GUILT FREE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SHAKE

“Autumn that year painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron, and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under the harvest skies.” – Sharon Kay Penman

There’s a reason we named our homestead, “Superior Maple Grove Farm”

As much as I dislike seeing the warm weather fade away, I am determined to welcome autumn into my heart. Owning a farm has helped me appreciate the changing of the seasons in a deeper sense. Since I am a teacher I am also thankful that this fall that we have the opportunity to return to school face-to-face. I craved my work routine and I missed my students. Yet, last week we had to close our building’s doors again. I am not sure how long we will be engaged in distance learning, but right now it’s slated for three weeks.

As I welcomed my students back to school in September, we discussed how 2020 was a challenging year, and depending on how you look at it, Covid-19 may have taken many things from us: The end of the school year, time with family/friends with health problems, and opportunities to travel. However, we discussed how if you are a “glass is ½ full” type of person, maybe Covid-19 presented you with opportunities: More time with immediate family members, an organized house and living space, time to exercise, and home cooked meals. We all agreed that the pandemic taught us to appreciate the moment we are in because things can change suddenly.

When I asked my students what they had gained from the pandemic, every hour several students joked that they had gained weight and how they were making a commitment to eat healthier. We discussed how we all need to make our health a priority and that what we put into our bodies is as important is making sure our hands are washed and that we maintain proper social distance protocol. When we did goal planning I had several athletes who made personal goals to eat more servings of fruit and vegetables.

While I am not one to get all giddy over pumpkin flavored lattes, I do enjoy pumpkin in recipes. Last year I learned by accident that pumpkins are quite easy to grow. I planted a few pumpkin seeds at the bottom of our duck pond and their vines thrived. The pond is rimmed with rocks from our property and I think that the pumpkin plants do well because the rocks collect warmth from the sun. Not only am I able to grow several pumpkins from only a few seeds, but the foliage is lovely and softens the edge of the pond and the flowers provide a pop of ornamental color. This year I made sure to plant pumpkins that are recommended for their culinary flavor and texture.

When I came up with this recipe, I was looking for a healthy alternative to ice cream. I was curious about the combination of pumpkin and chocolate and was pleased with the results. I hope you enjoy the flavor combination while your body enjoys the nutritional benefits. Pumpkin is high in beta carotene (which our body converts to Vitamin A), potassium, and fiber. 

Guilt Free Chocolate & Pumpkin Shake

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SHAKE

  1. 3/4-1 cup milk of your choice (use almond or coconut milk for a dairy-free shake)
  2. 1 frozen banana (the banana gives this the shake-like texture and sweetness. I do not add sugar. If you want your shake more sweet add more banana)
  3. 1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin (to taste…sometimes I add more and sometimes less)
  4. 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. Few ice-cubes
  8. Blend, pour in glass, and sprinkle with cinnamon

I would recommend experimenting with the amount of cocoa powder and vanilla that you want to add. I have found that the taste and strength varies greatly by brand. The same with the banana and the ice-cubes (depending on how thick you want your shake). You could also freeze the milk and pumpkin to add thickness. Walnuts, or other nuts, are a great compliment to your shake and sometimes I also add a hint of molasses for depth and earthiness. You could also swap out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder if you want to amp up the filling power of this shake.

May this recipe during these challenging times help you see your glass is at least ½ full. The cooler weather may force us to dig deep and find our grit and resilience. However, those traits are inherent in us Yoopers (and Americans). That is what we do!

I am making a commitment to myself to keep creating healthy recipes to share with you. They will help us boost our health and immune system, make sure you check out the tab at the top of the page for more recipes that maximize the power of produce. Take care of yourself and take care of each other!

I can’t think of a more beautiful place to call home and shelter in place.

Seasonal Simplicity – Squash

We do not have to look at the calendar to be reminded that the winter holiday season is upon us. Christmas displays started popping up in stores right along with jack-o- lanterns, while television commercials repeat a dizzying array of gift ideas. Not to mention that we all have that one friend on social media who has their Christmas shopping finished at the end of September. Unfortunately, I am not that friend. Though every year I want to be.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As my husband and I try to become more self-sufficient in our food production, I have embraced the idea of rustic elegance when it comes to meals. Not only does it suit the farm-to-table lifestyle, but it can be an efficient way to cook.

