Healthy Vanilla Pumpkin Smoothie

healthy vanilla pumpkin smoothie

I fell in love with pumpkin last year when I bought a couple of beautiful heirloom pumpkins for decoration. The elegant Rouge Vif d’Etampes and the whimsical grey Jarrehdale pumpkin looked amazing on my front porch throughout the fall. I took them inside when it started to freeze; and finally in December, when they’d enjoyed much admiration for their stunning appearance, I hacked them up, roasted them, and pureed them.

Prior to then, I didn’t have much experience baking with pumpkin and the commercial pumpkin products I’d tried hadn’t impressed me all that much. Now I found myself with an abundance of puree on my hands and I started to experiment.

Turned out I LOVED me some pumpkin. And those lovely decorative pumpkins ended up having sweeter, thicker, and smoother flesh than the traditional pie pumpkins I’d tried earlier. I used the puree mostly in muffins, breads, and risotto; but I loved it all so much I was eager to try it in different recipes as well. Pumpkin ice cream? Pumpkin cheesecake?!

This year I planted the seeds of those two pumpkins and ended up with a whole pile of their handsome offspring. Now it’s pumpkin every day!

One of my favourite creations so far is this pumpkin smoothie. I love it as a mid-afternoon snack. It was inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest from The Pioneer Woman, but that recipe called for canned pie filling and vanilla yogurt. Since I make my own pumpkin puree and yogurt, I knew I needed to deconstruct that recipe. Plus, I was pretty sure her recipe had more sugar and additives than I wanted. I was looking for a healthier, more frugal option. And so this smoothie was born. (If you are the kind of person who buys vanilla yogurt and canned pie filling, by all means, go ahead and try Pioneer Woman’s recipe).

It’s delicious and nutritious! The pumpkin provides lots of nutrients, like beta-carotene (an antioxidant), vitamin C, and potassium. The yogurt provides beneficial probiotics. We’ve got healthy fats, protein, and fiber going on here, making it good and filling. I sweeten mine with maple syrup — no refined sugars over here!

I personally find that the tang from the yogurt pairs perfectly with the pumpkin and the spice. The vanilla makes it extra-luxurious. And maple tastes great in every beverage, in my opinion.

Before you try this recipe, you have to freeze your pumpkin puree in ice cube trays. (Like, the night before.) That helps make it creamy. And if you don’t have your own pumpkin spice blend, I have a recipe for that at the bottom.

Healthy Vanilla Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

Serves 1

  • 3 cubes frozen pumpkin puree (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (cow’s milk or coconut milk are both delectable)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (recipe below)
  • 2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (I’m happy with 2; some might prefer sweeter)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Blend everything together in a blender (I use my Magic Bullet). Make sure to do it good and long to make sure all the pumpkin gets blended in. Pour into a glass and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Enjoy!

And if you need it:

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Recipe

  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

Blend together and store in a sealed container.  It’s ready to join in on your pumpkin adventures!

DIY Fabric Birthday Banner (Tutorial)

DIY fabric birthday banner tutorial

Yes, Lydia’s birthday was almost two months ago. I’ve been meaning to share a quick tutorial on how I made her fabric Happy Birthday banner ever since. But, you know. Harvesting and preserving and crippling back pain. But I’m finally back!

As I explained in my post about her handmade third birthday party, I wanted to create some quality, reusable items for celebrating birthdays through the years. For the banner in particular, I wanted something gender-neutral, timeless, and ageless, with the hopes that it would see many years of use with multiple children. This could even be used for an adult’s birthday!

I first spied this design on a friend’s Instagram feed and instantly wanted to make my own. It had everything I was looking for.

Only after I started making it, I discovered that the original designer was Marissa, an online friend who is a thousand times more talented than I am. The idea is totally hers. She did, however, give me her blessing in offering a tutorial on how I made it, since I figured it out on my own, just looking at her picture. (Also: if you’re interested in your own banner but don’t have the skills/time/equipment/desire to make one, I believe she is willing to take custom orders!)

It’s not at all difficult — it’s only time-consuming. if you sew at all, you could probably figure it out on your own. I am NOT a pro sewer and I managed this quite easily. For that reason, my instructions aren’t super detailed, allowing you to customize as you wish. I’m mostly offering sizes to guide you and help reduce guesswork, as well offering as a printable template for the letters.

