Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars: Ultra silky pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. My family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert!

Creamy, silky pumpkin cheesecake bars are my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. All the flavor you love from pumpkin pie in a rich, creamy cheesecake!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars: Ultra silky pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. My family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert!

Heyyyy! Notice anything different around here? Ari’s Menu got a big makeover, and I couldn’t be more in love with the new look! My old design had been what I wanted at the time, but after a few years, I really felt like I had outgrown it, and there were a lot of new things I wanted. The amazing Julie from White Lights On Wednesday did an absolutely incredible job, and has been so kind and responsive to all of my questions. Even the dumb ones. If you’re in the market for a redesign, I seriously cannot recommend her enough! And if you’re on your phone or on a reader, please come over and look around. It’s so pretty and BRIGHT here now. Like my bright, sparkling personality. ;)

Okay, now let’s talk about food. Five years ago, I had just moved back from college and I had barely begun my cooking adventures. I was inspired by my college roommate/best friend who always created amazing things in the kitchen, and I knew I wanted to contribute a special Thanksgiving dessert.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars: Ultra silky pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. My family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert!

I made these pumpkin cheesecake bars. Except they were a whole cheesecake. Anyway, the cheesecake was the hit of Thanksgiving, and no one had any idea it was secretly healthier. These days we have up to 20+ people over for Thanksgiving, so I make a big batch of cheesecake bars to make serving easier, but it’s the one tried and true recipe and tradition I’ve had in my family since I began hosting Thanksgiving, and it holds a special place in my heart.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars: Ultra silky pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. My family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert!

As a food blogger, I am always looking to create new and interesting dishes, so I rarely make the same thing twice, but when The Recipe ReDux asked us to share a food memory, I knew I had to share with you one of my two Thanksgiving traditions. The other is this cornbread sausage stuffing which is also hugely popular in my family. So please join our family tradition, and make these cheesecake bars! Your guests will thank you!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 10 hours

Yield: 16-20 servings

Serving Size: 1 bar

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Creamy, silky pumpkin cheesecake bars are my family's Thanksgiving tradition. All the flavor you love from pumpkin pie in a rich, creamy cheesecake!

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 12 ounces gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs (I used gluten-free)*
  • 4-5 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • For the cheesecake:
  • 1 pound fat free cream cheese (2 x 8 ounce packages), at room temperature
  • 1 pound reduced fat cream cheese (2 x 8 ounce packages), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 x 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (or about two cups homemade pumpkin puree)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon, optional
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13" pan with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine gingersnap/graham cracker crumbs and pumpkin butter. Start with 4 tablespoons pumpkin butter and add a fifth if mixture seems too dry. Press crust into prepared baking pan and bake until browned and set, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add sugars and beat until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until just combined, then beat in pumpkin, bourbon (if desired), and vanilla. Beat in baking blend and pumpkin pie spice. Pour over prepared crust and bake until set and center no longer jiggles, about 70-90 minutes.
  3. Cool completely to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Cut into bars to serve. Cheesecake bars will last about 1 week in the refrigerator.

Notes

*I've made these bars with a gingersnap crust and a graham cracker crust, and both ways work great! Choose whichever taste you prefer.

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Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread: Your favorite cold weather beverage in a decadent banana bread! {gf}

Ultra soft banana bread with espresso, dark chocolate and a salted caramel swirl. All the flavors of your favorite cold weather beverage turned into your new favorite banana bread.

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread: Your favorite cold weather beverage in a decadent banana bread! {gf}

So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I have this teeny, tiny, huge, ridiculous obsession with salted desserts. It all started when Starbucks first released their salted caramel mocha. I turned my nose up, and asked the barista if that was even good. She must have been really convincing because I wasn’t one for trying new things back then, but for some reason I gave it a shot. That was a big mistake.

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread: Your favorite cold weather beverage in a decadent banana bread! {gf}

I’m pretty sure I ended up drinking at least one daily for that entire winter. Ya know that whole balance/self control thing? I don’t really have it. This year I rediscovered Bahama Bucks, and all of the sudden I was going multiple times per week. I am the biggest weakling when it comes to my sweet tooth.

