retro pumpkins

When you’re a kid, you run free. Remember those days? Throwing yourself down hills and rolling yourself into delirium. Swinging high and fast. Flipping around the monkey bars.

You know what kids don’t do? Eat a wide variety of foods (yes, there are always exceptions…but generally).

As you become an adult you’re open to a greater culinary array. Grilled peaches with smoked paprika? Sure! Steak with raspberry sauce, why not!? Sriracha mayonnaise? Perfect!

You know what adults don’t do? Throw themselves down grass hills and run around in goofy circles. And that’s too bad. Here’s why: eventually, after years of living without challenging your balance and equilibrium, it doesn’t take much for you to feel sick on things like roller coasters, swings, and trampolines. So you avoid these things, testing your balance even less.

(This is all relates to pumpkin pies…I promise.)

If you go long enough without challenging your equilibrium eventually your balance and coordination gets rusty. Then when you need it, it fails. If you step on a surprise icy spot on the cement…down you go. Your dog runs into you…down you go. Your skis hit a bump or slushy spot…down you go. Adults live precariously in a very narrow world of balance.

The cure? Throw yourself around! Unbalance yourself! Yesterday I did somersaults without feeling sick. This is a big deal because when I did my first one after years of staying perfectly upright — like a sensible person — the world was sloshing after I flipped over. Oooh…not cool. But no longer. My somersaults may be clumsy but they are mine!

Here’s where we talk pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie suffers from the same fate as an adult’s sense of balance. Pumpkin pie is meant for Thanksgiving. Right?

Pumpkin pie is dessert. It’s seasoned with certain spices. Sometimes we’ll get all giddy if someone adds a bit of bourbon or makes a cheesecake out of it. But pumpkin pie upholds a traditional space that’s not meant to be turned, flipped, or twisted.

Just like keeping your balance, there are times when that traditional, safe space should be upheld. Like Thanksgiving. But what happens if you don’t challenge the balance boundaries? In the world of food, you get kind of stuck.

The following list is your pumpkin pie equivalent of a somersault.

ONE! Pumpkin pie is not just for Thanksgiving! I make it all year. It’s a perfect breakfast, lunch, snack or vegetable side for dinner. Ditch the crust and the sugar and focus on a savory filling. Wrap it up in wax paper and take it to lunch. The soccer game. The slopes. The trails. The beach. Wherever!

TWO! Change the spices. Spices are like paint, it’s really up to you to create a portrait of flavor that sounds good to you. Consider:

  • Berbere spice blend (a mix of paprika, red pepper, ginger, onion, garlic, cardamom, nutmeg, fenugreek, cinnamon, allspice, & cloves).
  • Ras El Hanout (the ingredient list is pretty variable. Here is one option).
  • Garam Masala (cardamom, peppercorns, coriander, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise & fennel seeds).
  • Green Curry (green chili, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, kaffir lime). Instead of chasing all these down I just use Thai Kitchen’s green curry paste. It’s a clean ingredient list and tastes great.
  • Change up your pumpkin pie spice blend. I add a healthy dose of cardamom. Melissa Joulwan (my favorite cookbook author) recommends adding cayenne pepper to traditional pumpkin pie spices.

THREE! Swap out the pumpkin. Pumpkin isn’t the only squash worthy of headlining the pie marquee. Butternut or buttercup is a beautiful substitute (and the seeds make a magnificent snack). Or try adding a roasted yam to an unsweetened pumpkin pie version. That provides some natural sweetness without added sugars.

FOUR! Trick out the top. You’re converting your pie filling so opt for something totally different than whipped cream. Sautéed spinach or kale with caramelized onions. Or sauté sliced bananas and pecans or walnuts in butter with some salt (I use ghee so the banana gets nice and brown without the butter burning). Plaintains are a great option too!

pie with bananas

2 Recipes

The first is the recipe I follow for my everyday pumpkin pie. The second is how I maintain a well-balanced, topsy-turvy world.

Recipe for Eating:


  • 1 cup milk (I use coconut milk).
  • 1 15 oz. can of pure pumpkin. Or roast your own — it’s super easy. Pinky swear.
  • 3 large eggs (you can use two but I like the protein).
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I skip this entirely).
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch (I use arrowroot starch – better for you and it’s not corn. Way too much corn in our food system).
  • 1 roasted yam, skin & all (this is optional. If you’re skipping the sugar, I recommend the yam).
  • 1.5 teaspoons spice seasoning.
  • Totally optional: 2 tablespoons of Great Lakes gelatin (a reputable brand of healthy gelatin). It helps the filling keep it’s form. And gelatin is great for joints so you can continue to do fun things. Like somersaults!


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Whip all your ingredients up together in a food processor until well blended.
  • Pour into a greased pie dish (I use ghee or coconut oil).
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Recipe for Living:

Doing the annual b-day cartwheel, 1-handed style. Had to take a 2 year hiatus due to frozen shoulder. Ouch, that sucked!

Below is a quick list of activities on my recipe card that keep my equilibrium stretchy. They are fun in the moment and give you practice for those less-than-enjoyable bits (like that icy sidewalk). Start small and work your way up. The journey is always the best part!

  • Balance on a log while walking in the park.
  • Swing in a playground.
  • Go down a slide.
  • Walk along a curb.
  • Jump on one foot. Switch.
  • Jump and turn 90 degrees to your right. Then 180 degrees. Then 270 degrees. Now try a 360! Now go left.
  • Jump lightly on a Bocu ball (for all you gym people).
  • Spin…s  l  o  w  l  y.
  • Lay down on a mat and roll like your going down a grassy hill.
  • Crawl like a baby. Now crawl backwards.

Just don’t do any of the above immediately after eating your pumpkin pie.

Peace out and have a lovely Thanksgiving!