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DIY Fabric Birthday Banner Tutorial

Note: Makes an 8-foot long banner, with extra length on each side for tying

Materials:

  • 10 ft extra-wide double-fold bias tape
  • 1 yard of white or off-white fabric (I used leftover ivory-coloured quilt backing. It was 44″ wide and I only used 16″ of it)
  • various printed fabric/quilting scraps for the letters. You’ll need 13 pieces, at least 4″x4″ each. Repeat patterns are fine!
  • thread: some white; some to match your bias tape; and some to match your scraps (if desired)
  • printable template for letters (download PDF here)
  • sewing gear: sewing machine; straight pins; sharp scissors; rotary cutter and self-healing mat (optional); serger (optional)

Instructions:

Begin by cutting the squares of white fabric: You’ll need 13 squares, 7″x8″ each. (Technically not squares but they will look like it when all is said and done.) A rotary cutter and self-healing mat would be IDEAL for this job, though I just used scissors. Absolute precision isn’t necessary here, since the rustic look adds to the charm (in my opinion).

Next, you want to finish the edges of the squares. There are a few ways you can do this, depending on your preference. Notice that you only have to do the sides and bottom; the top edge will go inside the bias tape and will be hidden.

I personally wasn’t overly concerned about how the back looked, and I have access to a serger, so I did it like this: I serged all four edges of each square, and then did a plain 1/4-inch hem around the sides and bottom with a straight/running stitch. Then I pressed the edges. They look like this from the back:

hemmed edges from back - fabric birthday banner tutorial

Alternatively, you could do a double-fold hem (there’s plenty of room), or cut the edges with pinking shears and hem.

Next, print out my HAPPY BIRTHDAY letter template on regular printer paper (or something sturdier if you prefer — it will make tracing easier). Note that some letters are used more than once (H, A, P, Y), so you can cut out just one of each of these to save time. (I already omitted the second P in the PDF). Cut out all the letters. You will be tracing around these.

birthday banner tutorial -- letter template

Now trace around your paper letters onto your printed fabric scraps. I just used pen and traced directly onto the right side of the fabric. Depending on how much a perfectionist you are, you can trace the letters onto the wrong side of the fabric; just remember to place your letters backwards so they will be the right way from the right side. (Make sense?) *Remember that if you only cut one paper H, A, P and Y, you still need two of each in fabric to get all 13 letters.*

Cut out your fabric letters. Again, a rotary cutter and mat would be helpful; I just used scissors. This was the most time-consuming step.

Now it’s time to applique the fabric letters onto the squares. Place the letter as close the the center as possible and pin (remembering that about half an inch from the top will be inside the bias tape). Again, absolute precision isn’t necessary. Since this isn’t a garment and won’t get much wear and tear, I wasn’t not too worried about them fraying a teeny bit, so I didn’t do anything to finish the letters except stitch them on with a straight running stitch, about 1/8-inch around each edge. Again: a little bit of imperfection adds to the rustic look.

appliqued letters - fabric happy birthday banner tutorial

Note: you can choose whether to use matching or contrasting colours of thread for this job, depending on whether you want the letters to pop more. I went with (roughly) matching thread, since my sewing isn’t the greatest. But I used white thread in the bobbin so that it wouldn’t show up in the back.

Once all the letters are sewn onto their squares, it’s time to attach them to the bias tape!

Leave about 6 inches of bias tape before beginning to attach the squares: you want some extra length for tying or pinning the banner to the wall.

At the 6-inch mark, insert the top of your first square between the fold of the bias tape and pin in place with a straight pin or two. (Make sure the fabric goes all the way in to touch the inner fold.) Leave half an inch of bias tape before inserting the next one and pinning it in place. Continue pinning the squares at half-inch intervals until all the letters for the word “HAPPY” are pinned in place.

Leave two inches between the “Y” from “HAPPY” and the “B” from “BIRTHDAY.” Then carry on with pinning the remaining squares at half-inch intervals.

You should have at least another 6 inches of bias tape dangling at the end. Trim so that there are about 6 inches remaining.

Now for the most satisfying step: Stitch along the entire length of the bias tape at about 1/4-inch from the bottom, using thread that matches your bias tape. You’re going to want to start at the “Y” end. Just one, long, glorious top stitch. It feels awesome. Remove pins one at a time as you come to them with the sewing machine.