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread: Your favorite cold weather beverage in a decadent banana bread! {gf}

As much as I love dessert, I love the bite and depth of flavor that adding a little salt brings. I don’t love things that are too sweet. Steve drinks his coffee with like 700 sweet ‘n lows (also…really? Why would anyone choose the pink packets???) in his coffee and it always grosses me out! You also won’t find me digging into those loft house sugar cookies that taste like they are made entirely of frosting. I like my dessert with a little attitude.

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread: Your favorite cold weather beverage in a decadent banana bread! {gf}

I must not be alone because this is one of the most popular desserts I have ever made. I brought the leftovers into work and it disappeared in minutes. Everyone kept raving about it and asking for the recipe! So soft, tender and decadent, this will be your go-to snack for to make for your out of town guests this whole holiday season!

 

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 12-16 slices

Serving Size: 1 slice

Salted Caramel Mocha Banana Bread

Ultra soft banana bread with espresso, dark chocolate and a salted caramel swirl. All the flavors of your favorite cold weather beverage turned into your new favorite banana bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 extra ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk*
  • 1/2 cup fleur de sel caramel sauce* (+ more for drizzling)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5" loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together baking blend, cocoa powder, cornstarch, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together bananas, applesauce, sugars and vanilla until well combined. Stir in half the flour mixture, then buttermilk, then remaining flour mixture.
  3. Transfer half the batter to prepared loaf pan. Pour caramel sauce on top, then add remaining batter. Use a butter knife to gently swirl caramel into the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about one hour. Set loaf pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Serve drizzled with extra fleur de sel caramel sauce, if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Notes

*To make vegan, replace buttermilk with 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and use a vegan salted caramel sauce.

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Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Rich, fudgy, brownie-like chocolate cookies stuffed with melty mini Snickers and topped with sea salt for the perfect extra bite. These gluten-free Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies are the perfect way to use up Halloween candy, a great Christmas cookie, or perfect for any occasion!

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Oh, hello cookie. Cookie that tastes and feels like a brownie. Cookie that is stuffed with one of my very favorite candies. Cookie with melty chocolate, caramel and nougat in every bite. Cookie with big sea salt crystals adding the perfect balance to all that candy sweetness. Just wanted to say heyyyyy.

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Let’s chat about candy for a second. I have really strong opinions. For example, 3 Musketeers–WHAT IS THE POINT? It’s just so fluffy, and soooo overly sweet, and there’s nothing to it. Ick. And then there’s Milky Way. That’s just like a lesser Snickers. It’s like it’s trying to be a Snickers for the poor people with nut allergies, but without the salty peanuts to add crunchy and bite, what is even the point?? Then we get to the good ones. Snickers, Butterfinger, Reese’s and Twix.  Those are the ones that, come Halloween time (okay…any time), I can’t resist grabbing a mini, or 7. In fact, the leftover Snickers from these cookies were totally bad news. I usually end up taking them into work and using them as bribery to toss at the kids that impress me in rehearsals. I know, I know…I should give them carrot sticks, probably, but I’m a terrible influence.

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Anyway, these cookies are a bit indulgent, but they are whole grain, gluten-free, and shockingly don’t contain any butter or oil! They taste like a rich, buttery brownie, so you’ll never notice the little healthier adjustments. Of course, you are free to use real butter and white flour–they will still be great, but I honestly can’t taste the difference!

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 2 dozen

Serving Size: 1 cookie

Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Rich, fudgy, brownie-like chocolate cookies stuffed with melty mini Snickers and topped with sea salt for the perfect extra bite. These gluten-free Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Brownie Cookies are the perfect way to use up Halloween candy, a great Christmas cookie, or perfect for any occasion!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's special dark or Dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons apple butter
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 24 mini Snickers candies (I bought a combination bag with regular, peanut butter and dark chocolate)
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together baking blend, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together melted chocolate, eggs, vanilla, apple butter, and sugars until well combined, then slowly beat in dry ingredients until just combined. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Spray hands with nonstick spray (this sounds weird, but it will prevent dough from sticking to your hands during rolling) and roll dough into about 1" balls. Press the center with your thumb to make a whole for the Snickers. Gently press 1 mini Snickers into the center and then re-roll dough around it. Make sure dough is completely covering the candy. Add more dough if necessary. Place onto prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of coarse sea salt (if desired) just before baking.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes until just set. Cool completely on pan. Store in an airtight container for one week (these cookies stay pretty darn soft and gooey for days!).
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Pumpkin White Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

These Pumpkin White Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes have a gingersnap crust, soft and tender pumpkin cupcakes, white chocolate ganache and a toasted marshmallow frosting. They are mash-up heaven. 

