Tag Archives: pumpkin

Vegan Thanksgiving Eats: Pumpkin and Cranberry Baked Beans

10 Oct

For the first time in 4 years, I’m not away at a conference over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Huzzah! I should have spent the weekend preparing for said conference (which is in a few weeks) but instead decided I would roast a turkey for a motley crew of friends and family.

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My sister is vegetarian, so she offered to bring a dish that she likes to make on holidays where turkey is served: pumpkin baked beans. As a turkey lover who was vegetarian for a few short months, I can attest to the fact that they’re super satisfying and almost won’t make you miss meat. They’re sweet yet savoury, loaded with fibre and protein, and the flavours scream autumn. Prep is a cinch, and they can easily be made in advance. Everyone enjoyed them, so much so that J’s plan for a week’s worth of leftovers was thwarted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkin and Cranberry Baked Beans
(from OhSheGlows.com)

You may be able to get away with reducing the maple sugar in half and cutting down on the salt for a slightly less sweet/more healthy version. If you’re using canned beans with salt added, you will definitely want to cut down on the added salt.

3 (15-oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed (preferably no-salt-added)
1 sweet onion, chopped finely
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp blackstrap molasses (use fancy molasses if you don’t want to buy blackstrap)
4 tbsp pure maple syrup, to taste
1-1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

  1. In a pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cook over low heat until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or for J’s variation: place in a slow cooker on high heat for 2 to 3 hours. The cranberries will plump up really nicely and the flavours will develop a little bit more. You can also make this the night before and leave it in the fridge, then reheat before serving.

Makes 6 generous servings. Per serving: 305 kcal, 2.6 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 60 g carbohydrate, 12.6 g fibre, 11.5 g protein, 490 mg sodium

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Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

4 Nov

Coconut oil is a controversial topic in the nutrition world. Supporters claim it can burn fat, boost your metabolism, and help you lose weight. Skeptics say it’s high in saturated fat and may promote heart disease. So who should we believe?

Without delving too deep into the scientific literature, the health effects of coconut oil can be grouped into three different categories: body weight, heart disease, and inflammation.

Body weight. The predominant fat in coconut oil is thought to be medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that gets metabolized differently (and more efficiently) than more common dietary fats. In actuality, the chemical composition of coconut oil is markedly different from MCT oils; therefore, results from studies using MCT oils cannot be extrapolated to coconut oil. A couple of small studies suggests that coconut oil may modestly decrease waist circumference in overweight adults, but has no effect on fat mass.

Heart disease. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat. Historically, foods high in saturated fat were discouraged due to their ability to raise blood cholesterol levels, which in turn was thought to increase heart disease risk. Newer research suggests that the link between dietary saturated fat (animal fats, tropical oils) and heart disease is not as strong as once thought. Some systematic reviews do not support a relationship between saturated fat and heart disease, while others have found that replacing saturated fat with mono- and polyunsaturated fats can reduce heart disease risk. Research looking at coconut oil specifically has found that blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol both increase following regular coconut oil consumption. Longer term studies looking at the relationship between coconut oil and heart disease are required.

Inflammation. The polyphenols found in virgin coconut oil (very different from refined coconut oil) may act as antioxidants in the body and help fight inflammation; however, studies are few and far between. Claims that coconut oil will help in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments require more research before recommendations can be made.

So what’s my take on the coconut oil debate? Too much of any kind of fat will lead to weight gain, since fat is the most energy-dense of all macronutrients at 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate). Use coconut oil in moderation to add flavour to dishes, but stick to monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (preferably those with a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, such as canola or safflower oil) for day-to-day cooking. And aim to get your polyphenols from sources such as fruits and vegetables, green and black teas, coffee, and extra-virgin olive oil.

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As a huge fan of coconut-flavoured everything, I’ve always been intrigued by the prospect of using coconut oil in cooking. People say it lends a nutty, sweet aroma that is perfect for curries and roasted vegetables like yams and carrots. Yet I’ve never been able to bring myself to purchase a jar. Just looking at the white, solid-at-room-temperature, lard-resembling fat makes my arteries cringe—and yes, I realize there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these irrational thoughts. So when I received a jar as a gift from my aunt, I was eager to experiment.

