🍽️ Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes to Warm You Up this Autumn

Preparing a healthy meal that still impresses doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours in a hot kitchen – not when you have your reliable slow cooker ready to lend a hand. These slow cooker recipes are a healthy way to reduce the time you spend preparing while still letting you deliver a meal your family and friends will love.

One of the trickiest feats when preparing your Thanksgiving or any holiday meal is having each dish arrive on the table piping hot: solution – your slow cooker.


Slow-Cooker Squash, Chickpea & Chard Stew

RECIPE INSPIRED BY FOOD NETWORK MAGAZINE

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas, rinsed

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

Crusty bread for serving.

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil, sliced onion with garlic, and cook until soft and golden brown, between 4 and 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute. Stir in ½ cup of water and scrape up bits on the bottom of the skillet. Transfer the skillet contents to your slow cooker.

2. Add chickpeas, squash, chard stems (not the leaves), 2 teaspoons of salt, and 7 cups of water to your slow-cooker. Stir, then cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  If you’re in more of a hurry, cook on high for 4 hours.

3. Ten minutes before serving, stir in the chard leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir to slightly break up the squash. Ladle the stew into bowls; top with grated parmesan if desired and serve with crusty bread.

Tip: If you’d like a creamier stew, use your stick blender to puree about 1/5 of the squash and chickpeas in the slow cooker before you add the chard.


Slow-Cooker Italian Chicken

RECIPE INSPIRED BY DELISH

INGREDIENTS:

2 lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 yellow bell peppers, sliced

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes

½  c. Knorr Chicken Broth

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 

1/3 cup capers

8 oz. cooked linguine for serving 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place in your slow cooker. Add peppers, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, and broth, then season with oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours, until chicken is cooked through. 

2. Remove chicken from slow-cooker and stir capers into the sauce. Serve chicken over cooked pasta with sauce.


Slow-Cooker Mushroom Soup

RECIPE INSPIRED BY YUMMLY

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups boiling water

2 cups of porcini – (about 1½ ounces)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

5/8   teaspoon kosher salt

½  teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced shallots (about 8 ounces)

1 garlic clove (minced, about 1 teaspoon)

1 cup dry sherry

3 pounds fresh mushrooms (assorted, such as cremini, portobello, shiitake, and button, sliced)

1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 ½ cup of heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

1. Boil 2 cups of water and pour over the porcini mushrooms, let the mushrooms steep for 20 minutes. Drain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the mushroom broth; set the mushrooms aside. Stir in soy sauce, salt, pepper, and the remaining 2 cups boiling water into the mushroom broth; set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots are soft for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sherry; bring to a boil, and cook for 30 additional seconds and remove from heat.

3. Stir together the mushrooms, broth mixture, shallot mixture, fresh mushrooms, and thyme in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until the vegetables are very tender and the flavors blend, about 4 hours. Uncover and cook another 20 minutes to thicken. Either transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and blend or use a stick blender to blend about ¼ of the soup. Return the puréed soup to the slow cooker; gently stir in the cream. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot.

How To Satisfy Your Pumpkin Spice Cravings the Healthy Way – 4 Recipes Included

You know it’s autumn when you see pumpkin spice-flavored goodies everywhere you look. 

(Just reading the phrase “pumpkin spice” summons smells and memories of turning leaves and cable-knit sweaters.)

But for those of us with weight management and healthy eating goals, autumn can be an ordeal.

It’s just too easy to indulge in festive foods filled with fat and sugar – and it seems that is particularly true of anything labeled pumpkin spice. For example, Starbucks fan-favorite Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte (16 oz.) has 390 calories plus 50 grams of sugar.

But buried beneath the flood of baked goods, snack foods, and coffee drinks, the ingredients that make up the flavor of pumpkin spice – nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice – are as healthy as can be.

1. Nutmeg

Nutmeg offers many health benefits, from reducing stomach pain and nausea to stress and insomnia relief. It boasts numerous B vitamins and minerals and contains powerful antioxidants and essential oils. (1)

2. Ginger

Ginger is well known for combating nausea by reducing gas and painful cramps, and it has several other healing effects. It can reduce discomfort from menstrual cramps, headaches, and arthritis, plus it helps stimulate circulation. (2)

3. Cloves

Cloves are chock full of manganese, which is essential for strong bones and brain function. Cloves have antimicrobial properties, meaning they may help stop the growth of microorganisms like harmful bacteria. (3,4)

4. Cinnamon

Cinnamon contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect your body from illness. Cinnamon works as a prebiotic, which promotes healthy gut bacteria and improves gut health. It’s also been found to be helpful for your heart and brain. (5,6)

5. Allspice

Allspice can help with stomach issues like indigestion, abdominal pain, and menstrual cramps. It also has a reputation for assisting bowel movements. Allspice contains eugenol, which has antiseptic properties that can kill bacteria on your teeth and gums. (7)

If you love the nostalgic flavor of pumpkin spice, your best approach is indulging at home using your own pumpkin spice blend. This way, your body and mind get the benefits without offsetting them with lots of extra sugar, cream, and calories.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Recipe 

Homemade pumpkin spice only takes a few minutes to prepare with ingredients you may already have in your spice cabinet.

