Pumped

There hasn’t been much cookery around these parts lately.

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The extent of meal preparation has involved making banana berry smoothies,  a loaf of peanut butter and jelly’s and eating frozen edamame straight from the bag.

Its been delicious.

But then fall came and smacked me in the face.

And suddenly freezing all of my super ripe bananas for smoothies and banana ice cream seemed irrelevant.

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Pumpkin isn’t allowed in any form until at least September.

A strict rule that I never adhere to.

But now I at least feel less awkward about drinking pumpkin lattes by the half gallon.

Get ready for four months of pumpkin madness.

Starting with butter.

Banana Maple Pumpkin Butter

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BANANA MAPLE PUMPKIN BUTTER

2 very ripe bananas

1   (15 oz.)  can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food process and puree until smooth.

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Pour into a small pot over medium-low heat and cook for about 30 minutes or until thick.

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Fall is here.  

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GET PUMPED!

Can Do

I spent ages of 12-17 perfecting my image.

I didn’t want to be the stereotypical girly-girl so I wore black leather Doc Martin boots

and demanded my parents buy me a truck with stick shift

and joined the boys wrestling team.

I also threw out super tough sounding phrases like

“Open up a can of whoop-ass.”

As in, “if  you keep making fun of me for getting pinned in 8 seconds, I’m going to have to come over there in my spandex wrestling singlet and open up  a can of whoop-ass.”

I never actually beat anybody up though.

I didn’t want to get in trouble before cheerleading season started.

My teen years were one long identity crisis.

My image is much softer now.

Now I do yoga

and wear aprons

and bake cookies.

 I can still open up a can of whoop-ass though.

(Source)

But with this recipe, it’s more like opening up a can of kick ass.

Times two.

Much like a cheerleader joining the wrestling team, you wouldn’t expect to see pumpkin and refried beans hanging out in the same recipe, but I’ve pinned down the perfect way to enjoy it: combined with chili seasoning and stuffed into a burrito. 

Pumpkin and Refried Bean

Burritos

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin

1 (16 oz) can vegetarian refried beans

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin seed (optional)

salt, to taste

6-8 large flour tortillas

Add refried beans, pumpkin, and seasonings to a large bowl.

Mix thoroughly.

Scoop about 1/2 cup of mixture onto warm tortilla.

We interrupt this regular scheduled recipe for a…..

BURRITO ROLLING LESSON!

Fold over the sides of the tortilla.

Then fold over the bottom.

Then roll.

Be sure to tuck the edges in as you go.

Ta da!

Serve with chopped peppers, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce.

Got a can of pumpkin?

Forget the stereotypical sweet breads and pies.

Open up a can of kick ass and makes some burritos.

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A League of Their Own

Fall is here.

School is in session.

The air is turning chilly and crisp.

Colored leaves are peppering the lawn.

Football season has begun.

And I’ve lost my husband to a fantasy football league.

Well, husband, while you’ve been nerding it up on the computer and making your draft picks, I’ve been putting together a little fantasy league of my own.

THE FALL FOOD FANTASY

LEAGUE

1. Pumpkin

2. Apples

3. Butternut Squash

4. Cinnamon

5. Apple Cider

6. Maple Syrup

7. Acorn Squash

8. Seasonal Brews

9. Molasses

10. Pears

SECOND STRING

11. Ginger

12. Walnuts

13. Candy Corn

14. Sweet Potatoes

15. Caramel

16. Cranberries

THE WILD CARD:

17. Coconut

Our team colors are orange, red, and brown.

We call ourselves the Harvesters.

The players have had some solid practices and are ready for kick-off.

Are you ready for some football  food ball?

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Pumpkin + Beer = Winning

Beer and books.

Two of my favorite things got together for a party.

Fordham Brewing Company celebrated their fall release with a pumpkin packed event that supported the local library.

The festivities included a brewery tour, punkin’ chunkin’,  pumpkin carving, taste testing, and a pumpkin recipe contest.

I’ve been drinking working hard to come up with the perfect pumpkin dessert.

