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. 

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Two-Bite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I wonder if my blog should have been named, Counting My Cookies. Of course I loooveeeee cupcakes, but cookies? I love a good cookie just as much. I have my dad to thank for that. He’s a chocolate chip cookie king. 

This is the other cookie recipe I was referring to last week when I posed the Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies. You know, another one of the cookie recipes that didn’t turn out quite like I expected?

Have no fear. While I had a slightly different outcome in my head, these tiny, chewy treats still brought their A-game.

The best part? The recipe contains no added sugars and no butter. That’s a big handful of bonus points if you ask me.

Speaking of handfuls. Making these into two-bite portions will allow you to eat a handful without the guilt.

They almost remind me of chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, but homemade. This calls for even more bonus points! It seems like we’re on par for an A+ in baking class today.

In other news, our vegetable garden is just barely starting to show signs of life. The mixed greens are beginning to sprout leaves above the dirt, but that’s it for now. Hopefully we haven’t killed anything yet. Assuming we haven’t, we should be seeing the rest of the veggies growing above ground this week.

If nothing else, the garden is teaching me patience. Most of the plants will be ready to harvest within 60-80 days. That sounds so long to me, but it falls in mid/late May. Saying it that way feels a little better. I can’t wait to have tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and more in my own backyard. My bank account is going to thank me for the decreased grocery bill as well.

Now if only I could grow a two-bite chocolate chip cookie tree…

Two-Bite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes one dozen small cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpat mats or coat with non-stick spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Whisk and set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil, egg, honey, vanilla extract and coconut milk. Whisk well. Slowly add dry ingredient to wet ingredients until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
4. Use a spoon or small scoop to drop about one tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheets. Gently press down with your hand or a spatula (cookies will not spread while baking).
5. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches

I know what you’re doing right now. You’re staring at that unbelievably creamy marshmallow fluff, puffing its way out the sides of those cookies. So light, and pure, and white. Heavenly, one might say. Like mounds of snowfall or a sky full of pillow-like clouds. 

That’s an awfully big coincidence, if you believe in coincidences I should say, because right now I am in Breckenridge, Colorado. Not only am I almost 10,000 feet high in the clouds, but I am also surrounded by powdery white snow.  
If only the clouds and snow tasted like marshmallow fluff, as my childhood self used to imagine. 

And then we have the cookies. If you’re eyes were closed while taking a bite, you might think you were eating peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread. The cookies couldn’t be more soft and gooey. They do their best to contain the marshmallow fluff, but they will inevitably fail. 
Sure, it makes for a messy snack. You may even prefer to eat these sandwiches with a spoon (I did!). In the end, you won’t care how it gets in your mouth, as long as it does. 

And now I will proceed to ski my heart out, hopefully burning off close to as many calories as I just consumed. Then again, the recipe doesn’t contain any flour or butter. On top of that, peanut butter is a healthy fat and there’s even a banana in the mix…the guilt is washing away as I speak! Can you say “health food”?

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches
(Cookies adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Makes about 6 cookie sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 medium extra ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat mats or spray with non-stick spray. Set pans aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg. Add banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Fold in the pecan pieces and chocolate chips. Place bowl in fridge for at least 10-20 minutes to stiffen up the dough.
3. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto the pans, spaced evenly apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes (I baked for 8 minutes for a very soft, doughy cookie; bake longer if you want a crispier cookie). Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
4. Add marshmallow fluff to a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 20 seconds. Stir well. Spread about two tablespoons of fluff onto the bottom of a cookie. Place another cookie (bottom down) on top of the fluff. Repeat with remaining cookies. Eat immediately!

