Absent

So, you may have noticed that I have disappeared for a few days. There won’t be any new posts for another week or two. My wordpress storage space is maxed out. :-(

Brian and I have been talking about moving my blog for quite sometime. So instead of doing the quick fix of  buying more storage space, we(mostly Brian, thank goodness) will be hoping for a smooth transfer and possible redesign of Spatoola. Our schedules are quite busy these days, so it might take some time.

Hope to be back up and running soon!

 

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

These are delicious! Incredibly moist, surprisingly healthy and taste like little pumpkin pies. I ate the last one this morning and will definitely be making them again this weekend.

I can’t lie. Looking at the list of ingredients, I was incredibly skeptical that these would be good. They are actually probably in the top 5 of best muffins I have ever made.  So good, that I would consider eating them for dessert with a little whipped topping on them like pumpkin pie!

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie.

Muffin ingredients:

  • 1 3/4  cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 heaping cup of coconut oil

Filling ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the muffins: 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt together.

In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin puree, brown sugar, pumpkin butter, milk, and coconut oil until smooth.

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Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Do it stages and make sure not to over mix.

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Divide batter evenly into a previously greased muffin tin. My batter made 12 full size muffins and 6 mini muffins.

Let the batter rest while you make the filling.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin butter, coconut oil , pumpkin pie spice and salt.

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Divide filling evenly on top of the muffin batter.

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Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the muffin clean. Obviously , I baked the mini muffins for less time, probably 10-12 minutes.

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Let cool completely.

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These keep for about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Walk it off

This past winter, I got a great deal on a watch. This was no ordinary watch, but one of those sporty heart rate monitor exercise watches. The only problem with these watches is that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as a regular watch as they are working so much harder and tracking so much more. So, the battery died about 2 months ago. Last week, Brian was trying to change the battery and accidentally broke the LCD screen on it. He very kindly bought me a new watch, which might actually be an upgrade to my old watch. This one also had a pedometer, calculates the calories you burn throughout the day based on your heart rate and you can set daily goals on it. I really like. It’s also very motivating to move more.

I had a lot of errands to run this weekend and by run, I mean walk. Since we don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, especially on the weekend. Motivated by my watch to walk a little more than usual, I logged about 20 miles this weekend. How did I fuel all of this walking?

Big breakfasts! And lots of coffee.

Saturday morning, I was very indecisive about what I wanted for breakfast, so I had a little bit of everything. Strawberries and watermelon, an egg with sriracha, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Half with pumpkin butter and the other half with mashed banana and a little cookie butter.

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After a morning trip to the store and an exciting sale on homemade guacamole, I had a lunch of lots of fruits, veggies and an open-faced chicken and guacamole sandwich.  I love homemade guac, but when they sell the good stuff for less than I can make it, I’ll take it!

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A dinner of more chicken and guac, veggies, hummus and chips. I’m really trying to take advantage of the last of the fresh veggies while I can.

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Saturday night, I made some falafel with an extra helping of greens.

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Then I spent a night in with a glass of wine and my sewing machine doing some mending for Brian.

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Sunday’s breakfast was a helping of toast, guac, bacon and eggs with a pumpkin pie muffin.

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That was a very finger-licking and runny yolk! Mmm!

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Brian had a banana and chocolate chip muffin reheated with a smear of cookie butter on top.

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After running errands, a long shoe shopping trip for Brian, lunch at Native Foods(salads for both of us), and buying fabric for me, I did some more sewing. I sewed a yoga mat bag for myself. I have lululemon’s big mat. It is no longer available on the website, but is wider and longer than the average yoga mat and great if you are taller than average and struggle to stay on your mat during classes. Hence it being bigger than average, it doesn’t fit in most yoga bags. So, I loosely followed Kick Stand Fitness’s directions to make a bag. It took me about and hour, start to finish. I even added an interior pocket. Super easy and functional. Definitely work the 1 yard of fabric and one hour of work.

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Sunday’s dinner was fruit, salad and veggie lasagna. I bought the lasagna pre-made and thought it was great. Packed with flavor and protein, I’d definitely buy it again.

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With falafel and leftover veggie lasagna, it looks to be another veggie filled week! And what is great is that during this week’s heat wave, we can live on leftovers and I won’t have to heat up the kitchen!

Easy pumpkin soup

The temperatures are starting to drop and my love for all things pumpkin are back in full force.

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Last weekend I made some pumpkin muffins with a pumpkin pie filling on top that are wonderful(recipe to come soon). With the leftover pumpkin, I decided to make us a pumpkin soup. This soup is thick, warm and delicious and was ready in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of milk(can use cow, almond, coconut)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries(optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.

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Stir in fresh ginger. Cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Stir in curry powder and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, about another minute.

Add in vegetable broth and pumpkin. Stir well until combined.

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Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir in milk. Let heat for about 5 minutes.

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At this point, it is ready to serve. Or for a smoother and creamier consistency, blend or immersion blend. I used my immersion blender to make sure there weren’t any little pieces of onion.

Serve.  Top with dried cranberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you so desire.

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Goodbye, summer

Friday seems like so long ago that I can hardly remember what we  did.  We had plans to go out to eat, but with some torrential down pours right after I got home from work, we decided to order in. We ordered in some chicken shawarma from a new restaurant. It was so-so. So far, I haven’t found a place that competes with a a restaurant by my work. Then we set up an assembly line and put together our wedding invitations. After that was done, we rewarded ourselves with some couch time and started watching Orange is the New Black. Is everyone else watching this show? You should be! It’s great.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a veggie loaded breakfast with homemade tomato sauce, spinach, and eggplant. It was so delicious.

