I love the Fall – the leaves are changing, there is a bit of a chill in the air, and we get to pull out the sweaters. But perhaps one of my favorite things about the Fall – is pumpkin!
Pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family – an excellent source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system. The deep orange color of the pumpkin flesh tells us that it is a rich source of beta carotene (vitamin A) – which is important for healthy eyes, and boosts the immune system too (important this time of year).
Growing up, it just never quite feel like Fall until my mom made a batch of her pumpkin bread. Moist, delicious, pumkin-y and fragrant with spices. But her recipe was made with white flour, lots of sugar, and vegetable oil (the recipe actually calls for ‘salad oil’). So I decided to reinvent her pumpkin bread into these delicious grain free anti-inflammatory pumpkin mini muffins – with healthy coconut oil replacing the ‘salad oil’, ground flax and coconut flour in place of the white flour, and waaaay less sugar. Plus, these are also nut free for my friends that can’t have nuts.
The plethora of spices in these muffins fill the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves while they bake.
Mini Pumpkin Flax Muffins
Makes about 24 mini muffins.
Serve & enjoy! These are extra yummy with a little grass fed butter on them.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
Optional – a hydrometer. Fermented drinks like kefir water and kombucha can contain a very small amount of alcohol – generally about the same amount as found in very ripe fruit. Because kefir water is not fermented very long, it is a negligible amount. But if you are giving it to your kids and want to be sure – get a hydrometer – which will tell you the exact amount of alcohol it contains.
Once you get your water kefir grains, you will first need to rehydrate/activate them.
Here are some troubleshooting tips from Cultures from Health. I had to use these this Summer when I was making kefir water in really hot conditions, and my kefir grains got a little smelly. I ended up just tossing mine, and getting new ones – but they have lots of helpful tips if you need them.
I love it when I come up with a recipe that is healthy, and passes the kid taste test – this recipe hit it out of the ballpark on both accounts! Even my quinoa-hating daughter loved them – I only told her about the quinoa after she had decided that she loved them! My kids like to call them “meat muffins” because they are made in muffin tins – which makes them even more fun!
I have already made this recipe twice, and my kids regularly ask for it – so I plan to make it again this week. The leftovers make a great (hearty) after school snack, or a quick meal – but in my house, they don’t last for long!
Put the sugar into the vinegar and stir until it dissolves. Then add all the ingredients together, stir to combine – taste & adjust. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. This step can be done a day or two ahead.
This recipe is great with steamed broccoli with some grass fed butter and mashed potatoes. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days (they won’t last that long)!
*A note about quality – I always make sure to go for grass fed beef – to avoid hormones, antibiotics, and other additives – plus grass fed beef is higher in omega 3s and 500% higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional beef – which studies have found helps to burn fat (read this article to learn more). I also always choose organic for zucchini – because conventional zucchini is highly likely to be GMO, which I avoid because there is evidence that GMOs could be harming our gut health and even increase our risk of cancer. And finally – I always look for organic pastured or free range eggs – which also have a higher amount of omega 3s and no antibiotics or hormones.
I had a big bunch of mint and a fresh pineapple, and some coconut in the freezer – so this morning I whipped up this pineapple mint smoothie – it was absolutely delicious and refreshing, it made me feel like I was in the tropics!! Pineapple, mint, coconut and chia seeds all support healthy hydration and digestion. I think this will be a new staple for Summer/Spring for me, and I hope for you too. This recipe is dairy-free, vegan and gluten free.
Put the coconut water and chia seeds into the blender – allow to soak. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend to combine. Add in a handful (or whatever amount desired) of ice cubes and blend. Serve immediately!
*Note: If you are prone to getting canker sores from pineapple, you might want to substitute mango for the pineapple in the smoothie recipe.
Save your pineapple core in the refrigerator or freezer – I am posting a recipe tomorrow that will make use of the core!
A few years ago, I used to be a wheat-loving gal. I pretty much sustained myself on it – most mornings I would have a high fiber cereal for breakfast, a sandwich on whole wheat for lunch, pretzels for a snack, and quite often pasta for dinner.
After years of trying to figure out what was causing my laundry list of health complaints (joint & muscle aches, foggy brain, thyroid issues, fatigue, general puffiness, etc), I finally found significant relief by giving up gluten and wheat, and increasing my intake of inflammation-lowering omega 3s. Although the transition was not easy initially (what change is easy??)…now, I can’t imagine eating that way anymore! Instead of cereal I usually start my day with a superfood smoothie with energy and mood-boosting chia seeds, I have salads or soups instead of sandwiches, and zucchini pasta in place of regular pasta.
But I will admit, there are a few things that I do miss…and I know this might sound like a weird thing to be longing for, but I used to love me a good raisin bran muffin! And for some odd reason, this morning, I had a hankering for one!
When I realized that I had a bag of ground flax in the fridge, some organic eggs, virgin coconut oil and coconut palm sugar – I decided to see if I could whip something up that resembled my beloved bran muffin. And guess what? They turned out great*, I’d say better than regular bran muffins!! And best of all – because these are made with flax – they are inflammation-lowering and high in brain and mood boosting omega 3s!
Raisin “Bran” Muffins – made with flax (free of wheat, gluten & grains)
*Boy, do I love it when my kitchen experiments come out great the first time (because let me tell you – I have had more than my share of missteps – especially when it comes to baked goods)!!
This crust is gluten free and delicious – and easy to make!
Directions to Make the Pizza Dough:
Suggested toppings: carmelized onions, arugula, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, thinly sliced red peppers, slices green or black olives, and shredded goat or sheeps milk cheese.
