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!

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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Monday, back at it

It’s already Monday again? My weekend was so full of fun activities that it feels like I haven’t been to work in a week!

Thursday night, I was incredibly happy to eat a very summery meal of a half of a BLT with fruit, veggies and a few chips. See that sweet corn? It was my last ear from a batch I received from Iowa. Possibly the best sweet corn of my life. So sweet and tender it made my heart sing.

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Friday night we picked up our wedding invitations and envelopes. Eeek! It’s coming so soon. I’m so excited! Brian and I grabbed dinner at Native Foods. He had a curry bowl and I had the indo salad. Both were amazing. We loved our own choices and each other’s so much that we switched bowls half way through. Sharing is caring. After running some more errands, I got home and collapsed on the couch for the night.

Saturday I got up early, did laundry, worked out and watered the garden before heading to a bridal shower in the burbs.  I had a surprise strawberry waiting for me when I got there to water:

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Brian and I had a nice breakfast together before I left for the day. I made him cinnamon streusel French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast. I had eggs and toast.

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I got to hang out with some fun Hawkeyes at Sarah’s beautiful shower:

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The rest of the day was full of bachelorette fun.

Sunday morning I slept in and headed to water aerobics. Only one more weekend left of getting to be in an outdoor pool and get exercise. Booo! I wish I could have this weather and schedule all year round. The rest of Sunday was filled with making food for the week and folding and putting away laundry. As much as I hate laundry, I love starting out the week with a full and clean closet.

I made another round of macro bowls(spinach, kale, zucchini, quinoa, lentils, beans and sweet potato) for us to have for lunches this week:

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Took a break to have a lunch of leftover pizza, salad, tomatoes and chips.

 

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I felt like I haven’t made us a proper dinner in a few weeks. When I said this, Brian gave me a strange look like I was a crazy person. I just felt like I hadn’t put a lot of time or effort into a meal lately. Which is the direct result of it being summer and using a lot more fresh food that doesn’t need as much preparation. Anyway, I having a strong yearning to do a little more cooking and use our early wedding gift. Look at her. She’s a beauty. I named her Camille, because she’s French, you know. And she can make honey, almond, rosemary roasted carrots with the best of them.

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I also made a simple and quick tomato sauce, which had tons of great flavor:

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With some seasoned green beans, the meal came together kind of like this:

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Brian gave the carrots two thumbs up. I really like the almond carrot combo. Delightful. It would probably be a recipe better reserved for cooler temperatures, but those are probably right around the corner. And the tomato sauce on the chicken really jazzed it up.

 

Cauliflower and yellow lentil curry

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I love cauliflower. I love curry. I’ve made a delightful red lentil soup before and curried lentils with cauliflower, but never yellow lentil curry with cauliflower. This one takes the prize! It’s the mango chutney for the win at the end! Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ¼ cup red curry paste 
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 cups vegetable broth + 3 cups water
  • 2 cups dry yellow lentils 
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • mango chutney
  • cilantro
  • salt to taste
Prep your ingredients to make life easier:
 
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Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger with the oil until soft.
 
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Add the curry paste, turmeric, and curry powder and cook  for another 1 minute, until fragrant.
 
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Then, add the broth and water and whisk until incorporated. Bring to a boil.
 
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Add the lentils and simmer for 20-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
 
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When the lentils are almost done, add the cauliflower and mashed banana. Stir to incorporate the banana. There should be enough liquid left in the pan to boil/steam the cauliflower. If there isn’t enough water left in the pan, add about 1/4 cup. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender-crisp. The banana adds a nice creaminess to the dish. 
 
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Stir to combine and season with salt.  When serving(on top of rice or not),  top with a tablespoon of mango chutney and a nice amount of cilantro. 
 
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The chutney and cilantro really add a nice dimension of flavor to the dish. And I nearly licked my bowl clean. I couldn’t wait to eat this for leftovers all week! 

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Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! These are amazing. Taste exactly like cookie dough. Serve them at a party and NO ONE will know they are healthy. Brian sure didn’t know…and I sure didn’t tell him.

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I had seen this recipe months ago, filed it to make later and forgot about it until yesterday when I saw someone mention it on a social media site. I had made bread before with chickpeas, so I wasn’t concerned that it was too weird of an ingredient swap. I had all the stuff at home and decided to make it last night. I mean, we were to get hit by derecho. Who wouldn’t need a batch of protein and fiber filled cookies to get them through the storm? So glad I did. It might be my new favorite healthy treat. I might even leave out the chocolate chips next time or half the amount and use mini chips.  Recipe adapted from Texanerin Baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup of canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 heaping cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup(I used 1/2 of each)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

If you don’t have natural peanut butter on hand, dump a few cups of dry roasted peanuts in your food processor and process(scraping down the sides as necessary) until it forms into peanut butter. You may think that it will never get past the crumbled/powdery stage, but have patience, it will. Scoop out peanut butter and put in container. How return a heaping 1/2 cup to the food processor.

Thoroughly rinse a can of chickpeas. Lay out a paper towel or dish towel and pour the well-rinsed chickpeas on the towel. Take another towel and blot the chickpeas to dry them a bit. Scoop up 1 1/4 cup of chickpeas and toss into food processor with pb.

To get my 1/4 cup of sweetener, I used 1/2 raw honey and 1/2 pure maple syrup. My syrup is pretty runny and thin. My honey is very thick. I was concerned about the consistency of both varying the recipe too much so I used half and half to even out the consistency. Put in food processor. Add in vanilla and baking powder.

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Process until very smooth. Scrape down sides as necessary. The dough will be extremely sticky at this point.

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Stir in chocolate chips.

