Pumpkin spice and all things nice; autumn is a great time to get cooking warm comfort foods and maybe try something new!

One of my fall favourites is to go apple picking and make some homemade apple sauce. I use the sauce in my porridge, mixed with plain Greek yogurt, in various recipes in place of oil, as a meat/meat substitute marinade and just to eat on its own, warm or cold. I can freeze portions to use throughout the winter if I make big batches, or give jars to friends and family as a Thanksgiving gift.

Here is my apple sauce recipe:

What you will need: A crockpot or large pot/stove, cutting board, apple slicer or sharp knife, compost bag or container, large bowl, spatula, food processor, jars or containers with click-lock lids.

Ingredients: Minimum 10 apples for about 4 cups of sauce (best to stick with one type; Cortland is nice for sauce). Optional: cinnamon 1 tsp per 10 apples, cane or coconut sugar 1to 2 tsp per 10 apples.

Step 1: Wash the apples. I don’t peel mine. Leaving the skins on adds to the nutritional and fibre content. It gives the sauce a golden brown colour. If you prefer it to be a blonde colour like store bought sauce, you will want to peel the apples.

Step 2: Plug in the crock pot and turn to low. If using a pot on the stove, put the pot on low after all the apples are sliced.

Step 3: Core the apples and slice them into wedges. Put the cores (skins if you have them) in a compostable bag or in a container (bag goes in a big compost bin or empty the container into your garden and stir it up in the dirt). Use an apple slicer so it cores and slices to wedges in one push; it saves time versus peeling and chopping with a knife.

Step 4: Put apple wedges in the food processor (2 to 3 apples worth at a time) and blend. If you like a lumpy sauce, then just pulse the blender until desired, otherwise you may need to blend, open it up and push down a few times with spatula before it blends and mixes well.

Step 5: Keep emptying the blended apples into the pot and stir often as you keep adding more batches. If you fill the pot it will cook down to about half. Once all the apple are in, stir every 5 to10 minutes for about an hour (while you study!). You can stir in cinnamon at this point if you like. Then cover and let it cook for a couple hours or until desired sauce consistency (give it a stir every hour or so).

You can taste-test at the end and only add sugar if you find it to be sour or bitter.

Step 6: Serve warm or let it cook in the fridge and then divide it up into jars or containers for later use.

Something else I love in the fall is pumpkin loaf! Did you know you can make one that is flourless, high protein, keto-friendly and highly nutritious?

Here is my pumpkin loaf recipe:

What you will need: 12x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pan, 1 mixing bowl (or a blender), a whisk and or beaters, spatula, liquid measuring cup and dry measuring cups, fork, sharp knife, measuring spoons, cutting board and colander.

Ingredients: 1 cup creamy almond or sunflower butter, 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or see step 1), 1/2 cup cane sugar/coconut sugar/mashed ripe bananas, 1/2 cup of unflavoured protein powder, 2to 3 large eggs, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp ground cloves.

Step 1: You can use pumpkin or any kind of squash. Beware that some squash is more dense/ dry (buttercup) and some are more liquid (pumpkin and acorn). The more liquid, the moister the bread. If you like more of a muffin/ bread texture, try buttercup (not butternut) squash. If you buy it canned, make sure there is no sugar or additives — just squash only.

Take it out of the can and dump it into a colander and let it drain for at least 10 minutes. If you decide to use a pumpkin or squash, use a large sharp knife to cut it in half from the top to bottom. Remove the seeds to the compost or you can salt them and roast them at 350 degrees F for 5to 8 minutes for a nice nutty snack.

Put the pumpkin flesh down on a pan and roast for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let it cool and then scoop out the flesh into the colander and let it drain for about 10 minutes. Keep the oven at 350 degrees F.

Step 2: You can add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth or go to step 3.

Step 3: Whisk or beat eggs for one minute, then add pumpkin puree, sugar/banana, baking powder and spices. Mix until smooth.

Step 4: Slowly add almond butter and protein powder as you mix with beaters on low or us a large fork to mix until smooth.

Step 5: Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake about 40 to 45 minutes, until done. A toothpick inserted should come out clean and if you gently apply pressure to the surface of the bread, it should slowly bounce back rather than stay sunken in. Bread will sink down slightly while cooling. Let bread cool completely before slicing and serving.

Email me anytime karen.carroll@nullfanshawec.ca for help with making your favourite recipes healthier. I have a great ingredients swap handout you are welcome to have.

Karen Nixon-Carroll is the Program Manager at the Student Wellness Centre.