Pumpkin Pie + Holiday Thoughts

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The Recipe Redux theme for November is healthy holiday baking. If you’re new to this space, The Recipe Redux is a monthly recipe challenge, founded by three registered dietitians, which I participate in. The challenges are always focused on taking delicious dishes, keeping them delicious, but making them better for us.

 

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In light of this season, I’ve been doing a bit of reflection on where I stand in the interchange between decadent holiday foods and how I eat from day to day. Should I splurge and not worry about some of those really not healthy ingredients because it is the holidays, or should I try to capture the essence of health in enjoyable foods because it is the holidays –and we all tend to overeat and regret it later?

Additionally, as a result of all that I’ve been learning of health and nutrition and where I stand right now in aiming to maintain a healthy relationship with food, I’ve been returning to passages from Annemarie Colbin’s Food and Healing: 

With all the recent emphasis on “healthy” eating, it is important to remember one thing: Food does not make us healthy. The right kind of food will allow us to reach our maximum health potential, to become as healthy as our genes and constitution may permit. It will support what we are at our best. It will not interfere with our development, but it will also not make us more than what we can be. In short, good food is effective because it is passive. The wrong kind of food will act like a block or a dam, deflecting our growth and thwarting our unfolding. In other words, it will actively create trouble, and make us unhealthy…Good food will nourish us without causing stress, and thus allow our immune system to spend its energy in healing. Thus many different diets will have healing effects. Often it is not just what we eat, but also what we don’t eat that helps us become healthy again. 

So my theory right now? Stressing about eating the right kinds of food is not healthful. But neither is eating foods that overtax and/or stress our bodies, foods like highly refined sugars, refined flours/grains, and rancid oils, to name a few. Sure, they’re fine in small quantities infrequently. For the most part however, they’re best avoided, even (and maybe especially) during the holidays. Aren’t we all a little too stressed in this season? Don’t we deserve to feed ourselves and our loved ones foods that have healing qualities?

 

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My advice is to do what you can with what you have. But maybe as you venture into this holiday season, do so a little more mindfully, thinking to yourself, How do I want my body to feel after eating? What foods will nourish me best? 

 

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Pumpkin Pie, makes one 9-inch pie
Truthfully, I never liked pumpkin pie until I stopped eating dairy and enjoyed a vegan version of the classic. The creamy custard base always turned me off. Now I love pumpkin pie and count it as one of my favorite flavors. While there are innumerable versions swirling about this time of year, this is the one I make and enjoy. It is adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s pie in
Food52 Vegan and while I enjoy her version, I’ve changed it a bit so dates are the primary sweetener and, in my years-long quest to find a good gluten-free and vegan pie crust with no coconut oil (which I cannot stand in fat-heavy pastry doughs), I’ve finally come to a closer-to-whole-foods crust that tastes like what I think a pie crust should. It gets extra points for not needing to be rolled, chilled, or being difficult to work with. Enjoy!

filling:
2 1/2 cups baked + pureed pumpkin or winter squash, or canned puree
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1 cup medjool dates (about 10)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. tapioca starch
2 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
a couple good pinches of cloves

crust:
1 cup rolled oats
1/4  cup + 2 Tbs. almond meal/flour
3/4 cup millet flour
pinch of sea salt
4 1/2 Tbs. good quality canola oil
3 Tbs. maple syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla

  • Begin by baking the pumpkin or squash, if using, and soaking the cashews in water a few hours ahead of time.
  • Then, soak the dates in warm water for about an hour to soften up. Once the dates have soaked, keep 1/2 cup of their soaking liquid and put in a food processor along with the pitted dates, vanilla, and salt. Puree until completely smooth.
  • Into the food processor with the date puree, add the soaked and drained cashews, starch, molasses, and spices. Puree again, until completely smooth. Then add the pumpkin and puree once again until completely mixed. Then set aside to make the crust.
  • At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Finely grind the oats into a flour using either a food processor or coffee grinder.
  • Then, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, almond and millet flours and salt.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Then pour the liquids over the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.
  • Dump the entire mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, and with your fingers, spread the dough across the bottom and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup, glass, or mini rolling pin helps smooth the bottom.
  • Crimp the edges, and then fill the crust with the pumpkin mixture.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is a golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.


smoky parsnip hummus

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In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.
So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.
I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—
which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—
thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

 

                                                      Mary Oliver’s White-Eyes

 

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If you’ve been reading for a while, you may know I enjoy poetry. Mary O’s White-Eyes fits with where I’m at lately but like all good art, it will be interpreted as needed by each taker. I’ll leave you to your representation. If you’re interested, here is a good playlist to listen to while letting the words come to life in you.

