Friends, it’s been an emotionally heavy season – with the horrific massacre in Las Vegas, the deadly hurricanes in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and the start of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. All of which involve tragic loss of life and so much grief. I’m praying for all those who have lost loved ones much too soon. And having gone through pregnancy loss myself, I’m grieving right along with you.
Because of so many emotions flowing lately, I feel like I have to go a bit deeper than just writing about food. I almost wasn’t going to post a recipe at all this week, but I think we can all use a bit of goodness in this dark time. So consider today’s Fall Harvest Salad with Creamy Pumpkin Dressing as a way to nourish and strengthen a weary soul. With roasted butternut squash, pears, apples, and toasted pumpkin seeds, this Summer-to-Fall salad is a recipe for the in-between seasons. And ironically, this salad kind of reflects how my life has felt recently. In between. In transition. So, read on if you also find yourself in a place of transition, need some encouragement, or just simply want a good salad.
As you’re well aware, the seasons just changed. Well, on the calendar, anyway. Yet, while we’re officially in Fall, it still feels like Summer at times. The weather goes from warm to cold to warm again and I still am wearing sandals, blasting the A/C, and cooking summer recipes. At the same time, my heart wants to jump headlong into Fall and never look back. Pumpkin spice lattes, apple pie, warm scarves, and boots all day. But, it would be premature to don my Fall attire and sit by the fireplace when it’s still 80 degrees outside. We’re in that weird period of transition as we prepare for full-fledged Fall and I find myself thinking, “Can we just get on with Fall? For real? No more teasing?”
On a deeper level, I find myself doing the same thing in life. After a season feels frustrating or painful, I just want to fast-forward to the next one (and hope that it’s much better)! Why? Because transitions are usually difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable. Rarely are they easy to live through or do they feel good at the time. Transitions mean that change is required, and for control-freaks like me, change is really hard and scary. Instead of going through the tough stuff, I’d rather speed through the transition and be comfortably settled in the next stage of life. But as much as we might want to, if we skipped the hard transitions, would we ever become who we’re supposed to be? It seems that our transitions in life serve more of a purpose than we might think. They can really help shape us and prepare us for what’s next.
This theme hits home right now because I’m in a period of transition with my health and life. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you know that I’ve been on a rollercoaster health journey ever since I found out about my celiac disease and hypothyroid diagnoses. I’ve been on a mission to try and manage my conditions for several years. While I felt stable enough to get pregnant in 2015, I ended up losing the baby at 11 weeks. Not only did that send my mind and emotions into turmoil, but my health tanked and hasn’t been the same since. It led me to discover I also had MTHFR mutations, Sjogren’s syndrome, and “leaky gut.” For the past year, I’ve tried a functional medicine approach with the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, an increase in supplements, and a focus on repairing my thyroid, gut, and hormones.
While I have seen improvements in my thyroid numbers and have less heart-related issues and panic attacks, I still feel like I have a long way to go. I’m still dealing with hormone imbalance, even 2 years post-miscarriage. I also can’t say with certainty that I’ve noticed amazing benefits while on the AIP diet, but it’s hard to measure, since I’ve had such a crazy range of symptoms over the past year.
Recently, I completed my year with my functional medicine doctor and have decided to go back to working solely with my primary holistic doctor. I’ve eliminated quite a few of the supplements that my doctor feels are unnecessary. I have also been encouraged to reintroduce foods. And, my husband and I face some big decisions in the near future regarding having a family and what that will look like at this point.
Even though these changes are hopefully for my ultimate good, it’s really scary to make so many tweaks to my health when I’ve gotten almost comfortable on my strict diet and supplements routine. In fact, I feel myself having anxiety at times with stopping supplements and having to test out foods that I haven’t eaten in over a year. What if I get worse again? Am I really healthy enough for this? What does my future look like? Are we supposed to have a family or not?
