Pumpkin Muffins

The other night I was walking down the stairs and the minute my feet hit the ground my oldest and husband, grins wide, began chanting “we want pumpkin bread! We want pumpkin bread!” A few things are irresistible, you see – and their sweet smiles are one of those things. Pumpkin bread is another.
Immediate check-mate.

The simplest things bring me to happiness, really. I find joy in the every day, laughter and making those in my life feel valued. Sometimes it’s a step outside my comfort zone, and other times it’s something that comes quite naturally {like baking.} 

These smell good, taste good and make my loved ones feel good. They’re refined sugar free so they make me feel good too. I can hardly wait to feed them to the family and hug them silly, just because. You can make these in the form of muffins, or mini/large loaves of bread. Enjoy autumn and these tasty treats!

 Ingredients:
  • 1.5 cups pure, grade A light Amber maple syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached AP flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup natural, no sugar added apple sauce

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan or line with parchment liners. (If using a loaf pan, grease pan.)
  2. In your kitchen aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the maple syrup, canola oil, eggs and pumpkin until mixed.
  3. Add flour, spices, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Finally, add in the apple sauce and using a spatula, scrape the edges of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are mixed together well.
  4. Add the batter into desired pan and bake. 20-25 minutes for muffins, 25-28 minutes for a mini loaf pan (the one yielding 8 mini loaves) or 50-60 minutes for large loaf pan.

Yields approximately 15-16 muffins.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Butter Scones

These scones may make any English tea lover cringe, but they are ranking pretty high in my book for a sweet breakfast indulgence. If you’ve never had cookie butter from Trader Joes – do yourself a favor and run there ASAP and buy two jars. The first one you will notice disappears with only a spoon in hand, thus your need for two. The second you can use in these treats.

They’ll disappear quickly – my 4 year old turned her nose up when I said I was baking scones…and then she saw them. After her eyes grew in delight and she asked if she could try them, she proceeded to tell me what a good “cooker and baker” I was – better than Baker Aker on her favorite PBS cartoon show. I filed it as a huge compliment then kissed her chocolate covered cheeks in thanks.

The smell from you oven alone will be reason enough for your family to thank you. There’s just something about this cookie butter that is quite intoxicating and delicious. Consider yourself warned!

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups unbleached, AP flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup organic whole milk
  • 6 tbsp cold organic butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup (heaped) cookie butter
  • 2/3 cups chocolate chips, divided in half – half for baking in the scones and half for drizzling melted atop the baked scones
 Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Using your food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, diced butter and cookie butter until it forms a powder. Gradually add in the milk and pulse until the mixture begins to combine and form inside the processor.
  3. Lightly flour your countertop and remove the dough from the processor, forming into a ball. Lightly flour the top of the dough and form into a round disc. Add the 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and gently fold into the dough.
  4. Cut into 8 pie shaped pieces and transfer them to the parchment lined baking sheet.

  5. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

  6. Melt the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips and drizzle atop the hot scones. Serve Warm or cooled.

Spiced Pumpkin Smoothie

It’s mid-September, which means it’s been at least a month since the onset of pumpkin everywhere drinks or treats at coffee shops and bakeries. I love autumn and all of the flavors that come with it – but I like to wait until the weather cools a bit and let summer run its course before I jump on the pumpkin bandwagon. 

That being said, school has begun, the weather is trending towards cooler temps and the sun is setting earlier. Autumn is creeping into Minnesota and I feel we payed the appropriate homage to the end of a gorgeous summer. Let the pumpkin indulgences begin! 

As a mom of two, I’m always in search of healthy snacks that are quick and easy, but appeals to their sweet tooth without all the refined sugars. {okay, I’d like those kind of snacks as well!} It’s our responsibility to teach our girls healthy eating habits – and I am a firm believer of everything in moderation. These smoothies are protein packed with a lot of flavor and nothing to leave me cringing about from an ingredients standpoint. They also taste good. 