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

I have been on a serious s’mores kick lately. Pretty soon you’ll see what I’m talking about, but I have become a girl obsessed. It’s probably because of this frosting. The most perfect, decadent and beautiful marshmallow frosting that coming together in minutes. Every time I serve it, my friends and family are suuuuuper impressed. Shhhh….just don’t let them know how simple it is!

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

I was inspired to make these 2 years ago when I saw this recipe on How Sweet It Is. So pretttttty. So perfect for pumpkin season!

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

Okay so, to be fair, these take a lot of liberties for being “s’mores”. The graham cracker is replaced by a perfect gingersnap crust, and the regular chocolate is replaced by white chocolate. Have you ever had pumpkin and white chocolate together? It is like match made in heaven.

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

Even though it seems like there are a lot of components going on, these cupcakes are actually really easy to make. You can prepare the batter while crust is baking, then the ganache and the frosting come together in minutes. Brulee-ing is optional, but I mean….LOOK HOW PRETTY! It definitely will take your dessert to the next level.

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

The pumpkin cupcakes are ultra soft and tender and pair perfectly with the spiced gingersnap crust and melty white chocolate. Speaking of that white chocolate…it is so good, you will want more. I tried a batch putting some on top of the crust and on top of the cupcake. It was sad because it seemed like such a good idea, but I was overzealous (shocking) and there was too much, and it stuck to the wrapper. You probably can still get away with adding extra if you you use a small enough amount that it stays perfectly in the little crust cup. Otherwise, just spread it on real thick on top. That’s what I did round 2, and it worked great!

Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes: Gingersnap crust, pumpkin cupcake, white chocolate ganache & toasted marshmallow frosting {gf}

Also, as you can see, I made normal sized and mini cupcakes. I prefer the minis–then you get to eat two cupcakes! But, again, make whatever you like. You’ll love them either way!

Pumpkin White Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 15 standard cupcakes or 36 minis

Serving Size: 1 cupcake

Pumpkin White Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes

These Pumpkin White Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes have a gingersnap crust, soft and tender pumpkin cupcakes, white chocolate ganache and a toasted marshmallow frosting. They are mash-up heaven.

Ingredients

    For the gingersnap crust:
  • 1/2 cup gingersnap crumbs (I used gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • For the cupcakes:
  • 1 1/4 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • For the white chocolate ganache:
  • 4 ounces good quality white chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • For the marshmallow frosting:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 15 standard muffin cups or 36 mini muffin cups with paper liners. Spray lightly with nonstick spray if desired (sometimes lower fat baking sticks to cheaper liners). Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine gingersnap crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, stirring until well combined. Evenly divide crust mixture between prepared cupcake tins--about 1/2 tablespoon each for full sized, and scant teaspoon for minis. Use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a shot glass to press into a crust.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine baking blend, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, egg, pumpkin puree, applesauce, coconut oil and vanilla extract until well combined. Mix in half the flour mixture, then almond milk, then remaining flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Fill each prepared muffin tin about 3/4 the way full with cupcake batter. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 18-20 minutes for full size, about 12 minutes for minis. Cool completely.
  5. To make the white chocolate ganache, place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 20-30 seconds just to warm the white chocolate. Heat almond milk until almost boiling, then pour immediately over warmed white chocolate. Stir until melty and combined. Spread white chocolate ganache on top of each cupcake.
  6. To make the frosting, either use a double broiler, or create your own by bringing about 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium pot and placing a large heatproof bowl on top. Whisk egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar constantly until sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on low and gradually increase speed to high, beating until stiff peaks form. The frosting should stand on the whisk attachment when removed. Frost cupcakes. Use a brulee torch to brown, if desired. Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Notes

Recipe inspired by How Sweet It Is Frosting recipe from Martha Stewart

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Crockpot Taco Chili

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

Disclosure: I was asked to participate in the McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes Launch as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I received free samples of McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes from McCormick mentioned in this post. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.

Creamy crockpot taco chili is the perfect, easy, weeknight dinner. Warm and comforting while still healthy and gluten-free. So good you’ll be fighting over the leftovers…if there are any!

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

So…I have to go back to work today. And I’m totally whiney about it, which makes me feel like a total tool because in what other job do you get a week off for fall break when you’re a grown up? But ugghhhh, I just don’t wanna. And things are about to get so busy. Two shows in October and one at the beginning of November. Although, once that’s all over, it should be smooth sailing for the rest of the semester.

