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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Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl

If you read my Sunday Blessings post last week, you know I made a big life decision recently. What you don’t know is what exactly that decision was.
Until now.

Dun dun dunnn! So dramatic.
So here’s the deal. Last week, I officially submitted my resignation with my current company and accepted a new job offer with a non-profit organization where I used to be an intern during college. Telling my current employer was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a long time, but I am so excited for the new opportunity. Change is difficult, but change is good. Right?
Right.

Now that I have that news off my chest, let’s talk brownies.
I have yet to make brownies from scratch that are as good as brownies from a box. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry. If you know of a good one, please share. But I’d be hard pressed to believe Ghirardelli or Betty Crocker don’t put up a good fight. In this particular case, I used a dark chocolate mix from Ghirardelli. 

Another reason why I love using a box mix sometimes is because it allows me to spend more time focusing on ways to add to it and make it my own. Not only did I use the help of a box mix for these chocolatey delights, but our good friend Joe (Trader Joe that is) provided me with Candy Cane Joe Joe’s. If you’ve never had them, just imagine peppermint Oreos.

I actually have my aunt/God mother to thank for the Joe Joe’s. The cookies along with some crunchy cookie butter were her Christmas gift to me this year. She knows me well.

Between Ghirardelli chocolate, peppermint cookies, and an easy homemade cream cheese filling, what we have here is one decadent treat. But don’t worry if that sounds too decadent for you. I subbed Greek yogurt for the oil, so that counts for something! If you made a new year’s resolution to lose weight or eat healthier, this totally counts.

Or if you just need something to warm your soul and make you do a little happy dance, these brownies are for you.

One last thing before I go. Happy, happy birthday to my husband! Greg wouldn’t touch these brownies with a ten foot pole, but I’m making it up to him with a special dinner tonight. Dessert isn’t his thing, but a (spoiler-alert) Mexican style dinner is!

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl
(Adapted from recipe on back of the Ghirardelli brownie box)
Makes about 16 servings
Ingredients:
1 box Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix (or another mix of choice)
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
25 Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (or another similar cookie)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten (you will only use half of this)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9×9 inch pan with nonstick spray. Gently twist Joe Joe’s apart and cover the bottom of the pan with half of the separated cookies. Set pan aside.
2. Prepare brownie batter by combining mix, egg, water and Greek yogurt. Pour half of the batter into the pan. Add remaining cookies, cream side down, on top of the batter. Pour remaining brownie batter on top of the cookies.
3. Prepare the cream cheese filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, half of the beaten egg, vanilla and peppermint extract in a small bowl (discard the other half of the egg, or reuse for something else). Use a butter knife or spatula to swirl cream cheese mixture across the top of the brownie batter.
4. Bake 32-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares. 

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 #13: Issue a Public Apology

Day 13: Issue a public apology. This can be as funny or serious as you want it to be. 


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I apologize to you for spending yet another blog post raving about my (and it will be yours too) next new favorite Publix frozen yogurt flavor. Chocolate Cookie Quarry. Brooke told me I had to try it and boyyyy am I thanking her now. This stuff is amazing. 
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I also must apologize to my future doctors who will first tell me I have eaten too much frozen yogurt in my lifetime. Whoops. And they will probably give me hard time for my somewhatttt excessive salt intake. Like a shake of salt on top of my chocolate fro yo is excessive or something???

Yes, you read that correctly. Call me weird, but I promise it’s delicious. Just a small sprinkle though, not even a full shake of the salt shaker. Chocolate fro yo with a hint of saltiness…oh my goodness. My life is complete.