Sifting through a pile of old recipes, I came across a simple pumpkin and coconut soup. The directions were a bit vague, and I realized some steps were left out, so I was naturally skeptical. But soup is pretty hard to mess up, and I had a sugar pumpkin sitting on my counter waiting to be used.

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The recipe calls for a whole sugar pumpkin (not to be mistaken with carving pumpkins which are NOT ideal for eating due to their bland, fibrous flesh) but if you’re in a bind, you could try buttercup squash. Roasting the pumpkin adds depth that you’re unlikely to get from canned or boiled pumpkin, so don’t skip this step. It’s worth the extra effort.

The coconut flavour was IN-YOUR-FACE (in a good way!). It was a nice contrast from dishes that call for coconut milk alone, where the coconut flavour can be mild and almost undetectable. The spice combination of cumin, chili powder and cinnamon together with the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin paired beautifully with coconut. A wonderful autumn soup to keep you warm during the cold months ahead.

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Pumpkin and Coconut Soup
(source unknown)

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sugar pumpkin
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
3 to 4 cups water
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste (approx 1/4 tsp salt worked for me)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Quarter pumpkin, scoop out seeds (reserve for roasting if you wish!), and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil that has been lightly oiled. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until flesh is soft. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl when pumpkin is cool enough to handle. You should have approximately 3 cups.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili flakes (if using). Cook, stirring, for one minute or until fragrant.
  4. Add pumpkin and 3 cups of water, and stir to combine. Using an immersion blender, puree soup ensuring no pieces of onion remain. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water.
  5. Remove from heat, add lime juice and coconut milk, and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings. Per 1-1/2 cup serving: 170kcal, 8 g fat (6 g saturated), 26 g carbohydrates (8 g fibre), 4 g protein, 165 mg sodium

Pumpkin Lasagna with Kale and Mushrooms

24 Oct

This pumpkin kick I’ve been on is showing no signs of slowing down.

I recently hosted an autumn bake fest with a few friends (mostly jabbering amongst some baking), where we made pumpkin spice cut-out cookies. The dough called for pumpkin purée— an unexpected addition to a fairly standard spiced sugar cookie recipe— which made it soft and easy to roll without sticking to every imaginable surface. It may not have been the pumpkin, but there was something about this dough that made for THE most perfect cookie. Sadly, it’s not healthy enough for More Spinach Please so you will have to visit Glorious Treats for the recipe.

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While I was pretty VERY proud of how well my cookies turned out, my big accomplishment of the weekend was the pumpkin lasagna that I tackled last Sunday night. Lasagna is intimidating. Even the simplest recipe can seem daunting. You have to juggle various ingredients, never sure if you’re estimating accurately when they tell you to put “one third of the mixture” on top of the noodles, only to realize that you ended up using half of the mixture and now you don’t have enough for the last layer. Luckily, taste is rarely affected by these nuances.

Once the idea of pumpkin lasagna popped into my head, I ruthlessly searched the web for the perfect recipe. The ones that sounded healthy didn’t seem quite right based on my prior lasagna-making experiences (improper ratios, not enough egg to bind), and the ones that sounded delicious were loaded with calories. I don’t usually like to mess around with lasagna recipes because if you’re not careful you will end up with a sloppy pile of noodles from too much liquid. But… I took a chance. And it paid off.

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Starting with a Rachael Ray recipe, I swapped in sautéed mushrooms, kale, and onion for the boiled escarole and cut down on the amount of cheese. I wanted to use whole wheat noodles but I couldn’t find a no-cook version (a key ingredient for a cohesive lasagna that will not fall apart on your plate). Oh well. I also managed to make a roux using a small amount of olive oil instead of equal parts butter and flour, although this ended up requiring a bit of extra flour at the end for thickening. The culinary gods were certainly frowning down on me for butchering a classic technique.

The layering process can be a pain when trying to follow written directions, so I created a quick drawing for myself that I could refer to.

LasagnaAssembly

The final product come out of the oven looking like a perfect lasagna should: oozing with cheese and golden brown on top. When I cut into it, I was delighted to find nicely defined layers that did not fall apart on my plate. Success!