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

As life gets busier, cooking dinner every night becomes more challenging, and my love for my crockpot grows into more of a deep dependence, can’t-live-without-ya kinda thing. In fact, if I could make every single meal in the crockpot for the rest of my life, I probably wouldn’t be even a little bit sad. I mostly only like cooking because I like eating, and I really like eating.

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

Especially this chili. I really, really, really like eating this taco chili. Like, I was fighting Steve over the leftovers. I almost always make enough food to have leftovers for 2-3 lunch / dinners, and sometimes I make entirely too much and end up trying to guilt Steve into finishing it because I just am soooooo sick of it by the 4th time I’ve eaten it. But not this chili. I was hoarding, calling dibs, hiding it in the back of the fridge, and pulling out every trick I had up my sleeve to keep it allllll to myself.

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

This is the second part of my series with McCormick. You may remember from my Crockpot Taco Dip that McCormick now has an entire line of seasonings that are certified by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Their gluten-free line includes Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning, Gluten-Free Chili Seasoning, Gluten-Free Brown Gravy and Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy. The best part is, ya know how normally as soon as something is labeled gluten-free the price magically shoots up? Not here! They’re the same price as all of their other seasonings, and they contain no MSG or artificial colors /flavors. I stocked up on the taco seasoning! It’s something I use all the time anyway, and I was so in love with the way these recipes turned out. It’s going to become a staple in my kitchen.

Crockpot Taco Chili Healthy, easy and gluten-free

This chili is bold and flavorful, rich and creamy, healthy and loaded with fresh veggies. It’s the kind of weeknight dinner you never get tired of, and something you will feel excited to come home to!

Crockpot Taco Chili

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Crockpot Taco Chili

Creamy crockpot taco chili is the perfect, easy, weeknight dinner. Warm and comforting while still healthy and gluten-free. So good you'll be fighting over the leftovers...if there are any!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef (93% or higher)
  • 2 x 15 ounce cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 x 15 ounce cans black beans, not drained
  • 1 x 15 ounce can corn, drained
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I prefer red or orange)
  • 4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature in 1" cubes
  • 1 packet McCormick Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning
  • For topping:
  • freshly shredded cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sautee garlic and onion until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Add beef and cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add cooked beef mixture, tomatoes, beans, corn, bell peppers, cream cheese, and taco seasoning to your slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring once in between if possible. Once chili is finished, stir together to ensure cream cheese melts fully and combines. Serve topped with shredded cheese, cilantro and Greek yogurt if desired. Leftovers may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.
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Other gluten-free seasoning options include Gluten-Free Chili Seasoning, Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy, and Gluten-Free Brown Gravy. For more from McCormick,  you can follow them on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram!

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

Disclosure: I was asked to participate in the McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes Launch as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I received free samples of McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes from McCormick mentioned in this post. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.

Rich, creamy and bold chicken taco dip made easily in your slow cooker, topped with melty pepper jack. This dip is so full of flavor, you won’t be able to stay away!

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

I have a confession. I never make my own taco seasoning / pumpkin pie spice / tomato sauce seasonings / etc. I love to cook, but I am honestly all about convenience, and I’m a busy human who needs for things to be quick and easy when I’m cooking at home. Sometimes I feel like, because I have a food blog, I have to be one of those 100% from scratch type cooks. I just can’t live up to that. I mean, I guess I’m somewhere between that cookie dough that’s not just already made, but already cut for you and someone who churns their own butter.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

Something that really surprised me when Steve found out he had a gluten intolerance was just how many things contained gluten. I mean, we’re both pretty lucky in the fact that we’re more gluten-get-grouchy than gluten intolerant (well, he is closer to intolerant, but does okay with cross contamination), but even still, so many of the seasonings that we’d used in the past contained flour–what is that about?? We learned to label check like crazy, even things you wouldn’t imagine, and it’s even more important for our friends with Celiac.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

We LOVE that McCormick has some of our favorite seasoning mixes that are certified by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and they contain no MSG, artificial colors or flavors. The flavors are bold and spot on, and they make it so easy to turn a boring dinner into a flavorful one! I also love that their gluten-free products are the same price as their regular products. Eating gluten-free can get soooo expensive (hellloooo $5 for a loaf of bread…), and it’s really refreshing to finally have a product that has the same cost.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

