My Love Affair with Pumpkin

It's officially fall. I know this not because I went shopping and saw Christmas decorations this weekend (although I did), but because I've seen the numerous Facebook photos of people posing with their first pumpkin lattes of the season. Meanwhile, I barely managed to get the requisite first day of school photo posted of my actual children, let alone of a cup of coffee. So if I am to believe Facebook and Twitter (I do), then autumn has arrived somewhere in the United States. I take that on faith, however, because I'm living in a heat wave without the benefit of air conditioning in either my home or office. People are raving about the joys of wearing a cardigan, while we are taking cold showers and standing under the ceiling fan to cool down before we crawl into blanket-less beds at night. We are not seeking out and photographing steamy drinks.

But I have a love affair with all things pumpkin, and it lasts all year long. I'll open a big can, freeze half and stick the rest in the fridge to fortify muffins, thicken a soup or make a smoothie. It's full of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a few grams of protein — a veritable nutritional bargain at 50 calories a serving. (I remind us all that this is squash. We drink squash with our coffee. I love America.)

Today I must have been inspired by a particularly joyful selfie of a (Facebook) friend showing off a to-go cup with her (misspelled) name and the letters "PSL" written on the side (pumpkin-spiced latte, of course). "Autumn's officially here," she cheerfully posted. To her credit, she got more likes than the new lunchbox shots I posted a few weeks ago. (Note to self for future cute purchase pics: Always include the kids.) So this morning I headed into my garage, where my food is shelved (in addition to having no AC, my house also boasts a tiny kitchen, which is a real dream come true for someone who cooks for a living), and I grabbed my last can of pumpkin puree (I stock up for the whole year the weekend after Thanksgiving). I made one of my favorite pumpkin puree treats, a pumpkin-date smoothie. So I guess autumn really is here, even in California.

Pumpkin-Date Smoothie
1 cup vanilla almond milk (or soy or dairy)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 banana (frozen is best)
1/4 cup dates, softened for a few minutes in hot water
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup cooked white beans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup ice cubes

Blend on high in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Serves 2.

Pumpkin-Pecan Yogurt Parfait
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons pecans, chopped
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Drizzle of maple syrup
Tiny pinch of kosher salt

Layer in order into a parfait cup or small bowl and enjoy. Serves 1. It's great for breakfast, a snack or dessert.

Iced Pumpkin Soy Vanilla Latte

1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk (I like “very vanilla” flavor here), divided

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

In a blender, mix half the soy milk, the pumpkin puree, the pumpkin pie spice and the espresso on medium until smooth. Fill two glasses with ice. Pour the pumpkin coffee mixture over the ice. Top with the remaining vanilla soy milk. Add a straw and serve.

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