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.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

Well that’s a mouthful. A mouth full of light, fluffy, cheesecakey deliciousness! 
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We can shorten the name to PB ‘Nana Choc Cake Squares if you want. I like abbreviations. Probs. Maybs. Totes. Adorbs. 
Perf. 
You get the point.
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Do you realize Valentine’s Day is in two days? TWO! I think you could use a PB ‘Nana Choc one of these to sweeten your V-Day.  
But be careful. They can be addicting! (Name that movie!) 
At first I wasn’t sure I liked the outcome of these. There is no mistaking the banana flavor. Not bad by any means, just stronger than I expected. I think after literally not being able to stop myself from just taking ‘one last bite,’ then ‘no really, just one last bite,’ I realized how good they were. 
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Things were getting out of control between these little squares and myself so I shared them with my coworkers and only heard good things. Then again, I can’t imagine a coworker telling me to my face they didn’t like something I made, but you never know. 
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Now I wish I still had one, or two, left for Valentine’s Day. Prepare yourself for the sadness that comes when you or your coworkers finish these off. I’m still mourning the loss. 
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Oh, oh! And if you’re counting calories as my obsessive self usually does, these are only about 150 cals each, assuming you use “light” versions of the ingredients as I have them listed below. 
Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
(Adapted from Bake at 350)
Makes 16 squares
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup chocolate Teddy Grahams
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used light)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 8×8 baking pan with foil so that the foil completely covers the pan and hangs over the sides. Spray with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. Add Teddy Grahams to a food processor and blend thoroughly. Pour into baking pan and gently shake the pan to spread the crumbs in an even layer. 
3. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, add cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt. Beat on medium speed until ingredients are well-blended, about two minutes. With beater on low speed, add cocoa powder, corn starch and sugar. Add egg and egg white and continue to beat until well-incorporated. Add banana and peanut butter, again mixing until well-incorporated. Pour batter into the baking pan and gently shake to evenly distribute. Sprinkle white chocolate chips across the top of the batter. 
4. Bake 35-40 minutes. The top of the cheesecake will begin to crack slightly. Remove from heat and let cool in the pan for up to an hour. Place in fridge to chill an additional hour. Slice into squares and serve chilled.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Scones

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Hi friends! I’m back and ready to roll. I promised you I’d have a delicious recipe for you upon my return today and I living up to that promise. At least I hope you find this as delicious as I do.

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February is right around the corner. You know what that means. Valentine’s Day! I love Valentine’s Day, I really, really do. I realize it’s a “made-up” holiday, but what’s wrong with that? It’s a day to give a little extra attention to the significant other in your life, your friends, your family, whoever! (whomever?) 
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As I continue my efforts to improve this here blog o’ mine, I know I need to do a better job of sharing recipes that are relevant and timely. This is something I learned a lot about in school when I wanted to be a journalist. Even as I moved more into the PR/marketing world, the timeliness of a story is key. 
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What good is a perfectly adorable chocolate strawberry scone the day after Valentine’s Day? By then, the fad of chocolate and red and pink colored food has passed. People are already thinking about Easter and St. Patrick’s Day.
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Okay, obviously chocolate is acceptable anytime of year and I’ll take something pink anytime as well. But for the sake of my argument, just go with me on this one. 
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I’m planning ahead for myself so that you can plan ahead too. This would make the perfect breakfast on Valentine’s Day with the bright red strawberries and sweet rich chocolate – a February 14th must-have. Not to mention it’s easy-peasey and comes together in no time. 
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If your loved one “doesn’t like chocolate,” just forgo the final step of dunking the scone into the melty goodness. But don’t be surprised if they then go off and eat the last half of your giant chocolate chip cookie you had been saving for an afternoon snack.

Doesn’t make sense to me either…

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Scones
(Scones adapted from Eat.Live.Run)

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped strawberries (about 5 large berries)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray large cookie sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine milk, vanilla and chopped strawberries. Stir and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk well. Use a handheld pastry mixture to cut in the cold butter pieces. Continue to blend until butter pieces are cut up and well distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Pour the milk and berry mixture into the dry ingredients. Add sour cream. Using a rubber spatula, stir to combine while scraping down the sides as needed.
5. Set entire batch of dough on the cookie tray and pat down so it’s about 3 inches thick. Use a serrated knife to cut dough into triangles. Separate scones evenly on pan, at least 1-2 inches apart. Bake 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave on pan until completely cooled.
6. Meanwhile, add chocolate to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let chocolate begin to warm for 1-2 minutes then begin to stir continuously until all morsels are melted. One at a time, dip the scones upside down into pan. Gently turn back over and let cool on wire rack or sheet of foil. Let cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving.