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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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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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.

 

DIY Greek yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, read this post.

If you don’t want to be ruined on store-bought Greek yogurt, don’t read this post.

Warning: Once you realize how easy, inexpensive and way more delicious this yogurt is, you will be ruined on store-bought yogurt.

I had been wanting to make my own yogurt for quite some time and had researched a lot of recipes on different techniques. I think I settled on the most simple one. And no, you don’t need one of those fancy yogurt making machines that they sell for hundreds of dollars at the store. I simply used a pot, an inexpensive candy thermometer, my crock pot, cheesecloth, a strainer and a bowl. Most people probably own all of those things. I’ve already made it twice with great results and plan on making another batch this weekend.

Add 2 quarts(or however much you want) of milk to a sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 180F. What kind of milk? I have only used cows milk, but you can use any fat percentage that you want. The higher the fat percentage the thicker and creamier the yogurt with turn out. I have tried with a lower fat percentage and a higher fat percentage, both turned out great.

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Once at 180F take the pot off the burner and let milk come down to a temperature between 110-120F. It is important to get the temperature in that range so that the bacterial cultures can work their magic. If the temperature is too high, they will be killed, if it is too low, they won’t incubate properly.

If you are using a pan with a tight fitting lid, you can move on to the next step. If not, I recommend using the ceramic liner part of your crockpot for the next step. Pour the milk into the inner part of your crock pot. Leave the outside metal part in your cupboard.

At this point, take a couple of spoon fulls of store-bought plain Greek yogurt. I have used Fage and Chobani. They are two of the more pure brands on the market. Under ingredients, you want the bacteria listed but not much other junk. No gelatin or pectin or fruit or fake sugar. Stir the store bought yogurt into your milk. The yogurt is the starter to make more yogurt.

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Next, preheat your oven to any temperature for one minute. Shut off your oven. Wrap your covered pot full of warm milk and a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a large beach or old bath towel. Put in your turned off oven for 8-12 hours. By turning on your oven for one minute and then shutting it off, it helps to take the chill out of the air and keep your yogurt in the temperature range that you want for the bacteria to work it’s magic. A lot of sites recommend turning on the light in your oven for a little extra heat. My oven is so old that it doesn’t have a light in it and I had no trouble making the yogurt without a light. It’s probably also a good reminder that you have something in your oven so you don’t absent mindedly turn it on and start the towel on fire.

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After 8-12 hours, your milk should look much more like yogurt than milk. Much like this:

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If you stir it all up at this point, you have runny yogurt. Which if fine, if you like that sort of thing. Congratulations. Put it in the fridge and you are done.

If you are like me and like a thicker and creamier yogurt, you will want to do this next step. Use a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheese cloth set up above a larger bowl. Pour your yogurt mixture into strainer and let the excess liquid strain into the bowl below it. The excess liquid is known as whey. Some people save it and use it. I pour it down the drain. Place straining contraption in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours.

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When you come back, you will have a fair amount of whey in the bowl and a much thicker yogurt on top. Whisk or stir the yogurt a little to smooth it out. Move the yogurt to storage containers and refrigerate. The yogurt lasts for about a week.

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Your yogurt will taste like a tart, unflavored yogurt. You can add a tablespoon of vanilla(to a 2 quart batch) to make a nicely flavored vanilla yogurt. You can also add in sweetener at this point, if that if your type of thing. I have added vanilla and it tastes great.

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How much cheaper is this than store-bought? Well, you can make two batches like this out of a gallon of milk and one small container of store-bought Greek yogurt(about $4 total). It will make the equivalent of about 4 large containers of store-bought Chobani or Fage (about $5 each x 4= $20). I would say that is a pretty significant savings over time.

Since there is a lot of downtime on this recipe, this is the time frame that I like to do it in: I will heat the milk and let it incubate the 8-12 hours over night. A great time as I know I won’t need to use my oven again. When I get up in the morning, I strain the yogurt and leave it straining while I am at work. You can do it all during the day, but I don’t like having my oven tied up all day and unable to use it.

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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Easy teriyaki and pineapple chicken with rice

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This was a super simple recipe that I threw together in almost no time. I had bought a package of chicken breasts for another recipe and had one giant breast left over. Seeing that I also had some pineapple in the fridge, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Teriyaki chicken.

I love teriyaki chicken. Or teriyaki pork. Or teriyaki turkey burgers. I think I like it because it’s sweet, tangy and a little salty.

I started by marinating the chicken in some kikoman’s teriyaki sauce in the pantry. I’m not a big fan of this sauce and think it lacks flavor, so I added some honey, garlic, cilantro, and pineapple juice. If you find a teriyaki sauce that you like, you don’t need to do that.

Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes to a few hours.

Heat up a skillet to medium heat. Place chicken in skillet once heated and add a few pieces of pineapple around the edges. Feel free to sprinkle the chicken with some sesame seeds if you’d like, too.

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While you are doing this, either cook up some brown rice or reheat any left over brown rice you have(this is what I did). Mix the brown rice with pieces of pineapple, a little pineapple juice if you have it and some chopped cilantro.

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Turn chicken over and cook on the other side until cooked through. Turn pieces of pineapple as necessary so they don’t burn but brown nicely on most sides.

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Slice chicken and serve over rice.

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Simple, delicious and flavorful.