Creamy Pumpkin, Kefir and Chia Seed Smoothie

As odd as it may sound, I feel the New Year is around the corner. After Halloween, it feels like I blink my eye and I’m making stuffing for the turkey and then I’m decorating the house for Christmas with carols playing round the clock. And then the New year is here with all of the usual weight loss resolutions and juice fasts that come with it. So this year, I decided to start a clean-type of eating plan to get a kick-start on 2014. And part of it is avoiding my love or better yet, lust, my pumpkin spice coffees. I’m not giving up coffee completely and I’m sure if I put a pinch of pumpkin spice into my coffee no one will look at me too weird, as I take a McCormick jar out of my purse. (I was joking but what a good idea! lol) But I was inspired to make a creamy, yet healthy sort of smoothie with kefir and pumpkin puree so I can still enjoy the season and my pumpkin spice. And this is so tasty, it’s hard to believe it’s good for you! It’s almost like a pumpkin cheesecake in a glass. Almost. Cheers and happy weekend!

  • 1 cup of low-fat plain kefir
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • generous pinch of pumpkin spice or a little cinnamon, nutmeg and mace
  • sweetener of your choice, (honey would be nice. I used a 1/2 teaspoon of xylitol.)

Combine the kefir and chia seeds and let sit for about ten minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, spices and sweetener. (The best part, you can use a fork to combine everything. Easy clean-up.) Serves 1.


Roasted Chicken Breast with Hard Pumpkin Cider Sauce

Time is just flying by, I can’t believe it’s election day, once again! So I predict like many election nights of the past, it’s going to be a long one. So take some time, relax and make a nice dinner, before the counting takes place. I’ve been really enjoying hard apple cider lately. There is a local winery/distillery that makes great hard cider, I can’t get enough of the stuff and feel like I need to take note from the squirrel in the yard, stock-piling those acorns, lol. Check them out at And I thought while I sipped away the other night, why not add it to roasted chicken? And it came out so flavorful and juicy! You can go as heavy or light with the pumpkin pie spice. I think it’s a great addition to savory dishes, why let pumpkin pie have all the fun? ;) So, if you haven’t voted yet, get out and VOTE and may the best man win! Happy Election Day!

  • 2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1/2 cup Hard Pumpkin Apple Cider or any flavor Hard Apple Cider
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • pinch pumpkin pie spice, or more
  • 1 Swedish-style gingersnap cookie, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons light cream
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken and rub pumpkin pie spice into the chicken. Place in a heavy bottomed baking pan. Pour the hard pumpkin apple cider over the chicken. Dot with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, broken up into small pieces. Place into a 375 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Take your chicken out of the oven and add the gingersnap cookie to the pan and baste the chicken with the cider, in the pan. Place back into the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, longer if you would like your chicken darker. Carefully remove your chicken from the pan and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Place the chicken back into the pan and cover the chicken and let it rest, while you make the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil on high heat, add in 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter and light cream, whisking it into the sauce. Let it boil for a minute or so, until you have a light sauce. Serve with your chicken and steamed green beans on the side. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Chicken back in the pan, resting, while the sauce is bubbling away…

Old Bay Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds

Once a year, I find myself craving freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. There is nothing like it, when the leaves are on the ground, yet some still hanging onto the branches, golden and rust in color. I love to look out the window as a few sporadic leaves fall ever so gently before the glass, as the wind, takes them down. It makes me want to have hot apple cider and carve a pumpkin! With it being the last weekend before Halloween, I think a lot of kitchens will have bowls full of seeds, on their tables. Don’t let them go to waste! They are great to snack on while you are carving your pumpkin! There is no easy way to get the seeds out of the pumpkin, other than a spoon and your bare hands, it’s messy and fun. And in a matter of 25 minutes, that messy pile becomes a tasty snack! Have a great weekend everyone! Happy carving and roasting!

  • pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • cooking spray
  • garlic powder
  • sea salt

Clean your pumpkin seeds, under cold water, hand picking the threads out. Line them in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning (nothing like a little Old Bay in the autumn, with memories of summers past, filled with blue claw crabs, caked on with the good stuff, enjoyed on hot balmy nights) on them along with a little garlic powder. Spray them with cooking spray and place the sheet in a 375 degree pre-heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, take them out and toss the seeds with the olive oil and adjust the seasoning as needed, I ended up adding a little salt and more Old Bay. Back in the oven they go, for another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown or darker if you like! Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn. Enjoy!

