Fall for Pumpkin Protein Balls this Season (See What I Did There?)

I look forward to October every year for one simple reason: it’s Pumpkin Everything Season! And despite living in Southwest Florida where the temperature rarely drops below 60 degrees, once autumn shows up on the calendar, I morph into that girl.

pumpkin-everything-season

Yep, I’m basic apparently. So sue me. Fall is a glorious time. And pumpkins are a direct result of that gloriousness.

These seasonal superfoods are rich in Vitamin A to promote vision health, Fiber to increase digestive regularity, Antioxidants to support immune function, Potassium to stimulate post-workout energy and Carotenoids to reduce skin aging effects.

Plus, they get all the Instagram likes, so…

But I digress. If you wanna experience those nutritional benefits for yourself, not just during autumn but year-round too (Why isn’t the PSL Summer Edition a thing? Looking at you, Starbucks!), might I suggest these no-bake Pumpkin Quinoa Protein Balls.

They’re perfect for a healthy plant-based breakfast or afternoon snack. And, all basicness aside, they taste like fall is supposed to taste. *insert brown leaf emoji*

I rest my case.

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls

yields 2 dozen protein balls

Ingredients:

1 can Pumpkin Purée (organic)

1 tbsp. Sunflower Butter (organic)

1/3 c. Rolled Oats (whole grain)

1/4 c. Quinoa (organic)

1 Apple (peeled & diced)

1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. Ginger

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-ingredients

 Preparation:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to its package instructions, then set aside.
  2. Combine the pumpkin purée, rolled oatssunflower buttercinnamon, ginger and pumpkin spice in a mixing bowl.
  3. Slice the apple into small chunks, then stir into the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa to the pumpkin mixture, then stir these ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  5. Divide the batter into bite-sized balls and place in the freezer for 1 hour before serving.

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-batter

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-before-photo

pumpkin-quinoa-protein-balls-after-photo

So. Much. Yes.

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Fall Into the Season’s Freshest, Healthiest & Yummiest Flavors

In this week’s installment of “Who-Cares-If-I-Live-In-Florida-It’s-Fall-So-I’m-Gonna-Eat-Fall-Food-Dammit,” enjoy my seasonal take on a vegetable stir-fry. This rustic recipe might look simple and understated, but it’s bursting with savory warmth, aromatic spice and pick-me-up heartiness. Plus, that quinoa hiding underneath gives the dish a nutty nuance, which just screams “Happy Almost Holidays!”

Autumn Veggie Quinoa Bowl

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Quinoa (rinsed)

1 Sweet Potato (peeled & cubed)

1 cup Chickpeas (drained & rinsed)

1 cup Brussels Sprouts (fresh)

2 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 cloves Garlic (minced)

1 tbsp. Lemon Juice

1/4 tsp. Smoked Paprika

1/4 tsp. Sea Salt (or, to-taste)

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat a saucepan on a high stovetop setting, add the Quinoa and 1 cup Water, then stir to combine.
  2. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, then add 1 tbsp. Olive Oil and 1 clove Garlic.
  3. Stir to combine again, cover the saucepan and allow the Quinoa to simmer until the Water is absorbed — about 20 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat a large skillet on a medium stovetop setting, coat the bottom with nonstick cooking spray, then toss in the Vegetables.
  5. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. Olive Oil, 1 clove Garlic, Paprika and Lemon Juice to the Vegetable medley, then stir periodically until the Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts soften.
  6. Combine the Quinoa and Vegetables in the skillet, sprinkle Salt and more Paprika, — if desired — then dig in!
sweet potato brussels sprouts and chickpea quinoa bowl

And, behold…comfort food at its colorful, delectable best!

Hasta la Vista, Candy Corn. Make It a Healthy Halloween.

So, you just carved that jack-o-lantern, huh? You chiseled, sawed, and sliced away. You also gutted its innards, so now stringy orange slime has taken up residence on your kitchen floor.

Awesome.

Well, you could trash the goop. Or, you could extract the pumpkin seeds and turn them into something fabulous. I don’t know about you, but Option #2 has my personal vote!

