Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

So here I am again. Back on the blog, because these pumpkin muffins deserve serious attention. 
These are the best pumpkin muffins I’ve ever made. These might even be the best muffins of any kind I’ve ever made. SO SOFT AND SO MOIST. So perfectly pumpkin-y, you can’t deny fall isn’t the best season ever. Then just add some chocolate chips, because chocolate makes everything better. I know I already have a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe on this blog somewhere, but this is new and improved. 
I got really into fall spirit by re-decorating a little this weekend too. If you can even call it that. My idea of “decorating” is buying a couple of sparkly fake pumpkins and a seasonal candle from Hobby Lobby and setting them on my mantle. Good enough! 
In other news, after semi-consistent beach walks with Zoey this spring/summer, she FINALLY lovessss the beach. We took her for a long stroll yesterday, off the leash and all, and she did so well. I’m such a proud puppy-mama. She still isn’t crazy about the water, but is showing more curiosity each time and will at least walk a few inches in to splash around for a minute or two. 
…in case you cared to know. 
But, FALL! What festive seasonal treats and eats have you made so far? I get into pumpkin for a couple weeks, but then it’s time to move on (until Thanksgiving comes around when I NEED pumpkin pie). 
Spaghetti squash and chili are calling my name. I’m dying for some apple cider doughnuts too, which I’ve seen on blog after blog, instagram pic after instagram pic. I’d rather just go buy one than even attempt to make those on my own. Where can I get a good one in Charleston?! Someone please tell me. Thanks. Then go make some of these muffins. You won’t regret it. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Adapted from Flourishing Foodie)

Makes about 18 muffins

Ingredients: 
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for topping

Directions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill muffin tin with liners and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and sugars. 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and pumpkin puree. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add chocolate chips and gently stir until evenly distributed.
4. Pour batter into muffin cups, about 3/4 full.
5. Bake 26-28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm with butter.

*Store extras at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Whole Wheat Peach Scones

I’m coming right out to state the obvious. These pictures aren’t very pretty. I tried, I really did. But the brown-ness of the whole wheat flour and cinnamon sugar, combined with the exceptionally cloudy day did not work to my benefit in capturing the true appeal of these scones. But. I promise there is true appeal. I just don’t have the time in the day to remake the same thing, stage more photos and pretend like I know what I’m doing with a camera. As much as I may love something I make, I have a hard time repeating it right away. There are just too many other things to try!
Nevermind the photos. 
What I love most about these scones are that while they are in fact peach scones, the peach isn’t necessarily the star of the show. It’s really more like two whole wheat + cinnamon sugar scones with a thin layer of sweet juicy peaches in between. 
I will eat just about any fruit and be satisfied, but peaches never have been near the top of my list. Apples, berries, bananas, avocados, pears, grapes, watermelon, pineapple…I buy all of those fruits on the reg, while peaches never quite make it in my shopping cart. When they’re given to me on the other hand, it’s a different story. I’m not about to let a perfectly ripe peach go by without baking it into a special treat. 

If peaches are your thing though, you could easily add more to the batch, or even chop some up and mix them into the dough itself.

The whole wheat flour makes these scones hearty and substantial. They’re thick, dense and somewhat chewy, not crumbly like many other scones. They’re easy to grab on the go for breakfast or a snack, although I always recommend warming it up in the microwave for 10 seconds first.

The day after I made these, I ate one for a snack towards the end of the workday. I headed directly to the gym after work to take a Body Attack class (taught by Erica) and felt super energetic and powerful during the hour-long class. That is not always the case, since I’m more of a morning workout person. The majority of my days are spent sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen, doing no good for my energy levels. I often feel drained by the time I’m driving home from the lack of inactivity and the damage I’m doing to my eyes. Ha! I love my job, I really do 🙂 I also just like to MOVE. 
Anyway, the energy I felt during that class brings me to the conclusion: These whole wheat peach scones may have magical energy powers. Try them for yourself!

Whole Wheat Peach Scones
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 9 scones

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 cup almond milk (any other type of milk should work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 small peaches, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Extra milk for brushing

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter pieces until small pea-size crumbles form.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract. Lightly beat the mixture until well combined. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until dough forms.
4. Flour an open space on your countertop and knead the dough ball several times. Roll out the dough into about 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush half of the dough with milk. Add sliced peaches in an even layer to that same half of dough. Sprinkle the peaches with half of your cinnamon sugar mixture. Fold the other half of dough overtop of the peaches. Gently press down on the edges with your finger tips to seal the dough. Brush the top of the dough with milk and sprinkle on the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Slice into 9 even squares. Gently add each one to the baking sheet.
5. Bake 14-16 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before digging in.

