Tis the Season – Eat More Pumpkin with Banana Pumpkin Muffins


My family loves all the seasonal food this time of year.  We buy enough pumpkin butter, canned pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and molasses to keep us going throughout the fall and then some.   Halloween may seem to be all about candy, but for me it’s all about pumpkin and the various ways we can incorporate it into our fall meals.  And why not?  According to this article in the Huffington Post pumpkin is healthy and helps our eyesight, mood and waistlines, while also protecting our hearts, immune system and skin.


I noticed some too ripe bananas on my counter and immediately thought of making banana bread or muffins, but how about banana pumpkin?  I switched the applesauce in my banana apple muffins with pumpkin and it was a big hit.  Banana and pumpkin is a great combo.  It was perfect for the kids’  weekend sleep over as well as snack after a soccer game.  Here’s the recipe.


Banana Pumpkin Muffins

(Makes 12)

1 1/2 cup organic wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sweet cream butter, (1 stick)

¾ cup canned pumpkin

2 medium ripe bananas

½ cup organic light brown sugar

2 cage-free, organic eggs

sprinkle of cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375F. With a fork, combine flour, soda and salt in a small mixing bowl.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Or melt butter in microwave for 25 seconds on high.

In a large bowl combine melted butter, pumpkin, mashed banana, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until just blended. Batter will be lumpy and very moist.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown and set. Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack 5 minutes, before turning out muffins.




Halloween Food Fun…

My family loves Halloween.  Carving pumpkins, creepy decorations, random costumes, festive food…what’s not to like?!  In looking back at some older Halloween posts I got very nostalgic when seeing my little shirtless pumpkin carvers and matching costumes (those days are long gone).  Here’s a few of the recipes we’ve been testing out as well as some of my old favorites if you’re looking for inspiration for the big night.

Seems my kids’ school is always looking for fruit treats on Halloween.  I did these yummy and adorable Halloween Fruit Treats a few years ago.  (hollowed out oranges with fruit salad)  The school seems to think the health factor will balance out all that candy they’re going to haul in later in the night.  And the teachers know the kids are already on a high from the parades and costumes and don’t to deal with candy overloads as well.  I was in a middle school this week where I actually heard a school administrator announce over the loud speaker “Due to the recent violent activity there will be no more candy allowed in class”.  I knew candy was scary, but what kind of violence?  Stealing other’s candy?  And why do they allow candy in middle school anyways?  I was told there is a big difference between elementary and middle school rules regarding food.  Uh oh…

Another fun idea is the witches fingers.  You know…breadsticks with an almond for the nail.  These are great with soup or alone on a veggie and dip platter.  Again works at school celebrations as well as Halloween night potluck.  Last year it was all about the mummy potatoes.  We had so many potatoes left over from our pumpkin patch dig that I really needed to get creative.  And this was an easy and filling appetizer before heading out into the trick or treat darkness.

This year I’ve been experimenting with spaghetti nests.  You know…baking cooked spaghetti in muffin cups for a nest like presentation.  Yes, it could be easily dressed as a nest in springtime but for Fall it’s all about the mummy factor.  I’m adding a few olive and caper eyes and a pool of sauce (pesto or marinara) and this will be offered as a pre-candy course.

The ultimate test for me this year was the gelatin brain.  This was funny and tricky on many levels.  My father in law has a running joke that he was born the year of the brain (like the chinese zodiac).  This irritates my 7 year old daughter to no end.  He signs cards and gifts to her “love, the brain” and she yells back “You are not the brain!”  So when I saw this gelatin mold a few weeks before my in-laws visit I had to try it.  I am not a gelatin fan for many reasons.  Because my daughter is vegetarian I attempted the gelatin brain with a gelatin substitute.  I made it the night before “the brain’s” arrival, but it didn’t set.  My daughter and I snuck out to the store to get the old Jello gelatin with the understanding that, a) I tried, b) the joke was more important than her being able to eat it and c) Jello is gross.  This time it worked and everyone had a good laugh.  I found a photo and recipe of a gelatin brain that is super disgusting, so for Halloween with friends I’ll be making this one.  Let’s cross our fingers it works.