This dip couldn’t be easier–I just took some chicken breasts, a can of refried beans, a block of cream cheese and the McCormick gluten-free taco seasoning and threw ‘em in the crockpot. I added some Greek yogurt after they were done cooking then topped it with pepper jack cheese that I put in the oven on broil until it got all bubbly and dreamy. The taste and the texture were absolutely amazing. I couldn’t stop eating it, and ended up eating dip for dinner. Oh well, I guess there’s worse things. ;)

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Total Time: 5 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: about 9-10 cups

Crockpot Chicken Taco Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breast
  • 1 x 16 ounce can refried beans (I used fat free)
  • 3 cups salsa
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened and cut into 1" cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons McCormick Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (optional for serving)
  • corn tortilla chips for serving

Instructions

  1. Place chicken breasts at the bottom of your slow cooker. Cover with beans, salsa, cream cheese and taco seasoning. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, stirring once in between if possible.
  2. Remove chicken and shred. Take about a tablespoon of warm dip and mix into Greek yogurt to temper, then add Greek yogurt and stir to combine.Stir in shredded chicken. Transfer to an oven safe serving dish and top with shredded cheese. Cook on broil until cheese starts to brown and bubble, about 3-4 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
  3. Top with sliced jalapeno and serve immediately with chips. Leftovers may be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
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Other gluten-free seasoning options include Gluten-Free Chili Seasoning, Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy, and Gluten-Free Brown Gravy. For more from McCormick,  you can follow them on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram!

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Ultra soft and tender banana muffins are made with roasted banana and topped with crunchy cinnamon streusel. Healthy, vegan and gluten-free.

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Husband: Are you blogging? Me: Kinda…I was just staring at the screen….I don’t have anything to say…. Husband: That’s a first! (goes to post about it on facebook). Rude.

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Okay, that’s a lie. I have a lot to say, but only on one subject. It’s peak training week, and I only want to talk about running and the NYC Marathon, and how it’s like 3.5 weeks away. But I’m pretty sure the entire world (or at least my immediate world) is a little over my tunnel vision running chats.

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Although, I have to say, I never turn down the opportunity to talk about food. In fact, most of my time spent training (no matter what sport) is spent thinking about food. When Nicole and I were training for our first marathon, we would get through all the long runs by talking about what we were going to eat for dinner afterwards. We would also talk about recipe development, and whenever we got really excited about it, all of the sudden we’d realize our pace was way faster. What can I say? I’m totally motivated by food.

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

I made these as a gift for our neighbors. When we went to Tucson this summer for a triathlon, we came back to realize our water was off. I called and gave the water company a few choice words about how we had paid our bill, and I didn’t appreciate having our water turned off. We always turn off the water inside the house (we have a history of leaks…it’s fun…), but this was the outside water. So, as I’m yelling at them, I hear Steve outside talking to our neighbors, and I realize they had turned off our water, not the water company. Whoops.

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Apparently, we had sprung a huge leak OUTSIDE, and after hours of it running into the street, they had come over and turned the water off for us. They were super cool about it, but I insisted on doing at least something to thank them, so I made these muffins. I love banana muffins/bread/cake/etc., and I’ve made a lot of variations, but I wanted to make these special, so I roasted the bananas first, and the deep flavor that comes from roasting them was so amazing. Sweeter, deeper banana flavor, and with the perfect crumb, these are the perfect way to say thank you. To other people, or to yourself. ;)

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 1 dozen

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Roasted Banana Streusel Muffins

Ultra soft and tender banana muffins are made with roasted banana and topped with crunchy cinnamon streusel. Healthy, vegan and gluten-free.

Ingredients

    For the roasted bananas:
  • 3 ripe medium bananas, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • For the muffins:
  • 2 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • For the cinnamon streusel:
  • 1/3 cup quick oats (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • dash salt

Instructions

  1. Start by roasting the bananas. Preheat oven to 400. Toss banana slices, coconut oil and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a medium bowl. Transfer to a rimmed baking dish and bake until soft and syrupy, about 15 minutes, tossing half way through. Watch carefully so that banana does not burn. Let cool. Lower oven temperature to 350.
  2. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Gently spray with nonstick spray to avoid sticking. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together baking blend, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together roasted banana (including all the syrup in the dish), 1/3 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar and applesauce until combined. Beat in half the dry ingredients, then almond milk, followed by the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Evenly divide between batter between 12 prepared muffin tins.
  4. To make the streusel, combine all ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Cool completely. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days.
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Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Homemade sweetened condensed milk made with coconut milk, maple syrup, pumpkin puree and warm fall spices. Perfect as a coffee creamer, or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe. Naturally sweetened, vegan, paleo & gluten-free.