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Then I headed out for a busy day of going to the post office, hair cut and eye exam. The lovely lady at the post office gave me multiple kinds of misinformation including that we needed more postage for our invitations and that they don’t sell the stamps we need at that post office. Being that I needed to get to my hair cut, I delegated the other post office run to Brian. He had a pleasant post office experience, unlike mine, and the man at the other post office said we didn’t need extra postage, hand stamped our invites and mailed them for Brian. After having several unpleasant experiences with the post office closest to us, I will never be going there again. I will happily go out of my way and take extra time to go to a different office. Before my haircut, I stopped at a burger place by our wedding venue and tried out the Hurt Burger. It was supposed to be incredible spicy, but I didn’t think it had much of a kick, despite having jalapenos on it. The fries were really good though. My excuse for eating a burger and fries for lunch is that I need to be able to give wedding guests accurate information about eating establishments around our hotel. Ha!

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Sunday morning, I experimented with a new pancake recipe for Brian. They were incredibly dense and not the proper color, but he said they tasted great. Maybe it was all the cookie butter I slathered on them.

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Frustrated by his wonky pancakes, I didn’t pay much attention to my breakfast cooking and botched my eggs. I spent a good while at my garden then went to my last class of aquatic exercise of the summer. IO am saddened that I will have no more opportunities to be in the pool.  We had a quick “clean out the fridge” lunch before going to buy groceries and run errands. We stopped at Target and goofed around in the toy aisle. I spent the rest of my evening planning Monday’s cook-a-thon and watching more episodes of Orange is the New Black.

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Monday started off with a bang and an open-face egg sandwich. I headed into the kitchen to make black bean brownies, pumpkin muffins with pumpkin pie filling tops(they taste much better than they look), homemade, bbq sauce, curried ginger pumpkin soup, sunbutter and ended the day by grilling steak, burgers, chicken and veggies. We should be eating well all week!

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My long weekend was wonderful and productive with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Honey almond roasted carrots

These carrots are a fall delight.

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I was ready to hunker down, make soup, watch football and eat my fair share of roasted root vegetables then we got a spike to hot temperatures again. That didn’t stop me from making these carrots!

I may have also been motivated to make these carrots as I was desperate wanting to use my new Le Creust dish that I received forma  dear friend as an early wedding gift. I named her Camille, because she’s French. Enough about the why and a little more about the how:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup silvered or chopped almonds
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Thoroughly wash your carrots and cut green end off. If you feel so inclined to peel your carrots, you can do that, too.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a thick bottomed pan. Place carrots in bottom of pan and toss to coat with carrots.

Salt and pepper your carrots to your liking. Drizzle with honey. Top with almonds. Place rosemary sprigs on top.

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Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, or simply place lid on pan if it has one. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Cook closer to 20 minutes if you are using closer to 1 pound of carrots or if your carrots are on the thinner side. If using closer to 2 pounds of carrots and/or your carrots are on the thicker side, cook closer to 25 minutes.

After your 20-25 minutes is up, remove lid and cook another 20-25 minutes(follow the same guidelines). The carrots will start to brown and be nicely caramelized when done.

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Serve as a tasty side dish. I love the slight sweetness that the honey gives with the crunch of the almond. It’s really a great flavor combination. Upon eating them, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t wait to make them for Thanksgiving!

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Easy cinnamon streusel French toast

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I made an easy cinnamon streusel French toast for Brian this past weekend.

Have you ever been to Costco? Have you ever been there when samples of their cinnamon streusel bread has been given out? Holy moley! That stuff is good.

I have been able to resist buying a loaf before, but I couldn’t on this last trip. I blame the full moon. After getting it home and looking at the nutritional information, the loaf immediately went into the freezer. This bread is going to be a treat and a rare one at that. Granted the slices are large and thick, but it is 220 calories a slice. Wowza. No wonder it tastes so good.

On Saturday, I pulled out one piece of the bread to thaw. While it was thawing, I beat together one egg, a teaspoon of vanilla, a dash of cinnamon and a tablespoon for two of milk.

Heat up a skilled over medium heat and add a pat of butter.

Dip each side of the bread in the egg mixture and let excess mixture run off of bread.

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Cook on each side until browned. Whlie the bread was cooking, I cut up a very ripe banana and tossed the slices in the skillet as well, to caramelize(turn once).

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Once done, put on a plate, top with slices of banana, a sift of powdered sugar and a little syrup.

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Dukkah

What the heck?

That’s what I first thought when I read about this mysterious dukkah on MoreCheeseMoreChocolate. Dukkah is spelled as many different ways as it can be made. The long and short of it is that it’s a delicious and flavorful mixture of herbs and nuts that has it origins in Egypt.

When I started to google Dukkah to find a recipe, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that it is becoming very popular and found several articles on uses for it, like this, and this, and this.

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant. Once toasted, pour into a dish to the side to let completely cool. Repeat with each of the rest of the seeds. Then the peppercorns. Then the hazelnuts.

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Once everything has completely cooled, combine all together, including the mint leaves and salt.

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Place in mortar and crush until combined. Or place in food processor and pulse into a coarse consistency. Do not over process into a paste.

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Mixture will last up to one month in an airtight container.

One of my favorite uses is sprinkled liberally on a salad.

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Priorities

I’ve recently written about how my summer was filled with cook outs and perhaps a little more indulgence that necessary. Since I have been back on track with a healthier lifestyle and exercise plan, I have felt a lot better and have been sleeping better.

Today, this was posted on Facebook and it really struck true to me. This is how I have always felt about people, myself included, when excuses are made.

“Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.” ~Laura Vanderkam

I think this expands way beyond healthy life style choices and is a great way to re-examine multiple aspects of life.