*Warning:
-These are very delicate cookies. Things will get messy if you’re not careful.
-They are best consumed the day you bake them. If you are not going to eat them the same day, wait to form the sandwiches until you are ready to eat.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

Soooo. I know I just told you the other day how I’m over pumpkin, and it’s really not all that great to begin with, yady yady yada…

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1. I may not quite be over pumpkin if it’s in the form of these cupcakes. But they hardly count, because like I also mentioned the other day you can’t hardly taste it in the cake anyway. Chocolate is the dominant flavor here. The pumpkin does add an amazing element of moistness and warmth, but overall not a standout flavor.
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2. I also neglected to mention there is one more pumpkin item I’m not over yet. Pumpkin pie!! I can easily get caught up in allllllllll of the other choices on Thanksgiving, but when it comes down to it, old trusty pumpkin pie always satisfies. As long as it has a giant dollop of whipped cream on top. I CAN’T WAIT! Two days, two days, two days, two days, two days!
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Moral of the story, I have to retract my previous statements about pumpkin just a little bit. I do in fact still enjoy it. Sorry for the confusion. 
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Oh, and one other thing. Shortly after publishing the last post, I realized I already have a baked pumpkin donut recipe – Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts made with pumpkin Greek yogurt. My latest version are much prettier. Either that or my photography is getting better (thank goodness), but probably a combination of both. 
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These cupcakes though! Have I mentioned yet that I baked them specifically for a bake-off at work last week? Out of the four voting categories, I won two of them – “Yummiest” and “Martha Stewart Would Be Proud.” I came in second place for “Best Looking.”
Not to brag, but… 
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Maybe you should make these. They are that good. Award winning! 
I can’t take credit though, because Jenny is the genius behind the rich, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth concoction. 
This is actually another second-timer recipe for me. The reason I made these cupcakes in the first place was because of the rave reviews my family gave it when I made it in a whole cake form two years ago for Thanksgiving. It was just as good as I remembered, if not better, because what’s not better in cupcake form? As with the pumpkin donuts, these pictures give the cake much more credibility than the original post. I am also sharing the recipe below exactly how I made them, since there are differences from Jenny’s version. 
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Go make ya some!
Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

(Adapted from the Picky Palate)

Makes about 28 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cake-
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup almond milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
15 ounce can pumpkin (save two tablespoons for the frosting)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting-
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons almond milk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer, combine all cake ingredients except chocolate chips. Beat on medium speed until well blended, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Fold in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed. Pour batter into pan by the 1/4 cup. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.
3. For the frosting, add butter, cream cheese, pumpkin and cinnamon in a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time until you reach desired thickness. Add milk and mix until completely smooth. Frost and sprinkle as desired!

*Very important to wait until cupcakes are completely cooled to frost, otherwise the frosting will melt and slide right off.

July Blog-A-Day #11: Granola Cookie Wedges

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I am breaking the standard blog-a-day list of prompts I started with in order to feature this recipe. I don’t anyone will object to that, right? I’m still blogging so it still counts.

I was craving a snack and it wasn’t frozen yogurt. Weird.

I scrolled through my Pinterest boards, and rummaged through my fridge and cabinets. I wanted something with texture. I wanted something with chocolate. Most importantly, I wanted something that wouldn’t take much effort and that would come together quickly.

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Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner!

If anything has ever ‘hit the spot,’ this was it.

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In terms of size, the amount this recipe makes falls between my Instant Oatmeal Cookie for One and a normal batch of cookies (like these Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies). AKA, the perfect amount for when you have to spend a couple of days as a single girl. A little for a snack here, a little for dessert there, and a little for breakfast the next day. And there won’t be anyone standing in your way. 
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Switching gears now to a completely unrelated note…I’m watching Katy Perry: Part of Me on Netflix. Have you seen it? Oh em geee, I’m loving it. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of hers, but I do enjoy most of her songs and usually like seeing behind the scenes stuff with celebrities (at least celebrities I’m half interested in). She’s obviously got much different taste and style than I do, but she’s down to earth (okay, maybe that’s not the best way to put it), has maintained close relationships with her family, and has such a positive attitude. 
Sorry for being so random. But I’m not sorry for this. Go make it!
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Granola Cookie Wedges
(Adapted from Yummy. Healthy. Easy.)