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If you never make this lasagna, promise me one thing: you MUST make the garlic béchamel sauce. Throw it on pasta, eat it with a spoon— whatever you wish. It’s simple yet superb. And a good source of calcium.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Kale and Mushrooms
(adapted from Rachael Ray’s Pumpkin Lovers Lasagna)

1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 cups (227g) sliced mushrooms
5 cups chopped kale, ribs removed (approximately 5 leaves)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (skim or 1%)
Pinch of nutmeg
1 can (796mL) pure pumpkin purée
3 eggs
2 cups ricotta (ideally 6% M.F. or less)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cup grated partly-skimmed mozzarella cheese
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cover the garlic cloves with water in a small saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool. Squish the garlic pulp from the jackets into a bowl and mash with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the kale, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale has wilted and all liquid from the mixture has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
  4. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and mashed garlic until no lumps remain and season with salt and pepper to taste, and a little nutmeg. Cook until slightly thickened (the sauce should just coat the back of the spoon evenly without breaking up on the spoon’s surface). If your mixture doesn’t thicken properly, add another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of flour.
  5. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl. DO NOT FORGET THE SALT! I made this mistake and the pumpkin layer was a bit bland.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, 1/4 cup of parmesan, and the remaining egg.
  7. In a large dish, soak the lasagna sheets in water for 5 minutes.
  8. Pour about half the garlic sauce into the bottom of a 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna sheets (4 sheets per layer, breaking them up as needed to fit into the dish, keeping in mind that they will expand) and then half the pumpkin mixture. Make another layer of lasagna sheets and spread with all of the ricotta mixture, followed by the kale and mushroom mixture. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, the remaining pumpkin and another layer of lasagna sheets. Finish with the remaining garlic sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan.
  9. Bake the lasagna, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Try to tent the foil slightly, as part of my top layer of lasagna was pulled up when the foil was removed. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Let rest for 15 minutes, then cut and serve. Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 405 kcal, 15 g fat (6 g saturated), 44 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 24 g protein, 465 mg sodium

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

21 Oct

After a two year hiatus, More Spinach Please is back on the grid! Since my last post, life’s kept me busy with wedding planning, house hunting, moving, and work. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement but I’m ready to lay low for awhile.

This past weekend, I was blessed with minimal plans and the urge to bake. A dangerous combination. And since autumn has me dreaming of pumpkin-everything, my main ingredient was a no-brainer.

Pumpkin is a humble nutritional powerhouse, often neglected outside of the month of October. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of vitamin A (a half cup serving of purée provides you with over 300% of your recommended daily intake) and a source of fibre, with 4 grams per serving. It adds moisture to baked goods without added fat and lends beautiful colour.

On Friday night, I found myself scouring the web for a quick and easy pumpkin loaf recipe. I was visiting a colleague and her baby the following morning and didn’t want to show up at her new house empty-handed. A simple cranberry pumpkin loaf caught my eye, and with a few small tweaks I was confident I could make a fairly healthy version without compromising taste. I swapped in whole wheat flour for the white stuff, reduced the sugar, and added a bit of extra pumpkin to ensure the loaf was moist enough. The loaf turned out just as I’d hoped: lightly spiced, beautifully coloured, moist, and not-too-sweet. So tasty (and easy!) that I baked another one two days later.

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

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Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf with Pecans
(adapted from Cooking Light)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ginger + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/8 tsp cloves)
1-1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with oil or cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl; make a well in centre of mixture. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, water, oil, vanilla, and eggs; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour batter into the loaf pan; sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 16 slices.  Per slice: 160 calories, 6 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 3 g protein, 58 mg sodium

Festive Fare: Pumpkin Pie (with a healthier pie crust)

28 Dec

Pumpkin pie.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  Personally, I’m a lover.  It screams “holidays” to me despite the fact that I would be just as happy eating a slice of pumpkin pie in the sweltering July heat with no apparent occasion as I would be digging into a slice topped with whipped cream at Thanksgiving dinner. With no planned dessert aside from Christmas cookies this year, I jumped at the opportunity to make pumpkin pie as an end to our family’s Christmas dinner.

It may seem complicated, but pumpkin pie is actually one of the easiest pies to make from scratch (minus the pastry).  As an added bonus, it’s often one of the healthiest pies you can choose.  With only a single crust, you’re cutting down on most of the calories and fat found in pie.  And the filling tends to be lower in sugar than traditional fruit pies, although this isn’t always the case.  Last year I found a recipe for a low-calorie pumpkin pie on a quick-and-easy gingersnap crust.  I planned on making it again this year until my sister complained that she wanted a “real” pie crust.  So instead, I decided to try out something new.