Sunday Blessings – Dates, Weddings, New Restaurants and More

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how productive of a weekend I had. Guess what? It happened again. It’s not that I’m usually a lazy bum on the weekends…okay, sometimes I am…but there really isn’t too much variety. This weekend on the other hand was filled with all kinds of different things.

Remember my list of 6 plans from Friday? I accomplished every single one (except the free coffee part, because that promo is happening tomorrow – Monday – even though I won’t actually be participating).

Gym after work on Friday? Check!

Date night at FED? Check! I have mixed feelings about the new restaurant. It was not busy at all. For a Friday night at 7:00pm, that’s not a good sign. Our waitress…hm. How do I put this nicely? It must have been her first time ever working at a restaurant and seemed to have very minimal training, which made for slightly awkward interactions. HOWEVER. The food was pretty delish.

I had the Garden Burger, an oversize patty consisting mostly of black beans and corn. It was sandwiched between a single slice of grilled sourdough bread which had been slice in half. I found this a little odd, since the patty was way too big to sit on top half a slice of bread. I’d never seen it done this way, but it was tasty nonetheless. I opted for sweet potato fries on the side. I always love sweet potato fries, and while these weren’t the best I’ve had by any means, they were good too. Greg had the Shrimp Tacos with regular fries on the side. He ate his right up without any hesitation. Either he was starving or the food was just that good. I think it was a little of both.

After dinner, we stopped by Barnes and Noble so Greg could get a latte from the Starbucks in the cafe, then headed to TCBY for me. While enjoying our desserts, we started looking up movie showtimes and spontaneously decided to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’d never heard of it, but it was quite an interesting movie. Very different, a little strange and quirky, but entertaining overall. 
Moving right along. Saturday started how it always does, at the gym for Body Pump and then home for a late breakfast, relaxing on the couch, playing with Zoey and doing a few random chores around the house. Then it was time for my haircut. Welp. I said on Friday I was going to keep the length and add some layers. Somehow I talked myself into a bigger change and ended up cutting about 5-6 inches off my long locks. I don’t regret it necessarily, but I do miss the length already. I know this shorter cut is much better for the hot summer months to come, not to mention it makes my hair look and feel so much healthier. I’ll get used to it soon enough. I’m already loving the cute little ponytail I have, compared to my old horse mane!
Our friends’ wedding on Saturday night was so much fun. Congrats to Steve and Amanda!! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me say this already, but I’ll say it again. Now that I am married, wedding ceremonies feel like a free marriage conference. I absolutely love hearing the vows said to one another, the scripture readings and the sermon. I almost always shed some tears and this wedding was no different. The words are powerful and inspiring. They’re reminders of the words Greg and I said to each other (almost one year ago!) and the loving, lifelong journey we are on together. 
Sunday we spent the morning at church, followed by brunch at Cafe Medley on Sullivan’s Island. I went by myself last Sunday while Greg had to work and was glad he was up for trying it out with me this week. The pics below are from last week when I got a sandwich made with edemame pesto, cucumbers, tomatoes and bacon on 10-grain bread. It was perfect. Today I got another sandwich on the 10-grain bread, this time with egg whites, cheese and tomato. With a hot coffee to go along with my breakfast, I was a happy girl. 
My only complaint is that for the lunch sandwiches, you have a choice of chips or a salad on the side. The term “salad” is used very, very loosely here. The “salad” consists of a small handful of spinach leaves and a small container of dressing on the side. I think it needs a little more “umph.” 

We spent the rest of the day running errands, taking a long walk with Zoey, working in the yard (most of the credit goes to Greg on this one) and enjoying dinner together at home. 
I am so blessed for all of these gifts in my life – the date nights, the meals out, the sunshine on our family walks, and the ability to pay for frivolous things like haircuts and new dresses. 
What’s one thing out of the ordinary you did this weekend?

Ultimate Green Smoothie (and a giveaway winner!)

“It looks better than it tastes.”
Fortunately in the case of this Ultimate Green Smoothie it’s the exact opposite. Before we look at the smoothie itself, let me be the first clarify. IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS. 

See all of those pretty, colorful ingredients? Packed full of nutrients, I aptly named this an “ultimate” smoothie because it really can’t get much better. Greens, berries, healthy fats and more make this smoothie the perfectly well-rounded breakfast, lunch or snack. I suppose you can eat it for dinner or dessert too – no reason to discriminate which meal suits it best.

