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:
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:
#1 – PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
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
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!
#2 – PUMPKIN PIE
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 – HEALTHY HOT CIDER
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!