Random recipe: Pumpkin Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I am on a pumpkin trend. Last week I shared these Flourless Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips. This week we tried a savory dish for dinner: Pumpkin Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It was good — depending on how much you like pumpkin. I like pumpkin but if we made this recipe again we would tweak it. We would put in less pumpkin and more cheese. The sauce could have been a bit creamier, so I think we would have played with the sauce a bit more.

The breadcrumbs on top softened the heavier pumpkin flavor — the breadcrumbs are a must!



Pumpkin Mac ‘n’ Cheese

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
12 oz. dried whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2 quart baking dish with 1 Tablespoon of the butter. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well and return to the pot.
  2. While macaroni cooks, melt remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until combined. Whisk in milk, salt, and black pepper. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add pumpkin and cheddar cheese. Cook and stir until creamy, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour sauce over macaroni and stir to coat. Transfer macaroni to the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and oil. Spread evenly over pasta. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and macaroni is heated through.

Serve and enjoy this pumpkin goodness.

Random Recipe: Flourless Pumpkin Muffins with Mini Chocolate Chips

It is that time of year again. I loath the thought of putting away my flip-flops, and yet I savor the idea of all the pumpkin recipes I want to make in the coming weeks. That and the occasional Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. As you can see — I love pumpkin in the fall. If I have to give up my flip-flops, pumpkin might be the only thing to sway me.

These muffins are kind of dense because they do not have flour and instead have oats, making them a bit heavy. The pumpkin flavor is good, but you have to decide if flavor/texture/weight is more important than having a healthy-good-for-you option. You pick which is more important to you, but if you want a good flavored, healthy option then this is a recipe you should try.

Flourless Pumpkin Muffins w/Mini Chocolate Chips

Ingredients (for 12 muffins)

2 and 1/4 cup oats
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips (we used minis)


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and then line a muffin tin for 12 muffins.
  2. Place of all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips into a blender or a food processor and blend for about 30 seconds, or until smooth.
  3. Gently stir the chocolate chips into the batter. Pour the batter equally into the muffin tin. Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before shoving them in your mouth.

High maintenance? Why not?

I have thought a lot about what it may mean to raise a boy. While I was not completely set on having a girl, I knew that if I had one I would make sure she was a badass. Knowing that I am having a boy, I often think — how do I make sure he is strong while also gentle and sensitive? What happens in a boy’s life that makes them want to kill everything they see, or punch everything? Is it nurture or nature? I guess I will find out soon enough.

I grew up with a dad that would remind us that we were to “be seen and not heard.” I have the smallest of bladders and would always have to go to the bathroom (and still do) and my dad always made me feel horrible about it. As though it was my fault that I had to go to the bathroom 30 minutes later. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband who might sometimes think: “Seriously? You just went.” but still makes sure we can find a bathroom. (That was the case pre-pregnancy too).

In any case, a line from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown reminded me of my childhood:

“In my family, being high maintenance was a huge shame trigger, especially for girls. Be easy, fun, and flexible. Need a bathroom break on a road trip? We’ll pull over when we don’t have to cross the highway to get to the gas station. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Don’t eat. Carsick? It’s all in your head. Unfortunately, being low maintenance also meant not asking for what you needed and never inconveniencing anyone.” Page 100

I cannot tell you how many times I was told by my dad that it was all in my head. I remember one summer we were told we needed to shuck about 6 dozen ears of corn. We would buy a large quantity when it was the end of the season, shuck them and then freeze them for the rest of the year. Supposedly it still tasted just the same (but corn was just corn to me). I vividly remember sitting on the front porch step, making a mess of all the remnants when I felt a sharp pain in my thumb. I look down and my thumb is covered in blood. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have NO tolerance for seeing blood (mine or anyone else’s). I yell for my dad and we go inside. As he is rinsing it off we realize there is a piece of glass in my thumb. It must have been in the soil and grown in with the corn husk. We get it out and I literally pass out from all the blood. When I am back and normal again my dad basically tells me it is all in my head and that I am a wuss. Seriously.