If you don’t feel like waiting for an 8 hour gelatin mold, or hollowing out 20 oranges, a few simple spiders or plastic skeleton (swimming in hummus, above) go a long way to dress up just about any food.  Cookie cutters are a great way to get festive too.  My sister sent us a few new ones this year.  With over 120 cutters can you believe I didn’t have tombstones, a scary cat or vampire fangs?  Now I do!  We made a batch of sugar cookies to test them out today  And let’s not forget to roast the pumpkin seeds after all the carving efforts.  Trick or treat!





Halloween Hoopla

There was so much hoopla around Halloween this year, I didn’t even get a chance to write about it.  But we had lots of fun.  Here’s the quick recap along with some food ideas for fall entertaining or next year’s festivities.


First we did or annual trek to Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma.  Had a ball as usual.  Hay maze, potato digging, pumpkin picking, pumpkin ice cream , calf petting, etc.

My husband outdid himself again with carving the pumpkins.  I swear each year my kids up the ante for what they’d like.  This year they looked online for inspiration.   My husband carves without a stencil.  This is free hand.


Halloween day was parades and parties at school.  I made pumpkin bread for my son’s class as well as the neighbors.  My mom comes for a visit every year during Halloween.  This year she experienced it all day and night (a total trooper).  That’s her in the first photo in the green clown outfit.

We made some really fun food for Halloween night with friends.  They made a yummy apple pumpkin soup and mummy tofu and hot dogs.  I made mummy potatoes (still had from digging) and witches fingers (aka breadsticks).  There were a few pieces of candy eaten while rainy night trick or treating, but the real treat comes when we turned our candy in to my son’s orthodontist and received $2 per pound.  My kids were thrilled with $4 each.  I later collected left-over candy at the school for Blue Star Moms to wrap up in care packages to soldiers overseas.  Treats for everyone!





Halloween – The Aftermath

So after trick-or-treating for hours on Halloween night, my kids came home and counted their candy.  Scary thing is that after hours of trick or treating, each with their own friends, they both had 74 pieces.  Although my son had a tube of toothpaste so he said he won with 75 items.  My daughter had been saying she would get more because “if you wear a cute costume, instead of a scary one, people give you more candy”.  Well, apparently, not true.  Yesterday we turned in the candy to my son’s orthodontist who pays $2 a pound.  They each kept 3 pieces to eat.  My son had 4 pounds and my daughter 3 pounds.  Knowing he couldn’t eat more than a few pieces of plain chocolate with his teeth hardware, he said he picked more lollipops thinking they would be heavy.  I guess his stretegy worked.

Here are our pumpkins still standing.  My husband really did a great job this year.  And no, he doesn’t use stencils.  The kids looked at photos with him online and they chose they’re favorites.  The kids were better at pulling out the guts from the pumpkins than in years past.  I did the usual roasted seeds.  This always seems fun, but not many have been eaten.  They are hard to chew.  Luckily my mom came for her annual Halloween visit, so I send seeds back with her to Poppa.

Instead of eating all the candy collected, here are the cute spider cupcakes we enjoyed.  We made a few for friends and neighbors too.  These are easy, but quite a hit.  Simply make your favorite chocolcate cupcake recipe, add thin pretzel legs (I dipped mine in chocolate) and lots of sugar eyes (we buy ours at Cake Art in San Rafael).  Be sure to break the pretzels before inserting.  I thought I could put one pretzel straight thru for both sides of legs, but the cupcake came apart in two.  A friend of ours made them for a kids’ soccer game last weekend, and unfortunately dropped them on her garage floor getting into the car.  Now that’s sad and scary.  So be careful transerring.

Hope your Halloween was happy.


I Heart Pumpkins with Pumpkin Pudding Recipe

I love pumpkins.  They signify fall to me, and Halloween is just the beginning.  I love their shapes, their colors (my favorite color is of course orange), and their tastes… Really everything from butter to muffins to breads to pancakes to pies to ice cream (I can go on and on).  I just can’t get enough.  Luckily you can buy canned pumpkin year round.  If you can’t in your area, now is the perfect time to stock up.

Here’s some photos from this year’s trip to the pumpkin patch.  We go to the same one every year (Peter’s Patch at the Springhill Jersey Cheese Co.), so I won’t bore you with the same blog (read last year’s).  However we experience it new every year as we share it with someone different each year.  This year with friends with kids.  It was such fun to see the kids all having full together:  milking cows, digging potatoes, petting donkeys, choosing pumkpins and racing up hay bales.  Here are a few favorite photos from the day.


