A family friend, in her early twenties, told me over the weekend that as the holidays draw near each year, her and her buddy anxiously await the return of the pumpkin flavored drinks at their favorite coffee places. What she said next caught me off guard, “We only have one on the first day they are available, and then that is it. They are too strong and too sweet, and I never feel good afterward.” I searched out the ingredient list for the “Pumpkin Spice Latte” in question, and it was worse than I thought it would be. In addition to the whopping dose of sugar, it contained artificial flavors and caramel coloring, but no pumpkin! That is just silly! My mind went right to recipe development mode. Could I craft a warm, satisfying drink that tasted like a sinful treat, but was made from real food and so good for your body that it could be enjoyed all of the time?
Mission Accomplished: meet The Nutrition Professor’s Pumpkin Almond Chai Latte! Not only is this drink downright delicious, but it is cheap, a cinch to make, totally versatile, free of any weird additives, comes in at only 90 kcals (compared to 380 kcals at a popular coffee chain) and combines some rock stars in the plant world… pumpkin, dates and Chai spice blend!
Real pumpkin is low in calories, but brimming with the most healthful forms of vitamin A, the phytonutrients responsible for the wonderful color, including alpha and beta carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Pumpkin also delivers fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, several B vitamins, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. These nutrients play vital roles in keeping our skin, mucus membranes, bones and eyes at their best, achieving and maintaining healthy immune system and blood lipid levels, reducing cancer risk, and even contributing to healthy sperm production!
Dates are a whole, plant food sweetener, easily the most healthful sweetener on the planet. They provide fiber and levels of antioxidants unmatched by any sweet competitor! I love to make my own Chai Spice Blend – which incorporates several tasty spices with potent health-promoting qualities, but also offer other spice options below.
This is real food that packs real nutrition and delivers real flavor!!! You can enjoy it all by itself, as a mild, creamy pumpkin alternative to hot chocolate, or stirred into tea, coffee, decaf, or even grain based coffee substitutes, like Teeccino. My daughter and I made a batch with Vanilla Nut Teeccino, and we just about fell over it was so good! No need for the stovetop, as I used my blender to combine, as well as warm the mixture. I lifted the lid, and as the steam wafted out of the blender jar, my daughter’s eyes seemed to grow like saucers…
Have fun with this recipe and make your own tradition, one that doesn’t need to be limited to a Saturday morning during the holidays. Enjoy these Pumpkin Almond Chai Lattes throughout the year. The time to make crummy choices, feel guilty about them and then feel sick afterwards has come to an end. It is time to choose foods and beverages that love you back!
Pumpkin Chai Almond “Latte” (can be made with or without coffee)
1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 TBSP pumpkin puree (see Tip below)
1 small Medjool date, pit removed
½ tsp vanilla
1/4-½ tsp cinnamon plus a pinch of nutmeg, cloves and ginger
Or 1/4-½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
Or 1/4-½ tsp Chai Spice Blend (see my recipe below)
Coffee (any type), Teeccino or tea is optional (1/2-1 cup+)
Combine all ingredients in a blender until mixture is completely smooth. Continue blending until warm and ready to enjoy on it’s own or stirred into coffee, decaf, tea or grain-based coffee alternative.
Shop Smart/Prep Smart Tip: While you can cook your own pumpkin, canned pumpkin makes this recipe ready in a flash. Purchase pure pumpkin, not the canned pumpkin pie mix, as that contains sugar syrup and other additives. Since you will only use a few tablespoons for each drink, put the extra pumpkin in ice cube trays, as each should hold ~2 Tablespoons. Once frozen, pop them out into a zip-top freezer bag and they’ll be at your fingertips.
The Nutrition Professor’s Chai Spice Blend: Combine 1 tsp of each: allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander with 1/2 tsp of each: black pepper, nutmeg and turmeric. (This blend is especially wonderful, as the black pepper improves your body’s ability to absorb turmeric by as much as 2000%!)
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work, does professional speaking engagements and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. For more recipes like this one, be sure to purchase a copy of her innovative cookbook – The Foodie Bar™ Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com