Pumpkin & Fig Smoothie

Apparently I’m all about the seasonal recipes lately and I’m totally owning it!

Isn’t it funny how sometimes the most unplanned things end up turning out the best? This smoothie was never meant to make it on the blog. I randomly made it for breakfast one day because a) we were low on food and b) I remembered that I still had two cans of pumpkin in the pantry from last fall and wanted to use it in something besides a baked good.

 pumpkin fig smoothie

Cans are perfect for when you need some produce in a pinch by the way. I think they get a bad rap for being nutritionally sub-par, but in reality some vegetables are actually more nutritious after having been cooked/processed.

A few of my favorite canned vegetable staples are:

  • Beans (garbanzo, black, and pinto)

  • Diced tomatoes for soups, chilis, marinara sauce, and a stand-in for pizza sauce

  • Corn (when out of season) for burrito bowls and Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes

  • Pumpkin for adding to oatmeal, smoothies and muffins/quick breads

What else would you add to this list?

You guys know that I’m a huge proponent for keeping a well-stocked pantry because it makes weeknight cooking a million times easier and can be a lifesaver when you run out of fresh produce but still want to make a balanced meal.

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So back to this smoothie… I knew I had made something similar to this in the past, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly what I put in it. I rummaged through the fridge to find anything that I thought would pair well with the pumpkin and here’s what I came up with:

  • Milk for the liquid component. Use your favorite! I used 1%.

  • Frozen banana, because in my opinion, no smoothie is complete without it. This is what makes smoothies extra creamy and it also adds a little bit of natural sweetness.

  • Fresh figs because I needed to use these up ASAP before they went bad (do not procrastinate with the figs you guys)

  • PB Love Co cinnamon almond butter for fat, protein and flavor

  • Hemp hearts for more protein, texture and because in all honesty, smoothies are the opposite of photogenic without something on top, especially when they are pale orange in color

  • Cinnamon because I love it and seem to put it on almost every breakfast food out there

 pumpkin smoothie ingredients

The result is thick and creamy, has a serving of orange vegetables (always impressive at breakfast) and to be honest, kind of tastes like dessert. Let me know if you give it a try!


Pumpkin & Fig Smoothie

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 1 serving | Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large frozen banana

  • 3 fresh figs, peeled and chopped

  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin

  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon almond butter (see note)

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2-3 ice cubes

  • 1 Tbsp hemp hearts

  • Cinnamon to garnish

 pumpkin fig smoothie with hemp hearts

Instructions

  1. Add banana, figs, pumpkin, almond butter, milk and ice to a blender and blend on high until very smooth.

  2. Pour into a glass, then top with the hemp hearts and a shake of cinnamon. Serve immediately.

*notes:

If you can’t find a cinnamon almond butter (or don’t want to buy one specifically for this purpose), add regular almond butter + 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.

I keep a gallon-sized zip top bag in my freezer for bananas that get too brown to eat raw. Just peel, break in half, and throw it in the bag to freeze. They make for the best smoothie add-in for extra creaminess and natural sweetness. You can also use in baked goods! It’s way easier to use them if you peel before freezing.


Iced Cardamom Lattes

Afternoon pick-me-up anyone?

 iced cardamom latte

This might be my new fall obsession you guys. I’m going to get bold and say it - forget pumpkin spice lattes and get on board the cardamom latte train. Even better, make it iced. But first, let me back up for a second and tell you about this drink.

The weather in Denver is amazing around this time of year; crisp and cool in the morning and evening with summer temperatures still creeping in during the day. It’s a little awkward on the cooking front because I started adding soups and chili back into the meal plan but then get seriously overheated when I have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I like to think this drink is the perfect “in-between seasons” drink because I get to incorporate fall flavors and stay cool. It’s the best afternoon pick-me-up and tastes exactly like the coffee shop drink I was hoping to recreate.

Swedish Coffee

You may or may not remember me referencing a coffee shop in Minneapolis called Bread & Chocolate in this post back in February. They serve something called a Swedish coffee that has steamed milk, cardamom and cinnamon. I don’t normally get fancy with my coffee but this was plain delicious and super unique. It had a touch of sweetness, just enough to bring all of the flavors together since cardamom can be a little bitter on it’s own.

 iced cardamom latte

How to use Cardamom

Cardamom seems to be one of those flavors you would likely recognize, unable figure out where you last tasted it. In general it’s most often used in baked goods like quick bread, spice cakes, muffins and desserts, probably right alongside cinnamon.

Interestingly, I recently learned that while the Swedish might not actually use it in coffee, it’s still a favorite spice in Swedish cooking/baking. Sweden is also one of the world’s top coffee consumers, even ahead of the U.S. one article I read. I’m part Swedish you know! It all makes so much sense.