Okay, so now you see what I mean? It’s not the most appealing color once you blend everything together. If you’ve ever had a green smoothie before, I’m sure you’re familiar with a not-so-pretty result and are okay with this. If you have never had a green smoothie before and expect a smoothie to be bright magenta, pink or orange, then…well, it’s time to try something new. Don’t let the looks of this fool you. Just do it. (insert Nike swoosh here).

Changing subjects now.

Did you watch the Oscars? I know those award shows are always hyped up, but for some reason I felt like this year, the Oscars in particular, got a TON of attention. I get the past year has been full of great movies, but isn’t that always the case? Maybe I’m naive and this year really was much better than past years. To be honest, I haven’t seen many of the movies that were nominated – Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street – I know, I have some catching up to do. So maybe that’s why I don’t fully realize what a great year it was. I enjoy seeing celebrities on the red carpet, being interviewed, and presenting and accepting awards. But still.

After an hour of watching the pre-show, I was bored. Plus Greg had about zero percent interest. So we turned on a movie, Nebraska instead (a Best Picture nominee after all!) and I didn’t even watch a minute of the award show. I figure I’ll catch the good stuff online and on E! News this week. I’m sure I can count on Robbin’s blog to keep me informed as well. Or you can tell me in the comments…what were the highlights?

Ultimate Green Smoothie

Makes 1 large smoothie

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana
2 large handfuls of spinach
1/2 medium yellow squash
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons oats
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk

Directions:
1. Add add ingredients to a blender. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrap down sides and stir as needed.
2. Pour in a large cup, find a straw and slurp away!

****************
GIVEAWAY WINNER

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Food Lion giveaway last week! I used Rafflecopter to run the giveaway and randomly select a winner:

Congrats, Shannon Finer! Please check your email for a message from me to claim your gift card!

Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars

Hi.
Are you ready for this? You’re Wednesday is about to get all kinds of delicious.
Speculoos, as in Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s, takes these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars to another level. Those old bars are one of my most popular recipes on the site, and I can’t even take credit for the recipe. But these. These Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars are a game-changer.
The texture is almost scone-like. Moist and soft, yet just a tad bit dry and crumbly, in a good way. If you know me, (I’m talking to you Hannah, and Brooke…and GG!) you know how much I love a good scone. Especially when there’s cinnamon involved. In fact, cinnamon might be my favorite spice. On a daily basis, you can find me either stirring it into oatmeal and ice cream/frozen yogurt, shaking it on top of baked sweet potatoes, and of course mixing it into manymany baked goods

So it’s no surprise I like snickerdoodles, where cinnamon sugar takes center stage. I’m not sure what exactly qualifies a snickerdoodle as such. Whether or not replacing some of the regular dairy butter with cookie butter takes away from their “snickerdoodleness,” I’m not sure, but I doubt it. I’m standing by the name. You’ll still find brown sugar and butter in the dough, and you’ll still sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Cookie butter contains cinnamon as well, so you get an added punch by its incorporation.

Some other notable ways I changed the original recipe: I cut back on the brown sugar and I replaced some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. This is me trying to be better to my body.

As easy as it is to eat the cookie butter straight from the jar, think about these next time you have a jar (which hopefully is right now). It doesn’t take too much, only half a cup, to turn already amazing cookie bars into even more amazing cookie bars.

**P.S. It’s not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY for a $250 Food Lion gift card!!**



Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars
(Adapted from these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars)

Makes 16 bars

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Speculoos Cookie Butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine butter, cookie butter and brown sugar. Use a hand mixer to cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Continue to blend on medium speed until everything is well-incorporated.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing between additions. Use hand mixer to blend until all ingredients are just incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go along.
5. Add batter to the 9×9 pan. Use your fingers to press down to fill the entire pan.
6. In a small bowl, combine white sugar and cinnamon. Stir together. Sprinkle evenly across the top of the batter in the pan.
7. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. It is better to undercook then overcook! These will set up a bit after rooming from the oven, so you want to pull them out when then are just barely done.
8. Let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing into square and serve.

For best taste, bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.

Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Muffins

I have been dreaming of lemon yogurt muffins ever since I saw some at a bakery in Breckenridge. The same bakery where I indulged in a giant oatmeal raisin cookie and hot chocolate. I couldn’t get the lemon yogurt muffin off my mind. I made a mental note to return to the bakery on our way out of town to put an end to my obsessive thoughts, but unfortunately it never happened. So here I am, making my own lemon yogurt muffins.