I found this amazing looking recipe for pumpkin pudding from one of the Top Chef Dessert Judges on the Daily Candy website.  I’m hoping to recipe test it for something different for this year’s Thanksgiving table.  If you try it before me, let me know how it goes.

Dannielle’s Pumpkin Pudding

Serves four


1 envelope gelatin
¼ c. water
3 eggs, separated

½ c. milk

¾ c. brown sugar

1 15-oz. can of pumpkin

1½ tsp. pie spice

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. cream of tartar (optional)

1/3 c. sugar

1. Dissolve gelatin in water and set aside.

2. Combine egg yolks, milk, brown sugar, and pumpkin in saucepan, stir well, and cook over

medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat.

3. Stir in spice and vanilla, and then add gelatin mixture.

4. With handheld or stand mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form

(about four minutes). Slowly add white sugar and fold into the pumpkin mixture.

5. Divide among teacups, cute little bowls, or carved-out mini pumpkins, and refrigerate until


6. Garnish with fresh whipped cream.


I made the pudding and while my family enjoyed it, I did not.  It had a texture that I didn’t care for.  Not like a creamy pudding at all – more like pumpkin pie filling.  I didn;t feel it was special enough for the big day.  Please note it makes much more than the recipe stated “4 servings”.  It filled 8 parfait glasses!


Halloween Fruit Treats


It’s finally arrived…Halloween.  I love Halloween.  This year we had our costumes particularly early as my son chose Star Wars costumes for each of us.  However there is still last minute costume alterations (thanks goodness for Nana) and all the school party festivities.  I was a bit leary of Halloween on a Sunday.  But for the school activities it was nice to spread out and celebrate on Friday.  Then we had a day to fix costumes and prepare for tonight.  Although I’m sure no one will get to bed on time, eventhough it’s a school night.

Here are some fun treats I made for my son’s Halloween party.  These were easy to do, but time consuming when doing 2 dozen.  I guess I needed something to do while enjoying the world series game (Go Giants).  I found this idea on a website and thought it was a cute idea for something festive yet healthy.  Of course I had to change the original from fruit cocktail to cut fresh fruit, so that’s why it took longer than expected.  They came out even cute than expected and were a big hit with kids and parents.

I made 24 of these, but I made 2 samples to see how they worked.  It’s kind of nice that you can do as many as you’d like (time permitting), you’ll just have to adjust how much fruit you cut.  I made way too much and would cut it in half.  Although it’s never bad to have extra fruit salad on hand.  Without the jack-o-lantern faces, I’ll plan to do this again for anytime of year.

Jack -O-Lantern Fruit Cups

navel oranges

bite size cut fruits – I used pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, apples (figure about 3/4 cup per orange)

Cut top 1/4 of orange across the top to make a lid/top and set aside

Using a paring knife cut all the way around inside of orange from pith.  Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon,  dig out orange.  Reserve orange for cutting and adding to fruit cups.  Scrape inside orange to get other large pieces but be careful not to tear orange side.

Fill each orange with fruit salad.  Put lid back on.

Using a Sharpee pen, draw desired faces.  (If my kids were awake and I hadn’t started the project so late, I would’ve enlisted their help and artistry).

Scrape out orange and juice over bowl to save
Hollow the oranges and arrange in muffin tins
Color the faces and fill cups
hardest part - finding room in the fridge

Happy Halloween

cleaning pumpkins

Boo!  O.K. I must confess that I love Halloween.  I’ve always enjoyed this time of year, when the air is crisp and the leaves turn colors (at least a few in California) and there are pumpkins and pomegrantes to be found.  I’m one of those people that always dressed up.  As a kid my mom made fabulous costumes for my whole family – a can of pepsi (with a hat of balloons), Peter Pan (with a shadow), Sigmond the Sea Monster, a tomato (organic I hope) and many others.   My mom’s costumes set the bar high.  Now it isn’t as much fun with all the store bought creations.  Although I’m to blame too, as I never learned to sew.

Before my husband and I had kids we dressed up and went to costume parties.  I even went to work in my 20’s  as Frankenstein with complete face make-up and took the Muni to downtown San Francisco.  Did I mention I worked a stuffy insurance brokerage job?  Oh well, some laughed. 

