Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins via Ari's Menu

Ultra-soft whole grain pumpkin muffins filled with a sweet and spicy cinnamon sugar swirl.

The weekend before last, most of my team was completing their longest training run bright and early Saturday morning. Even though I had already completed my 20 miler the day before, I wanted to go cheer on my friends, and Susan had ordered some muffins for the team to celebrate all of the hard work we’ve put in over the last 4 months.

Obviously I had to bring something pumpkin, and these were a huge hit! Of course, I had to taste one before sending them off, so I shared one with my pumpkin hating husband who loved them just as much as I did! I don’t know know if it was the pumpkin, or the perfect amount of baking time, or what, but the texture of these muffins was absolute perfection!

They are so light and fluffy and the cinnamon swirl really spices them up perfectly!

And GUESS WHAT!!! This was the first time I took all my own pictures without my fancy camera husband around to even help me get my settings and everything adjusted. 100% me (and, you know, the fancy camera helps a little ;) ). I feel like I know absolutely nothing about photography, so I was thrilled at how these came out!! I’m really excited to learn be learning more, and getting a little more self sufficient on the photography end, since it is such a big part of the blog.

Anyway, back to the muffins! They would be the perfect treat to wake up to on Thanksgiving morning for a quick and easy breakfast while you prepare for family and the big day. Cut them in half, slather them with pumpkin butter because there really is no such thing as too much pumpkin! Trust me.

These babies will definitely be a fall (well, pretty much year round since I’m an all season pumpkin lover) staple in my house!

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon milled flax seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 muffin tins, then spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax seed, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and egg substitute until well-combined.
  4. Alternate adding dry ingredients/buttermilk to wet ingredients (flour mixture, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour).
  5. Fill muffin tins 1/3. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 2 tbsp sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of the batter. Top with remaining batter.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

Ultra-soft whole grain pumpkin muffins filled with a sweet and spicy cinnamon sugar swirl.

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Pumpkin Filled Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

Pumpkin Filled Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies via Ari's Menu

In case you’re wondering if I’m running out of things I want to make that include pumpkin…

The answer is no. Not even a little bit. In fact, the list has gotten so long. Longer than my To-Do List, and you can figure out for yourself which list I’m actually gaining more ground on…

I just wanna bake cookies all day long. Can that be my life? Except, then none of my pants would fit. No matter how much healthier my cookies may be than your average dessert, a cookie is a cookie, and if you eat a dozen a day (don’t judge me), then…well, we all know how that ends. Moral of the story? Bake cookies all day long, then bribe the love of everyone you know by feeding them delicious healthy desserts. That’s how I win friends in life. That, and rapping Gangsta’s Paradise at parties. Or maybe that was how I lose friends? I forget…

So as you can see, my tools for friendship are bribery and embarrassing myself. They seem to work pretty well. I attract awesome humans. I’m guessing it has more to do with the cookies. These cookies were, um, ridiculous. I used my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe + some pumpkin pie spice, then mixed together some canned pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar and a little flour for thickening, and I had a dangerous dessert on my hands. I loved the way the thick oatmeal cookies held up to the creamy filling. The filling was tricky. Pumpkin leads to a slightly runny cream cheese frosting, but I noticed that this girl used flour when she made almost the exact same thing, so I tried that and it solved all of the problems in the entire world. Or at least my very critical, life-or-death frosting problem. Thanks Sally, you’re my pumpkin frosting hero! ;)

These would be perfect for a more bite sized Thanksgiving dessert (I made some big ones too, but I ended up loving the minis the best!), or for any fall party, or really…just because. Who doesn’t love a cream filled sandwich cookies? It’s one of life’s happy things. ;)

 

Pumpkin Filled Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 7 1/2 tbs apple butter
  • 1 1/2 tbs coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup rolled oats

For the filling:

  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together apple butter, coconut oil, sugar, egg substitute and vanilla until combined. Slowly beat in dry ingredients, then fold in oats.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drop cookies onto the sheet using a small cookie scoop.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in remaining filling ingredients. Spread filling over 1/2 of the cookies, then top with an other cookie.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese via Ari's Menu

Okay, maybe you think I’ve gone off the deep end. Maybe you haven’t been lucky enough to experience how awesome pumpkin can be in a savory dish? Or maybe you’re like my husband, and you hate pumpkin.

