Pumpkin Love: Poetry in a Pie

healthy thanksgiving pumpkin pie

Pumpkin is like a mother: embracing, enhancing, enveloping. Whatever you give to pumpkin she highlights, holds, affirms.

Have you ever noticed, for instance, the way pumpkin embraces ginger, softens into cinnamon, rises up for nutmeg. She is tasteful with clove, grounding for cayenne, elegantly delightful with the green herbs of basil, sage, tarragon and thyme.

No wonder pumpkin pie feels like a warm hug.

pumpkin pie

Pumpkin is a power food when it comes to weight loss, heart health, anti-aging, and immune strength. Low in calories, pumpkin is full of fiber and rich with the antioxidants, the chemistry of youth, that help your body forgive and forget the occasional food trespass.

It is the added sugar, wheat and heavy creams that weigh down dear pumpkin, diminishing its power to lift you up. Fortunately, pumpkin is so forgiving that forgoing sugar, grain and dairy does not have to mean forgoing flavor.

How like a mother ~ forgiving and so giving!

gf paleo pumpkin pie

Personally, I think food tastes better when you can actually taste each ingredient. So it was a delight yesterday when the boys followed each bite with a chant of “Mmmm, this is so good!” But I was certain after our house painter swallowed it down with eyes of delight, gently offering me his plate afterwards with a serious, “Best I ever had, Señora.”

If it is good for someone who doesn’t owe me a compliment and isn’t used to our food ways, then I think it must be good for all. I know it is good to all, so when you serve up this pie for the holidays you can be sure you are loving your loved ones as mother nature loves you. And that is lot to be thankful for. 

grain free dairy free sugar free pumpkin pie

For this, I roasted two small pumpkins at 475F for about an hour, or until a knife ran through the middle with ease. But Pacific makes a good organic purée in a box you could use if you have less time, or want to make it in a jiff.

Healthy Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust

2 c Hazelnuts, toasted
4 medjool Dates
hefty pinch pink Salt
1/2 t Vanilla
dash Cinnamon

Pulse all the ingredients in your electric blender until you have a chunky pulp. Press into a pie pan, spread evenly and refrigerate.

Pie Filling
1 c Cashews, soaked 2-4 hours
2 medium Pumpkins (or 4 cups Pumpkin purée)
6 Dates
1 T Coconut Oil
1 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Nutmeg
1/4 t Ginger
1/4 t Clove
1/2 t pink Salt
optional: generous splash Cardamom
2 T Chia Seeds (more if you like it firmer)
Optional: 1-2 T Raw Honey

Set your oven to 475F. Pierce your pumpkins and bake 30 minutes or until a knife cuts through easily.

Allow to cool. Slice open and remove the seeds. Peel the pulp from the skin and place in your electric blender. Add dates and purée. Drain the cashews and add along with the coconut oil and spices to your purée. Blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust your seasonings. I like lots of cinnamon and nutmeg so might have added more. Add honey according to your taste.

Add Chia Seeds, pulse lightly, just enough to mix in the seeds. Pour into the crust, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, dress it up with a shower of cinnamon, a border of hazelnuts, a maze of honey, or a waltz of raspberries. Serve with a dollop of honey or maple syrup infused yogurt.

healthy pumpkin pie

Know your dosha

If you are Vata: You might prefer it with another 2-3 dates.
If you are Pitta: Replace the honey with real maple syrup.
If you are Kapha: Increase the amount of ginger, cinnamon and clove.

If there are leftovers, this is delicious for breakfast. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Buche de Noel

Our Christmas Dessert

Morgan and I love to bake, so yesterday he invited friends over and we had a holiday-treats-baking-party.

Morgan is creative, adventurous and very clever. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up and he will tell you, as he has been telling people most of his 13 years, “An Inventor!” If you show interest, he will tell you, too, of the details, features and purpose of the numerous, extraordinary designs he is already imagineering.

This year he led his Robotics team to the Regional Championships where they demonstrated a “Nanobot” designed to eliminate cancer. With organizations like Dean Kamen’s First our children have terrific opportunities to imagine and engineer solutions that will make us all  safer, happier, and healthier. We are dedicated to that, so we do what we can to keep his curiosity and creativity engaged.