I welcome food prep that can carry over into a variety of meals. Cooking in bulk can
serve a busy schedule well – especially during the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. For example, a large pan of roasted Brussels sprouts can be a healthy holiday side dish and the leftovers can hearty up a breakfast quiche, add flavor to a spinach salad, or be an unexpected addition to a pasta dish (and with the time you save you can wrap up those last minute gifts).

One of the foods that has come a long way from the bad rap that many of us gave it as kids, is squash. Not only does it grow easily in a garden, but it will keep a long time (several months) when stored in a cool place. If you do not have a green thumb, you can find a wide array of squash in the supermarket.

While I am known to use spaghetti squash as a healthy alternative to pasta, I enjoy preparing butternut and acorn squash. Both can be served whole (or more accurately halved) and they can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients (think rice, quinoa, or farro. Nuts, dried fruit, and even sausage). The squash can also be cubed and roasted, or even mashed. Since it can be prepared ahead of time, you can warm it up or serve cold as a salad. As long as you have the oven turned on, you might as well prepare a few extra squash and puree the leftovers with broth (and cream if you’re feeling indulgent) for soup (I also like to add apples to butternut squash soup).

Since both butternut and acorn squash are quite hard and difficult to cut, I prepare them whole: Pierce Butternut Squash and place in a baking dish (add a couple of cups of water to bottom of the dish)

Roast squash for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Peel squash and remove seeds. If you want to cube the squash and roast it, you could prepare using the above technique for a shorter amount of time until it is soft enough to cut easily. Once you have the squash cut, drizzle with olive oil and spices and roast until slightly caramelized and soft.

I recommend serving squash on a large serving platter. For a real rustic feel, do not peel but “scoop” the squash to serve.

A great accompaniment to squash is roasted cranberries, walnuts, and a homemade
Pumpkin Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also makes a fantastic dressing for a green salad and it will keep over a month in the refrigerator.

Roasted Cranberries:


If you have never roasted cranberries before, you are missing out. Not only will your house smell amazing, but the sweet-tart flavor is astounding. Plus, you control how much sugar you want to use. You might want to make a triple batch (or more). Roasted cranberries are delightful as a topping for oatmeal (hot or refrigerator oats) and they make great appetizers (serve on toasted French bread or crackers with brie or goat cheese).

The sweet tart flavor of cranberries is incredible in refrigerator oatmeal.

*Bag(s) of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
*Juice and zest of one orange
*1 teaspoon of rosemary (more to taste)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more to taste)
* ¼ cup of honey (to taste. You can also use maple syrup or brown sugar)

 Roast for 20-25 minutes at 375-400 degrees
 Serve warm or cold (as they cool they will thicken)

Pumpkin Vinaigrette:
(make sure you check out the recipe Apple-a- Day Mason Jar Salad that
incorporates this dressing)

* 1/2 cup of vinegar (I use raw apple cider vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of
vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time
and tasting the dressing as you go)
* 3/4 cup of pumpkin
* 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup of water (the dressing tends to be thick so I thin it out with water. You could add
extra vinegar.)
* 1 large clove of garlic
* 1 lemon ~ juice and zest
* 3 green onions (you can use a Tablespoon of regular onion)
* 1 inch of fresh ginger root
* 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup (you could also use honey)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
* Salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing until smooth. The combination of sweet, savory, tart, and spicy ingredients make it a pleasing combination.

This holiday season I hope you find many moments to make memories with your friends and family. If you are responsible for preparing a feast, remember that many foods can be made in bulk to serve many recipes and save precious time. Keeping our menus simple and rustic, does not mean that we have to sacrifice taste. Nature provides us with complex flavors and textures. One of the best gifts that you can give loved ones this year is a meal cooked with fresh and wholesome ingredients. From The Waldo family to yours – may your table be filled with holiday blessings!