Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips

I realize Halloween is over, but can you handle one more pumpkin recipe? I know I can, but then again, I could eat pumpkin pie every day whole year round. For others less out of their gourd for gourds, now that it’s November, pumpkin fatigue may have set in. Understandable. But I hope you’ll make an exception for this Pumpkin Hummus recipe, because not only is it easy, unique, and tasty, it’s also super fun to make with DIY fall-shard tortilla chips.

Aren’t they cute?

When it comes to making hummus, the main thing that usually stands in my way is that I suffer from what I think of as Tahini Block. As in, I really, really don’t want to spend eleven bucks on a jar of ground sesame seeds  when all I’ll use is a couple of tablespoons at the most. Therefore, I generally refrain from homemade hummus unless I can use a tahini-free recipe. This one fits that description! Though tahini adds a signature flavor, as a general rule hummus is extremely adaptable. As long as it starts with beans and ends up with a nice consistency, I say you’re safe to call it authentic even if no tahini is involved.

Now let’s talk tortilla. DIY fall shaped tortilla chips, to be exact. Of course you could buy tortilla chips at the store–I mean, who really needs to make their own chips?–but once you’ve cut your own shapes with delightful fall-themed cookie cutters, there’s no going back. Pumpkin and leaf-shaped dippers add a whole extra layer of seasonal character alongside this pumpkin hummus.

So for your next play date, Thanksgiving potluck, or Tahini Avoiders Anonymous meeting, give this fun combination a try!

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Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips
A savory, tahini-free pumpkin hummus paired with fun DIY tortilla chips!
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
To make the hummus:
  1. Place garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor and run on low briefly to mince. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Serve garnished with pepitas, if desired.
To make the chips:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Using fall-themed cookie cutters, cut shapes out of tortillas. (You can either discard the remaining tortilla scraps or include them for other, funky-shaped chips.) Spray both sides of cutouts lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then sprinkle to taste with herbs and spices. (Or for sweet chips, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.)
  3. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 7 minutes, then flip chips and bake another 7 minutes. Serve with pumpkin hummus.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

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Stranger Things Party

If you haven’t heard of the instant cult classic Netflix series Stranger Things, you just might have been living under a rock for most of 2017. The series about a group of middle school boys trying to unravel the truth behind mysterious events in their small Indiana town is a runaway hit. The highly anticipated second season was (finally) released October 27th–2 days ago–and people are lining up in droves to purchase Stranger Things-themed Halloween costumes, and, like us, host Stranger Things Halloween parties! My husband and I aren’t even super into the show (though we definitely enjoy it) but figured with all the hype, it would make a great theme to a little gathering at our house Halloween weekend. Last night we had a handful of people over to watch the newly released episodes.

Here are some of the themed foods, drinks, decorations, and activities from the party! I hope these ideas provide some inspiration if you plan to host a Stranger Things Party even after Halloween passes. It would still be fun to round up some friends to get communally creeped out (if you can find anyone who hasn’t watched it all by next week)!


You can’t have a campy TV-show-themed event without some cheesy foods to match! Stranger Things fans know that the one food associated with the show is Eggo waffles, since Eleven (one of the main characters) eats them with obsessive exclusivity. Therefore, something with Eggos is a must for any Stranger Things party menu.



To make these Eggo Whoopie Pies, first whip up some cinnamon frosting. Mix a half cup of softened butter with 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, then add 2-3 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Toast your way through a box of mini Eggo waffles and fill with frosting.


And just because I can’t resist (and because they were so tasty), one more picture…

The great thing about themed foods is that you can always just make something up. For these brownies, we’re gonna go ahead and claim they’re Barb’s secret recipe and call it a day.

Add some store-bought (aka leftover from my kids’ classroom Halloween parties) sugar cookies,


Some appropriate-for-the-occasion plates,

and some popcorn for episode watching, and the spread is complete!


Even though it’s primarily about middle schoolers, Stranger Things is a grown-ups’ show. So for a Stranger Things party, grown-up drinks will be involved, like…

The Maple Bourbon Smash. I decided that this cocktail, inspired by this Williams Sonoma recipe, would be better to let guests mix themselves, so I set up this mini cocktail station with bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice, and mini Eggos for garnish. Why maple bourbon? Because it goes with Eggos, of course!

Grossed out yet? Eleven’s trademark nosebleed is such a major part of the show, it seemed like it needed to be incorporated into the party somehow. This “nosebleed punch” is one part cherry juice to one part ginger ale.


Ah, Internet. How obliging you are with your free printables. I found these “missing” posters for both Will Byers and Barb and taped them up liberally around my house for that genuine Hawkins, Indiana feel.

Found here.

Found here.


Since Eggo waffles featured prominently on the party menu, I wasn’t about to throw out their boxes! These served as a nice touch surrounding my dining room centerpiece.