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Now, this is the point where I have to strongly disagree with the original post. The author said that the dough did not taste good and these cookies would not be good without the chocolate chips. I thought the dough was amazing. So good, I almost didn’t bake it, but just refrigerate it in ball form. I thought there was almost too much chocolate in them and would consider making them without or cutting back the amount. My two cents. Now continuing on with the recipe:

Use slightly wet hands and roll into balls about the size of golf balls. Place on baking sheet. These cookies do not spread, so if you want them to be more in a disc form, flatten out those balls. Continue making balls of dough, re-wetting hands when necessary until dough used up.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes. They won’t look much more done than when you put them in the oven, but if you flip one over, the bottom will be slightly browned.

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Wait for a few minutes and eat warm. So good.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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!

Whipped coconut body butter

I’ve made a huge effort over the past year to put less chemicals on my skin and use more natural products or less product.

I’ve always been known to wash my hair a lot. Sometimes twice a day because I felt like it would look greasy. That’s a lot of shampoo and conditioner over the year. After reading about the no poo method, I started cutting back on the washing, initially on the weekends to train my scalp to produce less oil. I am now down to shampooing my hair 1-2 times per week. That is a significant reduction in the amount of chemicals that I am putting on my head and washing down the drain into our water sources. I’m spending less money on shampoo and conditioner(that stuff isn’t cheap) and adding less garbage to the landfill.

Next, I knew I had to face my love of my inexpensive, chemical and synthetic laden moisturizer from the drug store and make a change. I initially tried to use straight coconut oil to moisturize. That didn’t work so well. In the summer it was liquid and messy. In the winter, it was hard as a rock and impossible to chisel out of the container. So, I went back to using my trusty pump bottle of lotion. Last week, I ran across a recipe for homemade whipped coconut body butter. By adding Vitamin E oil, many of the plain coconut oil issues resolved. It doesn’t get as hard and doesn’t really liquefy the same as straight coconut oil.

So I headed to Whole Foods to buy some Vitamin E oil. They has several options. I bought some Jason brand oil in the lowest concentration available(per the nice workers recommendation). I also bought some organic sweet orange oil to give it a light scent.

This is the recipe I used: Homemade Whipped Coconut Body Butter

My hard coconut oil, Vitamin E oil, sweet orange essential oil and a few drops of vanilla:

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Turn your mixer on high and let it whip for 6-7 minutes:

coconut2I stopped the mixer 2 times to scrape down the sides. At the end, my body butter looked like this:

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I transferred it into a glass container that I has previously used for a homemade body scrub:

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Put a lid on it and placed it in the bathroom:

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This stuff is seriously amazing. I may have been converted from a lotion lover to a coconut oil body butter believer. My skin is so soft. It takes a minute to fully soak in after applying, so you may need to wait a minute to get dressed, but the wait it so worth it. Super inexpensive to make, too. And the scent: delightful.

 

Copycat Whole Foods date logs

I’ve mentioned before that I love Whole Food’s date logs. So much that I decided recreating them at home would be a good idea. This idea was encouraged when I saw the WF’s worker restocking the bin of them the other day and learned that they don’t make them in-house! What?!?! I had been believing that I was getting date logs fresh out of the kitchen only feet away from where they were sold. Not true. Not true at all. They come from one of their largest distributors. They come in a plastic lined box and are put into the bin by the nice WF workers.

I’m not getting my date logs minutes after they are made? But, I have to be! They are so fresh. I mean fresh tasting.

After I got over my disbelief, I picked up a 5 pound container of pitted medjool dates at Costco. Feeling like they may be a little dry, I attempted to rehydrate them a bit.

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This was probably unnecessary and wouldn’t do it again in the future. I think it made the dates too sticky. After re-hydrating and draining them, I tossed them into the food processor and began the process of pulsing and scraping the sides down. This took a bit of time. I felt like they were still too wet, so I tossed to unsweetened, shredded coconut with them to dry them up a bit. Worked like a charm. I sprinkled a line of coconut onto the wax paper then I scooped about 1/3 of the mixture onto wax paper and formed it into a log. Then I rolled that into the coconut to form a firmer log.

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I continued this method with the remainder of the date mixture. Then I placed the 3 logs into the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up. Then I took them out and cut them into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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These are almost identical to what you buy at the store. Price-wise, I am not sure how they compare, but I am sure they are at least a small savings. And more convenient to keep in my fridge than having to run to the store when I want one!

Oven baked veggie chips: multiple varieties

A few years ago…okay maybe five years ago I made some homemade vegetable chips. I think I did beet, parsnip, sweet potato and white potato. They were good, a lot of work and just plain easier to buy.

Thinking that my thoughts on the subject may have been misremembered, I decided to make some again. Well, it was again, time-consuming without a lot of reward. Here they are anyway.

This time I made sweet and white potato, beets and zucchini chips. The zucchini chips were my favorite. I ate them all in one sitting. Don’t judge that last sentence until you see photos of the product.

I preheated my oven to 350F. Then I mandolin-ed my little heart out. Slice. Slice. Slice.

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Then, I tossed the slices with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I arranged the slices on to cooling racks placed on baking sheets(to help with air circulation) and baked for about 20 minutes.

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The veggies shrank a lot in size and reminded me a lot of shinky dinks from my childhood.

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After spending time baking all those chips, I had very little finished product to show. And quite honestly, they didn’t bake very evenly. Half of a chip would be burnt and the other half would be soggy. The ones that turned out the best were the zucchini. This is the amount of chip I got from 2 medium zucchini:

chips5Yes, two zucchini fit in the palm of my hand. This is the size of one zucchini chip:

chips6The size of my finger tip.

So, from now on, I will be buying my chips.