These taste like pumpkin pie in a glass. If you must, add a wafer and whip cream on top to complete the package. But these are a great way to start your day, or as a midday snack for any member of the family. {and they’re vegan | refined sugar free.} 

 Ingredients:
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup all natural, no sugar added apple sauce 
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
  • 2 tbsp organic, pure grade A maple syrup
  • 4 ice cubes  

 Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix until combined. Serve and enjoy! 
  2. Yields 2 medium sized smoothies.

Rosemary Cheddar Tots

My family has an affinity for tots. {Okay, most families probably have an affinity for tots.} While time doesn’t always permit for everything to be homemade – I like to recreate things to keep the ingredients pure whenever possible. What I’ve found is when I’m able to make foods from scratch, my mom guilt decreases and typically the flavors of our favorite foods increase. I love making my family things they enjoy eating – this is just an easier way to feel better about the entire experience start to finish.

I don’t typically post recipes that are time consuming or tedious. I enjoy being in the kitchen and the entire experience is cathartic for me, I admit. The flavors, the smells, the process…but I also have two beautiful girls who deserve my attention and a husband I adore seeing when he arrives home from work. So I tend to keep things simple and relatively quick. 

These are a bit more labor intensive. The bonus? Make a large batch in advance and freeze them for future consumption! Plus you know what your family is consuming – without all the gross additives they don’t need. Consider them a labor of love. 

Recipe yields approximately 40-45 1 1/2″ tots.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. organic potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh minced rosemary
  • 1/2 cup unbleached AP flour
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar (I used Cabot)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Method:

  1. Peel the potatoes and par boil them (whole) on the stovetop for 5-6 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Using the largest part of a grater, grate the partially cooled potatoes into a large bowl. {I wore latex gloves to keep my hands cool.}
  3. Add the minced rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper, flour and shredded cheese to the bowl. Mix well with your hands {again, I used gloves as the mixture is still fairly warm and a bit messy.} Taking approximately 1 tbsp at a time of the mixture, roll into 1.5″ tots. Complete this process until the mixture is gone.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 and place parchment paper atop a sheet pan.
  5. On your stovetop, heat the 1/2 cup canola oil on medium high heat until it sizzles if you drop water into the pan.
  6. Add 1/3 the tots to the pan, turning until all sides are browned with two forks. Remove from oil and place on the sheet pan.
  7. Continue until all tots are browned and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot & enjoy!

Mint Cold Brew

Iced coffee is where it’s at in our house. It’s what we look forward to the moment we walk downstairs and my husband and I enjoy a tumbler {or two} together every morning. Our youngest daughter even knows that it’s a part of our morning routine and often helps fill our cups with ice.

While it’s currently “acceptable” to order these at the coffee shop because it’s summer, soon hot coffees filled with pumpkin will be hitting the scene and the iced coffee will become once more a thing of the summer. We, however, will be brewing our own batches of iced coffee throughout the winter – and so can you! It’s so simple.

I don’t often sweeten my coffee, but every now and again my tastebuds love a little flavor (specifically mint!) and sweetener. This is brilliant because it is refined sugar free, and I won’t be missing a mint latte at Starbucks because I can get my minty coffee indulgence in my own kitchen. Surrounded by my most favorite people. Win win.

 Ingredients:


For the coffee:

  • 1 pound ground coffee of your choice. I like a medium roast for this!
  • 2.5 gallons cold, filtered water

For the mint syrup:

  • 1/2 cup Grade A maple syrup (I use the Simply Balanced brand from target and it boasts a non GMO label!)
  • 1 tsp pure mint extract
 Method:

  1. In a large container or pot, mix together the pound of ground coffee and 2 gallons of cold water. Stir well and let sit for 24 hours.
  2. Strain the coffee and grounds through a fine sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels laid across the top to catch all the grounds.
  3. Mix together the syrup and mint extract. Stir and store in the fridge.
  4. Pour the coffee over ice, add your desired amount of mint syrup and milk. Enjoy!

Watermelon Champagne Cocktail

 Whether you’re hosting a Girls Night In or searching for a refreshing fancy{ish} drink to serve at a dinner party: this one is a nice change of pace with some bright flavors. Champagne is one of my favorite cocktails of choice. It’s celebratory and pairs well with almost anything and any occasion. I have a “push for Champagne” button in my house as a fun nod to the bubbly goodness. It’s been known to work a time or two.

