When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In with the new (and a recipe for healthy pumpkin muffins)

Our little family of four said goodbye to 2011 last night with a delicious fondue dinner, a few rounds of Bananagrams, and an early countdown to 2012 at 8pm, complete with horns, hats, and happy hollering (because hey, it was midnight somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, anyway!).  Spending the evening enjoying the company of my guys in our home seemed a perfect way to usher in a new year, reflecting on the joys (and challenges) of the previous twelve months and wondering with hope what new ones we might experience in the months to come.

Many people, I'm sure, woke up this morning with their hearts and minds set on making some changes for the better in the new year:  to eat well, to exercise more, to be more organized to allow for the accomplishment of these other goals.  The store flyers this time of year would certainly lead us to believe that all we need to do is buy all the right stuff (treadmills! storage containers! high fibre cereals!) and anything is possible.  I think, though, that while grandiose plans for major self-improvement may seem admirable, if you check back in with people in a month, many of them will have slipped back into their old habits, having found that major change all at once is difficult.  When regular life gets stressful again after the holidays, the treadmill sits unused in the basement and breakfast once again becomes a coffee and a sugar-laden muffin picked up quickly at a drive-through window.

Instead of trying to break too many old habits at once, I think it's wiser (and much more manageable) to make small changes towards a healthier way of living, one step at a time.  Commit to something new that you know you can do and will feel good about:  pick a new vegetable at the grocery store and learn how to cook it in a way you love so you'll want to cook it again. Replace one unhealthy snack a day with something that's better for you.  Decide to regularly take the stairs rather than the elevator at work, or set aside time once a week for a family activity that will get everyone moving.  Little changes like these require a conscious effort to make but are not all-consuming, and they're quicker to become integrated as a regular part of everyday life.  The happiness that comes from being successful with a small shift is wonderful inspiration for further change for the better. 

Today I'm sharing a healthy recipe for pumpkin muffins that could be a part of someone's small change:  they make a wonderful snack as they're full of vegetables and whole grains and low in sugar (an excellent substitute for doughnuts or prepackaged granola bars).  Will's teacher shared this recipe with us in a newsletter she sent home in the fall (thanks, Mrs. Berg!) and they've become a new favourite in our house.  I love that the recipe can be easily adapted to accommodate those with food sensitivities, too!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free muffins)
1/2 cup oat bran (substitute pure oats finely ground in a food processor for gluten-free muffins)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp of a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup milk (dairy, almond, or rice)
1/2 cup honey (I use only 2 tbsp and find the muffins sweet enough)
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange zest

In a large bowl, mix flour, oat bran, baking powder, spices, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
Whisk together pumpkin puree, carrot, milk, honey, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and orange zest in a medium bowl until well combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until mixed.
Spoon mixture into paper lined muffin cups and bake at 375 F for 20 to 30 minutes.  (Check the muffins after 20 minutes -- cooking times will vary depending on your oven.)  Cool and serve.

These muffins are delicious, nutritious, and freeze very well -- perfect for a healthy snack on the go!

I wish you all a very happy 2012, filled with lots of little opportunities to discover a healthier you!

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