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Smoky Parsnip Hummus, makes about 2 cups
Beyond the extraordinary colors of peak leaf season and the return to wearing sweaters day after day, one of my favorites about this time of year is stocking up on the cool season produce. We live in a pretty spectacular corner of the world where all the local farmers come together to sell their winter-ready produce in bulk at the end of the season, and so now we have a good 50 pounds of all my favorite cool weather vegetables to see us through the next few weeks and months. Are you ready for all the parsnips? They’re sweet, underrated, and much loved by many a new-comer. Try them soon if you haven’t already.

1 lb. parsnips (about 2 large), peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. coriander
1 ½ tsp. sea salt + more to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water, divided
1/2 tps. smoked paprika
freshly chopped parsley leaves to finish (optional)

  1. Bring the parsnips along with cumin, coriander, salt and 6 Tbs. water to a simmer over medium-low heat in a small sauce pan. Give it all a good stir to coat the parsnips with the spices.
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the parsnips are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife.
  3. Puree the cooked parsnips along with the garlic, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, remaining water, and smoked paprika in a food processor until smooth. Add additional salt or lemon juice to taste, or extra water if it needs a little loosening up.
  4. Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle a little more smoked paprika and minced parsley leaves atop. Serve warm or at room temperature with crackers, chips, chopped vegetables, or flatbreads.

Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

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For my birthday in May 2006, my college roommate and good friend gave me a paper bag full of apples. To this day, I  consider it to be one of the simplest and most thoughtful of gifts.

Though I tend to avoid using them in recipes (because I eat them all fresh), apples are my all-time favorite food and I tend to be persnickety about what a good apple tastes like. I have a slight obsession with the kind of apples that can’t be found in most grocery stores and with unique names like Zabergau Reinette, Poundsweet, and Sheepnose. There used to be an old-timer named Joe at the Corvallis market this time of year who would talk my ear off about the 100+ heirloom apple varieties in his orchard while handing me slices to taste, each with a different complex flavor. Basically, I looked forward to market day just to hear his apple stories.

 

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When I was working in Ireland several summers back, I traipsed around counting, weighing, and mostly eating berries all day but one of my highlights was the day Andy asked if I’d like a tour of the orchard. I practically jumped in the jeep before the words were out of his mouth. Prior to that, I toured a couple orchards in northern Washington during my experience at the farm & cooking school, Quilasascut. I was the nerdy annoying girl asking too many complex questions the day we visited the apple trees. And before that in pomology, my favorite class at UCD, we visited farmers who, like Joe, had orchards filled with hundreds of varieties. On our farm tours, we walked and talked, eating apples all the while.

Basically, I love any chance to follow farmers around all day letting them share some of their wisdom about apples.

 

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If ever I come into possession of a few acres to plant a gazillion ancient apple varieties, I might be on to a new calling. In the meantime, I’m trying to convince William to tear out all the worthless pretty flowering cherry trees in our front yard and replace them with apples. He’s basically the yard maintenance guy in this household and after all the work he put into those cherries this summer with no payout, he’s mostly convinced.

 

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Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad, serves 4

For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were asked to show what’s in our Plant Protein Power Bowls, or what I refer to as grain salads. Packed with protein, fiber and color, plant power bowls are trendy and delicious. William and I happen to eat some variation of a one-dish grain salad for dinner at least a couple times each week and have been since way before eating plant-based or from a power/Buddha/yoga/nourish/etc.-bowl became a thing. This one, with it’s seemingly interesting ingredient combination, came together out of what was on hand one evening–and because from previous experience, I love the caramelizy-sweet fennel, fresh sage and apple combination. The kale, quinoa, and baby lima beans just happen to be good additions and the pomegranate seeds provide a little festive something extra. I made this twice in a row and much to my dismay and delight, William (who avoids leftovers) took most of what was left for lunch. This little well-rounded salad was so good, colorful, and as I said, festive, that I might just be making it again for some of our upcoming holidays. Enjoy!

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked baby lima beans (or other white bean)
2-3 cups finely chopped kale
1-2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, minced
1 small apple, sliced thin
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup roasted/toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, use to taste
sea salt + pepper, to taste

  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and then place it, along with the 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and then sauté the onion and fennel, about 5-8 minutes, until both are soft and golden. Remove from the heat and slide into a big bowl, along with the cooled quinoa, and lima beans.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chopped kale and remaining tablespoon of oil with your hands, gently squeezing the kale to soften it up a bit. Then combine it, along with the sage, sliced apple, pomegranate and hazelnuts, to the quinoa mixture.
  • Add 1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, tasting as you go, and season with salt and pepper as needed.


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