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Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

Fall has arrived and so too has butternut squash, both in my mom’s garden and at my local farmer’s market.

I’ve been loading up on the creamy orange treat and roasting it by the masses in my oven.

Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

With a full tupperware container of leftover butternut, I decided to pull out my spatula and basque in one of my favorite cool-weather activities — baking.

Muffins became the mission and pumpkin spice the theme.

Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

In honesty, I’m definitely not one of those PS-obsessed gals, and in fact, I actually kind of despite the trend. From cereal to yogurt to bagels to popcorn, the amount of pumpkin spice flavored foods is getting out of control. Pumpkin pie spice english muffins…really?!

Although in muffins…that’s a different story. The spice combination worked quite well with this recipe, and left the whole kitchen smelling like autumn upon baking. Love.

Also, fun fact: I learned last year, most canned pumpkin is made up primarily of squash. So, no need to blink twice when you see this recipe swapping pumpkin puree for mashed butternut.

Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

In my mission, I also set out to use amaranth flour, which I’ve had idling in my cabinet for some time now. It’s a gluten-free, high-protein flour, which makes it great for adding a boost of nutrition.

I haven’t been able to find many recipes that utilize it, so if you have a favorite way of cooking/baking with the flour yourself, please do share!

Pumpkin Spice Amaranth Muffins

I find these muffins best served slightly warm with a smear of almond butter and a drizzle of honey. Add a glass of almond milk on the side, and you’re in for a true seasonal treat, perfect as a cozy snack or senses-awakening breakfast.

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Breakfast Sweet Potato Boats

Breakfast Sweet Potato Boats

I eat a lot of oatmeal. A lot.

Recently, however, I’ve been striving to switch things up. I’ve been experimenting with other grains, but also with sweet potatoes, my new favorite for adding a little variety to the breakfast table.

Trust me, sweet potatoes needn’t be just for dinner. They’re a real treat when complimented by other sweet flavors (cue bananas & maple syrup) and accented with nuttiness (cue peanut butter & toasted almonds).

Plus, a sweet potato’s natural creaminess isn’t far off from a traditional breakfast porridge, and you can really top it off with many of the same ingredients you might use with oats or other sweet (vs. savory) breakfast bowls.

Beyond the add-ins mentioned above, I utilized cinnamon and coconut flakes, two natural pairings to sweet potatoes. But really the options are endless. You could try pineapple and coconut milk, almond butter and raisins, tahini and cinnamon apples, etc. etc.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! Continue Reading…

Amaranth Flour Carrot Cake Cookies (GF)

Amaranth Flour Carrot Cake Cookies
Fun fact: Amaranth was banished after the Spanish conquest of the Americas. The Spanish forbid its cultivation in hopes of helping to eliminate the Aztec tradition of human sacrifice. (Amaranth was often made into a ceremonial mixture that would be eaten at such occasions.)

It fell out of use for hundreds of years, and only now in recent times is amaranth getting any attention from westerners. Even today, its appreciation from home cooks seems to be small.

Yet, it’s doubtful this natural superfood staple of the Mayans and Aztecs will hang under the radar for long.

Amaranth Flour Carrot Cake Cookies

Like quinoa, amaranth is a complete protein, packing in nearly 10 grams of the muscle-building nutrient per cup (30% more than rice) along with a notable amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Meanwhile, in contrast to quinoa, since this gluten-free grain hasn’t yet fully been rediscovered, you can still score a bulk bin bag of the nutty seed at a price that won’t set you back.

Amaranth Flour Carrot Cake Cookies

After a recent trip to Mexico, where I found amaranth showing up both on menus in the form of breakfast porridge and as a nutty topping to various salads, I began to start experimenting with it myself in my own kitchen.

I love it as an alternative to oatmeal, cooked up with almond milk and raisins, and swirled with cinnamon, maple syrup and nuts. Just recently, I discovered it in its flour form.

After receiving a bag of amaranth flour from Bob’s Red Mill, I got to work — and to daydreaming — in thinking up ways to use it. With Easter approaching, I settled on doing some sort of baked treat, which led me in creating this recipe.

Inspired by spring, these Amaranth Flour Carrot Cake Cookies are spice-forward and a perfect pairing to a tall glass of almond milk. I recommend serving them with a smear of almond butter on the side, too, or even peanut butter if you have either on hand. For an extra special treat, sandwich a scoop of coconut ice cream between two cookies.

Did I mention they’re vegan and gluten-free, too? And not all that unhealthy, too…

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Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Ain’t no party like a sweet potato party. Or a crostini party. Or a tahini party. Or a Friendsgiving party. Or a Thanksgiving soiree with all your family members you see but once or twice per year and still don’t really know what to talk about besides sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

I can’t say I’m a fan of the word ain’t. (In fact, I had to look up its spelling just for this blog post.) But, I’m a huge fan of parties, even those semi-strange family ones, and I’m  equally a fan of all the ingredients listed above.

Tahini. Sweet potatoes. Honey. Toasted walnuts and baguette. Now that’s a party in a single, not-entirely-too-awkward bite to eat.

I.e., you’re going to want to put this guy on your Thanksgiving party plate list.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Aside from crostini packages that offer a ton of flavor in one fork-and-spoon-free bite, I’m a huge fan of healthy appetizers. Let’s face it, parties aren’t always the most health-friendly activities, Thanksgiving included. In fact, recent research for my day job informed me that the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, or the equivalent of the calories you’d use to jog 10 hours straight. Yowza. That’s a party in which I’m not too interested.

Luckily, this recipe packs in the nutrition, sneaking in a little protein while it’s at it. That bean-powered protein and creamy sweet potato fiber will keep you satisfied till the main meal arrives, and keep you feeling good, too.

If that sounds great to you, I invite you to kick off your next party FFFreshAir style, and let this crostini start your taste bud tango. I promise, it’s got way better dance moves than I do.

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Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

As soon as the first crisp days of autumn arrive, I subconsciously, and rather rapidly, begin to shift my diet to match the shifting environment that surrounds me. Outside my window, I admire the many shades of orange spreading across the sky. Then soon after, near as many orange hues start appearing on my kitchen counters.

Squash of every variety, and sweet potatoes too, fill up my empty wooden baskets, my ceramic plates, and now my mason jars, too.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

When Williams Sonoma kicked off this week with the theme of “Not Your Average Smoothie”, naturally I knew I needed to throw some squash into my blender.

I’m all about going outside the traditional smoothie box, and I’m also all about squash, so it seemed like a perfect platform for experimentation.

I turned on my oven, said bottoms up, and began getting to work.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

I decided upon butternut, loving its creaminess in soups that I often create with apples. I figured, why wouldn’t that be delicious iced and turned into a smoothie, too?

After testing out this smoothie several times, I finally came up with a recipe that’s a little weird, a little wild, yet totally straw-worthy and insanely refreshing.

Through my testing, I learned to save the oven for the squash soup, and stick to steaming for the smoothie. Steaming enables the squash to stay juicer and not as dense so you end up with a shake that has a nice light, whipped consistency. Along with some spirited spice – curry powder and a kick of cayenne (ow ow!) – this smoothie embodies some of fall’s best warming qualities while remaining refreshing till the last sip.

Feel free to try swapping the butternut with sweet potato, or even pumpkin. Just be mindful of possibly needing to adjust the liquid. If you want to step further out of the box, add some spinach. I did this to one batch, and the results were great (even if it sounds a little weird). To get a little wilder, top your smoothie with toasted walnuts or pecans. Or an extra kick of that spicy cayenne, if you like it hot.

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