That and many other situations throughout my childhood made me not ask for help, and honestly it is hard for me to do so today. I did what I could to not be high maintenance, to figure it out on my own, and not be in the way. It was easier that way. However, I do not plan to raise my son that way. I want him to use his words, and speak up — whether he is high maintenance or not. I want him to be just who he is without being squashed by the judgements of others. Is that too much to ask for?

All about bread

Have you ever thought about bread? I mean really thought about it? Before my pregnancy, I rarely ate bread. Occasionally we would have some at a restaurant, or at someone’s house, but generally speaking we did not have bread in the house. I have always (and still do) feel like bread is a filler food. I am one that believes that we should always fill our bodies with food that is fuel. Such as vegetables and fruit.

Until being pregnant. Now I cannot get enough bread. I have had a few cravings. Nothing too exciting. Chex-Mix, animal crackers, and for the entire pregnancy I have wanted bread. In the form of toast, sandwiches, and pizza. It is the only thing that ever sounds good. My OB said that my appetite would come back in the second trimester. It has not. Nothing ever sounds good. I never really am interested in eating. Except I know when I need to. When I start to get nausea (although I never had morning sickness) I know it is time for a snack or a meal. When that happens I only want bread.

It is comfort food. If you think about it, we have the option for bread in many different meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in different cultures (roti, naan, flatbread, to name a few). Now we even have gluten-free. You can have it plain, or toppings galore. I remember as a young child when I did not feel well, or when I wanted a treat, my grandma would make me toast with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. My dad loved peanut butter on his toast, my mom loved apple butter. At the moment, in the middle of this pregnancy, I want jelly. There have been times though when all I wanted on my toast was melted butter.

Now bread has become a phenomenon via the not so new culinary concept of “toast.” In San Francisco and New York you can find menu items such as buttered toast for $4. Yes. Maybe it is on high quality brioche, but still. I might sound like my grandma but I can almost get a loaf for that amount. In any case, bread, toast, what have you, it is my comfort food of choice as I ease into my third trimester.

Quiet enough

I woke up early this morning unable to get comfortable. As far along as I am with my pregnancy, I have to sleep on my side, which I did at times before, but oh how I miss sleeping on my back when I want to! Between constantly getting up to pee, and then trying to get comfortable again amidst the pillows that surround me, it is no wonder I only get one hour increments of sleep at a time. Poor Chris — he usually wakes up every time I do, although he does not have to get out of bed, readjust, and hope his feet do not get cold in the process.

In any case, this morning I woke up way before it was time to get up and lay snuggled in with my pillows, knowing I should get up to pee, but not wanting to move. My mind started to wander and develop ideas for the day, and the first thought that came to me was: “When do we really get quiet enough to really think?” I know nothing ground breaking, but for me it was a bit of an aha moment. We often get up thinking about everything we need to accomplish in our day and laying in bed longer is cannibalizing the minutes needed to accomplish the many tasks set before us. Are we really thinking during that time though? Are we really pondering our life and wondering if are we going down the yellow brick road that is meant for us? Or do we know it so well, we do not question if it is the right one?

As we endeavor to move through our day, we go from deadline, to appointment, to other engagements, ending up at home with a list of items to accomplish, and if we decide to veg out, it is usually in a way that still does not allow us to be quiet. My hunch is that for most of us the deep quiet never comes. Instead we decide to put another load of laundry in, respond to that email, or organize what needs to happen for the next day, and if we are lucky, when our head hits the pillow we fall fast asleep after a good full day. Every once in a while we might be able to quiet our minds before falling asleep. If I had my choice, I would rather wake up with my thoughts quiet enough, as often when it happens as you fall asleep you never remember the quiet voice speaking to you.

I want to start bringing the quiet into my days — even if just for a few moments where I can check and adjust. I want to ask myself if I am going down the right road that day, and if I am, what do I need to do to be quiet at some point in my day. To truly listen and hear that quiet voice remind my why I am on this road, and what I need to do next.