As much as I love to bake, I am well aware I am very much an amateur. I know how to follow recipes and can make modifications if I feel experimental. I usually have a general idea of what certain ingredients will do when combined with one another, but sometimes I’m just guessing. I have borrowed books from the library to learn about the science of baking, but have failed to actually read them enough to learn. Thumbs down to me.

Maybe one day I will gain a better understanding of what actually happens when mixing flour with baking soda (or is it baking powder? or both??) and salt and butter and eggs. Geesh. Baking is a complicated thing when think about it. Soooo let’s just not think about it, deal?

No thinking, just doing. Shortly followed by eating. Don’t forget that step, it’s the most important of all. Breakfast time or snack time, these refreshing little muffins are sure to brighten your day.

I almost didn’t include poppy seeds at all, simply because I had never bought poppy seeds. I get intimidated by new ingredients. Where will I find them store? They’re probably expensive. Will I ever use them for anything else or will they just sit and take up space for the rest of their existence? 

I obviously have issues with even the slightest changes or new experiences. 

Looking back, poppy seeds were the last thing that should have intimidated me. I mean…really? Poppy seeds? What’s there to be afraid of?

Nothing! Guess what? They’re located with all of the spices in the baking aisle (genius!) and if you’re lucky enough to find them on clearance like I did, they’ll only set you back two dollars. Bada boom, bada bing. No big deal.

The brief anxiety was so worth it. Also worth it? Using fresh lemons for zesting and juicing. It’s a must. And when you’re done with the muffins and want to use more of your new poppy seed purchase, you can make these Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt PANCAKES. Yes, puh-lease.



Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Muffins
Recipe via The Tasty Bite

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
zest of two lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix four, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract and butter. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Whisk until just combined. Fill muffin wells about 3/4 full with batter.
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool about 10 minutes before removing from muffin tin and serving.

Store any remaining muffins in airtight container. Best eaten within about three days.

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

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Confession: I think I’m over pumpkin. I realize that may not be the best way to introduce you to these Baked Pumpkin Donuts, but it’s the truth.

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As usual, I got really excited about pumpkin at the beginning of fall. Our culture builds so much hype for the big orange squash and all of the flavor it brings to everything from baked goods to savory sides to espresso drinks. I get sucked in and dream about all of the pumpkin things I will consume. Then I take a bite or a sip of the pumpkin _______ (fill in the blank) and it hits me. Pumpkin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Don’t hate me :/
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And don’t get me wrong. Pumpkin is not bad, but I couldn’t eat it every day. I’ve always been a vanilla girl, but that doesn’t mean I don’t go coo-coo for cocoa puffs chocolate too. Those are flavors I go crazy about, as boring as that may be. 
I also recognize the value pumpkin brings to baked goods in order to make them super moist. I will be posting a cupcake recipe soon which uses pumpkin, but contributes more to the texture than the flavor. In that sense, I probably could eat it every day in some form or another.
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Now that I’ve vented a little about pumpkin, I have another bone to pick with you. (I don’t think I like that phrase, but what’s done is done…what’s said is said….what’s written is written). 
Issue #2 for the day: Baked donuts. Not the item itself, but the name. 
This isn’t the first baked donut recipe I’ve made, but I’m growing more and more dissatisfied with them. Again, I realize I’m not giving much credit to how tasty these really are. But calling them donuts is so misconceiving. 
Greg says they should be called “Baked Bread Circles.” He’s right. These are essentially a quick bread or muffin in a donut shape. 
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Sure, they have the shape of a donut, but they should not be mistaken for a real, true DOUGHNUT. I’m talking light, airy, yeasty, fried dough heaven. Even cake doughnuts (vs. yeast doughnuts) are on a different level than baked donuts. 
(Notice my intentional inconsistent spelling of the word. I’m using doughnut to refer to the real thing, while donut is the wanna be.) 
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Despite everything I’ve just said, I hope I’m not contradicting myself too much when I say these baked donuts are a perfect match to your hot cup of coffee on a crisp fall morning. They are slightly sweet, perfectly soft, and have the pumpkin flavor we all get worked up about. 
Just don’t expect a bakery style doughnut by any means. If you want one of those doughnuts, come with me to Krispy Kreme. 

Baked Cinnamon Pumpkin Donuts
(Adapted from Taste and Tell)

Makes 6 donuts

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cinnamon for coating

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, pumpkin and butter. Cream together then add the egg. Mix well to combine. Add milk and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
4. Pour batter into a ziplock bag. Cut off one tip of the bag and squeeze into donut pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely. Pour 1/4 cup cinnamon into a ziplock bag. Add one donut at a time to the bad and gently shake to coat in the cinnamon.

*Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.