But guess what??? Steve loves this dish! I try to get him to sip my pumpkin coffee and he acts like I handed him wheat grass, but pumpkin mac and cheese, even he can get behind.

LOOK AT THE STEAM!!! *happy dance*

The texture of the pumpkin puree works so perfectly to make a creamy sauce with no butter. This mac and cheese is actually good for you, and super filling so, even if you’re like me and want to eat delicious things until you can’t even lift the fork anymore, you won’t need to eat too much. Promise ;)

I made this for the first time last year with Jason.

I take my stirring very seriously.

Jason is good at following directions. I just yell commands at him “JASON STIR!”

This is what the mac and cheese looked like then vs now

 

I’ve actually made this many times since then because I love it sosoSO much. I figured it was time to update the photos :)

This is perfect for a Thanksgiving side, a fall dinner, or any time really (like, um, carb-o loading)!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

yield 4 servings

  • 8 oz uncooked whole grain penne, macaroni or other pasta (whole wheat, brown rice, etc.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated goat cheddar cheese (or reduced fat cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup goat brie cheese, rind removed, cut into cubes
  • pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together and heat pumpkin puree, garlic and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just starting to simmer.
  3. Reduce stove heat to low. Whisk in cheeses until fully melted.
  4. Stir in nutmeg and ground cloves. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir drained pasta into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined.

Skinnified Sunday: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes via Ari's Menu

Every day is a pumpkin day in the blog world this time of year. Luckily (for me, maybe not for you), I am obsessed with pumpkin. I buy canned pumpkin year round, and eat it almost every day. Weird? Well, yes….I am, but pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, plus it has tons of health benefits and is a great substitute for oil in baked goods!

I confess, I’ve already started adding pumpkin to my coffee drinks, and cheating on my beloved Dutch Bros with Starbucks because I know *exactly* how I like my flavor pumps at Starbucks and I prefer their pumpkin syrup…

You know what, though? These cupcakes are, like, 5 billion times better than either version. That’s an exact number based on factual evidence. Like surveys, and stuff. Things that people with grown up jobs do to test things. If it were me, they would each do an audition, which I guess they kinda did. The cupcakes get the lead fair and square.

The pumpkin makes them perfectly fluffy and soft, while also adding the perfect fall flavor. And don’t even get me started on my serious love for ground cloves. Ummm, best spice ever maybe??? I love me some cumin, but lately I cannot get enough of the cloves. In my yogurt, in my cupcakes, straight out of the little shaker…

Combine that with cinnamon and nutmeg, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Brushing the coffee on after they’ve been cooked makes a huge difference. It keeps them soft, and brings out a bold coffee flavor that usually gets lost during baking. You can also control your coffee intensity. I sit there and brush those things over and over and OVER because I have a mild ridiculous wallet blowing obsession with my little caffeinated friend, but if you feel less in love with coffee, you can use less. Just never, ever tell me about it. I can’t handle it.

This is actually not the first go around for these bad boys. They first made their appearance on the blog about a year ago, and they looked a little like this.

Womp womp.

Oh the things you learn in a year. I’m still not an excellent cupcake froster, not like this girl, but I’ve certainly learned a thing or two.

The original recipe for these muffins (which includes all the smart brushing with the coffee, and all that goodness) comes from one of my very favorite recipe blogs Annie’s Eats.