And last, the piece de resistance of the whole evening, this DIY Joyce Beyers communication-with-her-undead-son alphabet/Christmas lights board.

Using some leftover tagboard from another party, I painted the alphabet just like Joyce (yes, that is my actual terrible handwriting) and strung some colored lights around it. Easy peasy!


Guests were encouraged to dress the part for the night, and we had a couple of takers! Here’s our friend Clint–er, Dusty–getting into the spirit. I totally forgot to give him his prize for best costume at the end of the night! Clint, I owe you.

And finally, the real reason everyone came over: the show! We set up a screen and projector borrowed from my husband’s work for a theater-style experience in our living room.

So…how many episodes have you watched so far? We stayed up late and got through five! Binge watching at its finest–just what shows like this were meant for. Well, that and goofy themed parties.

10 Things to Give Out at Halloween That Aren’t Candy (and Aren’t Lame)

Recently on my personal Facebook page, I asked what adults would want to be given if we still went trick or treating. My friends responded with some creative ideas, like good chapstick and mini Brie cheese, and (not surprisingly) lots and lots of requests for “fun-size” alcohol bottles. I can see the pillow cases filling with scotch now.

The reason I asked, though, is I’ve been thinking about Halloween and the treats we give out to kids. As someone with a sweet tooth, I actually love candy and do indulge in it from time to time, but as a nutritionist, it’s tough for me to feel good about handing it out to kids who probably aren’t eating that nutritiously in the first place. At the American Heart Association’s children’s museum where I work, we educate kids who don’t even know what a vegetable is. The only kind of corn they’re eating is the candy kind. (They also eat more Red Vines than anything that actually grew on a vine. And they know the Jolly Rancher, but have never met a real farmer… Okay, enough bad food jokes? I’ll stop now.) Kinda feels like I should put my money–and my Halloween treats–where my mouth is by giving kiddos who stop at my house something even just a little better for them than the average neighbor would.

Plus, around our house, we’re still recovering from EASTER candy, not to mention all the birthday parties and school events that pass out candy like it’s going out of style. Do we really need to add MORE?

On the other hand, when I think about Halloween, I also don’t love the idea of giving out made-in-China plastic junk simply for the sake of giving something out that’s not candy. If you’re a parent like me, you see that stuff and wonder, How long until I can throw that out? It’s not great for teaching out kids’ about conspicuous consumption, and it’s really not great for the environment.

So what does that leave us with? A bunch of lame options like seed packets or cough drops or the universally despised….TOOTH BRUSHES??

It doesn’t have to come to that! Here are 10 ideas for fun treats that aren’t candy or junk, but won’t mark you as the house to t. p. My daughter, without knowing what this list was, looked at it and said, “Oooh, I want that!” to almost every picture. The jury is still out on which one we’ll go with this year–how about you?

10 Things to Give Out on Halloween That Aren’t Candy (and Aren’t Lame):

1. Cracker snack packs (like Annie’s)

From what I’ve seen, little candies give kids (and adults) the sense of “you can eat LOTS of these before it’s considered a serving.” Larger snack packages, on the other hand, send us more of a one-and-done message. That’s one reason why treats like these Annie’s cracker packages may be a better choice for doing less damage in a single sitting. The other reason, of course, is that Annie’s crackers are relatively low in sugar and saturated fat!

2. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa packets, Dark Chocolate

We discovered these 5-ingredient hot chocolate packets on a recent trip to the mountains, where you can actually drink hot chocolate in October. I was quite impressed with the minimal ingredient list. Here it is:

Yes, there’s sugar, but in addition to its real-food ingredients, this cocoa mix requires mixing with real milk.

3. Pretzel snack bags

These Snyder’s pretzel snack packs come in at only $3.99 for 10–probably about what you’d pay per child with brand-name candy. Easy peasy for packed lunches, too!

4. Raisin boxesThese unassuming little snacks are great for on the go. They might not get kids as excited as something covered in chocolate or sugar dust, but once they’re in the pantry, they always get eaten.

5. Granola bars

This one isn’t for every budget, but if you’re in one of those neighborhoods that pass out entire full-sized candy bars, take on the competition with protein-packed, lower sugar Kind bars. Several varieties have only 5 grams of sugar.

6. Fruit leather

These gummy snacks often start off with apple or other fruit puree as a base (check ingredient lists), so even though they’re quite sweet, they provide some fiber and nutrients. Target’s Simply Balanced fruit leather comes with 25 strips for $5.99.

7. Whole grain Goldfish crackers

If you can find the whole grain variety of Goldfish in snack pack form, they’re really not bad, nutrition-wise!

8. Almond snack packs

Lest anyone get up in arms about kids and food allergies, I would suggest that handing out straight-up nuts is a lot clearer and easier for kids and parents deciphering which treats contain nuts and which don’t. Almonds pretty definitely contain almonds, amirite?

