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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Sunday Blessings – The Blog’s 3rd Birthday

THREE YEARS! This little baby blog just turned 3 this past Thursday and to be honest I had completely lost track of time. It was my devoted and loyal reader, my grandma (GG), who commented on my Facebook page about the birthday. She’s the best 🙂 Who else could have I counted on to pay attention the date for me? 🙂 Love you, G!

With the short notice, I wasn’t able to get the celebratory post up in time. It’s all for the best though because now I can tell you in a traditional Sunday Blessings post about how blessed I am to have this outlet and readers like you. I realize some of you may be long-time, loyal readers, and some of you may be reading for the first time. Some of you have stuck with me through the consistent posting times, and got bored with my lack of posting for quite awhile as well. However it makes no difference to me. I am so grateful for each and every reader taking time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say.

It’s also a bittersweet time, because as I’ve mentioned every year, August 1st is the anniversary of my good friend, college roommate, and teammate’s passing three years ago as well. That was by far the hardest loss I’ve ever had to endure and my heart still breaks when I think of Morgan losing her life so, so young. But I also have peace knowing our beautiful angel is in heaven.

such babies we were!

On a happier note, this third year in the blogosphere was a fun one. Since last July 31st:

We bought a house, celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple in said house.
I started a new job and was able to take two mini vacations in between. I went to Orlando to visit Brooke where we celebrated our birthdays by getting up close and personal with beluga whales. Then I went to Breckenridge, CO with Greg to ski in the winter wonderland.

I competed with other local bloggers in the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off. With the help of Val, our Mexican style dish won!

When springtime rolled around, Greg and I planted a garden in our backyard and were thrilled when our mixed greens were ready to harvest! We’ve also grown tomatoes galore, jalapeños, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions.

Some of my favorite recipes from the blog’s third year include:

(funny to see that all of those recipes were created right around the time I had off between jobs. I was staying quite productive in the kitchen during that transition!)

Again, I hope you all know how much I appreciate you and love sharing my thoughts on faith, food and daily life in general with you. Here’s to year #4!

See also:
2nd Blog Birthday
1st Blog Birthday
1st Post Ever!

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.

Top 5 Vegetarian Super Bowl Party Foods

Although I don’t care about the football part of the Super Bowl this year, I’m always looking for an excuse to make party foods. I’ve got to have something to munch on while watching three or four hours of commercials…I mean…football.

Here’s a lineup of my menu ideas, all of which are vegetarian (or can easily be made vegetarian):

1. White Pizza with Spinach and Bacon. What’s a football party without pizza? I realize bacon doesn’t qualify as vegetarian, but you can simply leave that off.

2. Crispy Healthy Baked Zucchini Fries. I think a Jalapeno Yogurt Dip would be great with these.

3. Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos. One of my personal game day favorites. Crunchy, cheesy, filling and down right delicious.

4. Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder. Nothing like a hot bowl of soup during these cold winter days.

5. Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream. I don’t know about you, but it’s been far too long since I’ve made cupcakes. These little gems are calling my name. Plus, after eating all these veggies, we deserve it!

What are you making for the Super Bowl?

Holiday Travel Snacks

With the holidays upon us, I know I’m not the only one with travel plans. I’ll be driving everywhere this year, as opposed to flying. The most important part of a road trip, besides gas in the car, is an assortment of SNACKS! I suppose these are all great for airplane travel too (just make sure to buy the liquids after you get through security, but you already know that).

Here are my favorites.

Peanut Butter Puffins
I discovered Puffins a few years ago while babysitting for a family who always kept them stocked in the pantry. I don’t eat cereal often, but when I saw these a couple of months ago on sale at Target, I figured I’d switch up my morning routine with something new. They have original and peanut butter. The PB is divine. Perfectly crunchy and if you ask me, best eaten dry by the handful – no milk required!

I love scooping a cup into a plastic baggy to take on the go.

Clif Bars
Oh look! More peanut butter. I am usually not fond of protein or nutrition bars like this, mostly because I’d rather consume 200-400 calories differently. I just have never found a bar that is really “worth it.” I still have to be in the right mood, but when I am, Clif Bars are my go-to bar. I have only tried a few flavors, but the Crunchy Peanut Butter has been my favorite.

Fresh fruit like apples and bananas
Light, healthy and guilt-free. Need I say more?

Frosted Animal Cookies
Okay, these are going to be the death of me. I have such a love-hate relationship with this giant bear jug. Another Target gem, I could eat these things forever. They are dangerously addicting. There is no such thing as “just one” with these. Portion control is key and road trips allow you to practice that control. By only packing a small handful in a ziplock bag, when they’re gone, they’re gone. No sneaking back to the pantry for more when you are hundreds of miles away speeding down the highway.

Bottled Water
Stay hydrated! Water is my best friend. So are bathroom breaks.

Coffee.
Gas station coffee is nice and cheap (the gas station by my house sells any size cup for just 60 cents!). But it’s also nice to treat yourself to something special on the road with Starbucks.

Why, yes. I found the most tempting picture I could 😉 I never get whipped cream on my lattes, but when the barista accidentally put it on my peppermint mocha this weekend, I was not about to complain. It didn’t quite look like that picture though. Sigh.

Sugar Free Red Bull.
When it’s the middle of the night and coffee doesn’t sound good, I resort to Sugar Free Red Bull. I know it’s not good for me, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It does the trick, no denying that.

There you have it.

What are your road trip or airline must-haves?