Original recipe

My Swaps:

  • Half the recipe (-temptation)
  • White whole wheat flour for all purpose flour (+fiber, +protein)
  • Apple sauce for oil (-fat, -calories)
  • Egg substitute (ie: egg beaters, liquid egg whites, flax egg, or corn starch egg) for whole eggs (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • Lighter cream cheese frosting for whipped cream (-fat, -calories)
  • Caramel sauce (-fat, -calories, -sugar)

Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

yield 1 dozen

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tbs espresso powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee or espresso for brushing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer if you have one (if not you can use a hand mixer or your muscles!) combine pumpkin, sugars, and applesauce. Add egg substitute, followed by dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
  3. Fill lined muffin tin 3/4 full with batter and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Pierce each cupcake 2-3 times with a fork, then brush with coffee. Wait 2-3 minutes, then brush again.
  5. Cool completely on wire racks and then top with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting.

 

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8oz package reducated fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In an large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in honey and vanilla. Top cupcakes, or store in the refrigerator.

 

Pumpkin Spice Churro Bites

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One of my favorite things about going places like Disneyland, well, aside from the fact that I am freakishly obsessed with Disneyland, was always the churro stand.

Crispy on the outside, and warm and gooey on the inside. How can anyone not like churros??? Seriously. They are so soft on the inside, I used to be convinced that there was actually a filling. I didn’t quite understand the depths, and amazingness of deep frying. Don’t worry, I get it now. Deep frying = instant texture success. Sad, but true.

However, we all know greasy, oily, deep fried food and I are not besties, and, clearly, I need churros in my life. These things are the real deal. Crispy and cinnamony on the outside, while still gooey on the inside with a hint of pumpkin. Pumpkin + cinnamon = always delicious.

Also, why are all foods in life not served dipped in chocolate? That sounds like the cure for all things bad in the world. War. World hunger. People you don’t like. Just serve them dipped in chocolate.

Okay, don’t dip people in chocolate. That’s weird. I am, at least it’s definitely weird if you plan to eat them. This isn’t Silence of the Lambs or anything. In fact, I don’t even like scary movies. And this has taken a turn for the weird, so um, where was I? Chocolate. Cinnamon. Pumpkin. Churros. Mini. Oh yes, they’re mini. Which means you can eat 10 churros instead of 1. We all know I like to eat in volume, so that is obviously a plus.

Okay, before we get to the recipe, I have to tell you a secret about how I messed these up the first time. I made the bites, all was going well, but then I mixed the butter with the cinnamon sugar instead of dipping and rolling. Needless to say, it was delicious, but not quite what I was going for. Also messy, very messy. However, if you don’t mind mess, and don’t care what they look like, I would say that is an equally delicious way to achieve churro love :)

Pumpkin Spice Churro Bites adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth yield approx 3 dozen

For the churros bites:
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
For the cinnamon sugar topping:
  • 1/4 cup light whipped butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a pan of mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat sugar and pumpkin together. Add egg substitute and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
  4. Slowly alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix until just incorporated.
  5. Use an extra small cookie scoop to fill each muffin tin and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on how small your cookie scoop is), or until just golden brown.
  6. While the churro bites are baking, melt butter in a small bowl and combine cinnamon and sugar in a shallow dish. When churro bites are finished, immediately remove from the pan and dip each bite in the butter and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin S’mores Cups

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A few days ago, Kathleen posted a link to this recipe, and I just stared at it in awe. Ummm, yum. Yes please. I immediately mentally added it to my holiday baking list. I followed the concept with plans to only slightly modify, but ended up adding peanut butter at the very end, because what isn’t better with peanut butter? I was so excited when I tasted it that not only was the pumpkin butter a healthier replacement for actual butter, but the pb/chocolaye/pumpkin combo was so delicious!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin S’mores Cups

yield 24

  • 7  whole wheat graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 3 1/2 tbs pumpkin butter
  • 1/4 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips
  • 1 tbs peanut butter
  • dash vanilla
  • 12 large marshmallows, halved

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine crushed graham crackers and pumpkin butter. I just used my hands. Messy is fun ;)
  2. Line 24 mini muffin cups and spray liners.
  3. Drop 1 tsp of graham cracker mixture into each liner and press in with fingers to form cup base.
  4. Bake crust for 4-5 minutes until set. Place a marshmallow half in each cup, cut side down.
  5. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Let stand for 5 minutes, then remove liners and transfer to cooling rack.
  7. Meanwhile, place chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in spurts of 30 seconds, stirring after each until melted. Add dash of vanilla.
  8. Drop approx 1-2 tsp chocolate/peanut butter mixture on each marshmallow, and cool completely.