Watermelon always seems to add the perfect touch to any dish or drink, and I especially love it during the summer; though my family consumes it year round. The champagne in this drink balances out the sweetness perfectly and the mint pulls it all together. I hope you can sip on these amongst friends and relish in the remaining days of summer. Yields 4 servings.

 Ingredients:
  • 2.5 cups cubed watermelon, puréed and strained through a fine sieve to remove the pulp
  • 1/2 cups vodka
  • 1/3 cup Brut champagne, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 1/2 bunch of mint leaves plus some for garnish
 Method:
  1. Purée the watermelon and run the purée through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and pulp. The final yield should be around 1.5 cups of watermelon liquid. 
  2. Muddle the mint leaves in the watermelon liquid and refrigerate for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain through a sieve again to remove the muddled mint leaves.
  3. In a large glass pitcher, add the watermelon purée, vodka, champagne and sparkling water, gently stir to combine and pour into 4 cups of your choice. I used large wine glasses for a fancier feel, but use whatever you’d like! Garnish with a mint leaf & serve.

Plum Torte

Sometimes life just calls for a torte. For no reason at all, other than to celebrate fresh ingredients that are in season. They seem so fancy, but are truly quite simple to make.

While the weather in Minneapolis has been grey and rainy over the past few days, it’s given my girls and me some time to do crafts inside, snuggle up on the couch together – and of course, bake. I hope they enjoy memories of baking with their mom someday as I do of my own baking experiences with my mom and grandmother. 

This torte is a beauty. The plums are such a perfect addition, and the cake is moist and has a bit of zing from the lemon zest. Make one to share with some friends as a chance to bring loved ones together, just because. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized plums, cut into tenths
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) organic butter, at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Powder sugar for dusting
 Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Slice the plums into tenths after removing the pit.
  2. In your Kitchen Aid mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 cup sugar together for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you add them. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda and lemon zest and mix until just combined.
  5. Pour the batter into an ungreased 9″ springform pan and spread evenly.
  6.  Layer the sliced plums atop the batter in any pattern you’d like. Sprinkle the plums with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  7. Bake 45-55 minutes, until the cake lightly browns and a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove springform and dust generously with powder sugar.

Peach Sweet Rolls

These rolls…I don’t even know where to begin. These are dedicated to my sweet sister who loves food as much as I do – and agrees to be my taste tester whenever I need one. Today was such a day that I invited her over to lunch so our kids could play, we could rely on one another for some free therapy and a good amount of laughter, and I could cook for everyone. Lunch was good, but these beauties were the star. I also think they were sweeter because of the fellowship we shared before we devoured them.

We each enjoyed one. Then my nephew didn’t eat all of his, and my sister quickly grabbed it and said “I’ll eat it!” Not 30 seconds later, my older did the same, and I shamelessly ate a second as well.

They’re sweet, without being overly sugary; moist and smell exactly how a sweet roll should smell. The peaches are a great addition outside the usual ingredients of a sweet roll. I am beyond excited to share this recipe with you – and hope that you will bake them to share with someone you love to be near as well – be it friend or family. Happy baking!

Ingredients:

 For the Dough

  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (be careful it isn’t hot to ensure you don’t kill the yeast)
  • 1/4 cup raw organic honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch)
  • 1 packet quick rise yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups unbleached AP flour, sifted (I used King Arthur)

For the Filling

  • 4-5 small to medium sized peaches, skinned and pureed (yields about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp organic butter

For the Icing

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp whole milk (start with 2 tbsp as you want it to be thick, add the 3rd only if needed)

Method:

