When I attended cooking school, I would come home with loads of delicious recipes that I tried, practiced and gave to my family and friends. One recipe that has stood the test of time and one that I turn to repeatedly is this favourite recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Muffins. Is it a breakfast? Is it dessert? Hard to tell but delicious nonetheless and I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t enjoy them on both occasions. This is easy to make, dairy-free, vegetarian and if you wish, can be made with gluten-free flour and oats. I love this recipe with whole wheat flour as it adds a richer texture but certainly plain-flour will deliver you muffin that is just as good.
The ingredients in this recipe call for pureed pumpkin. This is an easy product to find canned on the shelves of your local market, but if you feel particularly inspired, you are welcome to roast fresh pumpkin in the oven (directions in the recipe) and use the leftovers for yourself and your dog. If you opt for canned, please purchase pureed pumpkin only, no spices or sugars added.
Why have I included this muffin as part of a dog blog? Because pumpkin is an incredibly healthy snack for your dog (and for us) to enjoy. I stir it up with a bit of melted coconut oil, a sprinkle of ground ginger and cinnamon while I am making the muffins, and the dog goes absolutely wild for his little snack. I have included a little dog recipe for pumpkin delight below. Please feel free to combine spices and oils as you wish with the pumpkin and make your own snack for the dog to enjoy while you enjoy these amazing muffins.
The health benefits of pumpkin, whether freshly roasted or out of a can, are incredible. The orange colour is an instant giveaway that it contains carotenoids, powerful phytonutrients that have shown promise in helping to fight lung cancer, infections and can also help protect against diabetes and heart disease. Like amazing and delicious carrots, the beta-carotene and vitamin A found in pumpkin help with eye health & vision, particularly in dim light. For more information about the health benefits of beta-carotenes as well as how they can encourage eye health, please see our article 'A Feast for the Eyes!'
Pumpkin contains types of carbohydrates called polysaccharides. One of the powerhouse polysaccharides in pumpkin are called pectins, and it is believed that these lend many anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties to pumpkin. Additionally, pumpkin and other winter squashes contain a wide variety of B-vitamins including B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid & folate, all of which are believed to help contribute to maintaining blood sugar levels.
While pumpkins are a low-fat food, the fats they do contain are the highly touted anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. While not the richest plant-based food of omega-3s, pumpkin contribute some omega-3 value to this muffin alongside the flax seeds. If you would like to increase the omega-3 content in this muffin even further, consider adding walnuts (instead of pecans) to this recipe.
Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin A, and a number of minerals like iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.
If you are a believer in Chinese Medicine, the autumnal season, when pumpkin is at it's peak, is linked with the lungs and large intestine. According to Paul Pitchford, author of the fantastic book Healing with Whole Foods pumpkin can help the body to dry excess fluids, dealing with extra phlegm in the lungs, a symptom associated with asthma, allergies bronchitis and sinus infections. This may also explain pumpkin's powerful effect on the digestive system. For more information on pumpkin, Chinese Medicine and Paul Pitchford’s take on all, please refer to the following link: www.nevadaappeal.com/news/local/pumpkins-can-keep-you-healthy-this-fall/.
When it comes to digestive wellness, pumpkin contains a special type of fiber that may assist in improving symptoms of constipation as well as diarrhea – kind of a beneficial double edged sword if you will. Additionally for a dog with diarrhea, pumpkin's many minerals, like potassium will help to replenish electrolye levels that may have decreased due to dehydration.
For those of us who have dogs with anal gland issues (you know who you are!), you might be interested to know that our vet once suggested we add pumpkin to our Bubba's food for this very issue. She told us to buy canned pumpkin at the grocery store. Not the sweetened, spiced pumpkin but plain canned pumpkin and add a few teaspoons to his meals when it became evident that he was struggling with his glands. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty here but the general idea is that the fiber provided in pumpkin helps what is being eliminated to become a bit more solid, thereby placing more pressure on the glands to release naturally each time the dog goes to the bathroom. I had my doubts but did as I was told and sure enough…our vet visits for ‘smelly dog’ tapered off quite quickly and it has been years since we hit the vet for help with this issue. If canned pumpkin is hard to find year round in your part of the world, it is certainly available on Amazon or you can buy it fresh at the market. Simply peel, cube and boil pieces of pumpkin until soft...meal ready in just a few minutes.
*Please note that if you decide to feed your dog pumpkin quite regularly, feed in moderation. A teaspoon or two of pumpkin per day is plenty as too much Vitamin A can over accumulate in the body and become toxic. This should be of little concern if pumpkin is fed as a 'treat' instead of as a meal, but please keep in mind.
Pumpkin Puree for Dogs
1/4 c pumpkin puree, room temperature
1 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
In a small bowl, stir all of the ingredients together. If the pumpkin is too cold, the coconut oil will solidify so try to make sure the pumpkin is room temperature or slightly warm. Spoon 1-2 Tbsp on top of dog food every day until finished.
We hope you enjoy this muffin recipe as much as we have enjoyed it over the years. The smell as it bakes in the oven fills the kitchen with an amazing aroma and I am always happy to enjoy this goody guilt-free as it contains no refined sugar, nutritious pumpkin, blood-sugar friendly cinnamon & stomach soothing ginger. Plus, being able to eat it alongside my gorgeous pup, who is also loving his pumpkin friendly snack, makes it all the more fun.