Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. There is something about this particular seasonal shift that triggers certain welcomed cravings as the days grow subtly shorter, the air begins to cool and nature’s color palette turns to warmer hues. It is that time of year when pumpkin permeates your menu plans, the crisp autumn air is infused with cinnamon and the golden glow of turning leaves is reflected on your dinner plate. Unfortunately, in my hot little corner of the world, it does not feel like fall at all. Summer is making her traditional last stand, stubbornly refusing to give way. And while my fellow foodies indulge their autumn cravings, I am still desperately craving autumn.
In my mind I know that it’s October, but my body still seeks the cooling effects of frosty smoothies, crisp summer salads and refreshing ice-cold beverages. Though my online world is inundated with beautiful photos of fall foliage, cozy cool weather wear and autumn-inspired recipes, I am just not feelin’ it yet. And I am a little envious.
Well, feeling bad for my poor acorn squash, neglected and turning orange, and my two perfect pomegranates withering together on the counter top, I decided to fake it a little and force some fall flavor into my weekend cooking.
I thought I would start with a batch of homemade pumpkin pie spice. It seemed like a good place to start, a simple way to add a bit of seasonal spice to just about any dish. I happened to have pumpkin seeds in mind. Spiced with cinnamon and drenched in maple syrup, dehydrated to candied perfection…okay, that sounds good! So, sauntering into the kitchen on a lazy Saturday morning, I rallied the troops: cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and allspice. Seeing those earthy colors blending together in the golden morning light, I began to feel it. Just a hint. A tiny bit of fall.
With my spice blend prepared, I enlisted the help of the pumpkin seeds. Together with the autumn spices, sweet maple syrup, tangy goldenberries and goji berries, this combo was quite successful in triggering those fall food cravings, despite the relentless summer heat. I simply tossed everything into a bowl and with a few quick stirs the mixture was ready to pour onto a dehydrator tray. After dehydrating for about 24 hours, these spiced maple pepitas were slightly gooey, nice and crunchy, perfectly sweet and ready to eat.
Maple Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
- 2 cups organic, raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup goji berries
- 1/4 cup goldenberries
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Pour onto lined dehydrator tray, dehydrate at 115 degrees for 24 hours. (Dehydrating times can vary widely depending on your dehydrator).
Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. This recipe made just enough to fill my little spice jar.
Now, for my sad acorn squash and those poor pomegranates. What to do with those? I do love roasted squash of just about any kind. And this autumn squash with a little pumpkin spice, caramelized in a maple glaze, perhaps tossed in a salad with some juicy sweet pomegranate arils…yes, that should do the trick.
You can roast your squash in the oven, but I prefer to simply slice it and pan-fry it on the stove in a little coconut oil. Sprinkled with just a dash of pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper and drizzled with a little bit of maple syrup, these caramelized squash slices are a veggie-lover’s candy! A perfectly sweet and comforting addition to just about any autumn concoction you can think of.
Beginning to get into a seasonal groove, I decided a bowl was in order. A big bowl of simple, comforting ingredients to nourish the body and soul. These big bowls come in all sorts of flavors and styles. Some people call them Buddha Bowls, some call them Nourish Bowls, I prefer Abundance Bowl for this one. Autumn Abundance Bowl. Yes, that’s it. That’s just what I needed to summon the seasonal spirits.Every big bowl needs something saucy to dress it up. I simply added a little fall flair to my favorite lemon-tahini dressing, which I always have on stand-by, by adding a teaspoon or two of maple syrup.
The beauty of a big bowl lies in its simplicity and versatility. However, a really great bowl, preferably a big one, is an essential. Simply fill your bowl with your heart’s desire (or your belly’s desire, really). For this Autumn Abundance Bowl I chose quinoa for some protein, some fresh Lacinato kale, chopped and lightly sautéed with coconut oil and garlic, a heaping handful of fresh pomegranate arils and that golden roasted acorn squash. Topped with maple tahini dressing and a few spiced pumpkin seeds, this big bowl of autumn abundance seemed to help reset my seasonal gauge.
Though summer still stubbornly lingers, I discovered that if I look a little, stop at just the right time, I can almost feel the presence of autumn. Sometimes it is necessary to summon the spirit of the season. Close your eyes, sit outside, breathe in the cool morning air of dawn, watch the golden hues of evening’s setting sun, infuse your day with the flavors of autumn. It may be subtle, but if you engage your senses, tune in, invite the spirit, you may find fall after all.