The second the temperature starts to drop, I immediately start craving creamy autumn comfort foods. I love fall foods—pumpkin pie, apple crisp, turkey stuffing, and thick, creamy soups—but I don't love the extra calories that come with them. While I can't bear to cut out my favorite seasonal recipes and stick with salads all winter, I know my jeans won't fit by Christmas if I don't show some restraint.
So I've slimmed down some of my fall favorites by incorporating naturally fat-free and low-calorie spices and seasonal produce to pump up the flavor without compromising the flavor. And my healthy additions don't just taste good; they're good for you too. Apples, for instance, are a great source of fiber, and canned pumpkin is wonderfully versatile for many recipes.
Here are some of my fall favorites.
Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf
Most devil's food cakes are moist and chocolaty, but they are much too high in calories and fat for a feel-good splurge. Instead, I used canned pumpkin to reduce the amount of calories and fat, while keeping the moistness and decadence of this fall treat.
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 can (7.5 ounces) pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 325º. Grease loaf pan.
2. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl; blend well.
3. Once mixed, pour batter into loaf pan.
4. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until top is firm and a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Allow loaf to cool for 15 minutes; dust with powdered sugar (if desired).
Mom's Apple Crisp
Most apple crisp recipes call for at least two sticks of butter, but my mom's recipe cuts that amount in half and increases the amount of apples, which boosts the recipe's flavor profile without losing out on good taste.
4–5 medium apples (almost any kind will work, but I like Macouns, Macs, and Fujis best)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter (or 7–8 tbsp of your favorite butter alternative)
Cinnamon and nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Slice apples into small pieces; you don’t need to worry about how the pieces look. This recipe is great for less-than-perfect apples—you can just cut off the rotten part and use the rest of the apple. You can also peel the apples, if you’d like, but I prefer to leave the skins on.
2. Next, sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg all over the apples. Feel free to add as much or as little as you’d like. I try to cover the entire top layer of apple slices with both spices.
3. Combine flour and sugar (and a little more cinnamon and nutmeg, if you want) in a small bowl. Next, using a fork, combine butter with flour and sugar. (I use Smart Balance instead of butter.) The mixture will begin to look lumpy. Make sure that the majority of the dry ingredients have combined with the butter.
4. Cover apple slices with flour, sugar, and butter mixture. Spread evenly over top layer and fill in all around the apple slices.
5. Bake for 30–40 minutes until top becomes slightly crispy and apples are soft. Remove from oven and let cool for 10–15 minutes. Serve alone or with French vanilla ice cream.
Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie
This delicious smoothie is full of nutrients, so you can easily enjoy it for breakfast; it's also smooth and sweet, so it makes for a scrumptious dessert too.
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1 tbsp hemp (or whey) protein
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup ice
Dash of nutmeg
1. Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.
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