Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

Pumped Up for Pumpkin

As Fall sets in and the leaves begin to change colors, the chilly weather signals one thing: really really really cold weather is coming. In a gloomy and sometimes arctic region like New England, it is necessary to find the bright spots that accompany the arrival of Fall. For us foodies, that would be apple picking, the abundance of certain root vegetables, and of course, our favorite group of foods: winter squash. If you can recall, we once packed a stuffing into a pumpkin, baked it until it was soft, and then took a trip to food heaven as we enjoyed one of the best meals ever (Happiness in a Pumpkin). Marnina jokes that I am so much in love with squash, especially butternut and buttercup, that I should have her engagement ring resized so that it can be given to a squash. 

We have recently gone on a pumpkin craze, and we would like to share two recipes that have been indulgent but still relatively healthy due to pumpkin’s nutritional content. For dinner on Friday night we made a dairy-free pumpkin custard, a light dessert that takes like pumpkin pie filling. Then, for Sunday morning brunch, we cooked up a baked pumpkin french toast dish that was off the charts good. While we enjoyed the smell of our apartment during the cooking process of both of these dishes, we REALLY enjoyed the buttery pumpkin sweetness that infused our custard and french toast.

Pumpkin’s many nutritional benefits are well-documented. They are packed with carotenoids, which provide a source of vitamin A that protects the skin and eyes, protects your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, enhances the functioning of your immune system, among other health benefits. The pumpkins’ orange glow is due to beta-carotene, a precursor form of vitamin A. Pumpkins are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels.

A often-cited study from New Zealand found that individuals with Crohn’s Disease appear to have some common foods that are beneficial to them, and one of them is pumpkin (the others include white fish, salmon and tuna, oatmeal, bananas, boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, goat’s milk, and yogurt…see the study here). As with all other foods, don’t go overboard and eat too much pumpkin.  Pumpkin is delicious but its fibrous nature can also be problematic if not eaten in moderation.  The fiber in pumpkin however, is mostly of the soluble type, meaning it is more easily digested than the insoluble fiber found in foods such as the skin of fruits and veggies and certain beans.

If you are not a pumpkin fan, you can try the following two recipes using some other type of squash (butternut, buttercup, etc.).

Pictures and recipes below:

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Custard

Preparing the custard mixture

Spicing up the custard-mixture

Pouring the mixture into the slow-cooker so it could custardize over the course of several hours

Post-custardization…we couldn’t resist eating some before snapping this picture

We literally had to restrain ourselves from eating the custard that you see while taking this picture

Marnina topped her custard with vanilla ice cream

This is Marnina right before she scraped the bowl clean.


Makes about 8, 1/3-cup servings

2 large eggs
12 ounces light coconut milk (we used soy milk instead)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (we used granulated sugar instead)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance soy-free spread, melted (we used margarine instead)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Flesh from 2 whole roasted sugar pumpkins or a 15 ounce can of pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
Non-dairy whipped topping
Maple syrup, for drizzling
Chopped pecans


1) Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.  Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, maple syrup, melted Earth Balance and vanilla extract. Add pumpkin and whisk well.
3) Add the spices and salt and whisk well.
4) Gently fold in flour until all of the lumps are gone. Pour into the slow cooker and cook on low for two to three hours.  Test using a toothpick. If the center comes out clean, it’s done.
5) Cool in the refrigerator overnight. Serve topped with a dollop of non-dairy whipped topping (optional), a  drizzle of maple syrup and some chopped pecans.

Recipe adapted from:

Baked Pumpkin French Toast

We let this mixture of bread, egg, almond milk, pumpkin, and spices marinate in the fridge for the better part of the morning

The cinnamon-streusel topping was slightly crunchy, which was a nice contrast to the melted interior


1 loaf French Bread (we use challah!)
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk (we used almond milk)
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces (we used margarine and only used half of what the recipe called for and it was still delicious!)


1) Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Tear French bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly place in the pan.
2) In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan with saran wrap and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
3) In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture using a fork or your hands. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with a few pea sized chunks. Cover and store mixture in the refrigerator.
4) When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove French toast from refrigerator and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown.
5) Serve warm with syrup, if desired.

Recipe adapted from:

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