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It’s Autumntime!

It’s autumn or fall or that beautiful period where the weather is generally delightful between the heat of summer and the frost of winter. Leaves are changing colors. It’s my favorite season.

However, I feel like the world gets overtaken by pumpkin EVERYTHING. There are lots of great fall flavors besides pumpkin. Here are just some of the fruits and vegetables in season right now:

Acorn Squash
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Butter Lettuce
Butternut Squash
Cauliflower
Cranberries
Delicata Squash
Endive
Garlic
Ginger
Grapes
Jalapeños
Mushrooms
Pears
Pineapples
Pomegranate
Radicchio
Sweet Potato
Swiss Chard
Turnips

Here are some of my favorite fall recipes:

Spaghetti with Greens and Garlic
Apple Pancakes
Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie
Spaghetti Squash with Marinara
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
Pumpkin Dinner
Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Sweet Potato Pancakes
White Chicken Chili
Veggie Sweet Potato Chili

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Basque Pork Pasta

Summer officially ends tomorrow. It’s still pretty warm at my house, and my garden is still going crazy. Tomatoes out my ears. In a good way.

However, I was looking for a dinner that had tomatoes, but didn’t scream “trying to get rid of a counter full of tomatoes”. Enter this pasta dish. It was perfect for a warm late summer/early fall evening with lots of bright flavors. Enjoy!

Basque Pork Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Basque Pork Pasta

2 pork loin chops, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup parmesan
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
8 ounces vegetable spaghetti
1 lemon, zested
juice of 1 lemon
2 tomatoes, diced

1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions, without oil or salt. Add broccoli for last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork, garlic, italian seasoning, and lemon zest. Cook 7-10 minutes, or until pork is cooked through. Deglaze pan with lemon juice.

3. Add pork mixture to pasta and broccoli. Toss with parmesan and tomatoes.

Nutrient Analysis (Amount per serving):

Calories: 748
Protein: 44 gm
Fat: 23 gm
Saturated Fat: 8 gm
Cholesterol: 88 mg
Carbohydrates: 67 gm
Fiber: 10 gm
Sodium: 227 mg

Recipe notes: If you can’t find a vegetable spaghetti, you could use all whole wheat. My mom made a similar dish to this growing up and always used spinach linguine.

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Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

Who has eaten dessert for breakfast? Cake, cookies, pie? I certainly have. Apple crisp is my personal favorite, because it is the easiest to “justify” – it’s just fruit with “granola” on top, right. We’ve all been there (I think). It reminds me of this Bill Cosby skit about chocolate cake.

Well, this smoothie is as close to a healthy dessert as I’ve found for breakfast. It is my new go-to. With the end of summer heat sticking around, I find myself wanting something cold after my morning workouts. This is good for you and SUPER delicious. I really feel like I’m drinking a milkshake. Enjoy!

(Sorry for my continued lack of pictures. Life and my desire to eat seem to be getting the better of me lately.)

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie (Serves 2)

3 pitted dates
1 cup skim milk
½ cup raspberries, chilled/frzoen
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup vanilla fat free greek yogurt
1 banana, sliced, chilled/frozen
1 cup ice (preferably crushed)

1. Place fruit in freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Can use fresh raspberries that you chill/freeze or storebought frozen raspberries.

2. Soak dates in hot water (enough to cover the dates) for 5-10 minutes. Drain water.

3. Blend dates and milk until dates are broken up. Add in remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 312
Protein: 17 gm
Fat: 2 gm
Saturated Fat: 1 gm
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Carbohydrates: 67 gm
Fiber: 10 gm
Sodium: 90 mg

Recipe notes: I have had success making this without the soaked dates as well. I sub in a a teaspoon or two of honey for sweetener. That brings down the fiber quite a bit. Just for mornings when I forget to soak some dates.

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Peanut Butter Quinoa

Shortly after my husband and I got married, we put together a picnic dinner. I was so excited to make a delicious quinoa salad. We started eating, and I noticed my husband wasn’t eating any of my salad. I asked him, and he said he doesn’t care for salads like that. I had just bought a big package of quinoa, and I needed a new way to fix it. I found lots of recipes for casseroles or soups, but not many regular side dishes.

So, I finally took a salad recipe to make this side dish. And it turned out great. This is great with fish or chicken. Or stir in some chicken and make a meal out of it. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Quinoa (Serves 6-8)

Peanut Butter Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa or 2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rib celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
½ medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
¼ cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
dash sriracha
½ teaspoon ground ginger

1. If not already cooked, cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add celery, carrots, onion, and bell pepper. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables begin to be tender.

3. Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. It is not essential that they combine perfectly. You can heat it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds and they will combine better.

4. Add quinoa and peanut butter mixture to vegetables. Stir and cook until well combined and all is heated through. Serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 172
Protein: 6 gm
Fat: 8 gm
Saturated Fat: 1 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 gm
Fiber: 3 gm
Sodium: 253 mg

Recipe notes: You could substitute any vegetables you like. The “sauce” is pretty thick. You could add in some water or more soy sauce to thin it out more, if you like a saucier side. I liked mine fairly thick, almost like a fried rice.

