Thursday, October 28, 2010

Low-Fat Pumpkin Chai Latte

I'm sure everyone will soon be sick of all my pumpkin posts and recipes, but Fall only rolls around once a year. I must take advantage of all the seasonal produce! This morning I was in the mood for a Starbucks Chai Latte and a Pumpkin Latte, but I had hip surgery two weeks ago, so I can't drive. Stranded at home, with a whole lot of time on my hands, I set out to make the ultimate combination of my two favorite drinks. Who doesn't love pumpkin? It instantly produces a comforting, warm and fuzzy feeling, not unlike that feeling when you're seated for Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Hot Chocolate has taken a back seat and Chai tea has surfaced as the newest warm-me-up-on-a-cold-day-drink. Combining the two was a no-brainer, and it turned out wonderfully. Not only is it tasty, but this latte is also packed with health benefits. Black tea and cinnamon contain powerful antioxidants and pumpkin is packed with vitamins and fiber. You can use decaf or regular tea, and of course, adjust spices to taste. So get steeping, and go curl up with a nice book!

Low-Fat Pumpkin Chai Latte
Serves 2

2 cups water
2 black tea bags
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 slice fresh ginger (about 1 /8 inch)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
Freshly ground nutmeg
Ground cinnamon
Ground cloves
1 teaspoon honey

In a medium sauce pan, heat the water to a simmer. Split the vanilla bean in half and place on a piece of cheesecloth along with the sliced ginger, cinnamon stick, a pinch of ground cloves, about 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Tie the cheesecloth and place in the simmering water with two tea bags. Turn off the heat and steep for 3-5 minute, then remove the tea bags. In a bowl whisk together the milk and pumpkin. Take a ladle of the tea and whisk it into the pumpkin and milk mixture. Slowly whisk about one third of the tea into the milk and pumpkin. Now, slowly pour the milk and pumpkin into the sauce pan and stir. Cook over low heat for about 3 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth and discard. Stir in the honey and serve.

Calories: 64 Fat: .3g Carbohydrates: 11.3g Fiber: .9g Protein: 4.5g

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

With just 5 days left until Halloween, pumpkins are everywhere! You may know that pumpkin is packed with powerful nutrients. But did you know that these nutrients are beneficial to your dog, too? The fiber in pumpkins has long been a cure for dogs with gastrointestinal issues. But many of the vitamins and minerals found in this popular squash work the same way in dogs as they do humans. Vitamin C helps boost immune function, potassium promotes bone strength, Beta- and Alpha- carotenes help ward off cancer, and Vitamin A protects eyes from cataracts- a big concern for older dogs.

I love my dogs like family, so I wanted to create a healthy treat for them to enjoy. In light of the upcoming holiday, I decided to make these Pumpkin Biscuits. They're really easy to make, and very healthy too- no fat! Just make sure to let the family know they're for the pets, because they look identical to cookies! If you get a lot of tag-along canine trick-or-treaters, these make wonderful treat bags. Just wrap a few biscuits in cellophane, and tie with orange and black ribbons. The dogs will love them, and the kids will be just as excited. Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 egg whites
pinch cinnamon

Preheat oven to 275. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin and egg whites. With a large spoon, mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Once the mixture has come just come together, use your hands to incorporate all the ingredients together and form a large ball. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky. Knead more flour into the dough if it is too sticky. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick. Use cookie cutters (I used pumpkins, and maple leaves) to cut out shapes. Bake the biscuits on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until hard. Cool the biscuits on a cooling rack.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This October when you're carving a pumpkin, save the seeds. They're so easy to roast, and they make a delicious, healthy snack. Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are packed with all kinds of nutrients, such as manganese, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, and protein.

Roasting your own pumpkin seeds is a fun activity for the whole family. There's something special and rewarding about eating pumpkin seeds that you've harvested, cleaned, roasted and seasoned. Store-bought seeds are no match for homemade!

I've included basic instructions and recipes on how to prepare the seeds, but it's up to you to experiment and tweak the seasonings to your liking. There's no right or wrong way to make them. If you have a favorite combination of seasonings and spices, please share!

Harvesting and Cleaning the Seeds
Different pumpkins have different seeds. Your typical carving pumpkin provides large seeds with a white husk. Small baking pumpkins have little seeds without the husk. What kind you use is completely personal preference. If you just like the inside seed, go with the baking pumpkin. If you like the tough husk, use the carving pumpkin.

Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Separate the seeds, you don't need the pulp so throw it away, or even better, toss it in your compost pile. Put the seeds in a colander or strainer, and rinse under warm water, cleaning off any leftover pulp and goop (yes, that's a technical term). Once the seeds are clean, shake off all remaining water, and transfer them to a tea towel. Spread the seeds over the towel in a single layer, and roll up the towel. Let the seeds dry completely.

Roasting the Seeds
There's a few ways you can roast your seeds. You can use a Silpat (a silicone baking sheet), a cookie sheet lined with foil, or my favorite, parchment paper with holes. The first two are pretty straightforward. I like to use the parchment paper method because it allows air to circulate underneath the seeds, which leads them to cook more evenly and be very crunchy. It just takes a few minutes, and from my experience, is well worth the time.