Oxtail & Lentil Stew in a Pumpkin

This could be a potentially cute couples night, (with a couple that doesn’t squirm at the thought of eating oxtails, lol) With two sugar pumpkins filled with steamy stew and a bottle of wine, this could be the perfect couples night, at your place. Oxtails are really good once cooked down, till the meat is falling off the bone, combined with sage flavored lentils and creamy potatoes, this is a comforting meal. This stew is time consuming to make but the reward is a not-so-ordinary-dinner and the warmth and coziness it brings to your kitchen, is a definite plus, as the longer it simmers on the stove, the better it gets. Serve each couple with a pumpkin, 2 bowls and spoons and good bread on the side. Present each pumpkin with its’ own mini ladle, so each couple can help themselves. Enjoy!

  • 2 sugar pumpkins, each weighing about 3-4 pounds each
  • 1 pound oxtails
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. dried lentils, soaked overnight
  • 1 small carrot, sliced and cut into half-moons
  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2-3 small sage leaves
  • pinch marjoram leaves
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups water, plus more as needed
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt

Salt and pepper your oxtails and dredge them in flour. Heat up a generous drizzle of oil in a Dutch oven until hot. Sear the oxtails on all sides, on medium-high heat, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove them from the pot and lower the heat and add your shallots. Quickly saute them and add in the lentils, giving them a good stir. Add in the water, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin puree, sage leaves, marjoram and nutmeg. Stirring up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in your oxtails and bring to a boil on high heat with the pot covered. Add in the bouillon, and stir until it’s dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer covered for a minimum of 3 hours. Adding water, as needed, as it reduces. And you could enjoy this as a soup or as a stew, depending on how much liquid you add or reduce. While your stew is simmering away, you can prepare the pumpkins. Begin by cutting the lids off the pumpkin. (Leave about an inch to the stem, so none of the stew comes spilling out, once it’s poured in.) Remove the seeds and the pumpkin threads and don’t be shy about carving into your pumpkin with a spoon, to remove all of the threads. You want a pretty smooth surface inside the pumpkin and the lid. (Reserve your pumpkin seeds for roasting, another day.) Place them in a 13×9 baking pan. Pour two cups of water into the pan and place them in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for 1 hour. After the hour is up, cover with aluminum foil, (with the stems sticking through) and bake for another hour. Let them cool a bit before handling. Using good oven gloves, carefully, move the pumpkins to their serving platter and divide the stew into the pumpkins and serve! You can also scoop some of the pumpkin with the soup, it’s really good! Serves 2 couples or makes 4 servings.

Potato Gnocchi with a Tomato, Pumpkin & Mushroom Sauce

Potato gnocchi have my heart, always. On a chilly, rainy and foggy autumn night,  potato gnocchi can put a smile the face and warm the belly, like nothing else. I found these dried wood ear mushrooms at a health food store and I couldn’t leave without them, I had to give them a try and thought they would look great on a plate during Halloween…on a dark and creepy night…Muuwaaahhaaa…( couldn’t resist. lol)

  • 1 pound potato gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 4 tablespoons good marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light cream
  • 1 sage leaf
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dried wood ear mushrooms *
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • Parmesan cheese *optional

           *You can use any dried mushrooms you like, if they are larger, just chop them down to size.

First begin by rehydrating your mushrooms, according to the package instructions, about 30 minutes in hot water, until the mushrooms get soft. Just add enough water to cover them by about an inch. Cook your gnocchi according to the package instructions, about 2-3 minutes, until they float, drain and set aside. Into the same pot, melt the butter and add the pumpkin puree, marinara sauce, cream and sage. Simmer for about 5 minutes and add the mushrooms, 2 tablespoons of the mushroom liquid and the gnocchi, until heated through. Pass around a wedge of Parmesan cheese, so everyone can help themselves. Serves 2-4. If serving 4, round out the meal with a soup and salad, I don’t know about you, but gnochhi are addicting and a nice big bowl makes a rainy and chilly night, all the warmer. Enjoy!