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: Perfect for coffee creamer or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe! Vegan, paleo & refined sugar free.

Guess what, guess what, guess whaaaaaaatttttt? It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in Phoenix! After months of running in nothing cooler than 80 degrees (even when you wake up at 4am) and insane humidity (ummm…that “dry heat” thing? it’s not), temperatures are finally dropping and there is a morning chill in the air! I FREAKING LOVE MORNING CHILL!!

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: Perfect for coffee creamer or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe! Vegan, paleo & refined sugar free.

In fact, yesterday I was cold at the beginning of my bike ride. Like, I thought about changing into long sleeves. I seriously could not be happier. Weather isn’t the biggest deal in the world normally, but when you’re training for a fall marathon and you live in Phoenix, you start to live and die by the weather forecast. I stalk it daily and check out the 10 day forecast every single day. In fact, today was the first day I was able to see far enough ahead for my 20 miler, and while it still will probably change before then, it’s crazy how close it is, and how close I am to being finished with training.

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: Perfect for coffee creamer or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe! Vegan, paleo & refined sugar free.

Marathon training is so weird. You finish your training (other than taper) 3 weeks before the race, so it still doesn’t even seem like the race is close, but then all of the sudden you’re done, and you wonder where all the time went. It feels like things just started to get real, and so soon they will be over, and even though I’ve insisted this whole training cycle that I will never run an other marathon after this, I’m already starting to feel sad about it ending.

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: Perfect for coffee creamer or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe! Vegan, paleo & refined sugar free.

One of my favorite things to do when I have an off day is spend the time I would be running creating something delicious / cool / unique / outside of what I would normally make on a daily basis. I love the extra time to be creative and try new things, and this time I returned to my homemade sweetened condensed milk obsession. The last time it came out so ridiculously good that I couldn’t wait to play with it, and make a flavored option.

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: Perfect for coffee creamer or to replace sweetened condensed milk in any recipe! Vegan, paleo & refined sugar free.

The best part? This recipe is so, so, so easy, and you can use it tons of different ways. Have a recipe that calls for sweetened condensed milk? Sub this seasonal, vegan & paleo version. Use it as creamer in iced coffee, drizzle some on your favorite fruit for dessert, make tres leches cake (<— umm, that is happening soon), or just eat it with a spoon because it’s that good.

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: approximately 1 cup

Pumpkin Spice Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Ingredients

  • 1 x 13.5 ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

Instructions

  1. Heat coconut milk, pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup together in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat until it starts to lightly boil. Reduce heat to a medium to medium-low simmer whisking constantly until mixture thickens and reduces to about one half to one third of original. This takes about 30 minutes. When milk is finished, it will coat the back of a spoon. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Whisk in pumpkin puree, then let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
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Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Rich, creamy, warm and comforting curry soup with sweet potatoes, chicken & kale is incredibly easy to make in your slow cooker with NO prep time! Healthy, paleo, gluten-free & dairy-free.

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale: NO prep time, healthy, paleo, gluten-free & dairy-free

Can we talk for a second about trying to make curry soup look pretty? I mean, it’s YELLOW and the sweet potatoes I used were yellow. Side note: I totally prefer the lighter colored sweet potatoes, you? The first time I used them I thought they were mislabeled because for most of my life I knew nothing about vegetables. Anyway, I love them, and I think they are sweeter and softer than the orange ones.

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Oh, and ummm cooked kale? The ugliest. If this soup weren’t so freaking delicious, I would have said F it, called it quits, and just pouted while sadly eating straight from the crockpot. Seriously, it’s super fun to live with a food blogger who gets super grouchy when things don’t go her way. The other night I had a melt down because I took like 5 zillion pictures of steam coming off my mac & cheese only to realize the wine glass I had set in the background was still empty. Life is hard sometimes.