My kids certainly love Halloween too.  In the past we kind of pushed a theme for costumes – monsters last year, insects the year prior, etc.  However 3 and 6 year old have their own ideas – an astronaut and Dan the Bakugan character (it’s a show and toy).  I borrowed a wonderful knight costume my son got from a theme birthday party and my husband worked all day on a cool pirate (complete with dreads and fake beard).

However the major event of the season is carving the pumpkin.  First there’s the experience of choosing the pumpkins – we like to go to a pumpkin farm/patch, rather than the stand on the side of the road with the jumpy.  This year both kids chose very large pumpkins.  My husband had his work cut out for him.  But he certainly rose to the occassion.  My daughter wanted “a face with 5 teeth”.  My son was intriqued by my husband’s idea (well he saw it on a home show) about an upchucking pumpkin.  He sounded gross, but I must say it was fun and unique.

My job of course is to roast the seeds.  The kids always say they’re going to get the goop from the pumpkins – why they’re shirtless.  However they start to get sticky and say it’s too yucky, so it’s mom’s turn.   Here’s what I do.  Everyone seems to like the salty and savory better than the sweet – although I make both.  There’s still a few pumpkins in stores waiting to be purchased – so we’ll continue to carve, cook and celebrate. 

carved pumpkins

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


the gook before you cook

(rom Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry page 203)

Each person has his own technique and recipe for toasting the pumpkin seeds. For a fun tasting party at school have each family bring in their own for children to sample and vote for their favorites. Incorporate extra seeds into trail mixes for a seasonal surprise.
Makes 5 servings per 1 cup seeds

1 whole pumpkin

For 1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry powder, or ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.


Cut off top of pumpkin and scoop out insides. Separate out as much of the pumpkin strings and flesh from the seeds as possible. Some of the slime and strings you can’t remove will provide a crisp coating on the seeds.

In a small bowl, combine seeds, oil, and seasonings. Stir until coated. Spread out seeds in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and dry, stirring with a spatula every 10 minutes during cooking.

Let cool on paper towels and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.



Happy HallowGreen – Roasted Organic Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

You might think someone that promotes healthy eating wouldn’t like a holiday where begging for candy is involved. But I do. The “trick” at my house to avoid the (what’s on sale in the big bag) candy “treats” is that the Halloween candy gets “turned in” to mom and traded for a non-candy item of choice (usually a toy – but this year my son has already earmarked a pair of sweat pants). The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when people would go door to door, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (All Hallows Day).

Fast forward to little ghosts and goblins (or firemen and princesses) going door to door expecting candy. A lot has changed! If you want to see something scary on Halloween read some of the wrappers on your child’s candy. There you’ll see partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, alkali, chemicals, artificial colorings and more. To decode these items and see a list of healthy sweet alternatives read the full story at Kiwi Magazine.

If you have ideas of a greener holiday check out this great article from the Lansing State Journal for suggestions on recycled costumes, fair trade chocolate treats, partyware, decorations and battery-free flashlights. For those looking for greener, non-candy items to pass out to trick-or-treaters here is an abbreviated list of suggestions from GreenHalloween.org:

  • seed packets
  • coins
  • pencils
  • stickers
  • polished rocks, sea glass or seashells
  • card games, tricks, jokes
  • barrettes
  • balls and spinning tops
  • mini pumpkins

Speaking of pumpkins and staying away from candy…how about making the most of the jack-o-lantern by roasting the seeds…

Roasted Organic Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

My favorite part about carving a pumpkin at Halloween is getting my hands into the pumpkin to pull out the seeds and stringy goop. My son does not share the enthusiasm for the slimy, gooey mess. And my daughter just wants to eat the goop and seeds right out of the pumpkin. The reward for mom picking thru all the stringy stuff is enjoying the roasted pumpkin seeds while watching the candle flicker in the jack-o-lantern.

1 cup organic pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil

Seasoning options:

½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry or
½ teaspoon granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 300°F. Cut off top of pumpkin and scoop out insides. Rinse pumpkin seeds in colander with cold water. Remove as much of the pumpkin strings and flesh from the seeds as possible. Try to blot excess water with a kitchen or paper towel. In a small bowl combine seeds, oil and seasonings of choice. Stir until coated. Spread out seeds in a single layer on foil lined baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and dry, about 40 minutes. Stir seeds with a spatula, every 10 minutes during cooking. Let cool on a paper towel and store in an airtight container.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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