Pumpkin Butter, Caribbean Pumpkin-Coconut Soup, and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Last weekend, we went to the pumpkin patch at Bella Organic Farm on Sauvie Island. We came home super-muddy, but with organic pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes! Here are our favorite pumpkin recipes from this week.

It all started with a generous batch of PUMPKIN BUTTER–enough for us and our neighbors. (It warmed my heart to send Zander next door to excitedly deliver the jars he had helped to prepare). We love and always use this recipe from Oh She Glows.

Next came the ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS. Again, thank you Angela Liddon for this great recipe. I always used to scorch my seeds before cooking them this way.

After making the pumpkin butter, we had some leftover roasted pumpkin to use up, and we are taking a break from pumpkin muffins (we have eaten a lot of those lately), so we decided to make a soup.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it rivaled the “lick-your-bowl-clean” soup we made recently with the last of our summer squash! Here is the recipe, modified slightly from the original, which I found in one of my favorite staple cookbooks, Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes, by Devra Gartenstein.



2 pounds kabocha pumpkin or winter squash (I used roasted sugar pumpkin)
8 cups vegetable stock or water (I used veggie “chicken” broth)
2 leeks, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and chopped (omitted, because we had none)
2 chiles (mild or hot), diced (I used about 2-3 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes)
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used about 3/4 cup of garlic, because we love garlic)
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1 bunch collard greens (4 to 6 leaves), cut into thin strips (I doubled this!!)
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground allspice


Cut the pumpkin in half top to bottom and remove the seeds. Roast or steam until very soft. (Ours was already done–we had previously roasted it in the oven).

Here’s where my instructions start to vary a lot… Rather than write both sets, I’m just going to tell you what I did.

Saute the minced garlic, Himalayan salt, crushed red pepper flakes, thyme, and allspice in coconut oil until garlic is soft. Add vegetable stock and collard greens. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While simmering, mix the pumpkin flesh with coconut milk in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy. Try to resist eating it straight from the blender. Add to broth and greens at the end of the 15-20 minutes, when the collard greens are nice and soft.

Stir in the lime juice, then dish into bowls. If you haven’t eaten them all by now, I highly recommend tossing a handful of crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds on top of each bowl of soup for added texture.


Now, it’s time to get to work on our carving pumpkins… :)


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Goodbye, Disposable Tissues!


Huge thanks to Kathy Peterman for her Monday Minimalist Tips, which I love!

Now we have small pails full of clean handkerchiefs placed throughout our home where the tissue boxes used to be. Such a simple idea, and very easy to implement. I keep asking myself, “Why didn’t I think of this??”

Also, Kathy was right; hankies are much softer and friendlier on your nose, as well as on the environment. Everyone wins! I love a happy ending. :)

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“Lick-Your-Bowl-Clean Soup,” aka Summer Squash Soup with Tofu Croutons


On several occasions this summer, thanks to our wildly productive plot at the community garden, we found ourselves in possession of more summer squash than we knew what to do with. That is, until we discovered this recipe, which has become a new staple in our home.

So cherished, in fact, that it is lovingly referred to by all as the “lick-your-bowl-clean soup.” And we never get tired of eating it, no matter how much squash our garden throws our way.

How can such a simple soup be so luxuriously rich and tasty? I have no idea, but it is. I found the original recipe in a friend’s cookbook (Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson), and then I modified it to suit my family’s taste buds.

Below is how to make my modified version:


Ingredients (Soup):
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic cloves (about 16 cloves)
3 Tbsp olive oil
5-10 yellow summer squash (and/or zucchini), unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch half moon slices
2-4 yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into tiny cubes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 (4 oz) jar red Thai curry paste
1 tsp Himalayan salt (plus more, if needed)
1-2 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp cumin

Ingredients (Tofu Croutons):
1 (8 oz) pack of extra firm tofu
2 Tbsp olive oil
Himalayan salt and black pepper

Instructions (Soup):

Saute garlic, red Thai curry paste, and salt in olive oil until garlic becomes soft.

Stir in squash and potatoes, then add vegetable broth, coconut milk, red pepper flakes, tamari, and cumin.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes (stirring occasionally) until the potatoes are tender.

Instructions (Tofu Croutons):

Squeeze excess water out of tofu, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or triangles).

