Pumpkin Stuffed With Pasta, Fontina and Sausage

Macaroni and cheese is comfort food at its best…who doesn’t love it? It’s not something I make very often (translation: I never make it) so I was excited when Stephanie asked me if I’d like to review the brand new book she co-wrote with Garrett. It’s called Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese.

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From the first moment I opened the book, I knew it was a winner. Melt is a beautifully photographed celebration of artisanal cheeses, and it’s filled with numerous unique ideas for how to pair these cheeses with pasta (but not just pasta: some of the recipes in the book don’t involve pasta at all). The writing is fun and engaging.

It did not take me long to decide which recipe from the book I wanted to share on my blog. The Pumpkin Stuffed with Pasta, Fontina and Italian Sausage Macaroni on page 128 was too much of a stunner to pass up! I’ve now made it three times since I received the book.

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Sugar pumpkins are incredibly nutritious and make a lovely receptacle for this delectable dish. I actually doubled the recipe for the mac and cheese (and only baked 1/2 in the pumpkin) because I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to send with my kids to school for lunch. I love Fontina and was excited to use it, but I had a little trouble finding Gruyère: I substituted Provolone and it worked out great.

pumpkin mac_text

Stephanie and Garrett say this is a flexible creation and suggest different ways you can tailor it to work with what you have on hand (see the recipe below for more details). I opted not to use macaroni: I made this with organic Conchiglie produced from a company called Montebello (a brand imported from Italy that I buy it at my local natural food store). The other changes I made are noted below in parentheses.

If you decide to buy the book (come on…do it!), be sure to enter the Melt Le Crueset Giveaway! Stephanie has the info about it over on her blog.

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Grain-Free Spiced Squash Muffins

Fall is in full swing where I live. My area is well known for spectacular displays of foliage and the trees are definitely not disappointing right now. This recipe, adapted from a similar one created by George Bryant of Civilized Caveman Cooking, is just perfect for this time of year.

Spiced Squash Muffins | Healthy Green Kitchen

George is the author of a sweet little ebook called A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving and has a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Muffins in the book: I used his muffins as the inspiration for mine. You can get A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving as part of the Harvest Your Health ebook bundle sale that’s going on right now. George’s is one of over 70 ebooks (many of which are cookbooks) in the sale (there are also magazine subscriptions and meal plans)…it’s a ridiculously good deal and you can check it out here.

These muffins may be made with any type of squash purée (or you may use pumpkin–fresh or canned–as called for in the original recipe). I used delicata squash because that’s what I had on hand. I trimmed off the ends, and then sliced my delicata squash in half, removed the seeds, and placed in on a cookie sheet. I drizzled the pieces with a little olive oil, then baked them at 400 degrees F. for about 50 minutes, until they were tender. When they were cooled. I scooped out the flesh and mashed enough squash to make 3/4 cup.

delicata squash puree

These spiced squash muffins are made with coconut flour and the recipe is appropriate for anyone who eats gluten-free, grain-free, or Paleo. This recipe is also for anyone like me whose diet doesn’t necessarily fit any of these classifications…we just like our recipes to be nutrient-dense. These muffins contain quite a few eggs, which I really appreciated because my chickens have been such fantastic layers lately. It’s late in the growing season so I’ve been letting them forage in my garden during the day; their yolks have been super yellow as a result!

eggs

I own this beautiful muffin pan that I received at a blogging event a few years ago. I always use it for recipes like this, but of course a standard muffin pan will work just fine. You will get 10-12 muffins out of this recipe.

Spiced Squash Muffins | Healthy Green Kitchen

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Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal

I lift weights and/or do CrossFit most weekday mornings. I like to get some nourishing carbohydrates into my belly before I head to the gym: I just love this recipe for Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal.

Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal | Healthy Green Kitchen

This oatmeal is a wonderful autumn breakfast no matter what your morning routine is like; it comes from my friend Shelley Alexander‘s book Deliciously Holistic.

Shelley is a holistic chef. She specializes in preparing healthy foods that nourish, strengthen, and energize, and her cookbook contains more than 150 recipes that are as yummy as they are good for you. I have an extra copy of the book to give away…more details on that at the end of this post.

Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal | Healthy Green Kitchen

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One Simple Change: Straight Talk About Sugar (And Pumpkin Date Scones)

pumpkin date scones

Hello, my friends! It’s Friday and I have a new One Simple Change post to share with you today…all feels right in the world again :) I also have a great recipe for Pumpkin Scones!

Pumpkin Scones | Healthy Green Kitchen

I always planned to write a post about sugar but to be honest, I’ve been a little worried about doing so because…well…sugary treats are awfully popular in the blogosphere. But with October Unprocessed right around the corner (it starts Monday, people…go sign up!) and since Andrew did a great post on sugars and sweeteners just the other day, I was inspired to get going on my own.

Here’s the thing: I like sweets as much as the next person. But I also know first hand that eating too much sugar can be problematic.

