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.

Jalapeño Garlic Hummus

It’s not red, white or blue, and it didn’t originate in America.  

So if you’re looking for a super festive, all-American recipe for the 4th of July, this is not it. BUT! If you’re looking for a relative healthy way to snack your way through the holiday regardless of festive artificial colors, this is it.

We still don’t have set plans for the weekend, and after trying to talk to Greg about making plans, I’ve given up. Men! They just don’t appreciate a good plan, do they? His brother is visiting for the weekend, so a cookout, eating out and the beach are likely in our near future. Other than that, we’re taking each day as it comes. 
Oh! And after our classes at the gym Saturday morning, Erica and I are trying out a new French bakery. Besides the coffee and drool-worthy pastries, they have breakfast sandwiches, crepes, quiches and more. Can’t wait!
What are your plans, or non-plans, for the holiday?
Getting back to this hummus though, has anyone else noticed that hummus is never on sale anymore? Is there a chickpea shortage I’m unaware of? Greg and I try to only buy items on sale, although there are obviously times we don’t have a choice or make exceptions. I’m talking to you Dannon Light & Fit Toasted Coconut Vanilla Greek Yogurt!!! (<–my current obsession and the only flavor yogurt I’ve been buying for the past two months). Can you tell I’m passionate about it?
Back to the hummus, again! Sabra’s Supremely Spicy is our favorite and really the only kind of hummus we buy. It used to be on sale about every other week, which was perfect. It allowed us to get a good deal when we needed it, and the weeks it wasn’t on sale, we still had enough from the previous week to get us through until the next sale. 
Well, times have changed. This mystery chickpea shortage has left us in a hummus famine for far too long. 
The time came for me to make my own, and the result was well worth the cost savings. If you don’t like spicy, don’t be intimidated by “jalapeño” in the name. Yes, there is an entire seeded jalapeño in the recipe, but it adds just the right amount of kick. If you really like spicy, try adding two jalapeños and maybe some crushed red pepper. Greg, Mr. Nothing Is Too Spicy For Me, didn’t think this was spicy at all. So it’s all just personal preference. 
I’ve made hummus once before, back in the baby days of this blog in 2011, but this batch was actually prepared properly – with a food processor, not manually smashing the beans with a hand mixer. Ha! Amateur move. I’ve come a long way. 
P.S. I bought a lemon specifically for this hummus, then completely forgot to use it. Now that I think about it, a lime would be much better with the jalapeño anyway. Give it a try and let me know! 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA  4TH OF JULY TO YOU! 

See, I am patriotic after all, despite the un-patriotic recipe. 
Jalapeño Garlic Hummus

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans (same thing as chickpeas)
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons canned coconut milk (regular milk or water will also work)
Directions:
1. Add garbanzo beans to a food processor. Blend until desired smoothness, about 1-2 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor. Blend for about 2 more minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until all ingredients are well distributed. Serve with pita chips, veggies, or on a sandwich. Store leftovers in fridge for up to one week.

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.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

Cookies!

This past weekend when I was being especially productive, I made a lot of cookies. Baking cookies is the definition of productivity if you didn’t know.

Of the two varieties I made, this being one and the other coming to the blog soon, neither turned out quite the way I expected, but I can’t complain. Expectations are a funny thing. It’s nice to have something to look forward to – a vacation, seeing someone for the first time in awhile, and the important things like eating a homemade cookie… – but when expectations aren’t met, what happens? Disappointment can ensue.

Let me clarify. The cookies were not bad, and I really shouldn’t say I was disappointed, but they were different than what I was originally hoping.

The good: They were full of texture, not overly sweet, and the warm cinnamony flavor (from both ground cinnamon and cinnamon chips) made them perfect to be called a “breakfast cookie” if you so desire.

The bad: What they were lacking were enough Raisinets. I had a box (about 1/2 cup total) of dark chocolate Raisinets and was giddy over the idea of incorporating them into the cookie dough. But I needed MORE! One box was simply not enough to live up to my expectations.

The solution(s): A. From the beginning, expect a cinnamon oatmeal cookie with an occasional dark chocolate raisin surprise or B. Double the amount of Raisinets.

If you chose option B, please let me know how it is.

Once I took a second bite and got over the initial feeling of these not living up to my expectations, I quickly realized what I created was just as good as my original idea.

The moral of the story: let go of expectations and take one step in life (or one bite of cookie) at a time.

…Easier said than done, right?

One day, I’m sure I’ll get around to meeting those Raisinet overload cookies that formed in my head, but until then I have other cookie recipes to tackle. I have a difficult time repeating or trying to re-do a recipe when I have hundreds of others catching my eye.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen small, or 1 dozen large, cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate Raisinets, or other chocolate covered raisins
1/4 cup mini cinnamon chips

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon and baking soda.
2. In a separate bowl add the butter and beat with a handheld mixer until creamy. Add sugars and beat again until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, beating on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Add oats and beat again until just combined. Fold in Raisinets and cinnamon chips. Chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough into golf ball size balls and place about two inches apart on a cookie sheet (use silpat mats or spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray).
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Enjoy!

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.