Yesterday, that meant setting an Invention Challenge in the kitchen. The mission was to create  a new recipe, without looking anything up, for a divine Chocolate Peppermint Brownie that would make the boys say, “We HAVE to make this again!” But it had to be made without flour, milk, eggs, sugar, or anything we couldn’t pronounce, or anything that comes in a can, box or freezer ~ and it had to be so good we could devour it in one sitting, but so healthy that we would still feel great after we did.

Demonstrating their great technical prowess, the boys created a success, although what we made didn’t exactly come out like a brownie. It had more of a pudding consistency, but it wasn’t that, either. Morgan’s friend suggested we call it a “Prownie” as a merging of the two, which led to a whole chorus of linguistic possibilities, but ultimately we decided to call it a Buche de Noel.

We had two reasons. First, once it is served on the plate, it does look like a Yule log. Second, while it accidentally tastes much like the traditional French Christmas dessert it is named for, we think that most people won’t know what a Buche de Noel is supposed to taste like, so they won’t arrive at ours with preconceived expectations that might otherwise divert them from enjoying ours as much as it deserves.

There may be a third reason:  is it possible that it tastes even more divinely delicious with a name, itself, so divine? The beat of the “B,” the bass of the “Ooo,” the soothing “Shhh” that sounds like a sled whirring through snow.  Sleigh bells ring, Are you listening?

We called it a “Buche de Noel”

AN AYURVEDIC CHRISTMAS: BUCHE DE NOEL

This recipe makes a tremendously satisfying treat. Read on for the health benefits of its two main ingredients, almonds and peppermint.

2 cups Almonds, blanched and skinned
8 Dates
1/2 cup Almond Milk
2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Peppermint Oil or Extract
3 shakes Cinnamon
1 shake Nutmeg
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/4 cup Coconut Flakes
1/4 cup dried cherries
Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cacao Baking Bar, broken into small pieces
1 tsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or Ghee, if you are not Vegan)

Begin by soaking the cherries in fresh water. Place the coconut flakes on a toaster tray and toast for one minute. Watch carefully, as coconut can burn easily. Put the remaining ingredients except chocolate and “butter” in a juicer or food processor and blend, blend, blend. You may have to stop and start a few times, scraping the sides often, until you get a smoth consistency.

Melt the “butter” in a medium size pot over a very low heat. Pour in the almond mixture, add the chocolate pieces and stir. Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and  thoroughly integrated into the mixture.

Transfer to a serving pan and spread the mixture evenly across the dish. Dry the cherries and sprinkle them with the toasted coconut over the top.  You can also add a crushed candy cane to decorate the “buche,” if you are not too strict about the no sugar rule. Allow it sit for one hour before serving.

“Buche”

Health Benefits

If you are planning on making treats this holiday season but don’t want the sugar blues, consider a little deconstruction, and focus on the basics. Many of the traditional Christmas aromas and flavors, like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and peppermint are also considered medicine in Ayurveda.

Almonds, for instance, are highly regarded in Ayurveda for their nutritional value and their Vata pacifying benefits. They are demulcent, expectorant, and a great tonic. Almonds are good for coughs, wasting diseases of the  lungs and kidneys, muscle tension and pain. They lubricate the skin and the microcirculatory channels, supporting all the tissues of the body, and strengthening the immune system. Almonds provide several essential nutrients and are 20% protein. From an ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) you get about 5.6 grams of protein. They are also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium and contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Peppermint

Peppermint has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It is an excellent stomach digestive, soothing for colds, flu and fevers, relieving for sinus allergies. Stimulating to the mind, it enhances concentration, calms the nerves, develops emotional endurance and is extremely effective for taking the edge off tension headaches. No wonder it is so omnipresent this time of year!

Mother Nature wants to nourish you. Her food is medicine to help you to be your best. Allow her to support you this season, so you can feel the love that is the essence of all life, and the true reason to celebrate these holidays.

The The Yoga Journal Online has a tidy overview of Ayurvedic Healing Foods, including the almonds, dates and ghee we used in this recipe.

Happy Holidays!