A peanut butter cookie base

meets a thick, rich spiced pumpkin filling

and gets topped with peanut butter cookie crumbles, roasted peanuts, and peanut butter chips.

.In case you weren’t aware, peanut butter and pumpkin go together like beer and books.

There are quite a few ingredients and steps to this recipe, but once you taste these squares, you will be hooked!

The layers of peanut butter cookie and pumpkin collide to make a soft bar that adds a new twist to traditional pumpkin desserts.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Squares

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

For bottom layer:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

½ cup white sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

½ cup  peanut butter

½ teaspoon vanilla

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add peanut butter and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture and stir until combined. Dough will be soft. Spread half of dough in bottom of 9 X 9 inch pan.

For Pumpkin Filling:

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 egg

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

¼ cup maple syrup

                                                                                                   ¼ cup evaporated milk

Combine sugar and pie spice. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in pumpkin and maple syrup. Gradually add evaporated milk. Pour over peanut butter crust.

 For topping:

Combine remaining half of dough with ½ cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup chopped peanut butter chips and  ¼ cup ground peanuts. Dough should be crumbly. Sprinkle over pumpkin mixture.

Bake 45 minutes or until topping starts to crisp.

The salty, buttery bars paired perfectly with the mildly spiced harvest ale and I’m proud to say they were awarded third place in the recipe contest.

It was a night of good beer, good conversation and a lot of local love.

It was a night of pure beerfection.

Spice Girl

There may be a pumpkin shortage again this year.

I survived an earthquake, a hurricane, and my husband’s obsession with America’s Got Talent

but I can not survive without pumpkin.

I made sure to stock up.

I apologize to the seven customers waiting behind me to get their stake on the claim, but I was there first and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Try the baby food section.

Maybe you can buy 50 of those little jars and use that instead.

And don’t think I didn’t report your little threat to throw down at the cart corral to the store manager.

I turned around to grab several jars of pumpkin pie spice just in time to see grandma molasses dropping the very last jar into her cart.

Time stopped.

I thought about punching her in the kidney and running like a bat out of hell to the checkout

but I didn’t really have time to get arrested and go to jail.

I mean, my husband would be pretty peeved if I just showed up to his work like that.

I would just have to make my own pumpkin pie spice at home. That should be easy enough.

Except there are about 27,000 variations of pumpkin pie spice.

I don’t know why I thought there would be some sort of universal recipe.

There were some with three, four and five different spices.

Some had nutmeg and some had none.

Some had cloves and others didn’t.

Some made a huge batch and some made one pie.

I know nothing about spice combinations.

What the nut, Meg?

After trying about seven different recipes and accidentally using allspice instead of cinnamon in one horrific batch,

I finally came up with this blend.

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE

1/4 cup cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Mix thoroughly and store in air-tight container.

Makes about 1/2 cup or enough for 8 pumpkin pies.

Whole latte love

Here’s my morning.

Wake up. Hydrate. Nibble. Work-out. Make coffee. Brush teeth. Shower. Get dressed. Put on make up. Drop make up all over dresser coating it in ivory powder. Cuss. Remove turban towel from head and dry hair. Flat iron already pin-straight hair. Burn self on flat-iron. Cuss. Hairspray for a solid 35 seconds while simultaneously killing the o-zone layer. Find glasses. Find phone. Switch purse to match outfit. Kiss sleeping husband. Stub toe. Cuss. Locate sweater to retain body heat in the arctic tundra that is my office. Let dogs out. Pack lunch. Pack breakfast. Pack coffee to go. Boot up computer. Cuss because it’s taking 7 minutes. Check e-mail for four seconds. Let dogs in. Gather the 18 Tupperware containers I’ve packed for the day. Try to open and lock door without dropping the ridiculous amount of Tupperware I’m trying to balance with my cute, matching bag. Start car and pray the stupid engine light will magically go off. Make the hour-long commute to work.

Upon arrival, I’m taunted with the wafting aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.

Of course.

It’s pumpkin latte season.

