 3 mg

Traditional Chinese Medicine sees winter as the Yin time of year: cold and damp. Traditional Chinese doctors prescribe warming strategies, including warming herbs & spices. I think there’s a natural tendency to crave the warming spices come autumn: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves, for example. These all naturally complement pumpkin. But often a lot of sugar and fat is added to the pumpkin + spice combo for baked goods and desserts. Here are some healthier variations on pumpkin classics:


Around our house, a fall favorite recipe is pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I created this paleo version of an old recipe I used to make for my kids which is lower in fat and sugar, higher in fiber, healthy fats and protein and adapted for gluten free and Paleo type diets. As before, if you are vegan, substitute 1/4 cup chia seeds you’ve soaked in hot water for 10 minutes per egg/egg white.


1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 coconut flour
1/4 arrowroot flour
Heaping Tablespoon of Flaxseed Meal (Omega-3)
1 TSP Baking Powder
1 TSP Baking Soda
1/2 TSP Salt
1/2 TSP Vietnamese Cinnamon
1 Cup Pecans Toasted in Oven for 10 mins
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Coconut Sugar
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Butter or Apple Butter
1 Cup High Quality Dark Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1 Cup Pumpkin Puree


Preheat oven at 375º. Toast pecans for 10 mins in the oven. Leave oven on for baking. Take all dry ingredients besides coconut sugar in a mixing bowl, use wire whisk to stir thoroughly. In a mixer, cream together coconut oil and eggs then add coconut sugar and beat until fully mixed. Next, add your fruit butter and pumpkin puree and continue to mix. Add dry ingredients 1/3 at a time and beat just until mixed – do not overbeat. Finally, add chocolate chips and pecans and blend briefly til mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Place mixture into a mini muffin tin and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes. Tops should be dry and toothpick come out clean.
Remove from oven, try to let them cool a bit and enjoy!!! See our picture above for our results!

Want to up the health factor of your pumpkin pie? Here’s an Paleo version courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers, The Paleo Mom:
You can also just cook the pumpkin filling in a ramekin placed in an inch of hot water.

3 white tea bags
a handful of dried apples
a large apple slice with 6 cloves pressed in
a cinnamon stick
a star anise
Steep for 5 minutes. Add optional sweetener (I use a couple of drops of Sweet Leaf liquid stevia) and/or a couple of drops of natural caramel flavor.
Put some in a mug and go see some leaves!

Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and feedback on these! I’d love to hear how these are working out for everyone. Have a great week!

Dr. Nolfo

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yum!! These sound so good for a Fall treat! I might try to make some for the office – guilt free, right?!?


    October 22, 2013
    • They’re delicious! Definitely try them out! Thanks so much for reading!

      October 25, 2013
  2. Patti P. #

    Where do we find the unusual ingredients? I’d guess these are only available at health food stores?

    October 24, 2013
    • I did get them at the health food store or at a food co-op in New Haven (I shop both places). Actually some of the grocery stores carry these flours now, like our local Stop and Shop. Bob’s Red Mill Brand has them. You can use plain almond flour, the easiest onet to get, but the muffins are much densier. These have the texture of muffins made with wheat flour. You can mix up a batch of the flour in these proportions and use in any muffin recipe (or pancakes). Hope that help.s

      Emily Nolfo

      October 24, 2013
    • The Stop & Shop in Madison has a fantastic organic and natural foods section where you can find virtually all of these ingredients. I recommend checking it out and exploring, they have lots of great products for very reasonable prices. Anything you can’t find there, you’ll find at FoodWorks in Guilford. Thanks for reading Patti!

      October 25, 2013
  3. Everyone at the Halloween office party loved these and a number of people asked for the recipe! I am making a double batch for Thanksgiving since it’s a large crowd and I know everyone will love them! It’s great that one of my nephews who has celiac disease and is autistic will be able to enjoy them as there are so many foods the rest of us eat that he can’t. My sister-in-law serves him “special food” for every meal and I know she will enjoy this recipe as well. Thanks & can’t wait to try your recipe for healthy hot apple cider!

    November 15, 2013
    • So great to hear that my recipe was such a success for you guys! My daughter Mariella got a kick out of this reply too as she works with many children with special needs who have extremely sensitive diets — we’re both pleased to hear the recipe had that added benefit. I’ll have many more recipes like this being posted in the coming weeks so keep reading and please – if you know of anyone else that might enjoy reading the blog be sure to pass us along! Hope you have a great weekend and holiday, Hilary. – Dr Nolfo

      November 15, 2013
  4. I made these pumpkin choc chip muffins for Thanksgiving for 25 family members & everyone loved them! The “Gluten Free” people were so grateful that I had brought them, as was everyone else. Thanks so much for coming up with this delicious recipe – the muffins are just the right size too! I’m sending around an email with a link to your blog to make it easy to give people the recipe & others in the future. Hope you & your family had a great holiday!

    November 29, 2013

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