Source: adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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Fresh versus Canned Pumpkin

Over the last few years, I’ve met several people who SWEAR by fresh pumpkin. They tell me I should never use canned pumpkin because you can really tell the difference between fresh roasted pumpkin and canned pumpkin. Well, this year, I decided to test it out.

First, I used a “pie pumpkin”. This is a much smaller pumpkin. Prior to roasting it, I used it as a table centerpiece. I have heard mixed responses in person and online as to whether you have to use a pie pumpkin or can just use a regular jack-o-latern pumpkin. From my experiences with my baked pumpkin dinner, I think you’d be safer using a pie pumpkin. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins sometimes have smooth, creamy interiors and sometimes are more stringy like a spaghetti squash. You wouldn’t want the stringy texture.

Here is a comparison of the purees. I roasted my pie pumpkin at 400 for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until it was fork tender. (I cut it in half and seeded it first). Fresh is on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Puree

You can see the canned is a much deeper orange color. And a slightly more watery, smoother texture. I could have added some water to mine to puree it to a similar consistency. I didn’t think it was necessary.

Here is the cookie dough. This is flipped from above – canned on the right, fresh on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookie Dough

This one is harder to tell a difference. The dough is a bit darker with the canned, but not too much. The doughs mixed up and baked pretty much the same.

And of course, the final product. Back to fresh on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookies

Any difference you see is in the lighting. There was not visible difference in the two cookies.

Taste? Well, I tried out both cookies on 18 people, not telling them what the difference was, asking if they had a preference. Most said they really couldn’t taste much of a difference. If they HAD to choose, maybe they liked canned better (although they didn’t know it was the canned one).

So my verdict: I’ll be buying canned pumpkin. To me, there wasn’t a big enough difference to justify the work and money of making my own.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Gingerbread Pancakes

Breakfast is a nutritionally important meal of the day. But I also find it to be an emotionally important meal. When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I need a good breakfast to help me turn my day around. And it really works. No bowls of cold cereal. I need warm food that makes me feel happy. I love easy ways to make breakfast seem special, since I usually don’t have much time on those days.

These gingerbread pancakes fit that bill. If you tried my gingerbread pancakes last year, these are even better.  Lighter and more fluffy.  Still great gingerbread flavor without being overpowering.  And no sugar in the batter besides molasses!  Hooray!

Gingerbread Pancakes (Makes 10-15 pancakes)

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 large egg
1 ½ cups skim milk
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ⅓ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, molasses, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

2. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan to medium-high heat (350 if electric). Lightly spray pan with cooking spray. Pour about ¼-⅓ cup batter onto griddle for each cake. Cook until they start to bubble and bottom looks set. Flip and cook until browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per pancake):

Calories: 110
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 2 gm
Sodium: 138 mg

Notes: I prefer white whole wheat flour, but “regular” whole wheat flour also works here. As with all pancake batters, I find the amount of liquid is a little bit tricky. You can add more milk if you need a thinner batter.

Source: Children’s Museum Denver

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Easy Meatballs

Sometimes, certain food really speaks to you. Maybe you had a craving and when you eat that food, it hits that spot just right. Or maybe you just make a meal that tastes extra delicious that day. It doesn’t have to be something special or fancy.

These meatballs were that meal for me. I felt like a complete master chef. For some reason, my last several attempts at meatballs have failed. These were easy and delicious, which is a huge win. Make these soon and have a great dinner soon.

Easy Meatballs (Serves 6-8)

Easy Meatballs

1 pound ground lean turkey (93/7)
½ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup water
½ cup packed shredded spinach leaves or 1 cup loose
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 ounces finely chopped provolone cheese
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced

Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 (14 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Place meat, breadcrumbs, water, spinach, parsley, provolone, pepper, eggs, and garlic in a large bowl. Mix together with a fork, spoon, or your fingers.

2. Using a scoop or spoons, form into 1 ½ – 2 tablespoon meatballs. Set in the fridge or freezer while you make the sauce to help set the shape.

3. In a large pot or pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; saute 3-5 minutes until onion is tender and golden. Stir frequently so garlic doesn’t burn. Add red pepper; saute 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low (or as low as you can to maintain a simmer) and cook for 15-20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally while cooking.

4. Gently add meatballs one by one to the sauce. Cover with a lid. Cook for another 20-25 minutes at a simmer. Do not stir. After about 20 minute, you can flip the meatballs if you want. Serve.

Optional: (requires additional provolone cheese)

Place meatballs and sauce in oven safe dish (if not already in one). Turn on broiler. Place slices of provolone cheese over the top. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 248
Protein: 21 g
Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 124 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 333 mg

Recipe notes: You could use any ground meat, just go for lean. I mostly changed up the sauce recipe. I can’t leave a sauce alone. I like lots of seasoning. I also usually put in diced or shredded carrot in the sauce, because I like to sneak vegetables into my daughter’s diet whenever possible. These are great with spaghetti, though I prefer slightly smaller meatballs with spaghetti. With the optional step, I like to serve this with crusty garlic bread. So yummy. For scooping, I use my cookie scoop to keep the meatballs all the same size.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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