Pumpkin Fudge Crinkle Cookies

friendmas.2011-1420

I wasn’t sure what to make for Friendmas dessert, so I asked Nacho if he had any requests and he replied saying something with pumpkin and cinnamon. I had been craving some chocolate crinkle cookies, so I put the two together. The result was gooey, fudgey and gone within 10 minutes :)

Pumpkin Fudge Crinkle Cookies

yield 16 cookies

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 5 tbs raw cane sugar
  • 2 tbs Splenda
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbs flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • dash salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  2. Beat pumpkin, sugar and splenda until combined. Add egg substitute and vanilla.
  3. Beat in dry ingredients, then refrigerate covered for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Combine powdered sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  5. Form dough into small balls, then drop and cover in powdered sugar.
  6. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.
  7. Transfer to wire rack or eat immediately when warm (that’s what we did).

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Hello friends, it has been a super busy weekend and I have lots of catching up and sharing to do on here! I figured I’d start with dessert since it’s my favorite. This is the third year I’ve done pumpkin cheesecake, but the first time I made it into bars. I like the bars because the portion is smaller and then you can have more than one dessert! Regular cheesecake slices are just too thick and this was way easier to serve. I loved it and plan to keep it around!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

yield 30-36 bars

  • 1-1 1/4 cup crushed whole wheat graham cracker crumbs
  • 2-3 tbs pumpkin butter
  • 2 8oz packages fat free cream cheese, softened
  • 2 8oz packages reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbs sugar free maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 2 tbs brandy (can omit)
  • 2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine graham cracker crumbs and pumpkin butter (I used my hands–it’s fun!) and press into a sprayed 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Bake for 8-10 min until set, remove and cool. Drop oven to 300.
  3. Meanwhile, beat cream, then gradually beat in sugars, Splenda, extracts and syrup until smooth.
  4. Beat eggs in one at a time.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, Brandy, flour, and pumpkin pie spice, then gradually add mixture to cream cheese mixture until just combined.
  6. Pour over prepared and cooled crust and bake for 60-80 minutes (if your oven is like mine, I suggest turning it around half way through), until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Cool for one hour, then transfer to the refrigerator and cool at least 8 hours.
  8. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Family Dinner

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This week my aunt is in town from Kansas City! She usually is only able to make it out here about once a year, and unfortunately she has to leave on Thanksgiving morning so last night I invited the family over for dinner at my place. I would almost always rather cook and be in my own home than go out, but sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what to make for people with such a variety of tastes. My dad is vegetarian and Steve is a meat-a-tarian, and my grandma is, well, old. I really love spicy foods, but sometimes I worry that it will be too spicy for someone older. Not sure if that even makes a difference?

Anyway,  a few weeks ago, Lauren posted a recipe for Pumpkin Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili. I was immediately intrigued and tried it pretty soon after. Let me first say that Healthy Food For Living is probably my favorite recipe blog. I have absolutely loved every recipe I have ever tried and her substitutions have introduced me to several things that I now do on a regular basis. If you’ve never read her blog, check it out. However, when I made this chili the first time it was a little bit of a kitchen flop. You see, I had also recently seen a recipe for chili that you top with unbaked cornbread and then throw in the oven so the cornbread bakes on top. Well, the chili takes at least an hour to set and then the cornbread takes like 40 minutes so by the time it went in the oven it was 8pm and I was hungry enough to start chewing on my left arm. Well I decided it was done before it was and the cornbread to chili ratio was not working. I mean, I LOVE carbs but there was so much bread to so little chili and the bread was not really cooked and although I knew the chili recipe was good because everything tasted good, it was definitely NOT something I would share on here haha.