This recipe came from an amazing cookbook called The New American Plate Cookbook that I recently received as a gift from a somewhat new but dear friend.  The pie crust replaces most of the butter with oil, and uses a bit of whole wheat flour for added nutrition.  It was simple to make using a food processor although the challenge lay in rolling out the delicate dough without breaking it.  Once baked, the crust was thinner than usual… but I considered this to be a worthwhile sacrifice given the calories that were saved.

Healthier Pie Crust with an interesting and unexplained technique of flour + spices dusted on the unbaked, unfilled dough. My guess is that this is to prevent the thin dough from becoming too soggy.

For the filling, a unique approach is used that helps create a rich-tasting filling with less than the usual amount of sugar.  Usually the pumpkin is mixed with spices, eggs, some form of milk (usually condensed), and sugar, then thrown into the crust to bake.  Easy peasy.  In this recipe, the pumpkin is first cooked down slightly on the stove, which intensifies the pumpkin flavour and brings out its natural sweetness.  According to the cookbook authors, the few minutes needed for this extra step are well worth taking.  The pie tasted delicious, so I will have to agree!

The final, slightly cracked, product

Decadent pumpkin pie with rich and not-so-healthy Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream

 

Pumpkin Pie on the new american plate pie crust
(from The New American Plate Cookbook)

2 cups canned pure pumpkin
dough for 1 New American Plate Pie Crust (see below for recipe)
1-1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, divided
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 can (12 oz) evaporated fat-free (or 2%) milk
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Lightly coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray.  Cook the pumpkin over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon so that all the pumpkin comes in contact with the pan, until the pumpkin is reduced to 1-3/4 cups, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer the pumpkin to a blender or food processor and let it cool slightly.
  2. Set a baking rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Meanwhile, roll out the dough.  On a sheet of waxed paper, press the dough into a flattened disk.  Cover the dough with another sheet of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle.  Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and lift the bottom sheet to invert the dough over a 9-inch pie plate.  Remove the waxed paper and gently press the dough down against the sides and bottom of the plate, pressing out any air bubbles.  Crimp the edges by pinching between your thumb and forefinger (I prefer to use the handle of a wooden spoon or the wide-end of a single chopstick).
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 tsp of the nutmeg and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon.  Sprinkle the flour and spice mixture evenly over the bottom of the pie crust and set aside.  Chill prepared crust while preparing the filling.
  5. Gradually turn the blender or food processor to the highest speed and puree the pumpkin.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  At medium speed, gradually first add the milk, then the sugar, then the eggs, blending only until each addition is incorporated into the mixture.  Add the salt, the remaining 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon, the allspice, and the vanilla extract, and blend until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Pour the filling into the pie crust.
  6. Bake the pie for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 45 minutes more, until the filling looks set and a thin knife inserted into the centre of the pie comes out almost clean.  If the rim of the pie crust browns before the filling is set, cover it loosely with strips of foil.
  7. Cool the pan on a wire rack before serving.

Makes 10 servings.  Per serving: 194 kcal, 7 g fat, 2 g fibre, 158 mg sodium.

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The New American Plate Pie Crust

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, chilled
3 tbsp canola oil
1-2 tbsp ice water

  1. In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, and salt.  Pulse for a few seconds to combine.  Add the butter and canola oil.  Pulse again until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture resembles crumbs.  With the food processor running, add the ice water, beginning with 1 tbsp and adding more, 1 tsp at a time, until the dough starts to come together.  Gather the dough into a ball and let it rest for a few minutes.  This dough is softer and more delicate than traditional doughs, so care should be taken to handle it lightly and not overwork it.
  2. On a sheet of waxed paper, press the dough into a flattened disk.  Cover the dough with another sheet of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle.  Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and lift the bottom sheet to invert the dough over a 9-inch pie plate.  Remove the waxed paper and gently press the dough down against the sides and bottom of the plate, pressing out any air bubbles.
  3. Crimp the edges by pinching between your thumb and forefinger (I prefer to use the handle of a wooden spoon or the wide-end of a single chopstick).
  4. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the filling.  The dough can be covered and refrigerated overnight or can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month

Makes 1 crust for a 9-inch pie, 10 servings.
Per serving: 93 kcal, 5 g fat, <1 g fibre, 41 mg sodium.