Put pumpkin puree to work as part of a frozen winter treat

All four of my daughters love frozen acai bowls because they feel like you’re eating ice cream for breakfast, except healthier. If you haven’t hopped on the acai bowl craze, allow me to update you. Superfood acai berry puree is blended up with fruit — usually berries or banana — and then served thick, creamy and semi-frozen, topped with granola, fruit, nuts or other goodies.

You can buy gorgeous berry-topped bowls at juice bars across the country, or make your own by blending up the base, pouring it into individual bowls and freezing. Once frozen solid, they’ll last for weeks.

But, you’ll need to let it soften a little to achieve the desired consistency, which means this is a great make-ahead breakfast. Stock up the freezer with frozen bowls, and pull them out as needed to thaw a few minutes on the counter, adding toppings, and eat.

But frozen breakfast bowls are also fantastic as a to-go snack in a lunchbox: an icepack slows down the thawing enough to have the bowl at the perfect texture about two hours later. And don’t worry if you miss the mark: even if it completely thaws, the bowl stays tasty, even if more smoothie-bowl-esque than ice-creamy.

Today, I’m winterizing this summertime treat by swapping out the acai and bringing in the beloved flavors of the season in my Pumpkin and Spice Breakfast Bowl. Pumpkin puree is not only perfectly seasonal, but it boasts a ton of vitamin A (more than a day’s worth in one serving), and a smattering of other vitamins, minerals and fiber. And, it’s naturally sweet so not a lot of extra sugar is needed to make this breakfast feel like more of an indulgence than it actually is. Loading up the freezer with these bowls is an excellent plan-ahead strategy, whether you’re a mom of four, or you just want to streamline your mornings.

Pumpkin and spice breakfast bowls

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 15 minutes, plus freezing and thawing time

Base:

1 large ripe banana, sliced

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree

1 cup reduced fat vanilla Greek yogurt (nonfat yogurt not

recommended)

3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice)

pinch of salt

Topping:

2 small apples, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pecan halves or pieces

1/4 cup raw oats

4 teaspoons maple syrup

Place all the ingredients for the base into a blender and blend until creamy and smooth, about one minute. (Tip: Blend on low. You may need to start and stop blender, breaking up the ingredients using a wooden spoon when NOT blending.) Divide the blended mixture among four individual freezer-safe bowls or to-go containers. Top and eat as is for a smoothie bowl. Or, freeze for at least 30 minutes, or up to a month (covered). Just before serving, top with apples, pecans, oats and the maple syrup drizzled on top.

Breakfast bowl can then be eaten frozen like an ice cream: Allow a frozen solid bowl to soften a little before — at room temperature, this will take approximately 20 minutes.

In a lunchbox with an ice pack, the ideal frozen eating time is 1-2 hours after removing from the freezer. If the bowls “overthaw,” simply enjoy them as smoothie bowls.

Chef’s Note: Customize your toppings swapping in nuts, seeds, fruit, berries, chia seeds, hemp hearts, or shaved coconut.

Nutrition information per serving: 235 calories; 68 calories from fat; 8 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 4 mg cholesterol; 97 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 9 g protein.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”

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