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Veggie Tales

Emily Nickles, Page Editor

The Lasso's Emily Nickles weighs in on healthy food options, including vegan pumpkin mac 'n' cheese.
The Lasso’s Emily Nickles weighs in on healthy food options, including vegan pumpkin mac ‘n’ cheese.

October is ripening and so are fall vegetables. The later autumn months are the perfect time to pick up seasonal vegetables and fruits, such as squashes, pears, radishes and turnips. Of these, pumpkins are not only an iconic symbol for fall festivities, but they are also used in delectable recipes for the season. In this column I provide a spiced latte recipe equivalent to the infamous Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, a mac ‘n’ cheese that will make your mouth water and two others you may want to experiment with.

One of my favorite October activities is to carve jack-o-lanterns with my family. I remember one year in high school, my dad decided to save the pumpkin seeds and bake them rather than throwing them away. They turned out exceptionally.

There are several ways to bake or “toast” pumpkin seeds, and it requires a bit of taste-searching to figure out which method works best for you. When preparing the pumpkin seeds, you can either rinse off the pulp in a colander or not, depending on preference.

Next, you boil the seeds for about ten minutes in water with a tablespoon of salt — so the salt will soak into the seeds. However, this method will prevent the outer shell from cooking as quickly as the seed inside, so you have to be careful not to overcook them. If you want to skip that step and move on to seasoning them, you can.

Finally, you will use about a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt—just enough to coat the seeds—then toss them on the pan before putting in the oven. You can actually flavor the seeds with alternate spices such as chipotle seasoning, or Worchester sauce. My dad used ranch seasoning packets the first time we made these.

The next three recipes I tried over the weekend with a vegan friend; they’re budget friendly for college students and fairly simple to prepare. We began baking at 9:00 a.m. and were easily finished in less than two hours. Preparation time is very minimal.

The first is a homemade pumpkin spice latte with a delicious pumpkin spice syrup. The blog “Oh She Glows” has a detailed recipe on how to prepare this. The recipe called for a shot of espresso and whipped cream, but we made it without both and it was equally delightful. We found that when using rice milk, it was more difficult to froth and would have been better had we used a thicker alternative milk, such as almond or soy milk. You can also microwave the milk to heat it and then whisk it until it becomes frothy.

The second is a recipe for pumpkin flavored cookies made with savory chocolate chips. You can also make pumpkin sugar cookies, which would be made in the same fashion, but sprinkled and rolled in sugar before baking. We purchased vegan chocolate chips at Tom Thumb, but they are also available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and select Walmarts. This and the previous recipe require a pumpkin puree, not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling, which is usually already flavored and thickened. The result was a fluffy, soft cookie with the consistency of a cake, bread or cupcake. The recipe was provided by “The Veg Life” blog and has detailed instructions for baking.    

The third recipe is for a vegan pumpkin mac ‘n’ cheese sauce created by the author of the “Oh She Glows” blog. It requires vegan butter and milk, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, pumpkin puree and arrowroot powder. The nutritional yeast is a vegan staple that helps the consistency of the sauce thicken and taste creamier, to substitute for the traditional cheese. We used soy milk instead of almond milk and flour instead of the arrowroot. The final product was a smooth sauce that tasted delightfully like a fancy restaurant style mac ‘n’ cheese. I could not tell the difference between that and actual cheese sauce.

I highly recommend you use these blogs and sites as a guideline to experiment with the recipes on your own. The ingredients are cheap, and most are probably already in your pantry. If you live in the dorms, these would be great to try over Thanksgiving Break or the coming holidays. Happy cooking and see you next column.

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