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.

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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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Holiday weekend

Maybe it wasn’t technically a holiday weekend, but with the 4th falling so close to the weekend, it seemed like one. Thursday we had a few people over to grill out and enjoy the back yard. There was a ton of food and festivities(maybe a little too much for some of us).

We now have oodles of left overs that I have been trying to recreate into other dishes so that we aren’t eating burger after brat after burger.

Saturday I woke up at 5:15am and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I headed up and did some work in the garden and headed to water aerobics, only to learn that it started at 11am, not 10am. I didn’t want to wait around so I headed home and started creating some calzone dough. I made two different fillings, one being ground taco meat, corn and black beans with cheddar cheese and the other of chicken, pesto, tomatoes and swiss. I thought they turned out pretty tasty.

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Saturday afternoon I spend relaxing and watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. Delightful. It’s amazing how crimes can be wrapped up neatly in a one hour TV segment. Saturday night I headed to Michael’s craft store and browsed their clearance. I got some fun glitter paint and goods to make some bracelets. A wonderful little night at home.

I had recently heard in a podcast that if you want really fluffy eggs for omelettes to put them in the blender. It will also make your eggs go farther, needing you to use less. So, after making a batch of almond milk, I cleaned out the blender and threw in one egg and 3 egg whites. I also threw in a few handfuls of spinach(who not???). It made my eggs super fluffy and green! I had a 12 inch skillet full of eggs. I topped them with marinara. Delicious and colorful.

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Once my food settled, I headed to meet some friends for an aquatic exercise class. Get a tan and exercise? Yes, please! Lunch consisted of BBQ chicken salads and fruit. I topped the salad with grilled corn, black beans, carrots, cucumber and some crushed tortilla chips.

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After realizing that yesterday was National Chocolate Day and being a little tired of eating meat at every meal, I decided that we would have chocolate chunk waffles for dinner. Well, Brian would. I had half of a waffle, veggie patty and some fruit. I don’t care for sweet breakfast foods all that much and I would have been really cranky later if I didn’t eat some protein.

Brian:

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Me:

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I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend as I did. So happy it finally felt like summer!

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

meal plan

First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

donut

Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

bust a gut

I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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orange

Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

The work breakfast

I love eggs for breakfast. They are one of the few things that keep me full. I usually try to get in at least one serving of veggies in at breakfast, too. I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work in the mornings. That usually means that I am eating breakfast 1.5 to 3.5 hours after I get up in the morning, depending if I go to the gym before work. I have never been one(for the most part) to want to eat as soon as I get up in the morning. So, this doesn’t work out too badly for me.

Here’s a look at some of my work breakfasts(FYI: I have a microwave-able vegetable steamer at work). More simple than my weekend meals, but still nutritious and filling.

Carrots and hummus, steamed broccoli, banana and hard-boiled egg:

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A big bowl of steamed broccoli with warm hard-boiled egg:

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Sprouted grain toast with guacamole and hard-boiled egg, walnuts and banana with cinnamon:

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Plain Greek yogurt with banana and walnuts and a side of detox salad:

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And this week, I have really been into sprouted grain toast with mustard and slices of hard-boiled egg. Usually with a side of sliced banana with cinnamon. Maybe a few almonds. My coworker brought in an extra dozen colored eggs that her kids made:

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What are some of your fast breakfasts that can be taken on the go?

Healthified doughnuts

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I am not a huge doughnut fan. Or are they donuts? Either way, Brian sure does love them.

In an effort to make quick and delicious breakfasts for him, I discovered this gem of a recipe. I present to you, Banana Chocolate Chip Donuts. Clocking in at slightly 200 hundred calories a piece(with my adaptations), they afford you the luxury of eating a donut without breaking the calorie bank. Or spending the rest of the day at the gym. They are dense, moist, and most tasty when warm out of the oven. Mmm mmm mmm.

I do have a small confession. These are probably nothing more than muffins in the shape of donuts are so much more fun to eat then muffins. And they seem like such a splurge.

I adapted this recipe to make it even more healthified! What did I change?

I used half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour. I cut the amount of chocolate chips in half(big calorie saver and they had plenty of chocolatey goodness). Oh, and we had the donuts without being dipped in cinnamon and sugar. Who needs to add the extra calories? Otherwise, it’s the same process. So, lets look at some pictures.

donut1donut6donut5Donut pans! Where did I get mine? I smartly used a 50% off a single item coupon at Michael’s coupon and got 2 pans for less than $10. They are Wilton brand and worked great.

donut4donut2donut3What a great way to start the day. Coffee and a guilt free donut at the bus stop:

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These were super easy to a make and would be easy to make even healthier. Substitute different fruit, add cinnamon, really the possibilities are endless with this recipe. The original recipe said that it makes a dozen donuts. I came out with 14, but mine may have been a little smaller. Oh well, that’s calories saved! They also keep really well. I divided them out in single servings and sent them with Brian throughout the week for breakfast. I imagine they would freeze well, too.
I will definitely be making them again soon.