I love pumpkin. In fact, I always say it doesn’t really feel like Fall until I get a taste of pumpkin. Did I mention that I absolutely LOVE pumpkin? Pumpkin is part of the winter squash family, which are rich in immune-boosting beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. And are also an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber – which most of us are not getting nearly enough of. Want to learn more about the myriad of health benefits of winter squash? – visit WH Foods.
So considering all that – a pumpkin spice latte should be good for us, right?
Not so fast…since there is usually no actual pumpkin in most pumpkin spice lattes, plus there is also over 50 grams of sugar (that is 12 teaspoons – double what an average woman should get all day long)! And that is not the whole story – the Food Babe recently revealed in this article – that in addition – the Starbucks version is made with a caramel coloring that could be harmful to our health, uses genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavors, and preservatives and sulfites. Yikes!
Now that we got the bad news out of the way…ready for the good news? It is pretty easy to make your own pumpkin spice latte at home! You just need some coffee, pumpkin puree, natural sweetener, and your favorite non-dairy milk!
You can make a small batch of this for yourself, or the full batch to feed a crowd. And to make this even easier? Make it ahead and put it into a crock pot for a Thanksgiving treat your guests will love – a bonus – your house will smell terrific.
Not a fan of coffee? Not to worry – this is delicious as a chai tea pumpkin latte too (I love to make decaf chai lattes for dessert in the evening)! Just brew (decaf or regular) chai tea, and top with the pumpkin creamer (and optionally foamed non-dairy milk and cinnamon).
Serves 12-14 people
*To make cashew milk – soak raw cashews for about 1 hour to overnight, drain, and put the cashews into a blender with filtered water. For a richer more cream-like texture – start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust from there. For milk, it usually is a 1:2 ratio cashews to water, add more if you want it thinner. Add a pinch or two of salt, taste & adjust. Blend on high for a few minutes until very smooth. You can strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth if desired.
My son loves soup. You name it, he loves it. Chicken noodle, clam chowder, beef stew, lobster bisque, miso, lemon artichoke chicken, and even cream of broccoli soup. Sometimes we stop at Whole Foods for a snack, and more often than not he has – you guessed it – soup! The other day we were stopping in for a cup of soup when I saw it – broccoli cashew soup! Wow – what a cool idea, a dairy free cream soup made with cashews. We had a little taster, and both loved it. The lightbulbs started going off – oh the things I could make with cashew cream – cream of broccoli, clam chowder, alfredo…. I couldn’t wait to put my chef hat on, and give it a go myself. In fact, we had had broccoli with dinner the night before, and as I always do – I made extra, so I had some steamed broccoli already in the fridge. I grabbed some cashews, chicken stock (I love this new chicken bone broth from Pacific foods), and we were off. This is the delicious result!
Creamy Broccoli Soup:
Store any extra soup in the fridge for up to 3 days.
I am a big fan of smoothies – so much so, that I have a smoothie for breakfast most days of the week. But sometimes, I just want to mix it up a little – and need a little something special. Let me tell you, this Pitaya Bowl does not disappoint!! And the best part – it is so easy to whip up!
Pitaya is another word for dragonfruit, which is the fruit of a cactus plant. A beautiful exotic fruit, dragonfruit can either be whiteish (pitaya blanca), or a deep dark fuchsia color (pitaya roja). The benefits come both from the seeds (rich in healthy fats), and the flesh of the fruit (of which the deep pink variety edges out the white as far as nutrition).
Photo credit: Fruits Benefit Health (visit to learn more about dragonfruit).
Pitaya Bowl Ingredients:
Note: this recipe is best with a Vitamix or another powerful blender that has a tamper tool that can be used to stir while blending. It should be thick – like the consistency of sorbet.
Some Suggested Toppings (the first 3 are in the pictured recipe):
Soak cashews in water for 10 mins (up to 6 hours), drain water. Put everything into Vitamix or blender (except ice). Blend to combine well, using tamper to stir. Add ice as desired to thicken, blend well, stirring. Spoon mixture into a bowl, add desired toppings and serve immediately.
One of the most interesting things about sweet potatoes, is that despite having “sweet” in their name, and tasting sweet, they are low glycemic. Low glycemic foods gradually raise your bloodsugar. Sweet potatoes spike your bloodsugar significantly less than a regular white potato!
They are a nearly perfect food with high fiber, rich in vitamins like beta carotene (which gives it’s flesh the rich orange color), and have been shown to aid in recovery for athletes. Read 15 Superfoods for Peak Performance to learn about how sweet potatoes and other foods are good for performance and recovery.
I actually prefer yams over sweet potatoes, because they are darker in color, which means richer in vitamins and nutrients (sweet potatoes and yams are often used interchangeably and confused). So this recipe should really be called yam pie – but that does not sound as good.
Last night we had roasted sweet potatoes and I sprinkled on some cinnamon and swirled in some applesauce into them. It was so good – it tasted like a cross between apple and pumpkin pie. So today I decided to recreate that yumminess with a Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie smoothie!
Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie:
Whip this up before heading to the gym, because it is chock full of superfoods for peak performance!!
* Cinnamon is a wonderful spice for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. The more common form of cinnamon sold in the United States is cassia cinnamon. Cassia has coumarin, a compound that is toxic to the liver in high doses. Although less common in the U.S., Ceylon type of cinnamon is considered “true” cinnamon, and it does not contain coumarin. It might be a little more expensive, but I find Ceylon to be milder, a little sweeter, and more complex – definitely the best cinnamon choice!
© copyright 2015 Sara Vance