Creepy Cheese Platter

Start your Halloween party, off on the right foot, with a creepy cheese platter! Blue cheese always gave me a little bit of a fright for some reason, lol. But I’ve grown to love it. So taking a little bit of a spin off that fright, combining the mysteriously deeply blue veined cheese with dark purple grapes, walnut halves, dark seeded crackers and pumpkin puree makes this a cheese platter, one to remember. And pumpkin doesn’t have to be limited to just pies, adding it to your cheese platter gives it an unexpected twist. Add faux bugs and a mini cleaver to slice the cheese for a little bit of Halloween fun and fright.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • pinch of pumpkin pie spice

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the pumpkin puree, fig marmalade and pumpkin pie spice. Heat on low heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until heated through. If you want your pumpkin spread sweeter, add in honey. Surround with Concord grapes, Gorgonzola cheese, black sesame brown rice crisps (You can usually find them down the health food aisle, if not a brown rice cracker fan, Dr. Kracker crackers would be great instead) and walnut halves. Enjoy!

Guacamole in a Pumpkin

I can eat an avocado drizzled with olive oil and topped with sea salt and be a happy girl, really happy girl, lol. I have a deep fondness for avocados. And as many times as I’ve made guacamole, each time it comes out different. Guacamole is great because you really can’t mess it up, provided you have perfectly ripe avocados and complimenting ingredients. At times, it’s loaded with fresh tomatoes, other times, I can’t get enough cilantro in the mix, topping whole leaves, on the green mound of goodness. Sometimes, I want a lot of heat and add some minced jalapeno pepper. Other times, I’ve wanted just a little heat and have added some long hot pepper or Sriracha sauce. At times, thinly sliced scallions and extra crunchy sea salt is all I need. This last time I made it, I made it pretty simple, wanting chunks of avocado with a little cilantro. Come Halloween time, guacamole takes on a whole new look when piled into a pumpkin, looking like a little bit of a monster mash, lol. Serve with plantain strips and tomato wedges on the side. Enjoy right away!

P.S. For optimum enjoyment of your chips, don’t leave them in the dip, they get soggy!

  • 1 2-pound sugar pumpkin
  • 5 small ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot, rinsed under hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • plantain strips
  • a few tomatoes, chopped

Draw a squiggly line around the top of the pumpkin for the opening with a pencil. Fixing it along the way as needed. Take a small utility knife and lightly score the design. Go in again with your utility knife to make the cut of the opening a little deeper. Make small movements with your knife as it can slip, so slower is better when cutting the opening for the pumpkin. Next, take a small utility saw or pumpkin saw and cut into the opening, going around one more time, if needed, until the lid comes off easily. Be really careful when handling the utiility knife and saw. *Remove the seeds and also a little bit of the inside of the pumpkin so you don’t have pumpkin threads with your guacamole. Set your pumpkin aside. Begin making your guacamole. Juice 1/2 the lime and let your shallot sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes. Drain the shallot and squeeze dry, discarding the lime juice. Next, combine the avocado, cilantro, shallot and salt in a non-reactive bowl with the remaining juice of 1/2 the lime. Mash with the potato masher until well combined. And off course add more cilantro or lime juice as needed!

*Toss the pumpkin seeds with a little olive oil and sea salt or any seasoning you like and roast at 425, until light brown, stirring occasionally. Enjoy! 

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Mushrooms

The cooler weather has me craving good old comfort food, that sticks to your ribs and leaves you happy. And gnocchi never disappoint! I had about a cup of pumpkin puree left over from making my “Corn & Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice” (October 2nds’ post) and wanted to make gnocchi. I never made them before and was excited and I used Hank Shaws’ recipe that was featured on Simply Recipes and it came out great! What a nice recipe! I adapted it a little bit because I was in a rosemary and mushroom mood, and when a rosemary and mushroom mood hits, you gotta go with it! lol Nice recipe to make on a weekend where the leaves and temperatures are falling outside but the temperature inside is nice and warm from the gnocchi boiling away on the hot stove. Enjoy and happy weekend!

  • 1 cup of pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon finely minced rosemary plus 1/4 teaspoon finely minced for mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 porchini mushroom bouillon cube *optional
  • chives for garnish *optional

First combine the pumpkin, ricotta cheese and eggs. Stir in the rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Put your mixture in the middle of a large board. Using a fork, add in the flour, little by little. I did about 1/2 a cup at a time. Once the dough was too thick to mix, I used my hands to incorporate the flour. If doing this, it’s best to have a buddy next to you, adding in the flour for you. The dough will still be sticky but form it in a ball and transfer it to a board that is coated with flour. If you can, roll your ball in flour or with your hands rub more flour on the surface of your dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 pieces.