First, place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the cooling rack, large enough to be tucked underneath the rack on the sides. Using something small and sharp to poke holes all over the paper. (Think push pin or an eyeglass screw driver) The holes need to be large enough to allow air to circulate underneath the seeds, but small enough so the seeds don't fall through. You need a lot of holes.

We're ready to roast. Spread the seeds on your surface of choice If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 325 and cook the seeds for about 8-10 minutes. If you have a conventional oven, preheat it to 350, and cook the seeds for 10-15 minutes. Again, cooking time is personal preference. If you like your seeds a bit chewy, cook them for a shorter amount of time. If you like them very crunchy, cook them for a longer amount of time. Just keep an eye on them, because once they're burnt, they're burnt.

Just about every recipe I found online seasoning the seeds before roasting. This way, you can cook all the seeds at once, then divide them and season them, instead of having to use a different pan for each 'flavor.' So following are a few basic recipes. Again, personal preference. Alter, experiment, omit. Use these recipes as a starting point.

Garlic and Herb
1/4 cup roasted seeds

1/8 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

Olive oil

Combine the salt and herbs together. Very lightly coat the seeds with olive oil, and add them to the herb mixture. Toss to coat, and spread the seeds on parchment paper to dry.

Black Pepper, Sea Salt and Olive Oil
1/4 cup roasted seeds

1/4 tsp olive oil

black pepper

sea salt

Toss the seeds with the olive oil. Next, season the seeds with black pepper and sea salt to taste. Spread the seeds on parchment paper to dry.

Autumn Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 cup roasted seeds

1 teaspoon maple sugar (brown sugar works fine, but maple sugar is really spectacular)

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

a pinch of ground ginger

a pinch of nutmeg


In a small bowl, combine just enough water with the maple sugar to make a think paste. (1 or 2 drops is plenty.) Heat in the microwave for 5 second intervals, until the sugar has melted. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat. Pour the seeds back onto a nonstick baking surface (parchment or Silpat) at 350 for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.

Make your own recipe by experimenting with different herbs and spice. A few may include cayenne, paprika, oregano, cumin, and seasoning salts.

Store the seeds in a zip-top bag in a cool, dry place. Enjoy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tri-Color Asian Salad

I'm all about simplicity. Less is very often more. That's why this salad has 3 main ingredients, cucumber, carrot, and jicama, and a very simple dressing. It's light, fresh and wonderfully crunchy. If you've never tried jicama, this is a great opportunity. Jicama is a root that looks like a turnip. It is very sweet, and it's texture is similar to a potato. This salad is low in calories and packed with nutrients. This dish is also a perfect time to practice your knife skills. We'll be cutting the carrots into batonnets (1/4 x 1/4 x 2-2 1/2 inches), and julienning (1/8 x 1/8 x 2-2 1/2 inches) the jicama, and simply cutting the cucumber slices into 6 equal pieces. To learn how to batonnet click here. To learn how to julienne, click here.

Tri-Color Asian Salad
Serves one

12 slices peeled cucumber, each cut into six pieces
8 baby carrots, batonnet
1/3 cup julliened jicama
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon honey
Pinch freshly grated ginger
Pinch freshly grated lemon zest
Black pepper to taste
Sesame seeds

Mix the vegetables together in a bowl. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, ginger, lemon zest and black pepper. Add the dressing to the vegetables, toss together quickly. Use tongs to place the salad on a plate, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Enjoy!

Calories: 54 Carbs: 12g Fiber: 4g Fat: 0g Protein: 2g

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Butternut Squash with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Fall is my favorite season. The smell of bonfires, the colorful leaves that fill the trees, hot apple cider and fuzzy sweaters. But most of all, Fall is my favorite season because the wonderful produce that is available. Parsnips, apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and several varieties of squash- just to name a few. There's something so comforting, so rustic, about a warm vegetable dish on a cool fall evening.

I created this recipe last week, and have made it, tweaked it, and enjoyed it three times since. It really highlights the squash and apple's natural flavors, there's not much seasoning needed when the produce is at it's peak freshness. The onion and balsamic vinegar add a bit of sweetness, and the apples are perfectly crunchy. If you want to add a bit of creaminess, sprinkle a bit of feta on top, but I like to keep it simple. This is a great dish alongside a hot cup of tea. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash with Apples and Caramelized Onions
1 serving

1/2 small Butternut Squash (about 6 oz), 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium apple, medium dice
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
2 Basil leaves
Dried thyme
Ground sage
Black pepper
Olive oil

1. Heat a saute pan over medium heat with just enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil becomes shiny, add the onions. Cook until the onions have become browned and translucent. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

2. Add the butternut squash to the saute pan, add an ice cube and cover. Cook until slightly tender, or about 5 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat.

3. When the squash is tender, add the apples, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, a pinch of ground sage, and salt and pepper to taste. When the apples are slightly tender, stir in the caramelized onions. Spoon onto a plate, and drizzle the balsamic reduction over top. Sprinkle shredded basil leaves on top, and serve. Enjoy!

Calories: 175 Fat: 1g Carbs: 45g Fiber: 10g Protein: 2g