You don’t need added syrups and other sugars to make it delicious. 

In fact, it’s an excellent substitute for some sweeteners since it’s a seasoning and not a type of sugar. 

Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

·1/4 cup ground cinnamon
·2 tablespoons ground ginger
·4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
·2 teaspoons ground allspice
·2 teaspoons ground cloves

In a bowl, mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Store recipe in an airtight container for up to a year.

Add your homemade pumpkin spice blend to most of your favorite desserts and breakfasts. And yes — create a pumpkin spice latte with a lot less sugar than the coffee shop versions. 

Here are a few guilt-free recipes that may satisfy your craving for pumpkin spice.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

This recipe makes six lattes. If making only one latte, brew one cup of coffee and prepare a half cup of milk. Keep remaining pumpkin syrup in a sealed container.

Ingredients:

·Water
·1/4 cup sugar (optional)
·2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
·1/2 cup pumpkin puree
·2 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend
·1/4 teaspoon salt
·2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·6 cups brewed coffee
·3 cups dairy milk, oat, flaxseed, or almond milk

In a saucepan, combine water, sugars, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice blend, and salt.

Whisk together and simmer for 20 minutes

Add vanilla extract and remove from heat.

Brew coffee.

Over medium heat, in a separate saucepan, whish milk until foamy (different kinds of milk may not all foam in the same way).

Mix 1 cup of coffee with four tablespoons of pumpkin syrup and 1/3 cup of foamy milk for each latte.

Pumpkin Spice Granola 

Ingredients:

·2 cups whole grain oats
·Pecans halved
·1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
·1/4 cup maple syrup
·1/4 cup olive oil
·1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
·1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
·1/2 cup shredded coconut topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pumpkin seeds, and pecans. 

Combine olive oil, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice blend, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Spread the granola mixture evenly over parchment paper and bake for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle shredded coconut, and shake to combine. 

Return to oven for approximately fifteen additional minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.  Store the remainder in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Pumpkin Spice Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is a winter squash, harvested between early September and ending in late fall. That’s why you see butternut squash soup pop up in restaurant menus this time of year. 

It’s easy to make at home. A quick trick is roasting the entire butternut squash in the oven for about an hour until it gets tender. Let cool, then cut it open, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Pumpkin spice and maple syrup add just a touch of sweetness to compliment the roasted butternut. If you like it creamier, stir in cream or extra coconut milk into the soup.

Servings 4 -6

Ingredients:

·1 medium butternut squash
·olive oil
·4 cups vegetable broth
·1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice blend
·1/2 teaspoon sea salt
·2 tablespoons maple syrup
·cream for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash on a baking tray, rub with some olive oil, and bake for an hour or until a knife pokes through the skin easily. 

Remove from oven and let cool. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and discard; then scoop out the squash. 

Put the flesh of the squash into a blender or food processor.

Add vegetable broth, pumpkin spice mix, salt, and maple syrup. Blend until smooth. Heat in a soup pot. Ladle into serving bowls. 

Citations/Sources:
1. mchemist.com/herboglo/pdf/7%20nutmeg.pdf
2. researchgate.net/profile/Shafeeqa-Irfan/publication/338361864_A_Critical_Review_on_Pharmaceutical_and_Medicinal_Importance_of_Ginger/links/5e6a7d8292851c6ba7fd7924/A-Critical-Review-on-Pharmaceutical-and-Medicinal-Importance-of-Ginger.pdf
3. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12505649/
4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074903/
5. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/
6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5600121/
7. webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-allspice#1
8. foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/recipes/2016/10/health-benefits-of-pumpkin-spice
9. cedars-sinai.org/blog/pumpkin-spice-healthy.html

7 Gorgeous Spots to Enjoy Fall Foliage

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird, I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
-George Eliot

Here’s a question, what in nature looks more beautiful as it dies?

Autumn’s gorgeous and wildly, technicolor foliage, of course.