Bread maker bagels

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I’ve made homemade bagels before. They were delicious. I wanted to make them again. But not the same ones.

So, I began scouring blogs for good bagels and kept running across recipes for bagels that started the dough in the bread maker. I was intrigued. I was also a little worried that they wouldn’t turn out well. They turned out great. I’m not sure making the dough in the bread maker simplified the recipe all that much. The only change I made to the recipe was that I used half regular and half whole wheat flour.

Here are some pictures from the process:

In the bread maker:

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Bagel toppings. Everything and rosemary/sea salt:

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Top those bagels!

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What about making a breakfast sandwich with one of these beauties?

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Getting back on track

So, I haven’t written my blog post on my 10 day trip yet. But I am going to go ahead and write this one anyway.

I feel like I have a little bit of a jumbled brain and might ramble. Sorry.

I am shockingly tired for having just returned from a vacation. Usually I am energized and ready to take on the day. Not this week. I am just dragging! I have been eating healthy, working out and getting enough sleep. What gives? I have no idea but I am going to keep on, keeping on.

The other thing that has suffered(besides my energy levels) has been my cooking. Tuesday night, I had to be an adult and skip a fun dinner with the ladies to go grocery shopping and get my life back together after being off of a schedule. Last night, I went to the gym then came home and made a quick batch of homemade sweet potato and black bean veggies patties to eat over the next few days. (Sorry for the shoddy picture. It was late.)

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Tonight, I would like to make a big batch of veggie soup. I love soup in cold weather. Not to mention, you can make a lot to eat for a week and put some in the freezer for later. And it’s healthy. It’s a great meal starter, side or main dish.

This weekend I want to crock pot  or oven braise some chicken and veggies. Can you tell I am in total comfort food mode with the cold temperatures that we are currently appearing in Chicago? A pasta bake might be in order, too. Really, I need to reload the freezer with meals for us.

Other things on the agenda this weekend?

  • Blogging. I have so many recipes that I am behind on. Sorry guys.
  • These Rosemary Fig crackers! Don’t they look amazing?
  • Some sort of baked good. Probably muffins. I want to make something so that Brian has a quick and healthy grab and go breakfast. Pumpkin and peanut butter? Apple cinnamon? Blueberry coconut almond? Who knows.
  • Bagels. Another breakfast option or sandwich stuffing holder. I found a recipe the other day to make the dough in the bread maker. I’ve made bagels by hand before and really have enjoyed them, but would like to try this method, too.
  • I also want to make these grain free peanut butter cookies. Without the chocolate chips. I was doing well with the very limited sugar. Then I went on vacation for 10 days and ate sugar. Not everyday, but about half of them. Yikes.  Now I’m back off the sugar and missing sweet treats. Hopefully I will be over it by the weekend and not make these.
  • I also want to make a big batch of rice so I can throw together a quick meal and not have to make the rice at the same time. I’m curious about these two recipes. Crock pot fried rice and perfect brown rice that I first saw via More Cheese More Chocolate.
  • I’ve been eating hummus like it’s going out of style lately. So, I need to make a batch of homemade hummus instead of continuing to buy tub after tub.

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Well, after reading back over this post, it looks like I have a very busy weekend ahead of me. Not to mention, making it to my favorite early morning Saturday day class. So hippy dippy and relaxing.

What is everyone else looking to do this weekend?

Good bread

Honestly, I can’t think of another title for this post. But this is good bread. Really good bread. Nice and crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

Oh, and really easy to make. No fancy ingredients. No fancy tools.

Do you want to make it too? It’s Jim Lahey’s bread. The recipe(which you can find all over the internet) or in his amazing book. This is book that you should definitely own if you plan on making bread. It teaches the importance of weighing ingredients and how keeping it simple can yield and amazing product.

Here’s a look at my recent bread making adventure:

Weighing:

bread1Getting it going:

bread9bread8bread7bread2bread3bread4bread5 bread6And the final product with some sheep’s milk basil and olive oil cheese. To die for!

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Put it on your Christmas list, people!

Mini Thanksgiving

Sunday night I had my friend Katie over for dinner. Sometimes, I get a little overzealous when planning menus. Brian deemed it a mini Thanksgiving after I told him everything I planned on making, so I ended up cutting out a braised kale dish.

What did I make? A mess:

And I made a braised chicken with leeks and parsnip dish from this month’s Whole Living magazine. It was easy, healthy and delicious.

I also made stuffing for the second time ever. Last year was oyster stuffing. I have been super curious about cornbread stuffing. I made this recipe from Paula Deen. Holy amazing. Beware, it makes a giant pan. Way more than necessary for 3 people, but Brian and I have been loving the leftovers. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

I also made a side of mashed cauliflower. Healthier than mashed potatoes with all the warmth and comfort. With a big pat of real butter, of course.

If you need more Thanksgiving recipes, you can always check out:

Bacon wrapped turkey breast

cranberry sauce with orange zest

the most amazing pumpkin pie EVER