Sewing letters to bias tape -- birthday banner tutorial

Finish the ends of the bias tape with a top stitch (or something fancier if you prefer).

You’re ready to hang your birthday banner wherever you please!

DIY fabric birthday banner tutorial

 

What Does Jesus Have to Do With the Environment? 3 Reasons Christians Should Care About the Planet

what does jesus have to do with the environment? Why Christians should care for the planet

Sometimes I find it useful to remind myself why I do the things I do — why I go through the effort of hanging my laundry, turning off the A/C, and refraining from constantly updating my gadgets. Other times, I find I need renewed motivation to take on new practices and habits that will help protect the environment. That’s why I’m revisiting some of my earlier thoughts on Creation Care.

In my About Page, I explain that one of the key things I want to explore on Becoming Peculiar is creation care. Some Christians might find it odd to place so much emphasis on caring for the environment, so I thought I’d devote a post to explaining why it’s central to my theology.

In recent years, the term “Creation Care” has begun to pop up and grow in importance in some Christian circles. But until recently, talking about the environment hasn’t been high on most denominations’ priorities list. After all, what does saving the rainforest have to do with the Great Commandment (“Love the Lord you God…”) and the Great Commission (“Go and make disciples…”)?

For some Christians, protecting the environment seems like an obvious element in following Jesus. For others, though, it’s an irrelevant distraction from the important work of evangelism.

Here are just a few reasons why I believe protecting the planet is vital to a Christ-centered life.

1. Saving the planet means saving human lives.

I’ve heard Christians scoff at those who concern themselves with “the environment,” as if “the environment” was some lifeless, abstract thing distinct and separate from us humans. But the truth is, “the environment” is (among other things) the place where other humans live. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plants and animals we eat, and the ground on which we build our homes. As E.O. Wilson writes, “Only in the last moment in history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish apart from the rest of the living world.”

Taking care of the planet, then, is the same thing as taking care of other people’s homes, and keeping their food, water, and air safe.

One thing that all Christians can (hopefully) agree upon is that we’re called to care for one another. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbours. Our neighbours include the people who live downstream from our water pollution, downwind from our air pollution, and downhill from our soil erosion. I submit that our neighbours also include our descendents and the descendents of our neighbours.

Caring for the planet is perhaps one of the most important ways, then, we can care for our neighbours. As Wendell Berry says, “It is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.”

Another way of looking at the issue is to acknowledge that Jesus doesn’t want us to poison or starve one another. But that’s essentially what we’re doing – indirectly — when we drive our cars, buy things made in factories, and eat industrialized food: we’re filling the air, water and soil with hazardous toxins that make people sick.

Followers of Christ must work hard to live lives that do not contribute to the pollution of our planet — and even work to reverse the damage we’ve already done.

2. God made and loves the world, so we ought to, too.

God declared creation good before we humans even entered the scene.

Christianity is unique in that unlike other religions which deprecate matter as inferior to spirit, the Bible celebrates matter: the sun, the moon, the earth, the water, and everything else in the universe is good, without or without us.

The earth is so important to God that his very first commandment to us humans includes taking care of the earth and animals. It’s of central importance to him, and therefore ought to be to us, too.

When we care for God’s creation, we express our love for him, because we’re loving what he loves.

3. Jesus died to save all of creation.

As we read in Colossians 1:19-20, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (emphasis mine).

In Mark 16:15, Jesus tells his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:21-22). And in Christ’s future Kingdom the rest of creation will be transformed into a new earth (Rev. 21:1).

If Jesus died for all of creation, I think we can trust that he wants us to show as much concern for the rest of the world, too.

* * *

So a key part of my Christianity involves driving my car less and riding my bike more. It involves growing my own food rather than buying processed, packaged food shipped from overseas. It involves shopping at thrift stores rather than the mall. It means using cloth diapers and line-drying my clothes.

These are all ways that I attempt to love my neighbor, show God that I respect and value his beautiful handiwork, and participate in Jesus’ reconciliatory work between God and creation.

I feel like I’m still forgetting a whole bunch. What’s still missing from my list? In what other ways is planet-care relevant to following Jesus?

*Reposted from the archives.*

Image courtesy of David Ohmer.