Take each ball and form into about a foot long log, rolling and pulling the dough along. Cut your log into about 1/2 inch strips. As you cut it will flatten the dough so squeeze the ends of each cut strip with your fingertips to make it more of a gnocchi shape.

Bring your water to a boil and add in your bouillon cube. If not using the bouillon, that’s fine, you can use sea salt. You want enough water in the pot, so the gnocchi have room to cook. Drop in your gnocchi, a little at a time, in about 8 batches. I rolled, cooked along the way, each gnocchi roll was cooked in 2 batches. But for ease, having all the gnocchi formed and then boiling them is best. Cook them for 2 minutes each until they start bobbing up towards the surface. You want the broth boiling on high heat. Using a strainer spoon, take the gnocchi out and let them drain in a colander. Cook all of your gnocchi and set them aside, reserving a little bit of the cooking liquid. To make your rosemary mushrooms, in a large, heavy bottomed pan, combine the butter and the shallots. Saute on low heat until softened for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in in the mushrooms and saute for ten minutes, until they get lightly browned. Add in 2 tablespoons of the broth, if not using broth, you can skip this step. Continue cooking your mushrooms for another 15 minutes. Once your mushrooms are soft, increase the heat to high, until most of the liquid is evaporated. It doesn’t take that long, but it really depends on how much liquid the mushrooms have released. Add in your gnocchi and the rosemary. Season with sea salt and saute until the gnocchi are browned a little bit. Add in the heavy cream and stir until the cream has thickened. Garnish with chives and enjoy nice and hot! This makes 4 servings.

Corn & Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice

I am seriously in the Halloween spirit! As I recall, this is the earliest the house is decorated. There are faux spiders and mice all around the house. Dark tattered curtains adorn the windows, that only a true witch would approve off. And creepy faux spiderwebs are everywhere, they blend into the natural spiderwebs, that the house is rarely void off. (I love this time of year, the real spider webs are part of the decorations! ;) lol.) If you are in the spirit also, this is a great soup to make. This soup can be a little creepy looking, but it’s so fun and tasty. Late season corn makes this soup pleasantly sweet. If you want to skip the bugs-in-your-soup look, just serve without the wild rice. Either way it’s a treat!

  • 2 ears of corn or 2 cups of frozen corn
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • heaping tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1-2 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta or any all-purpose seasoning that you like
  • 2 cups wild rice, cooked

If using fresh corn, run a sharp knife down the cob, to remove the corn kernels. Do it carefully. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter and add the shallot, saute until soft. Add the corn, chicken broth, pumpkin, cloves, allspice and turmeric. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once brought to a boil, bring down to low heat and simmer for 55 minutes, covered. After the time is up, remove the cloves and allspice and discard. Stir in the cilantro and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Carefully, remove your pot off the stove and either use a blender or a hand immersion blender and puree the soup. It still ends up a little chunky. If you want, you can strain it through a cheesecloth, to get it silky smooth. Once your soup is blended, put it back on the stove, on low heat. Whisk in the cream. Season with Vegeta or all purpose seasoning if needed and simmer for about 5 minutes. To serve this soup, use shallow soup bowls and mound the wild rice in the center. Ladle the soup around the rice. Pass around a small bowl with chopped cilantro, so everyone can help themselves. This serves 4 people.

Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt

One of the prettiest things about fall, are pumpkins. I’ve been so excited about Halloween already. I know, I know, I am rushing along the season. I had to talk myself out of decorating the house. The ripped up black curtains were almost up! And on top of that, I was picking out pumpkins, for the front steps. I had to step away, the main reason being, the squirrels will have a full sit down dinner, enjoying those pumpkins and lucky me will have to clean up after them. So I stepped away from the pretty pumpkins and at the same time, I don’t want to rush this beautiful time of year, but I do want a little taste, so I made this pumpkin pie Greek yogurt. It’s almost as good as the real thing. Creamy, spicy and has that pumpkin pie flavor, that only autumn gives. Enjoy!

  • 17.6 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 5 tablespoons pumpkin fruit butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • generous pinch pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 ginger snap cookies
  • 1 teaspoon raw pumpkin seeds *optional

Combine the yogurt, pumpkin butter, honey, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. Adjust the seasonings, adding more spice, fruit butter or honey, depending on the sweetness and flavor of the pumpkin butter. Crush your ginger snap cookies and combine with the pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle them around the rim of the bowl, mimicking the crust and the best part, if you let it sit a little, it gets as moist as the real thing! Serves 2.