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients: 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg white
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecan halves, chopped
2 heaping tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips (it doesn’t hurt to add an extra tablespoon though!)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8 or 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, butter, vanilla, salt, baking soda and egg white. Whisk well.
3. In the same bowl, add flour and oats. Stir to combine. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
4. Pour dough into cake pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Press down so batter fills the entire pan.
5. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Cookie will be raised and dark golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool about 5-10 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

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Remember how I used to actually do this thing called baking? Then I would tell you all about the delicious creations and show you pretty pictures. I didn’t always leave this internet page of mine alone and occasionally stop by to only review what and where I ate. Those were the days. 
But wait! Those days are back. See…
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Cupcakes! Pretty little cupcakes! Just for you.
I know I sound like a broken record, but this wedding thing is getting so close. In less than three weeks I will be in Columbus just days away from walking down the aisle.

Besides just counting days and weeks, I am quantifying everything I do in terms of how many times I will do it before the wedding. For example, when leaving Trader Joe’s on Sunday, I told Greg, “We will only go grocery shopping three more times until we’re married!” (Side note – in our efforts to be more money-conscious, we’ve successfully cut back our frequent grocery shopping trips to just one streamlined trip per week. It’s been fabulous).

My energy has been pouring into planning and organizing, in addition to the usual working, puppy-raising, and running (which, by the way, has gradually increased to the point where I’m running about two times as much as I ever have before. I think that explains a lot of my extra tiredness too). 

Baking and cooking anything new or exciting has been put on the back burner, no pun intended. But all hope is not lost. These sweet cupcakes proved to me there is light at the end of the no-homemade-baked-goods-in-the-midst-of-an-upcoming-wedding tunnel. 
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When life is busy and you feel like you don’t have time or energy to bake, but just absolutely need a homemade sweet treat, these are the answer! Don’t even look at those packaged baked goods in the grocery store. Seriously. Stop it! They’re not worth it. 
These are worth it. 
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They take approximately 5-10 minutes to throw together (depending on your level of sugar deprivation), and can be made in one bowl. A dozen cupcakes and only one dirty bowl later and you’ll be onto your next busy life task in no time, wondering why you even gave those pre-packaged grocery store baked goods a second look. 
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Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
With Vanilla Buttercream
(Adapted from The Cupcake)

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Chocolate Chip Cupcakes-
Ingredients:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 batch of vanilla buttercream (recipe below)
Sprinkles as desired

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line standard size cupcake tin with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add flours, butter, sugars and eggs. Use a hand mixer to beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Fold in the chocolate chips.
3. Pour batter into cupcake wells until about 2/3 full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Buttercream-
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions:
In a medium bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add salt and vanilla extract. Slowly add milk while beating on low speed until frosting reaches desired consistency.

{Vegan} Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Breakfast hasn’t tasted this good in a long time. 
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Yes, I’m baking with oats…again. Yes, I’m baking with bananas…again. But you know the saying. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to oats and bananas, it’s hard to go wrong in my book. Combine the two, then add some chocolate chips and, well, we’ve got quite the delicious treat. 
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I instantly pinned these when I saw them on Jenna’s blog a while ago and have been dreaming about the day I would make them ever since. 
These are so perfect for breakfast. I’ve been eating them all week. I almost feel like I get to eat a cookie for breakfast. 
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Almost.

Don’t get me wrong. They are great for a mid-day snack or even dessert too. But something about them screams: BREAKFAST! I guess it’s probably the oats screaming that. 
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The bars are just the right amount of sweet without being too sweet for breakfast. You know me – I love a good sugary doughnut or sweet pancakes for breakfast. But especially during the week, I try to keep breakfast as healthy as possible. I don’t know about you, but I do (and feel) so much better throughout the day when I eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Then, after a well-rounded dinner, I don’t have a problem treating myself to a bowl of fro yo or chocolate candy. If I start off with something like a doughnut, I only crave sugar that much more throughout the rest of the day.

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What I’m trying to say is that these bars are a great compromise. They’re satisfy my sweet tooth without bringing on more cravings, and still offer the healthful benefits I look for in my breakfasts. They’re hearty and filling and, and, and…
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I’m obsessed. So obsessed.

{Vegan} Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
(Adapted from Eat. Live. Run.)

Makes about 8-10 bars

Ingredients:
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chai seeds
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside.
2. Add mashed banana, oil and brown sugar to a large bowl. Whisk until well combined.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, chai seeds and oats. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the large bowl. Stir until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour mixture into the pan and gently spread with a spatula or spoon in an even layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars.