As a chef, I’ve always focused on healthy foods that make your skin glow and hair shine. But what’s really beautiful is the happiness you get from serving a loved one something healthy and watching them actually love it.

I recently revised an old pumpkin pie filling recipe to try out on my two-year-old grandson, and the results were “wow”! He loved it, eating over a full cup on the first try. I just basked in the joy of watching him smile as he was eating, knowing the healthy ingredients would love his little body back. I then taught a cooking class at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in which I tested the same recipe on adults and received the same reaction. Word spread, and I’ve received several requests for the recipe from people who were not even in the class but heard about it.

That’s the great thing about cooking: You can always fiddle and tweak foods to make them healthier and taste better and you get to cherish the happy moments when you watch others savor your creations, spreading the glow of happiness.

Pie Pudding, Pie Filling or Pumpkin Pie? My grandson calls this recipe Pa Pa’s Pumpkin Pie, even though there is no crust and it’s vegan. He just likes the filling, and I like knowing that he’s getting the health benefits from the pumpkin, sweet potato, tofu, banana and cinnamon. Plus, if you eat this as pudding, you’re able to cut back on the calories in the pumpkin pie crust, which is traditionally made with flour and fat and only promotes inflammation.

The pumpkin and sweet potatoes in the recipe are wonderful foods that are loaded with alpha and beta carotene and promote healthy skin. Studies show that eating brightly colored foods such as pumpkin and sweet potatoes can give our skin a healthy glow. The recipe also calls for tofu, which is a complete plant-based protein source containing all nine essential amino acids. Tofu also contains isoflavones, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron and calcium and helps build wrinkle-fighting collagen.

Pa Pa’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe: 

Makes 7 servings – serving size: ½ cup


  • 1 large ripe banana, peeled, broken into chunks
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato, skin removed
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon, 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

Directions: Place banana in a food processor and process until smooth. Add tofu and pulse until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Stop to scrape down sides of bowl, and then pulse again to thoroughly mix. Spoon mixture into individual bowls or one large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.You can scoop the mixture into stylish martini glasses and garnish with toasted crumbled walnuts or shaved dark chocolate, or a piece of thin chocolate bark for a real holiday treat. Happy Thanksgiving!

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