Toss gently in a large bowl to coat with olive oil, salt, and black pepper, then cook one of two ways:

(a) pan sear in a large cast-iron skillet until all sides are firm and golden brown (pictured at top),

or, my favorite because it’s the lazy way and you can do other things while the tofu is cooking…

(b) spread out coated tofu pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes on one side, then flip and bake for 10-20 minutes on the other side, until desired level of brownness and crunch has been achieved (see photo below).

Just before serving, toss a handful of tofu croutons on top of your bowl of soup, and enjoy!


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Beet Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing


About a month ago, we spent the afternoon in Hood River, where we stumbled upon the most delicious salad at the Farm Stand Deli. It was so good that we wound up ordering another one on the spot, and at least one of us (ahem, Zander) literally licked the plate clean.

Luckily, this was an incredibly simple salad to recreate!

We ate it for dinner again tonight, for the umpteenth time since we first discovered it, and it never fails to satisfy. Zander polished off his entire plate, then ate about 1/3 of mine. Any time a salad is this popular with a 5-year-old, I figure it is worth sharing.

Here’s how to make it:


Ingredients (Salad):
1 head red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
3-5 medium-sized beets, roasted or boiled, then peeled and sliced (we’ve also made it with golden beets, which is equally yummy, or with a mix of red and golden for extra color)
a generous sprinkling of hemp seeds
a handful of roasted hazelnuts

Ingredients (Creamy Dill Dressing):
1 cup raw cashews (no need to soak)
juice of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp dried dill (or 2-3 Tbsp fresh dill)
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 to 1 1/2 cups water (start with 1 cup and add more as needed, to achieve desired consistency)

For the salad dressing, combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Then assemble your salad, drizzle the dressing on top, and devour!

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Homemade Cashew Milk




1 cup raw organic cashew pieces (soaked in water for approximately 6 hours, then drained)
6 cups filtered water
2 tsp liquid sunflower lecithin (optional—keeps milk from separating in fridge, makes it creamier, and has additional health benefits) (NOTE: the line in this photo is due to foam from a freshly poured batch, not separation of the nutmilk and water)


I am completely in love with this recipe, because it does not require any nut milk bags or straining of pulp!

The cashews just seem to disappear into the milk. Zero hassle! Effortless clean-up!

Just toss all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender, blend well, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. I love the one pictured above, which is hermetically sealed and is the perfect size for one batch of cashew milk—and no, I’m not affiliated in any way.

If you prefer a sweeter milk, you could add a bit of maple syrup or toss in some dates or use another sweetener of choice. You could also add a Tbsp or two of vanilla extract if you want. But my family loves it with just the three ingredients mentioned above.


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Homemade Vanilla Extract


It’s time to start thinking about the holidays! That is, if you’d like to surprise your friends, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, or loved ones with a gift of homemade vanilla extract.

Zander and I got a late start on this last year, and although we had planned to give these as holiday gifts (locally—I don’t think they’d ship well), the vanilla wasn’t quite ready in time. Then we moved from California to Oregon, which sort of threw a wrench into things, and I was too busy unpacking to even think about finding the labels or bottling the vanilla.

What’s really great about this situation (always a silver lining) is that we wound up with an extraordinary batch of scrumptious vanilla extract that had been infusing for 9 months. And now I am thinking of starting another batch. Immediately. Because it only made enough to fill 10 bottles, and we don’t want to give any of it away. That is how good this vanilla is. It makes you feel greedy.

Always my trusty helper in the kitchen, Zander helped me to make this super-simple recipe. He even went with me to the liquor store in search of organic vodka, which I will admit felt more than a little bit awkward (as I walked to the register with two huge bottles of vodka and my 4-year-old son, announcing loudly, repeatedly, and yes, somewhat defensively that this was for our homemade vanilla).

Anyway, here is how we made it:



2 (750 ml) bottles certified organic vodka
50 organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, ends trimmed

Optional Supplies:

10-12 (4 oz) amber bottles
Avery square Kraft Brown labels (#22846) (or another label of your choice)


  1. Trim the ends off of your vanilla beans (save them in an airtight jar to toss into smoothies, homemade ice creams, etc.). Enjoy the delicious smell!


2. Place the vanilla beans into a 64 oz wide-mouth glass jar, then pour in both bottles of vodka and tightly secure the lid.


3. Optional: Make note of your start date on the lid (or elsewhere on the jar).


4. Shake vigorously.

5. Store in a cool, dark place (I kept mine in the kitchen cabinet).

6. Once a week, pull out the jar and give it a good shake. (I did this for the first month or two, but honestly, after that, I pretty much forgot all about the vanilla, and it just sat there, untouched).