At one point in my life, I ate quite a lot of sugar. This was back when I was a diet-obsessed teen: I craved and ate sugar pretty much constantly (as long as it wasn’t accompanied by fat…I avoided fat like the plague). Non-fat frozen yogurt was my very best friend and we got together to hang out several times a day. I’m not going to go into all the details here but suffice it to say that I really messed up my body by eating that way for years: my diet was terribly imbalanced and it really took a toll on my health. It took a real commitment to eating a balanced whole foods diet- one full of protein, high quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats (and I also gave up sugar for a little while) in order to get better.

I have a different relationship to sugar now. I don’t crave it like I did before because my diet is balanced. I use very little white sugar at all because I don’t think it fosters optimal health (I use it when I am canning, but that is about it): when I am sweetening something, I always try to choose organic, unrefined sweeteners that have some redeeming qualities (see later in the post for suggestions).

How do YOU know if you are someone who should be concerned about sugar? Well, if you eat packaged/processed foods, your diet may be pretty high in sugar (and likely high fructose corn syrup) because things like breakfast cereals, donuts, cookies, cakes, candy, and sodas are loaded with it. These foods also contain unhealthy fats, preservatives, and other chemicals, so I hope you don’t rely on them too often. There are so many healthy things to have for breakfast other than packaged cereals, and if you want to eat baked goods, then I suggest you make them yourself. A dessert made at home with high quality ingredients such as unrefined sweeteners, organic flours, and real butter is much better for you and your family than something you buy at the store made with less-healthy ingredients.

There is also a lot of sugar added to packaged foods that are marketed as healthy. Manufacturers add sugar to replace the fat in low-fat foods; many brands of granolas and yogurts have quite a bit of added sugar, too. Read. The. Labels. And make these foods yourself if you are so inclined. I have a few different granola recipes here on my blog, and I have a recipe for homemade yogurt, too.

So, would it be best if we all didn’t eat any sugar at all? Some health experts seem to think so, but I don’t necessarily agree. I think we can eat less without eating none at all.

I honestly believe we’re programmed to love the taste of sweet things because our body needs them. I don’t think all sweet foods are bad for you…I think they are fine when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet (and as part of a lifestyle that includes plenty of physical activity). I know there are people who are avoiding not just added sugar in their diet, but naturally sweet fresh and dried fruit and root vegetables because they are afraid these foods are bad for them. I think these fears are completely unfounded; I believe all of these foods to be quite healthy as long as they are not consumed in giant amounts (I don’t think anything should be consumed in giant amounts).

If you feel as if you are addicted to sugar/have a tendency to overeat sweet foods, be sure you are eating enough food, and enough protein and healthy fats…eating a nutrient-dense whole foods diet with enough calories distributed throughout the day seems to help people who tend to binge on sugar when they eat it! (One caveat: be careful about eating too much dried fruit- I once went on a month long dried mango rampage, then found out I had a few cavities…I don’t think it was a coincidence.)

While I do suggest avoiding processed store-bought baked goods (not just because they are high in white sugar, but again because they contain unhealthy fats, preservatives, etc.), this does not mean you cannot enjoy treats…you can bake your own! What should you use when baking or otherwise sweetening foods at home? I suggest exploring the range of natural (and preferably organic and fair-trade) sweeteners on the market: examples include sucanat™, rapadura™, and coconut sugar, raw unprocessed honey (this is why I got my own bees), real maple syrup and molasses. I also use jaggery and palm sugar on occasion, as well as organic fruit juice. All of these are less refined/processed than sugar (they also contain some minerals so they are not 100% empty calories). I used to feel good about agave but then I started reading bad things about it so I don’t really use it any more. If you do want to use it, make sure to look for organic, raw agave. See this for a full list of unrefined sweeteners…there are many I didn’t mention here. Note that some of these are more processed than others; again, go with the ones that are the least processed.

Some people may want or need to try low carbohydrate sweeteners like stevia or one of the sugar alcohols (like erythritol)…note that I have no experience using either one, but have heard good things from diabetic friends who do.

Whatever you do, don’t use artificial sweeteners. These are about as far as you can get from a natural food. They may have no calories, but your body still secretes insulin when you consume them because they taste sweet and your body is expecting sugar. So the insulin is floating around, but it has nothing to do…not good. The use of these will then cause you to crave sugar even more because the released insulin really wants some sugar to deal with. And another thing: artificial sweeteners contain known toxins…if you use them, please give them up. This means diet soda people, which you already know you shouldn’t drink.

Most all of the baked goods/dessert recipes on my blog are made with natural sweeteners, and here’s one I recently posted over at MindBodyGreen: Pumpkin Date Scones (which also happen to be gluten-free and vegan).

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Spiced Pumpkin Granola with Cashews and Cranberries

Happy December, my friends! Throughout the coming month, I am going to be posting some homemade gift ideas…tasty treats (and maybe some diy body products) you can make in larger batches to give your friends and loved ones. I’m sharing these ideas because there’s no place I’d rather be during the holiday season than in … Read more