Deciduous trees from oaks, maples, aspens, poplars, birches, and dogwoods transform from monochromatic green to fiery gold, orange, red, pink, and purple as the life fades from their leaves and prepare to drop.   Some displays are so mind-blowingly beautiful that they can literally take your breath away.

In almost every state of this great union, October is the best month to see the annual colors change, and it’s worth a day trip to take in this remarkable yearly phenomenon up close.  But keep in mind, the clock is ticking. By mid-November, most leaves will be on the ground, and you’ll have missed out on Fall’s dazzling color show.

Here are our top picks to see fall foliage in the US this October.

1. Mount Greylock, Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ highest peak, Mount Greylock, is the stuff of legends, with both J.K. Rowling and Herman Melville noting its magical qualities. Fortunately, it’s an easy and beautiful summit drive through New England’s Berkshires. The drive we suggest passes through Great Barrington, Stockbridge, and Pittsfield on your way to North Adams.

This route takes you past rolling hills and through small New England towns clustered around white-steepled churches. This time of year, enjoy the warm oranges, golds, pinks, and reds of autumn’s glory.

Best time to go: Mid-September to end of October

2. The Catskills, New York

The Catskills, in upstate New York, is one of the best places to see autumn colors.

Located less than two hours from NYC, is the Catskills Mountain Scenic Byway stretches 52 miles through rolling hills, pristine waterways, and the charming towns of Olive, Shandaken, Middletown, and Andes.

If you’re the adventurous type, get a bird’s eye view of the Catskill’s spectacular color from zipline on from Hunter Mountain. The Summit Sky Rider Tour runs 4.6 miles through the Catskills and is the second-longest zip line in North America.

Best time to go: Mid-September to end of October

3. Roanoke Valley, Virginia

While there are spectacular views of autumn foliage all around the Blue Ridge Mountain region, there are a few prime spots that offer panoramas that will leave you breathless.

Roanoke Valley is one of them. (I had the pleasure of attending a dear niece’s wedding there a few October’s ago.)  It indeed boasts colors that you would expect to find on a postcard.

Make your way to the Roanoke Star & Overlook, just 15 minutes from downtown Roanoke, directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway, at milepost 120.

There you’ll find spectacular views of the Roanoke Valley, including the downtown skyline and the surrounding mountains. You’ll also find multiple hiking and mountain bike trails and picnic areas.

Best time to go: Early October to mid-November

4. Silver City, Michigan

Michigan’s upper peninsula is famous for its colorful coastal scenery.

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City features plenty of hiking trails and lookout points to take in the scenery.  The scenic drive along the M-26 that ends at Copper Harbor is ninety minutes of glorious fall colors to the east and gorgeous views of Lake Superior to the west.

Best time to go: Mid-September to mid-October

5. Telluride, Colorado

The aspen groves of the San Juan Mountains provide a spectacular fall color show.  They morph from lush green to a kaleidoscope of brilliant golds, orange, and yellows. Take a day or two to drive the scenic San Juan Skyway through the mountain towns of Cortez, Durango, Silverton, ending in Telluride.

In Telluride, take a guided 4×4 tour to Tomboy Basin and Imogene Pass to get a stunning view of the valley below.

Best time to go: Late September to mid-October

6. Mammoth, California

Mammoth Lakes, California, on the Eastern Sierra mountain range, is memorable in all seasons, but the autumn foliage is simply unforgettable. Imagine golden and red aspens nestled against snow-dusted mountain peaks reflected in still alpine pools. The fall spectacle begins at the highest elevations by the end of September and descends and ends at the base by early November. 

A few fun ways to experience the most brilliant color displays are canoeing in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, driving or biking the June Lake Loop, or hiking around Rock Creek. 

Best time to go: Early October to early-November

7. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth sits on the eastern slopes of Washington’s Cascade Mountains and is one of the most glorious places to see the autumn color up close. There are trails for every level, from the more accessible Hidden Lake trail to the more challenging Spider Meadows.

As a Bavarian town, Leavenworth is known for its lively Oktoberfest celebrations. If drinking beer and eating bratwurst while being surrounded by vibrant fall colors sounds like the perfect way to spend a weekend, Leavenworth is your place.

Best time to go: Late September to late October

Regardless of which part of the US you visit this Fall, getting outside and seeing and being in nature is crucial to your happiness, stress reduction, and mental health.

Never forget your colorful Fall memories…

Brain-health supplements can have a positive impact on your memory. Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Brain provides essential vitamins and minerals, plus brain-boosting ingredients like Choline, Bacopa Monnieri, and Huperzine A. Two once-daily capsules of Dynamic Brain can help you hold onto your favorite memories while giving you more focus and clarity. Staying sharp at any age is the key to a happy and rewarding life.