I find that a lot of my anxiousness comes from being in transition. Changes are happening and I feel like it’s up to me to get through them as quickly as possible. If I do everything right, THEN I’ll move to the next season of life and everything will be easy. But really, my life is not my own, I’m not in control, and the point isn’t to be comfortable.
As it says in Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This gentle reminder takes all of the pressure off of me to be perfect, do everything right, and be in charge of my future. Instead, it tells me to lean on Him, not myself. And even when things don’t make sense, I know God is guiding me through this transition for a reason. There are no wasted moments. Even the transitions can be gifts from Him.
An example of such a gift is how in spite of my physical difficulties and weakness, God has still been transforming me through my health journey. While I have been in the worst shape physically, I’ve felt stronger spiritually. Even though I’m still praying that my body could be fully restored, I never want my heart to go back to what it was. I’ve seen how God has humbled me and torn down my pride and selfishness through loss, grief, and sickness. Then, in His tender, loving way, He has been repairing my heart, drawing me closer to Him, and teaching me to trust Him. He is blessing me with new friendships, closer family bonds, and incredible support through the blogging community. And after going through suffering myself, I feel a stronger desire to help and encourage others who are hurting.
While I’ve always reflected on the past 2 years as a hard season, maybe it’s just been one super long period of transition. The dictionary definition of transition is: “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” If I’d jumped right from my miscarriage back to restored health and immediately had another child, my body may have been ready, but my heart would not have been. (And I want my family, friends, and future kids to get the best possible version of me!) So, as much as I’d like to think these 2 years have been all about getting physically healthy, I have to wonder if God’s greater purpose for them has been to change the condition of my heart.
Whatever the reason for my current transition, I’m trying to view it in a more positive light. I encourage you to do the same. Look beyond the tough, uncomfortable process of change and get excited for what could result – whether it’s different circumstances or a better you. If you trust God and let Him work in you, He will transform your heart as He has mine. So, friends, instead of wishing away transitions to get to the next chapter of life, embrace them and look for opportunities to grow, change, and prepare for the new seasons that are right around the corner.
Let me end my thoughts with the recipe I promised! My Fall Harvest Salad with Creamy Pumpkin Dressing puts an exclamation point on my musings about the benefits of transitions. It fuses the crisp, refreshing salads of summer with the spiced, seasonal flavors of Fall. When you eat this salad, full of wonderful textures and flavors, you can be reminded of the good that can come from transitions. After all, this recipe (or blog) wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for them!
While this simple salad is meant to be eaten cold, it features the best of the autumn harvest through roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, and an out-of-this-world pumpkin spice dressing! I used Trader Joe’s raw green pumpkin seeds, which are removed from the white outer shell. (I prefer the texture of these to the traditional pumpkin seeds.) And not to worry if you haven’t yet transitioned off of the AIP diet – just skip the pumpkin seeds. Instead, opt for toasted coconut or tigernuts for an added crunch. You can also easily substitute sweet potato for the butternut squash.
If you’re still with me, thank you for reading my rambling, written emotions! It helps me to share what’s on my heart through this blog. And my prayer is that it helps you, too. Whether you’re enduring a time of tough transition or you’re coasting smoothly from Summer into Fall, I hope today’s Fall Harvest Salad with Creamy Pumpkin Dressing brings you a healthy dose of joy either way!
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large apple, cored and chopped
- 1 large pear, cored and chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4-5 cups mixed salad greens
- ½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (omit for AIP)
- ¼ cup canned pumpkin
- ¼ cup coconut milk (add extra if you prefer thinner dressing)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss butternut squash cubes with coconut oil, rosemary, cinnamon, garlic, and salt. Spread on prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Set aside to cool.
- Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet on medium/low heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly, until browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Sprinkle chopped pear and apples with lemon juice, to prevent browning. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together pumpkin salad dressing ingredients. (Makes about ¾ cup.)
- Assemble salad in a large bowl with the mixed greens, pear and apple pieces, roasted squash, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle salad dressing over entire salad or individual portions. (Keep dressing separate if not eating immediately.)
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