by Krissy Caldwell
Once October approaches, the theme of the season quickly transitions to Pumpkin Spice, Ginger Snap and Peppermint. Whether this be in latte, pie or cookie form, it is a desired seasonal flavor everyone craves until the New Year passes. There is a reason why these top tasty items become so abundant this time of the year. It’s the great Fall and Winter harvest for these particular crops. Especially Pumpkins!
Crock pots come out of their hiding to please families everywhere with casseroles and soups that contain delicious, slow-cooked ingredients to boost our immune systems and fill our bellies with warm, nutritional goodness on a cold day. Usually, these dishes include amazing ingredients like squash, carrots, garlic, potatoes, onion, kale and much more.
Not only can you save money by shopping for certain foods when they are in season, but the nutritional value is typically higher in fresh produce, but the flavors are better, too. This is important when enhancing your meals and overall, getting the best of what’s available for you and your family.
A popular favorite this time of year!
PUMPKINS! Yes, great for carving or to simply use as décor for the Holidays. However, once they have served their visual purpose, they could be used as a perfect compostable item for feeding plants or some folks like catapulting them off into the distance. AKA Punkin’ Chunkin’.
But, finding a way to include them in a delicious meal for you and your family (or certain pets) is probably more fulfilling.
From a nutritional standpoint, pumpkin flesh contains high levels of vitamins and antioxidants. They are especially rich in beta-carotene, which converts into Vitamin A during digestion and absorption. This vitamin has been known to benefit eye health, boost immunity and may also help to fight off chronic illnesses. Pumpkins also contain high levels of potassium, fiber, magnesium and folate, yet are low in calories. This makes them an easy food to enjoy in any recipe and feel good about too.
Krissy’s Healthy – Pumpkin Bar Recipe
This Recipe accommodates about 3-pounds of squash
(It’s ok to use two cans of purée if you want these bars done faster)
Preheat oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit
Halve your pumpkin (or butternut squash), remove seeds and then cut into slices or small chunks. Add your cut pieces to a large bowl. For extra nutrition, add in and bake some peeled carrots too.
NOTE: Save your seeds for planting in the garden next year (Lay flat to dry and keep cold during storage) or bake separately for a fun and healthy snack.
There are limitless recipes and ways to season and enjoy these little Pepitas! Give them a try, you won’t be disappointed with the supreme levels of Magnesium, antioxidants and fiber. There’s also a LOT of health benefits to gain from pumpkin seeds. They help to support many things, like the heart, balance blood sugar levels, digestion and metabolism . They are also known to boost men’s health by supporting the prostate.
Now, back to the recipe!
Drizzle your squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss until fully coated.
Lay flat on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the rinds start to tan or wrinkle. A way to double check doneness is to see if a fork easily pokes through the carrots and rinds. If so, remove from oven. If not, bake in additional 10 minutes increments until soft.
Once cooled, scoop out squash flesh and add to your mixing bowl or stand mixer.
Now, Let’s Spice Things Up!
You should have about 2 cups total of softened pumpkin/squash/carrot – Blends are good too.
- Add 1 Tablespoon of softened or melted unsalted butter – SKIP butter if using canned purée
- 2 Large Eggs
- 3⁄4 Cup Raw Cane Sugar – Or a sweet substitute of your choosing (Like low-glycemic Agave)
- 1 Cup of Milk – I prefer whole milk
Mix on low (if using a stand mixer) or hand whisk/mash/Immersion blend until a smooth consistency forms. Then add:
- 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
- 1 1/4 Teaspoons – Ground Cinnamon
- 1⁄2 Teaspoon – Ground Nutmeg
- 3⁄4 Teaspoon – Ground Ginger
- 1⁄2 Teaspoon – Vanilla Extract
- 1⁄2 Teaspoon – Salt
Mix/Blend in ingredients until fully incorporated. Finally add:
- 1 Cup Organic Steel Cut Oats or Oatmeal
- 1⁄2 Cup of Chocolate Chips (I like to use Organic Dark Chocolate Nibs)
- 1⁄2 Cup Chopped Walnuts – Pistachios, Almonds or shelled and toasted pumpkin seeds are nice too.
Your final mix should be the consistency of cookie dough. On a non-stick or parchment lined cookie sheet, form granola bar or biscotti shaped pieces and space about 1-inch apart.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once browning around the bottom or cracks form on your bars, they should be ready. Let cool for about 20 minutes before enjoying.
These chewy, nutritious treats are a great choice for a satisfying guilt-free snack. Eat within three days of baking. Store in the refrigerator for freshness or freeze up to 30-days to enjoy at your leisure.
These bars can be eaten warm or cold. I prefer to toast mine in a pan (all sides) then pair it with a cup of coffee or tea.
What about your Dog?
