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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

My Pumpkin Bread Fiasco

This week my cupboard had wheat flour that doesn’t get used much, a can of pumpkin left from Thanksgiving and a handful of chocolate chips. I decided to please my family with pumpkin bread.

For most recipes I start with The Fanny Farmer Cookbook then adjust it depending on the health of my family and what I have on hand. First I double the recipe because it calls for 1 cup pumpkin and I have a 15 oz can – what do people do with the other 7 ounces? Then I use 1 cup honey instead of 2 cups sugar – because I’m a nutritionist and I can. Honey makes it a little runny so I add another half cup of flour. A quick taste of the batter , I sense baking soda so this instructs me to add lemon. Baking soda requires an acid to make it rise and to offset the baking soda flavor. Oops, now it’s too runny again – this time I add a cup of flax meal which adds nutrition and a rich nutty texture. By now the batter is tripled and the pan is really full. I set it in the beadmaker, hit the cake setting and walk away.

An hour later the machine is still trying to make my batter knead and rise. Oops – the cake setting is not for quick breads. Now I need to learn about yeasted cakes!? I don’t have time to heat the big oven – I just have to get this in some heat fast. Baking soda batters don’t like to sit around, they lose their rising power. So I quickly grease a square pan and pour the batter in. It’s a bit full? Oh well, pop it in the toaster oven and walk away. When I check on it 10 minutes later the batter is oozing out the sides and pushing up against the toaster oven door. The top is burnt, rising up against the heating element and giving off a burnt sugar, cinnamon smell.

Oops, I should have split the batter in half or not tripled it in the first place; I could have taken time to heat the big oven; if I didn’t add the lemon it wouldn’t be so puffy! I pour a few cups of the batter out and put the pan back in the toaster. Half an hour later I pull out a very sunken, burnt – pumpkin bread and spend the rest of the evening scraping batter from the toaster oven. My family didn’t complain – they gobbled it up, burnt layer and all.

If anyone has experimented in the kitchen then something like this has happened. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes it’s edible, sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s fabulous. Cooking is an art form so when it does work out it’s beautiful.

Food Therapy Pumpkin Bread

If you’re eating pink glazed donuts with sprinkles and you switch to Fannie Farmers pumpkin bread then you’re ‘eating healthy’ and you may feel an improvement in sustained energy by removing sugar sprinkles and chemical dyes while adding nutritious pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon and fortified white flour even with the 2 cups of sugar.

In my recipe, using honey instead of sugar and adding in flax seed, I’m taking health one step further. These ingredients may help some people lose weight and have more energy. The flax with fiber and omega 3 fats may be enough to lower cholesterol or balance hormones when eaten regularly and it still tastes great enough to eat regularly.

If you have indigestion or thyroid disease you can make the same recipe gluten free – using rice flour instead of wheat flour. It’s still a tasty pumpkin bread simply using rice instead of wheat. I like the crumbly texture of rice flour but you may prefer to add a bit of tapioca flour or xanthan gum to make it gooey like wheat.

For specific digestive issues like SIBO, difficulty digesting grains or to make it low carb I would switch to almond flour instead of wheat or rice and reduce the honey. If you are using almond flour for any gas and bloating then remove the flax too. If you’re trying to lower carbs then the flax is great. I prefer an almond flour-based bread, it’s much more satisfying than a grain-based bread.

In the strongest autoimmune diet that allows a variety of foods you would eliminate nuts too. Instead of almond flour you can use cassava, tigernut or coconut flour which are grain free and nut free. Coconut flour is easier to find, but it absorbs 4 times as much water so the whole recipe has to be adjusted.

And the very strongest elimination diet for a highly reactive person would include only the pumpkin with some olive oil and salt made into a mash and served in a pretty little bowl. If you cook the pumpkin down slowly it gets sweeter as the natural sugars caramelize.

Basic healthy eating versus the elimination plans

Basic healthy eating has to do with getting as many vitamins and minerals in your body with the minimum amount of calories. Nutrients/calories= health. The pink glazed donut has little nutrients and lots of calories. The Fannie Farmer's recipe has lots of nutrients and fewer calories which equals more health. This approach helps people stay healthy and sometimes helps with weight loss, cholesterol or blood pressure if these conditions aren't caused by deeper inflammation.

Once the body is suffering deep inflammation there is an autoimmune process or toxic exposure. Then the food therapy approach switches to removing foods that trigger symptoms while increasing specific nutrients to heal. Calories are irrelevant here. While food may not have been the initial cause of disease, any digestive (IBS, (SIBO, Crohns, bloating etc), autoimmune (thyroid, sjogrens, MS, arthritis etc) or toxicity problem(Lyme, mold, heavy metals etc.) benefits from reducing the pressure of difficult foods with some form of an elimination diet.

The original Fannie Farmer pumpkin bread recipe is here if you want to play around with it like I did. If you want more direction on how to figure out healthy foods then set up a time to talk here.


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