7. Within a few months, your vodka will no longer be clear. It will look like… vanilla!


8. After 3-4 months, or (ahem) slightly longer, your vanilla extract is ready to bottle!

9. I used the Avery online template to create my custom labels, printed a sample on plain paper first to be sure I liked them, and then printed a full sheet of labels.


10. Use a funnel to ensure that you do not spill even one precious drop of your vanilla extract. I poured mine from the mason jar into a large glass measuring cup, and then from the measuring cup through the funnel, so that I would have better control of the process.


11. When you are done, wipe the bottles with a dry towel just in case there were any spills you didn’t notice, then screw on the lids and apply your custom labels and maybe a bit of raffia or ribbon.


As you can see, I couldn’t decide what kind of raffia/ribbon to use, and in the end, I think I may prefer just the clean, plain bottle with nothing attached. That’s probably because I’m not very good at tying pretty bows.

This batch wound up filling exactly 10 bottles, but I think it would have been more like 12 bottles if I hadn’t been sneaking vanilla straight from the jar for the last several weeks to make massive quantities of chia pudding


If you get started by the end of this month, you’ll have a delicious batch ready in time for the 2015 holiday season. Or plenty of vanilla for your own consumption. Your choice. Either way, enjoy!

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Creamy Chia Breakfast Pudding


It’s been months since I’ve even thought about posting anything online, having returned to full-time work earlier this year and feeling slightly overwhelmed. But this recipe is too exciting–and nutritious, and easy to make–not to share! Besides, I don’t want to forget the winning combination, so I need to memorialize it somewhere.

As usual, this is sort of a mash-up of a variety of recipes that exist for chia pudding. Lately, I’ve been drawing inspiration from Vani Hari’s book, The Food Babe Way, and that is what prompted me to tailor this recipe to suit the taste buds of my family.

I’ve been experimenting with it for about a week now, with several “OK” versions, but today I found a combination that had both my husband and my son going back for second helpings, claiming that it tasted more like dessert than breakfast. Mission accomplished!

The best part about this recipe is that when you wake up in the morning, which for me is always very hectic, your beautiful and healthy breakfast is waiting for you in the fridge!

Here’s how to make it:



2 cups non-dairy milk (I used homemade cashew milk, my new favorite)
slightly more than 1/3 cup chia seeds
a generous pinch of cinnamon
2 Tbsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup

2 cups fresh peaches (peeled and chopped)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries (chopped)


Mix the first set of ingredients together in a bowl, then pour the mixture on top of the chopped fruit in a large container and give it another stir to combine. Place in the fridge overnight, then eat for breakfast! This would probably last for a couple of days and be just fine, but ours was gobbled up on the first day.

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Black Bean Brownie Bites (gluten-free)


We are moving in a couple of weeks, and I am actively looking for ways to use up the canned goods in my pantry so we don’t have to pay to haul them 1,000 miles north.

At a recent Harvest Faire, we sampled some vegan black bean brownie bites that were really delicious. Ever since, I’ve been thinking that this would be a great way to use up a can of black beans from my pantry. So I googled a recipe, found one that looked great, and made a few minor adaptations. I am delighted by the results!

These brownie bites are decadent and gooey. You’d never in a million years guess that they are gluten-free and packed full of black beans!!

Here is the recipe:

*slightly adapted version of the yummy recipe by Dana Shultz of My Little Celebration
**makes exactly 2 dozen mini-muffin-sized bites


1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal + 6 Tbsp cold water)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
½ cup cocoa powder
pinch of Himalayan salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini-chips)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or use paper liners.
  2. Prepare flax eggs by combining flax meal and water in a small bowl and letting it rest for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips in a food processor and puree.
  4. Remove from food processor and stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop batter into mini-muffin tins.
  6. Bake for about 17 minutes, until tops are dry and starting to pull away from the sides.
  7. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan.