The recipe above is great for you and your Family, but believe it or not, dogs really love pumpkin too! Include everyone this season and bake a little side batch for your puppies too! With only six ingredients, these bars are sure to lift their spirits and can be very useful for training as well.
One Happy Pup – Dog Cookies
You will need:
- 3⁄4 Pumpkin (Puree)
- 1⁄2 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour (As a Substitute: Coconut or Almond Flour is also great for dog’s health)
- 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1⁄2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients first, then add into wet ingredients and work together. The finished batter should be dry and easy to roll out to cut with cookie cutters or mold into pup -sized snackable shapes.
Place on cookie sheet and space pieces about one inch apart. Yield is approximately 24 Servings
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 Minutes and let cool to room temp before treating your canine. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks or in the fridge for prolonged freshness. Use within three weeks if kept cold.
Fall & Winter Gardening – October to January
Depending on where you live, there is a “gardening zone.” Southern Oregon is considered Zone 8A. October through early November is an excellent time to start a winter veggie garden.
It is best to choose crops that prefer your type of climate or (zone). Fall and winter crops also tend to be easiest to care for, as it typically requires less time in watering, with nature providing enough seasonal precipitation to do some of the work for you.
If you choose to have a garden throughout the colder months in Southern Oregon, some veggies to consider planting are:
- Carrots – Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that benefit heart and eye health ++
- Broccoli – Full of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and benefits digestion, brain, eye and heart health.
- Spinach, Kale and some Collard Greens – High in iron. Vitamins, antioxidants and calcium. These foods can boost immunity, promote weight loss, healthy skin, cardiovascular and bone health.
- Garlic – Very nutritious and medicinal. Benefits immunity to fight off virus’, blood, bone and cardiovascular health, can improve memory, skin and even support athletic performance.
- Onions, Scallions or Shallots – A nutrient dense choice. Loaded with antioxidants to benefit heart and digestive health, fights free radicals that helps skin and aging and boosts immunity. +
- Asparagus – High in nutrients and antioxidants, yet low in calories. May benefit blood pressure and can be great for digestion. A wonderful superfood to enjoy, especially during pregnancy.
- Bok Choy – A cruciferous veggie that contains anti-cancer properties, reduces inflammation, helps to improve skin, blood pressure and helps boost immunity to fight off viruses.
- Some Beans – Like Fava or Broad Beans – Packed with antioxidants, protein and folate. A great addition to your plate to benefit heart and liver health. Beans also improve the gut biome that can improve digestion and curb appetite, improving metabolism and promoting weight loss.
However, if you would prefer to visit a store or farmers market versus growing things at home, these options should still be fairly easy to find.
Also, consider some of these additional must-have foods below to discover what they have to offer your taste buds and your health.
- Pomegranates – Packed with nutrients. May help exercise endurance, reduce inflammation, support heart and urinary health and is known to be antimicrobial.
- Persimmons – Great source of Vitamins A, C and Manganese. Proven to support vision, lung, heart, kidney and other organ health. Like pumpkins, persimmons are also high in beta- carotene.
- Cranberry – An incredible superfood. Reduces risk of UTI infection and boosts urinary health, improves immune function, soothes digestion and has been known to help fight against some chronic illnesses.
- Ginger – A warming antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, soothes digestion, supports brain and heart health and is also known for fighting against some chronic illnesses.
- Pears & Apples – Promotes brain and gut health, anti-inflammatory, contains special plant compounds that are rich in fiber and antioxidants, boosts heart health and metabolism that may help to support weight loss.
- Brussel Sprouts – A cruciferous veggie that is low in sodium, has anti-cancer properties and numerous other health benefits.
- Sweet Potatoes – Great for digestion, brain, vision and immune system functions.
- Root Vegetables – like Onion, Garlic, Parsnips, Turnips, Beets, etc. – Great sources of manganese, complex carbohydrates, potassium, folate and fiber. Boosts immune and brain functions and much more!
- Porcini Mushrooms – B vitamins for energy, protein, potassium, zinc and selenium. Brain and immune boosting qualities.
- Walnuts, Almonds, Pecans – High in Omegas and antioxidants. May promote healthy digestion to aid in weight loss, decrease inflammation and lower blook pressure.
There are so many healthy crops to choose from and limitless meal variations. Yet, each of these wonderful foods seem to bring a little something extra to the table.
So, if you’re lacking in the vitamin cupboard and feel like your health could improve with something naturally delicious, give any of these incredible superhero foods a try. Combine different ingredients to make a colorful plate that won’t leave you feeling anything but satisfied. Start feeling your best! Little by little and day by day.
Stay healthy and happy.
Informational Sources provided by: Bing Search Engine – www.health.com, www.plantwhatwhen.com, www.healthline.com & www.gardeningknowhow.com