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  • Sally Miller, B. S., N. E.

Festive Fall Colors for your Thanksgiving table

Above all seasons, fall is the season of colors. Watching the leaves on the trees turn from green to gorgeous colors of red, orange, yellow and sometimes purple is breathtaking, especially in our beloved West Virginia Mountains.

I often think of the festive fall colors of food at this time of year as special dishes to create for giving thanks at our holiday celebrations. I find it fascinating that there is a greater plan for the colors that we admire on the trees and place on our tables.

We grow and harvest during our warm months and begin to store during our cold months. It is a last burst of brightness to hold onto as we move into the dark, cold months ahead.

In an article on the U. S. Forest Service website, called “Science of Fall Colors,” the color of the leaf pigment is explained. Three types of pigments that are involved in these autumn colors.

Have you ever made the connection with the colors present in popular fall foods and those colors of the leaves on the trees?

Carotenoid produces yellow, orange and brown colors in such foods as carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and rutabaga.

Anthocyanin gives color to cranberries, red apples, concord grapes, blueberries and pomegranates. They are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.

Chlorophyll gives leaves a basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for food. Chlorophyll is present in kale, spinach and collard greens.

Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. Most anthocyanins are produced in the autumn, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within the leaf cells.

During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As night lengthens in autumn, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed.

The carotenoids and anthocyanin that are present in the leaf are then unmasked and show their colors.

According to a report in “Live Science” on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website, “Carotenoids and anthocyanins are phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in the cells of the bright colors of plants. They act as antioxidants in the human body. They have strong cancer-fighting properties. Some carotenoids are converted by the body to vitamin A. They also have anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. They are sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease prevention.”

As we approach the season when colds and viruses are most prevalent, we have the abundance of these fresh whole foods to help boost our immune system.

When the brilliance of this fall’s colors are gone from the trees, choose the seasonal plants that are readily available to us and reap the benefits of good health and wonderful flavors!

Today’s recipes have an abundance of color provided by the antioxidants carotene and anthocyanins. They are healthy, quick meal with festive fall colors. Add them to your Thanksgiving table or use them as a stand-alone meals when you want a boost of energy.

This Pumpkin Pasta Sauce can be served cold as prepared in the photo, or warm by sautéing the spiralized noodles and heating the pumpkin sauce.

I have highlighted my past Thanksgiving articles on my website blog. Visit to choose from a number of recipes including a full plant-based Thanksgiving menu. Happy Thanksgiving!


Pumpkin Pasta Sauce Recipe from

This pumpkin pasta sauce is easy to make in a blender. Combing the pumpkin puree and tomatoes with the seasonings makes for a festive combination that is delicious! Use spiral sliced butternut squash and zucchini noodles or any gluten free pasta of your choice. Top with the cranberry sauce for a nice holiday presentation.

Yield: 4 servings


¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon coconut oil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon fresh basil

½ teaspoon fresh sage

2 cloves garlic

¾ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup almond milk

¼ onion roughly chopped

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped


Place the tomatoes and the almond milk in the blender first. Add the additional ingredients. Place lid on the blender and blend for 2-3 minutes.

Heat the sauce gently over medium heat before spooning on top of the pasta. (optional)

Top each serving with cranberry sauce.


Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

I like the combination of fresh cranberries and pomegranates. You can make this with just cranberries by doubling the amount of cranberries in the recipe. I didn’t use the orange juice because it was sweet enough with just the maple syrup. This is so much better than canned cranberry sauce and so easy!

Yield: 2 cups


¾ cup fresh organic cranberries

¾ cup pomegranate kernels (fresh or frozen)

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup water

Zest of 1 medium organic orange, (about 1teaspoon)

Optional add-ins: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and/or ¼ cup fresh orange juice.


First, rinse the cranberries well and drain off excess water. Pick through the cranberries and discard any soft ones.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, pomegranates, maple syrup and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the orange zest. If you would like to add cinnamon or orange juice, add it now. Taste and, if the mixture is too tart, add more orange juice or maple syrup to taste.

The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: How to remove zest: I use a Microplane grater which easily removes the zest. You could also use the fine holes of our box grater.

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