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To-go cups are filled with the essence of fall and my nostrils are filled with the spicy combination of sweet pumpkin and strong espresso.

Unfortunately,  frazzled mornings and a meager budget don’t allow for such indulgences on a weekly basis.

Starbucks uses espresso, milk, and pumpkin flavored syrup to create their famed fall beverage.

I make my own using real, honest to goodness packed pumpkin.

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That’s right. I make my own latte using real pumpkin! It might sound unusual, but once it gets all blended up, it’s like pumpkin pie in your mouth every morning.

I like to use flavored soy milk and molasses but you can use regular milk and the sweetener of your choice. Personally, I prefer the creaminess of the soy and the brown sugar flavor provided by the molasses.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

1  cup (8 oz)  light vanilla soy milk, warmed

1/2  cup (4 oz)  strong, fresh-brewed coffee

2 heaping tablespoons pumpkin puree

1-2 teaspoons molasses

1/4-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place all ingredients in blender to combine.

Makes one 12 ounce serving.

Tidbit: The blender makes it nice and frothy! No espresso machine required!

This clocks in at about 90 calories if made with light soy milk and 2 teaspoons of molasses.

Just for fun, I thought it would be fun to check out the stats on a pumpkin spice latte from the ‘bucks.

16 oz. grande pumpkin spice latte with 2% milk and whipped cream:

380 calories

13 grams of fat

49 grams of sugar

YOWZA!

Drink this everyday and you’ll be as round as a pumpkin by Thanksgiving.

If you’re buying, stick with a 12 oz. beverage with skim milk and no whip for a much more reasonable 130 calories, zero fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

Orange Crush

Me: Knock knock

You: Who’s there?

Me: Banana

You: Banana who?

Me: Knock knock

You: Who’s there?

Me: Banana

You: Banana who?

Me: Knock knock

You: Shut the eff up.

No!

Wait!

I was going to say something clever like ‘orange you glad its fall?’

I have an affinity for orange foods.

At one point during my last grocery adventure, I peered down into the cart and it was filled almost entirely with orange items:

Cantelope

Papaya

Oranges

Carrots

Peaches

Pumpkin

Squash (butternut, acorn and spaghetti)

Sweet Potatoes

I had to buy some parsley just to balance out the color a little bit.

I hope you like orange as much as I do because it’s going to be a regular in the fall line-up.

I welcomed September with my all-time favorite soup recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is a little labor intensive, but the extra time and effort results in a velvety smooth and flavorful soup. The tartness from the apples and cider balance out the butternut squash nicely.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple

(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)

2 large butternut squash

2 Honey Crisp apples, peeled and sliced (or Granny Smith)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, sliced

2 cups vegetable stock

1-2 cups apple cider

2 teaspoons curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

To prepare squash:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half length-wise and remove seeds. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Pour 1-2 cups of water on baking sheet (make sure it has a raised lip), being careful not to spill when placing in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing skin.

Tidbit: Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out.

While squash is cooking:

Saute onion and apple in a large stock pot with oil until translucent, using a little vegetable stock if necessary. Add butternut squash and 1-2 cups vegetable stock, stirring to combine. Blend mixture using immersion blender or blender (will need to be done in batches) and return to stove to simmer. Add curry and 1-2 cups apple cider until desired consistency.  Serves 8-10.

I took a break from soup making to indulge in a pumpkin pie smoothie.

1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1 tsp molasses + sprinkle pumpkin pie spice. Blend. Feel free to up the sweet factor by using sweetened vanilla yogurt and extra molasses.

Later,  I tried my hand at creating my own recipe for pumpkin cookies.

I envisioned some sort of crazy pumpkin coconut concoction with a “pumped up frosting.”

I couldn’t decide which version I liked the best so I present you with

Pumpkin Cookies 3 Ways

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (ya, know, like  the good ol’ Libby’s kind)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut or canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, oil, pumpkin and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll about a tablespoon sized amount of dough into a ball and place on greased cookie sheet. Use hand to flatten slightly. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Makes 32 cookies.