  1.  In your Kitchen Aid mixer, fitted with the hook attachment, add the water, honey, olive oil and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast so that it bubbles or foams.
  2. Add the egg and mix. Sift the 4 cups of flour into the bowl and turn the mixer on to speed 3. Let the hook knead the dough for 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly oil the bottom. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a towel for 1 hour until the dough doubles in size.
  3. After the dough rises, turn the oven on to 350.
  4. Skin, cut and puree the peaches and set aside in a bowl.
  5. Generously flour a clean surface large enough to roll out the dough to a rectangle slightly larger than 10×14. Prior to rolling the dough, punch the center of the dough to remove any air.
  6. After rolling, spread the butter across the dough, followed by half the pureed peaches. Sprinkle the brown sugar atop the peaches.
  7. Begin at one end of the dough and begin rolling horizontally in a fairly tight method. (Note, some of the pureed peaches and brown sugar will ooze out the sides and end as you roll. Save this for topping the rolls!)
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut 1″ sections of the rolled dough and place in a greased 9×12 pan. The recipe yields 12 rolls. Add the remaining peach puree (and any that oozed out) atop the rolls and cover to let rise 15 minutes.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes & cover the hot rolls with the icing. Serve immediately or cover and enjoy within 2 days (if they last that long!)

Watermelon Margarita

Summer is by far my favorite season and I relish every waking moment of it. My husband has coined this summer: “The Summer of Julia.” We are huge Seinfeld fans, and I’ve been able to do things this summer I’ve been wanting to do for years. Dreams only become a reality when you make them happen, and we are following that truth wholeheartedly this year!

This delicious summer needs a drink to go with it:: and this one is pretty spectacular. It’s refreshing and simple, with nothing added to ruin the flavors as they were designed to be enjoyed. I have always been a fan of margaritas, but only when the ingredients are pure {meaning sans sour or anything overly sugary.}

This recipe highlights the peak of watermelon season and yields about 4 drinks. Enjoy it with your friends on the front porch or poolside on a sunny day! Cheers!

 Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of watermelon, puréed in a food processor 
  • The juice of 3 limes, plus a few wedges for garnish 
  • Tequila, choose your favorite – I like a Blanco.
  • Triple sec
  • Salt for the glass rim (optional)
 Method:

  1. Purée the watermelon until smooth in the food processor. Squeeze the limes into the watermelon juice.
  2. Fill a low ball glass with ice and measure out 1.5 oz of your favorite tequila. Add .5 oz of triple sec, then pour the watermelon & lime juice over the tequila and triple sec until the cup is full.
  3. Stir, garnish with lime and a watermelon wedge and enjoy!

Peach Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

I love fresh Farmer’s Market finds – especially when I come across seasonal items that I know will be at the peak of flavor. I found some strawberry rhubarb last week at a local mid-week market and wanted to highlight the fresh flavors in something quick and easy for our fun-filled summer mornings. I’ve also been trying (when possible) to cut out refined sugars in my baking and substituting more natural options via either raw honey or pure maple syrup.

These muffins are moist and bursting with flavors. They are a little more dense than a normal muffin, but the flavors are spot on without the refined sugars. The natural sugar in the peaches and rhubarb only add to these in the most wonderful way. 

I have some pretty cute taste testers; truly my kids are good eaters. I believe it’s because I expose them to a large variety of foods and teach them to keep an open mind to trying new things. They both love fruits and vegetables; but let’s be honest…there are still moments of finicky eating or aversion to the idea of a new item. So when these muffins were devoured in multiples over the span of 15 minutes, I knew I had a good recipe that didn’t compromise in the flavor department.

This recipe would also work well in a loaf pan instead of muffins. Change out the fruits if you want! I added blueberries on the second batch in addition to the peaches and rhubarb. Enjoy this delicious summer, friends! Love from my kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of organic, grass fed butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup natural, no sugar added applesauce
  • 1 cup grade A, organic pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup organic whole milk
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1.5 cups unbleached All Purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 stalks of strawberry rhubarb, diced (or regular rhubarb is fine!)
  • 2 medium sized peaches, diced

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325. Fill muffin tins with liners and set aside.
  2. In your Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter, applesauce, maple syrup, milk, vanilla extract and eggs together until well combined.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Fold in the diced rhubarb and peaches and fill muffin liners to 3/4 to the top of the liners.
  5. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yields approximately 20 muffins.


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