Last night, I used my brain a little and made cornbread muffins instead ;) I followed Lauren’s recipe almost exactly with the exception of adding adding some canned green chilis (I’d already opened the can for the cornbread, so I figured might as well), adding a can of corn, and using half regular black beans and half cuban style. I also doubled the recipe because I was cooking for 6.

The chili was delicious. *Almost* perfect. The one thing I would change next time is I would either boil/bake/microwave the sweet potato chunks for a few minutes first to cook them through slightly, or I would put the whole thing in a crockpot and let it cook on low probably all day long. Some of the sweet potatoes were cooked enough, but some of them were not quite as soft as I would have liked, but no one seemed too bothered by it :)

For the corn muffins, I took a box of Trader Joe’s cornbread mix, 3/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk, 1 egg, 1/2 can medium heat green chilis and 1/2 cup pumpkin. Mixed everything together, transferred to muffin tins and baked according to directions on the box, although muffins definitely cook up faster, so you have to keep an eye on them.

I left Steve in charge of filling the tins, so we ended up with 1o huge muffins instead of 12 haha. He of course took all the credit for their deliciousness because I let him take over at the end.

The nice thing about this meal is that even though the chili takes a while to cook, once you put everything together, it just does the rest of the work on it’s own which gave me time to visit with the fam.

My aunt Rocky

I’m glad this is documented because I think this is the most conservative outfit my dad has ever worn.

G-ma. I think Steve did a pretty fab job on this picture! Doesn't she look good for 88?!

Steve got artsy with the camera. For a change ;)

Annnnnndddd Janie brought over our Chanukah/Christmas present super early!! She reads the blog so she knew exactly what I wanted!

"Present!!! I love presents!!!"

IT'S THE FLAMINGO!!!!!!!!!!

EEEEEE!!!! The wait is over!!!!

Do you remember how long I’ve been wanting this flamingo light?!?! Since last year!!! Obviously, I was ecstatic! I’ve said it a million times, but I am the easiest person to shop for. It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, and I love presents so much that pretty much anything with a little bit of thought, I go over the moon for. Janie is actually a really fantastic gift giver. Last year, she got us holiday martini glasses that I can’t wait to break out this year–perhaps an eggnog martini is in my future :) She also got us this

Menorah ornament!!!

Steve and I almost bought that ornament and actually when I was at Target yesterday with Bethany I almost bought the flamingo. So glad we didn’t buy either! Thank you Janie for the amazing kick off to the holiday season!

After dinner we had some cranberry bars for dessert, and took some family pics.

I am not a fan of this picture and I do not find it flattering, but it is necessary for the funniness that is about to come, so I'm taking one for the team, or the greater humor, or something.

After I looked at this photo, I started complaining about my double chin. All the sudden in pictures, it appears without fail. I have to be super careful about my angles because I’m vain and I do in fact care about it. As I started complaining, my dad suggested I try his neck exercises.

Thanks for the tip dad. Clearly, I have something to learn about my strength training from you ;)

“You see how I tighten in the most tensed position?” Oh yes, there is no arguing about tightened and tense position hahahaha. My dad is ridiculous and now you can see where I get my silliness from. My mom is actually pretty silly too. I didn’t stand a chance!

We spent the remainder of the evening loving on the puppies.

Clementine is learning to raise the roof.

And I'm trying to learn from her how to be cute. She is the master.

Can you see the photographer dog favoritism? Poor Winnie always seems left out of all of the pictures :( If I was in control of the camera, there would be shot after shot of Winston in all his glory! :)

 

Super Simple Pumpkin Brownies

Oh my gosh! It's from a box! I know, you're horrified.

Okay, I almost never do this, but sometimes it is just nice to bake something that take like 3 steps. Sometimes you can take a normal boxed baking good and make it your own and enjoy not having to spend hours preparing said delicious baked good. Every once in a while I do something like this

Oh my gosh! It's from a box! I know, you're horrified.

