Autumn lovers, unite!

fall love

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

AHH, FALL.

Fall is one my favorite times of the year. There something so extraordinary about the transition between the last little bit of summer warmth and the arrival of the harsh beauty of winter.

Fall is going on a merry jaunt to delight in the marvelous colors of the waning trees, listen to the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your steps, breathe in the musty scent of the earth, and feel the brisk air sweep across your rosy cheeks.

Fall is so intimate. It is the embrace of cozy sweaters, luxuriousness of long socks, curling up around the fireplace, and wrapping your hands around steaming mugs of liquid comfort.

And with the entrance of this beloved season comes the inevitable pumpkin craze.

I love pumpkin

Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes (with spiced cream cheese frosting!), etc. etc. Yes, I know I didn’t mention pumpkin spice lattes, but alas, I am not a coffee fan (I bet most of you just audibly gasped). Haters gonna hate…and I’m hatin’ on coffee.

To be honest, I also did not like pumpkin until about two years ago. It was actually more that I didn’t like the nutmeg that constantly accompanies the pumpkin. But I’ve learned to love both, and I can’t explain why except to say that it just came with age. I’ve also learned to love onions and cilantro and tolerate jackfruit, mango, and spicy food. I will, however, never ever let durian past my lips (all my Asians will know exactly what I’m talkin’ about). I also have yet to find a beer that I like…yep, that is a challenge for you.

A little over a week ago, I met up with a couple of my dear high school friends. We went to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch where we hand-picked honey crisp apples amid the rain and hail. We then retreated to warm up and swapped stories over hot drinks.

Autumn fun

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Johnson

Afterwards, we strolled down a cute mall and ended up at the most legit Halloween costume shop where I was particularly tempted to buy a Venetian mask (obviously it would be so convenient to have one if I were ever invited to a masquerade ball). They had such an incredible array of Halloween gear, but their motion displays were sooo creepy especially the murderous-looking baby dolls. I’ve always been freaked out about anything associated with the evil supernatural, and hence, I have never seen a horror film in its entirety.

The whole point of that autumn tale was to mention that I plucked the perfect pumpkin straight off the vine at the pumpkin patch. Or rather, the pumpkin chose me; it’s a ‘when you know, you know’ situation. This past weekend, I figured I should carve my pumpkin since Halloween is this week after all. Plus, I wanted to try roasting the seeds for a couple of recipes – did you know that you can eat them whole, shell and all?!

At first, I couldn’t figure out what to carve, but then it hit me. I might as well carve the symbol that I sketch everywhere. Seriously, this symbol is almost synonymous with me. If you are a fan of “Avatar the Last Airbender” (NOT the blue people), you should recognize this symbol instantly.

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I lit the pumpkin using the flashlight app on my phone seeing as we aren’t allowed to have open flames in the apartment (tip: stick your phone inside a Ziploc bag for protection). I love Avatar. It may seem innocent and childish at a first glance, but there are many underlying lessons on life and love. It taps into so many deep and complex issues that engage both older and younger audiences. The artwork, animation, and music are also beautifully executed. I love the water tribe symbol and its significance. As much as I want to, I won’t go on a long tangent about the different types of bending and why water is my favorite (but hey fellow Avatar fans, I would love to have a chat with you sometime!). Avatar is such an inspirational and endearing show. Give it a chance and you just might be surprised.

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“When we are at our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.” – Aang, “Legend of Korra”

(Technically, this quote is from the sequel series, but technically Aang still said it, so there.)

I feel obliged to post a recipe because I am (un)officially the food blogger, and so I decided to put my roasted pumpkin seeds to use. I have so many recipes I want to try, and I got to check homemade granola off the list!

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Homemade roasted pepitas!

This pumpkin granola was so simple, and our apartment smelled amazing. I love granola but am always hesitant to buy it because store-bought granola is usually laden with sugar, fats, and additives that make it unnecessarily high in calories. I try to eat “clean”, especially after my honors seminar this summer on eating mindfully. This is a healthy, protein-rich granola that you can easily customize and feel good about eating. Make yourself a batch and enjoy the smell and taste of fall!

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Here’s to fall,

Mary

Healthy Pumpkin Granola

adapted from Skinnytaste

Makes 3 2/3 cups.

1/4 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed and patted dry)

1 1/2 cups oats (any kind)*

1/4 cup ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (or other seed)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries or raisins)

1/4 cup liquid sweetener (real maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar)

1/4 cup pumpkin purée (aka canned pumpkin)

1 tsp oil (canola or coconut)

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (or more to taste)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Combine oats and quinoa. Spread mixture out on a parchment/aluminum foil lined baking pan. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Remove oat mixture from oven, pour into a medium bowl, and add the ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and dried fruit. Reduce the oven to 300° F.

In a separate bowl, combine liquid sweetener, pumpkin purée, oil, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture. Mix well. Spread back onto the baking sheet using a spatula. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden.

*If you are gluten-free, feel free to substitute GF oats.

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