I bet these would be super-delicious with a tiny scoop of vegan ice cream on top. Enjoy! :)

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Zucchini Carrot Raisin Spelt Muffins


Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Zucchini Spelt Muffins, from her Vegan Brunch cookbook, have long been a staple in our household. We make them almost weekly, and Zander eats them by the handful (we use a mini-muffin tin, because he loves the idea of eating five or six muffins at a time, rather than one or two). I affectionately refer to Zander as “The Muffin Thief,” because no matter where I put these muffins in the kitchen, he will find and eat half a dozen of them when I’m not looking. He absolutely loves this moniker, by the way. ;)

The other day, I only had one cup of grated zucchini (the recipe calls for two cups), but I wanted to make a full batch of muffins, so I decided to try tossing in a cup of grated carrots along with the zucchini. The result was fabulous!!! The Muffin Thief now prefers these to our old standby, and they’re even prettier, with the flecks of orange and green.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

*recipe oh-so-slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Zucchini Spelt Muffins in the Vegan Brunch cookbook


1 cup almond milk
3 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I have substituted other sweeteners in these muffins with good results, such as sucanat or coconut sugar, but I typically use plain old brown sugar, figuring they’re healthy enough as it is.)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup grated zucchini (approximately 1 medium-sized zucchini)
1 cup grated carrots (approximately 2 medium-sized carrots)
1 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a muffin tin (or insert paper liners).

Combine the almond milk and ground flax seeds in a measuring cup and mix vigorously with a fork. Mix in the vinegar and set aside to curdle.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the milk mixture, canola oil, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Fold in the zucchini, carrots, and raisins.

Use an ice cream scoop to pour the batter into the muffin tin (NOTE: I use a mini-scoop for my mini-muffins); it should almost fill the entire tin. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes for regular-sized muffins or 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins, until the muffin tops are firm. A knife or toothpick inserted through a muffin may still come out steamy, because of the zucchini, but it’s still worth testing to make sure no batter is sticking.

Zucchini makes these muffins so moist, be sure to let them cool in the tins for at least 20  minutes before removing them so that the tops don’t break off. (NOTE: I’d like to see someone try to convince The Muffin Thief to wait this long for his muffins. I have always removed my muffins from the tin promptly without any problem.) Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: These muffins freeze really well. I know this because freezing half a batch as soon as they’ve cooled is the only way to make them last longer than a day or two in my household. Zander will find and eat them if they’re on the counter or in the fridge, but for whatever reason, he leaves the freezer alone. You can pull a couple (or more) muffins out of the freezer the night before for breakfast, or pack them in a lunchbox first thing in the morning and they’ve thawed by lunchtime. 15 seconds in the microwave will also do the trick. :)

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Chia Seed Jam Oat Bars


These subtly sweet gluten-free oat bars may be the most popular baked good I have made all year, and they’re incredibly easy–not to mention healthy enough to feel good about serving for breakfast!

I love that the bottom and top layers are exactly the same mixture. This is the only recipe I know of with a crumble topping that does not require different mixtures for the base layer and the crumble.

For the past 24 hours, Zander has consistently requested these bars for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. He is completely obsessed. We took some to the garden this morning to share with our friends, and I had to hold Zander’s hands back to keep him from shoveling them all into his mouth before anyone else could take one.

My favorite question was, “Mom, how did you make the purple stuff taste sooooo good???” The purple stuff, of course, is the chia seed jam, which I have decided is good enough to replace store-bought jam moving forward. I can’t wait to experiment with some other flavors!

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

* recipe by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows


Chia Seed Jam (makes 1 cup)

  • 3 cups frozen or fresh raspberries (I used 3 cups of frozen organic antioxidant blend from Costco–it’s a mix of raspberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds)
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Oat Bars

  • 1 chia egg = 1 Tbsp chia seeds + 4 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup (used for its binding powers)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour
  • 1 cup almond flour (this is a great use for leftover almond meal after making homemade almond milk)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the jam: In a medium pot, stir together the berries, maple syrup, and chia seeds until well combined. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries break down and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and into the freezer for about 15-20 minutes, until cool.
  3. For the oat bars: In a small mug, mix together the chia seeds and water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until thickened.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the melted oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. When the chia egg has thickened, stir that in too.
  5. One by one, stir in the rolled oats, almond flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt until the mixture comes together. It will be quite sticky, but this is normal.
  6. Spoon 2/3 of the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and press it down to spread it out evenly. Use a pastry roller to roll it out smooth into the corners. I repeat: the dough will be very sticky!
  7. When the chia seed jam has thickened and cooled, pour all of it on top of the oat mixture and spread it out evenly.
  8. Take the remaining 1/3 of the oat dough and crumble it evenly on top of the chia seed jam.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, uncovered, until the topping is lightly golden. Check after 20 minutes and if it’s starting to brown, cover the top with tin foil for the remaining 5-10 minutes of baking.
  10. Place pan on a cooling rack for 20-30 minutes and then carefully lift out the square and place directly onto the cooling rack until completely cooled. Slice into squares.
  11. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
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