October is one of my favorite months. The bounty of fall veggies, the colorful landscape, the pumpkins and squashes – and then of course, Halloween – have got my creative juices flowing with all the options for meals and décor.
Halloween is exponentially more fun with kids around, and kids are exactly the excuse I need to
I’m a little superstitious, so I tend to veer away from the terrifying, bloodied body parts and skulls and opt instead for the “this old house hasn’t been cleaned in decades look” evoked by spider webs, apothecary jars and fuzzy black crows.
And food takes on a whole new purpose. Strangely, pizza tastes better with huge gooey eyeballs all over it. It's super easy to make and is guaranteed to be gobbled up by my little goblins in minutes. This one was made with organic tomato sauce, mozzarella sliced in thin rounds, black olives and a sprinkling of dried basil. Sometimes I'll add a dab of pesto here and there for extra flavor.
Keeping with the monster eyeball theme, it wouldn't be Halloween around here without Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins with melted marshmallows and candy eyes. The recipe, adapted from My Whole Food Life, might be the only way I can get my kids to eat pumpkin or squash. You do what you have to do, right?
The one exception is butternut - the prettiest, sweetest, most versatile of the winter squashes, at least in my view. On it's own in, over salad or in a soup, butternut squash is always welcome on our plates, and as temperatures cool and warming foods make their way into our daily menus, butternut squash soup becomes a staple.
When combined with sweet potatoes and carrots - literally the two best food sources of beta carotene - you get a blast of the powerful antioxidant. Half a cup of sweet potato provides 11,509μg, and the same amount of carrot gives you 6,499μg. A half cup of butternut squash provides 4,685μg... hence the name of this recipe, Beta Carotene Blast Soup. Beta carotene gives these beautiful fall veggies their bright orange color. Once it's in the body, the carotene is converted into vitamin A, an important nutrient that protects the skin and mucus membranes, and is especially important for eye health.
Beta Carotene Blast Soup is an oldie - originally it's from the vegan cookbook I wrote almost two decades ago! - but still a goodie, with a few modifications.
Firstly, rather than chopping up the raw, tough-as-nails hard-shelled beast, I put the whole butternut squash in the slow cooker or oven to roast. It takes more time, but at least all my fingers are intact when it's ready to serve. As soon as it's soft enough, I'll poke a few holes in the shell to speed up the cooking process.
Secondly, I've replaced almond or soy milk with coconut milk for a creamier texture. Sooooo gooooood. Plus, the extra fat from coconut oil helps the body absorb beta carotene.