And of course, I don’t follow directions. I change it, and make it my own until it’s something more like this

Super Simple Pumpkin Brownies

yield 25 small brownies

  • 1 box TJ’s Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix or No Pudge Brownie Mix (or honestly, if you follow these directions, I bet you could use any brownie mix and still have it be at least healthier)
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 25 grain sweetened white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 8″ square baking pan.
2. Mix all ingredients except chips. It will take a few minutes and batter will be very thick.
3. Transfer to baking dish. If desired, top with chips.
4. Bake for approx 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cut, plate and top with red fat pumpkin ice cream and sprinkles!

Taaaaddddaaaa!!!!

Skinnified Pumpkin Pie French Toast

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When I saw Nicole’s recipe for pumpkin pie french toast, I wiped the drool from my mouth and began day dreaming about how I would make it myself. With all the plans and business happening in my life, I’ve been eating out a LOT. I used to love going out to eat, but let me tell you, after this weekend I am really pretty sick of it. I just want the time to make the food I want to make in my own kitchen, and have someone else clean up after me. Is that too much to ask?! ;) I have tons of recipes doggy eared and book marked that I am just waiting to try out. Now, ask me by the end of December and I will tell you “Uuugghhh, I’m so tired of cooking and baking and hosting. Just take me to Chipotle!” Balance right? Unfortunately my balance is like weeks of one thing followed by months of an other. Haven’t quite put them together…yet.

Anyway, Sunday morning I actually had the time, after laying in bed for a spectacular hour watching Grey’s Anatomy–I NEVER lay in bed in the morning–I’m always busy busy, must get up and be productive, but it was seriously the most amazing hour!–to make a real breakfast! Hooray!! I knew I had to give this French toast a try! Hit up Nicole’s page to find this original recipe and so many more amazing ones!

Her original recipe isn’t super unhealthy, but here are some swaps I made

  • 1/2 recipe
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk for regular (-calories)
  • More vanilla and spices (+yum)
  • Egg whites for whole eggs (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • 1/2 brown sugar, 1/2 sugar free maple syrup for brown sugar (-sugar, -calories)
  • + protein powder (Gotta have my protein!)
  • Ezekiel bread for regular (Have you tried it? It’s a complete protein! Whatever that really means…)

Skinnified Pumpkin Pie French Toast

serves 2

  • 1/4 cup  + 2 tbs (or don’t be picky and just use 1/3 cup :) ) pumpkin puree
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs (same rule applies) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs sugar free maple syrup
  • 1  tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 slices of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread
  • chia seeds (optional)

Directions:

1. Whisk all ingredients (except bread and chia) together well.
2. Soak bread for 5-30 minutes, depending on patience/hunger.
3. Place in a sprayed nonstick pan or skillet over medium heat.
4. Sprinkle with chia seeds if desired
5. Flip when bottom is golden brown.
6. If you’re like me, drizzle any remaining soak mixture onto the bread and top with more chia seeds (Note, if you do this, you will have to flip again. It’s worth it.)
7. When both sides are finished cooking and golden brown, transfer to a plate and top with pumpkin yogurt topping.

Pumpkin Yogurt Topping

serves 1

  • 1/4 cup non fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbs pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tbs almond butter (or any nut butter)
  • 1 tbs sugar free maple syrup
  • If you’re like me and want to make sure you’re full for the rest of your life, you can add even more chia seeds

Directions:

1. Whisk together and lay it on that toast!

Yummmmmm

Steve is less cool than me, and only tops with sf maple syrup. Good thing it’s sugar free because boy loves his syrup. I always ask if he wants some toast with his syrup. Then he just gives me a dirty look. Oh, marriage.

This French toast was A-MA-ZING!! I will make it again and again and again! Thanks Nicole for the delicious inspiration!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

Skinnified Sunday: Pumpkin Raisin Pancakes

coffee

Today has been an almost perfect Sunday. A perfect Sunday would of course involve a day off, which I don’t get until Thanksgiving. Tired of my whining yet? It will continue. I hate to admit it, but it’s only fair to warn you. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around it will have been over 2 months of straight work, so you’ll just have to bear with me and accept that although I love what I do, this Fall has been a challenge mentally.