Another fun fact: they use the term “fika” in reference to grabbing coffee together - it could mean both the act of getting together or as a noun (i.e. “see you at fika”). I’m not sure if this iced latte would be worthy of any of the menus over there, but I’m still a big fan and I think you will be too!

 iced cardamom lattes

Iced Cardamom Lattes

A seasonal afternoon pick-me-up featuring fall flavors of maple, cinnamon and cardamom.

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 1 serving | Prep time: 5 minutes

ingredients

  • 6 oz strongly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature and then chilled

  • 2-3 oz milk of choice (I used 1%)

  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup

  • 1/8 tsp each: cardamom and ground cinnamon

  • Plenty of ice

instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a mason jar, then screw the lid on tightly and shake well until frothy.

  2. Pour into a fun glass and top with a shake more of cardamom.


Did you make this recipe? Remember to Tag @LeanneRayRDN on Instagram!

Grocery Shopping Shortcuts When You Don't Have a Plan

It's Sunday afternoon, you know you don't have much fresh food in the house and you are contemplating heading to the grocery store. 

You have that all too familiar mental discourse in your head as you stare into the pantry, "I could make it for a few more days". 

The only thing holding you back is the idea of having to actually think about some semblance of a plan. The thought of opening up your computer and going on Pinterest does not excite you and nothing sounds particularly appetizing at the moment. 


Have you ever been in this situation? I know I can relate, which is why I wanted to share some grocery shopping shortcuts that can be used specifically on these occasions. Whether you just aren't in the mood or you don't have time for your normal meal planning routine, it's no reason to get flustered and deem it the week of take-out. You have options!

 grocery shopping shortcuts when you don't have a plan

Work Through the Pantry

One of my favorite quick, tried and true methods when feeling uninspired or lacking on time is to open up the pantry and freezer, figure out what I already have on hand, then build around those ingredients. This is a also a great money-saving strategy!

For example, maybe you have leftover rice paper from the last time you made these. Let that be one of your meals for the week and pick up all of the fresh ingredients you need. If you are someone who freezes soups and other leftovers, you might find something tucked away that you can use for meal #2. Have a can of black beans? Turn it into quesadillas - you won't need a recipe for that one which makes things super simple. 

The 5/4/3/2/1 Method 

This next idea is one I use when I'm out running errands, decide to stop at the store on the way home but have no idea what to buy. I've adapted it from the original based on my own preferences but in general I love the idea of just keeping of how many items to grab from each section of the store. This also helps improve your improv cooking skills too because it makes for a little bit more unpredictability for the week. Kind of like on the show Chopped when you are given random ingredients and just have to make them work together.

Here's how I usually approach this one:

  • 4 proteins (meat or plant-based)
  • 4 whole grains and/or starchy vegetables
  • 4 non-starchy veg (in different colors if possible)
  • 3 fruit options
  • 1 cheese 

This makes for a ton of options. I still grab all of my weekly stuff, but of course I have those memorized and I'm sure you do too. If you keep your pantry stocked with all of your cooking staples, you probably already have what you need to cook, amp up the flavor, and make any sauces/dressings. 

Curious what ingredients you should always keep stocked in the pantry? Sign up for my free email mini-course using the form below. I share a checklist in day two!

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Find a Few Star Ingredients

This is another favorite time-saving strategy and I especially like to use it when I go to Trader Joe's. They have a lot of fun packaged stuff that works well when complemented with a few fresh things. All this entails is finding a few interesting items around the store, then figuring out a way to to make them into a balanced meal with a few other add-ins. Examples:

  • TJ's has a super delicious frozen street corn that has spices and cotija cheese already mixed in. Top it with grilled salmon and add some simple mixed greens on the side to make it a meal.

  • Find a fun simmering sauce and use it on beans and vegetables; serve with brown rice

  • Try a specialty ravioli (like wild mushroom) and add roasted vegetables and goat cheese

  • Use a boxed falafel mix, then complement with all of the fixings like fresh diced cucumbers, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, olives, feta cheese, hummus and pita. 

  • Grab a quick-cooking grain and doctor it up with a vegetable, cheese, nut, and sauce or dressing (like this farro, pictured below). 

 farro and blueberry salad with creamy herb dressing

Refer to Your Standby Meals

As a last resort, always have a mental list of your "standby meals" to make in a pinch. For me these are things like burrito bowls, chop salads, and turkey burgers. I know all of the ingredients needed and can run to the store and grab everything without a structured plan. If you can't think of them off the top of your head, grab a piece of paper and make a list now!

Some things you might include: breakfast for dinner, grilled protein with vegetables, or even grilled cheese sandwiches with a side salad.

Now leave me a comment with 1) the standby meals you came up with and 2) any other tips you have for grocery shopping when you don't have a plan. Happy shopping!