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Anyway, this soup was totally worth it, pretty or not. With the bold curry flavor, the creamy coconut milk and my very favorite food (sweet potatoes, in case you’re new here), you really can’t go wrong. The chicken cooks up perfectly in the crockpot with extra work involved, and the kale adds a little nutrient + flavor bonus. I love kale. I’m such a cliche.

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

This soup is perfect for the busy fall months when you want something delicious and warm waiting for you when you come home–it makes weeknight dinners a breeze, and it tastes way more indulgent than it actually is, so it’s a win-win!

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Total Time: 5 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Crockpot Curry Soup with Sweet Potato, Chicken & Kale

Rich, creamy, warm and comforting curry soup with sweet potatoes, chicken & kale is incredibly easy to make in your slow cooker with NO prep time! Healthy, paleo, gluten-free & dairy-free.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 big handfuls kale
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 x 13.5 ounce cans coconut milk
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry paste
  • pinch ground ginger
  • sliced green onions and Sriracha for topping, optional

Instructions

  1. Pierce sweet potatoes several times with a fork. Microwave for 2 minutes, (peel if desired, I didn't) then slice into 1" cubes.
  2. Place all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Stir all ingredients together and serve. Top with green onions and Sriracha if desired. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes {vegan + gluten-free}

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

With all the flavor of your favorite fall beverage, these pumpkin spice latte cupcakes are the perfect treat! Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with 100% of the taste–they are a dessert everyone will love!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes: Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with ALL of the flavor!

My husband is so weird. Every time I start baking he asks me what I’m making. Lately, the answer starts with pumpkin, then he groans and goes on and on about how he supposedly doesn’t like pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes: Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with ALL of the flavor!

Then as soon as whatever I’m making is ready, he’s digging in, and going on about how good it is! I don’t understand him. I think he just likes to say he hates pumpkin because he knows I’m obsessed with it. Sometimes I make pumpkin muffins in July. True story.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes: Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with ALL of the flavor!

Even in my quest for new pumpkin recipes all year long, I always come back to these cupcakes every fall. I’ve made them over and over, and this year I wanted to make a version that was both vegan and gluten-free so that all of my friends could enjoy them with me. Even my silly pumpkin hating husband (who, btw, ate his fair share!).

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes: Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with ALL of the flavor!

Simple, easy pumpkin cupcakes spiked with a little espresso powder then brushed with coffee create the perfect pumpkin spice latte flavor and ultra soft texture. Topped with freshly whipped coconut cream (or regular whipped cream if you prefer) — they are just like your favorite fall coffee indulgence in cupcake form!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes: Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with ALL of the flavor!

Also, if you want to make them even more dreamy, add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your whipped topping. You will thank me later. ;)

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes {vegan + gluten-free}

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 1 dozen

Serving Size: 1 cupcake

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes {vegan + gluten-free}

With all the flavor of your favorite fall beverage, these pumpkin spice latte cupcakes are the perfect treat! Vegan, gluten-free and lightened up but with 100% of the taste--they are a dessert everyone will love!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee or espresso for brushing
  • whipped coconut cream (or regular whipped cream if not vegan) for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugars, and apple sauce. Add almond milk and dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Fill lined muffin tin 3/4 full with batter and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. You want them to be fully cooked with no crumbs sticking to the toothpick, otherwise they will be mushy. Cool completely.
  5. Pierce each cupcake 2-3 times with a fork, then brush cupcakes with fresh coffee. Top with whipped coconut cream or regular freshly whipped cream (add some cinnamon to it for an even more delicious topping). Keep leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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Buffalo Hot Dogs

Buffalo Hot Dogs

Spicy and flavorful, buffalo sauce meets hot dogs for the perfect easy grill or tailgating recipe that will satisfy all the men in your life while still maintaining secretly healthy ingredients!

Buffalo Hot Dogs

Ummm, is it really Monday again already? Last week I had Monday AND Tuesday off because Arizona apparently can’t handle rain and the entire Phoenix metro area was basically flooded. Well, it was flooded on Monday. I have no idea why we didn’t have school on Tuesday, but I’m not complaining. I do have to say that it made going back to work on Wednesday, like, ridiculously hard, and now I can’t believe I have to work a real 5 day week. My life is so hard.

Buffalo Hot Dogs

I have been the worst about meal planning. When I’m good, I’m so good, and I’m making new recipes multiple times per week, and saving money, and eating great dinners! But then I get busy, and the next thing I know, Steve and I are riding our bikes at 7:3o pm in the dark, and we’re both starving and have no idea what we’re going to eat for dinner.