Many of us already associate roasting pumpkin seeds as a tasty fall tradition. But, were you aware that these festive little munchies are also nutritional powerhouses? Uh huh. They’re regular superfoods. According to an article posted on the alternative medicine website, Mercola.com, here are some health benefits of our pal, Mr. Pumpkin Seed:

  • Magnesium for cardiovascular circulation, DNA/RNA synthesis, and skeletal strength
  • Zinc for immune system support, cell growth/division, insulin regulation, and enhanced senses
  • Omea-3s for anti-inflammation, blood oxygenation, and defense against cognitive aging.
  • Tryptophan for melatonin/seratonin production, resulting in a restful sleep cycle
  • Fiber for bowel normalization, decreased cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Antioxidants for protection against free radicals and harmful UVA skin exposure

There. That’s all the persuasion you need. Now, go roast those seeds for a savory afternoon pick-me-up that you can feel great about!

(And, just in case you need pointers on pre-cleaning the seeds before cooking them, I borrowed this simple strategy from SimplyRecipes.com: After scooping out the pumpkin’s flesh, transfer a large handful of seeds into a colander and run them under a strong stream of water until they have been separated from the flesh).

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  2. 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  3. 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  4. 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  5. 1 c. Pumpkin Seeds (pulp removed)

roasted pumpkin seed ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. In a small skillet, pre-heat the olive oil on a medium stove-top setting.
  2. Add the pumpkin seeds into the pan and season them with sea salt.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, then saute the seeds for 3-5 minutes, while stirring.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Transfer the seeds onto the baking sheet and spread them around evenly.
  6. Sprinkle the seeds with chili powder and smoked paprika, to taste.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow to roast for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Once these seeds have turned golden brown, remove them from the oven.
  9. Let them cool before eating, then nibble to your heart’s content on this healthy seasonal snack!

roasted pumpkin seed saute

roasted pumpkin seed pre-bake

roasted pumpkin seed cooled

Fall Has Fallen Into My Kitchen…

This past weekend, I visited a farmer’s market in the historic downtown section of my Southwest Florida stomping grounds. Even though autumn in my neck of the woods doesn’t necessarily mean colorful leaves and blustery wind gusts, we beach babes still get into the seasonal spirit.

So, – like I was saying before I went off on a “Floridians love this time of year too” tangent – I went to a farmer’s market. And I came home with an butternut squash, a bag full of apples, and other freshly-picked, locally-sourced fall-ish produce.

Then, I set to work putting these farmer’s market finds to use. And if you’re gonna whip up some autumnal comfort food, you might as well do it right. You might as well make soup.

Butternut squash soup. Butternut squash soup with apples. Sprinkled with aromatic spices on top. Warm, hearty, soothing. Ahhhhhh!

So, yeah. From my “fall friendly” kitchen to yours…here’s the recipe:


  • Ingredients:
  1. 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
  2. 1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
  3. 1/2 red onion (chopped)
  4. 1 apple (peeled and chopped)
  5. /2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  6. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  7. 1/4 tsp. sea salt

butternut squash soup ingredients

  • Preparation: 
  1. Combine the butternut squash, apple and union cubes in a medium-size pot, then pour in the vegetable/chicken stock.
  2. Cover the pot and place it on a stove-top burner, then turn the heat up to high until the stock has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Uncover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then let this mixture simmer for approx. 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and pour this mixture into a blender, then puree until the soup is thick and smooth.
  5. Pour the soup back into the pot and turn the heat on low, then simmer for a few extra minutes, while stirring constantly.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then give the soup another quick stir. (Side note: I also found that tossing in 2-3 packets of organic Stevia added a lovely sweet and savory combination to this recipe.)

butternut squash soup before

butternut squash soup after

  • Serving Suggestion:

I prefer my winter veggie soups on the slightly sweet side, so I mixed 1/4 cup plain coconut milk into the soup, which added some creaminess to the texture and perfectly complemented the squash’s already nutty flavor.

butternut squash soup with coconut milk

For the Pumpkin Spice Latte Lover in All of Us…

It’s here, ladies. The annual orange invasion is upon us…

’tis the season for pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING.