Anyway, I woke up at 5:30 to run with Kara. Unfortunately, after I was already dressed, I checked my phone and noticed a text from her saying she didn’t feel so hot. What’s funny is I had hardly slept either and I laid in bed debating canceling, but I figured I was already dressed, I better get my run on. I thought about taking Winston, but I haven’t focused on speed since before the Komen, and I knew I needed to use today to work on it. Unfortunately, my ipod running playlist isn’t finished and my phone isn’t doing so well on my runs so it was just me and the silence of 5:45 am. It was super dark out and I was a little scared, but it was nice to just be by myself in the perevt 65 degree temperature.

I did jogging and speedy run intervals up to Starbucks where I stopped for some water and a chat with some of my fav baristas, then was back on my way to continue. The second half I may or may not have had to take a stop and breathe break or 4. Yes, I paused my garmin so my “speedy” time I don’t feel super impressed with, but it was nice to at least work on speed.

A little while after my run, my appetite came on full force. It always takes a good 30 minutes for me to be able to consider food after a work out. Yesterday at Chompy’s, Hermano ordered pumpkin pancakes that tasted like heaven. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about them, so I woke Steve up to take me to Starbucks and the store. I’m an awesome wife. I got a delicious grande bold coffee with 2 pumps pumpkin spice, 2 pumps sf caramel and steamed soy with cinnamon sprinkled on top. I really miss hot coffee when it’s warm here. It’s still too hot, but if I REALLY want it, I will drink it and sweat. It’s really cute. I am the epitome of class.

Onto the most important part: The most amazing pancakes I have EVER made! Better than chocolate chip, better than any white flour crap. This is the real deal.

Pumpkin Pancakes

(theworldlink.com)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons. packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil

My Swaps:

  • 1/2 recipe (-temptation)
  • Whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose (+fiber, +protein)
  • Molasses and sf maple syrup for brown sugar (-sugar, -calories)
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk for reg (-fat, -calories)
  • Egg whites for whole eggs (-fat, -calories, -cholesterol)
  • More pumpkin (+yum)
  • cooking oil who needs it?! Spray works just fine.
  • + chia seeds (+fiber, +protein, +staying power)
  • + protein powder (+protein-duh, +staying power)
  • + raisins (okay, the more I add things,  the less “skinnified” these sound…)
  • + seasonings and extracts (+yum)

Skinnified Fluffy Pumpkin Raisin Pancakes

yielf 3-4 servings

  • 1 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tbs molasses
  • 1 tbs sf maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbs baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • almost 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • dash cloves
  • dash ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash maple extract
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients.
  3. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry until barely combined with some small lumps–DO NOT OVER MIX!
  4. Pour pancakes onto sprayed nonstick pan or skillet.
  5. Top with raisins if desired.
  6. Cook over medium low heat until bottom is set and small bubbles form on top.
  7. Flip, and cook on remaining side for 2-3 minutes until golden.
  8. Enjoy!

Topping ideas:

  • vanilla Greek yogurt
  • sf maple syrup
  • granola
  • fig butter
  • nut butter
  • butter butter

Whiccchhhaaaaa!!!! I am the pancake master!!! No pancake stands a chance!

Ok, ok, I admit it! I am still in my sweaty run clothes. You can judge me if you want. Sometimes I’m lazy. Steve just topped his with sf syrup.

I topped mine with nonfat vanilla Greek, sf syrup, extra chia seeds and granola per usual, but also added a thin layer of TJ’s fig butter which was an excellent choice!

Yummmmmmm

I’m telling you, I always love every recipe I post, and I almost always at least like every recipe I make, but these pancakes were a different kind of out of this world amazing love. I admit that sometimes whole wheat pancakes are a little brick-like dense, but these are light and fluffy like clouds or pillows. They are the perfect amount of sweet and the right amount of pumpkin. I could eat them again and again and again and I plan to. Do yourself a favor, make these pancakes. You won’t regret it.