9. Gum

And I’m not talking about ye olde crappy Double Bubble, the pink menace of Halloween treat bags everywhere. I mean halfway decent gum you’d actually chew. For my kids, any kind of gum is a special occasion.

10. Mints

Similarly, my kids think mints are candy. Let’s keep it that way!

Wishing you a happy, healthy Halloween!






Harvest Chopped Salad

Back in September, I posted about the chopped salad that was my top choice for my birthday dinner. Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed at the amount of attention that post got! I guess the internet was hungry for the funky-but-delicious combo of smoked salmon, dried sweet corn, cranberries, and arugula (among other ingredients) topped with a creamy pesto dressing.

Writing about–and eating–the Stetson Chopped Salad got me thinking of other variations on the theme of salad ingredients layered neatly in rows. I mean, really, you can’t go wrong with a chopped, layered salad. It’s just so dang appealing, with its colorfulness, its order, and its symmetry. This Harvest Chopped Salad featuring apples, pears, cranberries, pecans, bacon, and blue or goat cheese is the product of these recent salad daydreams.

It couldn’t have come at a better time, either.

Not long ago, I started volunteering on a monthly basis as a cooking demonstrator at my local Natural Grocers. It’s a fun volunteer activity, but it’s tougher than you might think coming up with recipes that are 1.) gluten-free (Natural Grocers keeps a gluten-free kitchen), and 2.) conducive to demonstration. When you watch the Food Network, you don’t really notice that TV allows for time-lapsing cooking, or simply producing a finished version of something that took who-knows-how-long to cook or bake. In the real world, it’s not that easy. Like, if I’m demo’ing a recipe with roasted vegetables, uhhhh, what do I talk to my audience about for 45 minutes while the oven does its job?


So for the purposes of my October demonstration, the Harvest Chopped Salad is a saving grace. And maybe it will be for you, too, some autumn weeknight. There may be quite a bit of slicin’ and dicin’, but this recipe requires no lengthy cook time and can get dining-ready in no more than 30 minutes.

In fact, this recipe seems to be such a winner that I was contacted by someone at Natural Grocers’ corporate office to ask if it could be featured on their website! Of COURSE, I said! (Link coming soon.)

If you live in the Phoenix area, join me for my demo (and samples!) of this yummy fall main dish this Thursday, October 19th, at 6:30 at the Natural Grocers at 2151 E. Baseline Rd. in Gilbert.


Print Recipe
Harvest Chopped Salad
A hearty fall salad that's as tasty as it is pretty!
  1. On a large platter or five individual plates, spread romaine in a single layer.
  2. Cover with layered rows of bacon, pecans, crumbled cheese, diced apple, diced pear, and dried cranberries.
  3. Serve with purchased poppyseed dressing drizzled on top or on the side.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe, loosely based on this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

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BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

How about a little tuber education? As I was thinking about this recipe for BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, I started doing some research to answer an age-old question: what’s a sweet potato, and what’s a yam? Imagine my surprise when I read in this authoritative article that “sweet potatoes are not a type of yam, and yams are not a type of sweet potato. They are both tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant, but they are not related and actually don’t even have a lot in common.”


Apparently, what I think of as regular old sweet potatoes–the oblong, orange-fleshed vegetables in these photos and commonly found on your Thanksgiving table–are merely “soft” sweet potatoes, as opposed to “firm” sweet potatoes, which have a golden skin and white flesh. Yams, on the other hand, have a black, bark-like skin and purple or red flesh.

And can we just take a moment to say that “flesh” is not the greatest word to describe anything edible.

Regardless of terminology, however, these BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are one of my new favorite fall dinners. They’ve got a lot going on: potatoes baked to tender perfection meet sweet barbecue chicken and stretchy melted Monterey Jack (plus some spinach thrown in for extra nutrition). With veggies, starch, and protein all in one package, I’m content to call them a one-dish dinner–or round out the meal with a loaf of rustic bread. They’re also a clever way to use up leftover barbecue chicken, or to make a double-duty dinner out of a large batch of crock pot barbecue chicken earlier in the week.

So whether you call them soft sweet potatoes, firm sweet potatoes, yams, or just “the orange ones,” I think you’ll be calling them a recipe to repeat once you give them a try.

Print Recipe
BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are baked to tender perfection and topped with BBQ chicken, spinach, and melty Monterey Jack in this fall favorite!
  1. Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Top with 1/4 c. barbecue sauce and cook on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken, drain of excess liquid, and shred. Return to slow cooker, stir in remaining 1/2 c. barbecue sauce, and cook an additional 15-30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and prick with a fork. Bake about 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add spinach and saute until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove potatoes from oven and slice in half lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with foil and place potatoes on it. Mash potatoes lightly and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Top with wilted spinach and shredded chicken. Shred Monterey Jack directly onto potatoes.
  5. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Inspired by Half Baked Harvest.

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