Out come the “do you even have to ask?!” Starbucks orders, the “look at my infinity scarf and UGG boots!”-latte drinking attire, and (most importantly) daily #PSL Instagram posts.

There’s no denying that a crisp autumn morning feels incomplete without a pumpkin spice latte. Like an extension of fall itself, you NEED that PSL! Your whole world teeters off-balance until you utter those magic words, and a barista comes to the rescue. Then, you inhale the spicy aroma…relish the steam on your face…and take that first sip.

Yeah. That. First. Sip.

Hello, glorious deliciousness! Hello, pure perfection! You aren’t even aware of anything else at this point.

But – about halfway through slurping whip cream at record pace – you casually wonder just how wholesome this sweet temptation really is. Can’t be that sugar-dense and empty calorie-loaded, can it? After all, pumpkin is a vegetable.

Well…you might want to rethink the PSL obsession. Or, at least, how frequently you indulge. There are 330 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 37 grams of sugar in 1 tall latte. Not gonna lie: that’s quite the “tall order” (pun intended!) to consume on a regular basis.

But, if you just can’t resist this fall favorite, try my lighter version of the Starbucks PSL we all know and love.

It maxes out at only 155 calories, uses all-natural ingredients, and tastes (almost) as yummy as the original.


  •  Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup Black Coffee (brewed)
  2. 1/4 cup Pumpkin Puree (organic)
  3. 1 cup Rice Milk
  4. 1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  5. 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  6. 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
  7. 3 packets Stevia

psl ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. Pour all these ingredients together into a blender.
  2. Pulse the blender until this mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined.
  3. Transfer the latte into your favorite mug and warm it in the microwave.
  4. Sprinkle a few dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg on top.

psl blended

5. Enjoy! But, that goes without saying, so…

Move over, Pumpkin Pie. There are new Fall Favorites on the menu!

Now that school is back in session and September well underway, it’s time to give into that quintessential pumpkin craving we (try to!) suppress all year. Fall has almost fallen…let’s usher in this glorious season with some good ol’ comfort food.

And, on that note: the following recipes are figure-friendlier twists on classic autumn indulgences. So, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without souring your waistline!

Warm Mulled Cider

mulled cider ingredients   

  • Ingredients:
  1. 3 cups 100% apple juice (I used Simply Apple brand)
  2. 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  3. 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  4. 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  5. 1 tsp. orange zest
  • Preparation:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring the stove-top heat to a boil.
  2. Stir this mixture constantly until it has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-high, then simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally throughout these 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the cider to cool slightly.

mulled cider   

Pumpkin & Carrot Bars

  • Ingredients:

pumpkin bar ingredients   

  1. 3 egg whites
  2. 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  3. 1 tsp. baking powder
  4. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  5. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  6. 3/4 cup organic Stevia powder
  7. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  8. 1/3 cup carrots (shredded)
  9. 1 1/2 tbsp. applesauce (unsweetened)
  • For the Frosting:
  1. 1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese (softened)
  2. 2 tbsp. organic Stevia powder
  3. 1/2 tbsp. skim milk*

*If your dietary needs or preferences exclude dairy, you can substitute 1/2 tbsp. soy milk whisked with 1 tsp. apple cider.

  • Preparation:
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the baking soda and powder, flour and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. In another bowl, combine the applesauce and sweetener, until the texture is smooth.
  3. Add the egg whites, carrots and pumpkin pie filling, then continue mixing.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix again until everything is thoroughly blended.
  5. Spread the batter onto a greased jellyroll pan (a baking sheet will also suffice), then set aside temporarily.
  6. Combine the cream cheese, milk and remaining 2 tbsp. of sweetener.
  7. Spoon the frosting on top of the batter, then swirl them together with a butter knife.
  8. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the batter has cooked thoroughly.
  9. Allow the cake to cool completely, then slice it into even squares.

pumpkin bar before   pumpkin bar after