Buffalo Hot Dogs

That night, I remembered when we were about 3 miles from home that we still had hot dogs in the freezer, and it was pretty much the happiest moment of my life. I freaking love hot dogs. It’s silly, but I do. They’re so easy, and so delicious, and the possibilities are endless!

Buffalo Hot Dogs

I’m also a freak for buffalo sauce, so the combination? It rocked my world. Also, I’m one of those weird people that eats my hot dog with no bun because I really do just enjoy the taste of it. It don’t be needin’ no breads. But photos, photos need bread. My hot dog on a plate is, uhhh, less than pretty. So you’re welcome for the bread. It’s hangin’ out just for show. ;)

Buffalo Hot Dogs

This meal comes together in about 3 seconds. Okay, more like 10 minutes, but that might as well be 3 seconds when it comes to a delicious dinner! Just a few minutes to grill the hot dogs, mix together the sauce, and chop some celery and you are done! That’s how I like my dinner. Ready before I have a chance to back out on cooking and head to Chipotle.

Buffalo Hot Dogs

Also, about a million bold flavors is a necessity. I think I’m the opposite of a super taster. Like, I need to taste ALL OF THE THINGS in order to be happy. So if you’re anything like me, these will make you happy too!

Buffalo Hot Dogs

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 hot dogs

Serving Size: 1 hot dog

Buffalo Hot Dogs

Spicy and flavorful, buffalo chicken meets hot dogs for the perfect easy grill or tailgating recipe that will satisfy all the men in your life while still maintaining secretly healthy ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 4 hot dogs (preferably all beef or turkey)*
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons buffalo sauce (preferably Frank's Red Hot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ranch seasoning
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • freshly crumbled blue cheese
  • hot dog buns, if desired

Instructions

  1. Grill hot dogs over medium heat until warmed throughout, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, buffalo sauce and ranch seasoning. Drizzle cooked hot dogs with prepared Greek yogurt buffalo sauce. Top with chopped celery and blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Notes

*I try to look for a lower in fat turkey or beef dog that is nitrate free. I especially love Fork in the Road (disclosure: they have sent me products in the past, but I loved them even before that!). Also, not all hot dogs are gluten-free. If you eat gluten-free, be sure to check the labels.

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Pumpkin Irish Cream

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

Rich and creamy homemade Irish cream with a fall kick! Pureed pumpkin + pumpkin pie spice make this taste like pumpkin pie in cocktail form! Shhh it’s secretly lightened up and vegan.

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

Youuuuu guuuyyyyys! I have been waiting almost an entire year to share this recipe with you! For the last two weeks, I’ve been asking my husband if it’s “fall enough” yet to post it, and his response, as someone who could care less about pumpkin, and could care even less about when I post things on my blog, is to shrug his shoulders and hardly reply. So, I’ve decided. It’s fall enough. Here we go.

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

Last year, I started experimenting more with homemade liqueurs and cocktails thanks to my drink-spiration, and I made a huge batch of this baby for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t believe what a huge hit it became! My family couldn’t get enough, and even my family members who don’t generally drink kept coming back for more.

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

I even had a signature Thanksgiving drink where I mixed the Pumpkin Irish Cream with Pumpkin Pie Vodka (<– OMG a MUST try!) and a spiced simple syrup (<–not that exact one, but similar). There are seriously no words. Everyone thought I was super fancy, but the truth is, the recipe is so so easy. In fact, it takes less time than going to the store to buy a bottle of Irish cream!

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

One thing I love about making Irish cream at home is that I can control what goes into it. This stuff has just a handful of ingredients including pure pumpkin puree and a homemade vegan sweetened condensed milk.

Pumpkin Irish Cream: Like pumpkin pie in cocktail form!

The result is strong, rich, creamy and filled with pumpkin flavor without overwhelming the non pumpkin lovers (why do these people exist??) in your life. You will want to drink it all fall year long, and I’m pretty certain it will become a staple at your Thanksgiving also!

Pumpkin Irish Cream

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: approx 3 1/2 cups

Pumpkin Irish Cream

Rich and creamy homemade Irish cream with a fall kick! Pureed pumpkin + pumpkin pie spice make this taste like pumpkin pie in cocktail form! Shhh it's secretly lightened up and vegan.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Store refrigerated in an airtight contain for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

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