The cinnamon scented cookies are sweet enough on their own but here’s 2 fun frosting additions.

Pumpkin Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Mix thoroughly and spread on cooled cookies.

Pumpkin Coconut Frosting:

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut  or canola oil

Mix thoroughly and spread on cooled cookies. Top with additional coconut if desired.

*Note: I did not frost all of the cookies because I wanted the variety. You may need to double glaze or frosting recipes.

Clockwise from left: Pumpkin cookie with coconut frosting, pumpkin cookie with pumpkin glaze, plain pumpkin cookie.

Tidbits: If you can not find whole wheat pastry flour, go ahead and use all-purpose flour.

Coconut oil has a very distinct flavor and contains a higher percentage of saturated fat. Use canola oil for a more neutral taste and a dose of heart healthy fat.

Now excuse me while I go light the 9 pumpkin scented candles strategically placed around the house and gorge myself on orange hued food.

SWAP!

In Shanatopia, I would grow, pick, and prepare all of my own food.

A 9-5 job and an extreme lack of any agricultural skill make this next to impossible.

The "garden"

But learning how to choose minimally processed and wholesome foods has been a continuous and utterly confusing journey.

You know, I guess it’s not the processing that bothers me because almost all foods are processed in some way or another.  Highly nutritious foods like milk, yogurt, olive oil, and grains undergo some processing before they hit store shelves. Even if you frequent your local farmer’s market and select the freshest, organic produce odds are that you are going to take your juicy beefsteak tomatoes or zucchini and make your grandmother’s famous spaghetti sauce or maybe a loaf of chocolate zucchini bread. However you prepare your produce, it usually goes through some sort of process before it goes in your mouth.

So it’s not so much the processing that is bothersome, it’s all the chemicals, additives, and artificial flavorings that are so disturbing.

Take seemingly innocent yogurt for example.

I eat it almost every day.

Blame it on those darn Yoplait commercials that sucked me in with their enticing dessert-like flavors. Boston Creme Pie! Strawberry Cheesecake! Pina Colada!

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But some of the yogurts  have ridiculous amounts of added sugars, sweeteners, colors, and other scientific and non-food sounding ingredients (exact ingredients aren’t even listed on the Yoplait website).

If blueberry yogurt is going to be blue, I prefer it turn that color from actual fruit and not FD &C  Blue # 2

Not to mention that original yogurts (not fat free) have almost as much added sugar as a Snicker’s bar.

That’s just silly!

It’s just as easy to buy a big ol’ tub of plain yogurt and add whatever fruit my little heart desires that day. Throw some frozen blueberries and yogurt into a small container in the morning before work and the blueberries will be thawed and ready to mix by lunch time.  I save myself from ingesting unnecessary ingredients, get the added benefit of real, whole fruits, and I save money in the process.

Yogurt bowl: 3/4 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup pumpkin mixed with 1 tsp. molasses and sprinkle of cinnamon + 1/4 cup granola.

The easiest way to make sure you’re not consuming chemicals that you wouldn’t touch without a lab coat and goofy looking goggles is to look for short ingredient lists. See if you can find foods with less than five ingredients listed.

Take the SWAP challenge!

Swap out chemical heavy foods with their whole (or as close to whole as you are willing to go) counterparts.

Like cereal? Try quick cooking oats and add your own toppings (You can even eat it cold!).

Like M & M’s? Try Chocolate covered Almonds

Like potato chips? Pop your own popcorn

Like flavored yogurts? Buy plain and add your own fruit, honey, and granola

Like JIF? Try natural creamy peanut butter or sunflower butter

Like Snickers? Try peanuts with a square of dark chocolate

Like ice cream bars? Try a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and covered in nuts

What’s that? It doesn’t taste the same? I know. It’s because your taste buds forgot what food tastes like without a pound of sugar added. Remember how you had to feed your baby peas and carrots 37 times until they learned to like them? It’s the same for adults. You will learn to love and even crave these foods. Try it for a week. You’ll love it. I promise.

I already know what I eat on a day-to-day basis but I want to hear from you!

What swaps will you make this week?