Pumpkin Pie Protein Smoothie – vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free

Here in Michigan, there are only a couple times a year when I truly love the weather – Spring and Fall. The rest of the time it’s either sweat-soaked heat wave or snowed-in frigid. But for a brief month or two in between, there’s a pleasant calmness, a peace between the elements. Cool mornings that are alive with the earthy scent of damp ground, the sweet perfume of leaves turning color, and of course the welcomed return of pie baking and cookie making. Those days when you can step outside and truly smell Autumn… those are the moments that really make me remember what dragging my butt out of bed in the morning is all about. In fact, it almost makes up for it still being dark out when I drag said butt from said bed.

Well, today is the Autumnal Equinox – the first day of Fall – and I’m feeling it. Today may have been grey and rainy, but the muddy ground is ripe with the smells of the season. Have you ever pressed a raw, uncut apple to your nose and inhaled deeply? It’s that smell. Sweet, crisp, and just asking to be savored.

One of the things I always look forward to about Fall are pumpkins – not the big jack-o-lantern kind, but the sweet baking kind. The kind of pumpkins that take pancakes from a delicious-breakfast-treat, to an even-more-delicious-breakfast-treat. The kind of pumpkins that take pie from a tasty-slice-of-wonderful to an even-more-tasty-slice-of-wonderful. The kind of pumpkins that grow in The Fiancé’s garden. That boy really knows the way to a girl’s stomach… heart.

And so, to kick of the Equinox right, I whipped up a smoothie that tasted more like dessert than a healthy, protein-full breakfast. If you like pumpkin pie, you’ll definitely Fall in love with this smoothie. If you don’t like pumpkin pie… ha, who am I kidding!

Pumpkin Pie Protein Smoothie
Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free
Makes 1 large serving

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 frozen banana
1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond milk, or other dairy-free milk
1 scoop unflavored (or vanilla) protein powder* – optional
2-3 TBSP agave or maple syrup, to taste
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger
Small pinch of cloves
Small pinch of salt
Ice – optional

For the coconut whipped cream:
1  15oz. can full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
2-3 tsp. agave or maple syrup, or to taste – optional

Method
Blend all ingredients until smooth – add almond milk to thin to the consistency you want. Top with coconut whipped cream if desired… and who wouldn’t desire it? Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg, and enjoy!

For the coconut whipped cream:
Remove the well-chilled can of coconut milk from the fridge, and turn it upside down. Open the can, and pour off the coconut ‘water’ (this can be saved for later use in other recipes, or for drinking). In the bottom you’ll be left with the separated coconut fat. Spoon this out into a bowl, and whisk or beat with a mixer until smooth. Mix in a little sweetener, or some vanilla or other spices, to taste. Store any extra in the fridge and re-whip when ready to use.

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