Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Bran Spice Muffins

When it comes to baking, I'm usually not brave enough to try my own recipes. This morning however I felt courageous. I knew I wanted to make healthy muffins and I almost opted for pumpkin muffins, but have other pumpkin recipes coming. I had some very yummy apples just screaming to be used so, my recipe was born.

I cut up two small golden delicious apples. These particular ones are so sweet. But of course, you could use any good cooking apple.

After assembling the recipe, I added this oat topping. I added no butter, so it's a bit crumbly and completely optional. I thought they gave the muffins lots of character!

Fresh out of the oven, and smelling lovely!

Ready to be cut, buttered, and enjoyed.

I asked my family to be completely honest about the taste. My husband said that he liked them very much, but wouldn't mind them being a little sweeter. You can of course add more sugar, for me the amount of sweetness was perfect, especially with the sweetness in the topping. My niece who was with us said they were yummy. And my youngest rated them very high on the muffin scale.

Apple Bran Spice Muffins

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon clove
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 small cooking apples chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Oat topping: (optional)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan.
In a bowl combine the first nine ingredients (white flour through clove). In a separate mixing bowl lightly beat eggs. Add both white and brown sugar, beat until combined. Add oil, applesauce and yogurt, beat until mixed well.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat slowly until combined, scraping down the sides as you go. Stir in apples and pecans.
Pour batter into well greased muffin pan and fill 2/3 full. If using oat topping mix oats, sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle on top of muffins. Press oats lightly into the top of the muffins. Bake for 15 minutes.

Yield: 11-12 muffins

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

One might begin to wonder if I'm getting carried away with pumpkin recipes. Yes, I guess I am, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I was really wanting to make some homemade mac and cheese and in particular, I wanted to try it with pumpkin. I found this particular recipe over at Healthy Food for Living, it looked so creamy and delicious! I was excited to try it and it did not disappoint.

You begin the sauce by heating the pumpkin and milk.

Next comes the combination of cheeses. I used sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack and cream cheese.

You can choose just about any kind of pasta, I went with the mini-penne.

After you add the sauce to the pasta it's really creamy. If you like it that way—go ahead and enjoy! Or…

…you may decide to add a bit of cheese to the top and bake it in the oven. Here's where you have to be careful. Over-baked mac and cheese gets very dry. I put it in the oven for about 5 minutes.

This dish is great as a vegetarian main dish or served as a side. I like to serve it up with pork tenderloin or ham.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Healthy Food for a Living

8 oz uncooked macaroni or other pasta, (I used mini-penne)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
2 oz (about 4 Tbsp) 1/3-less-fat neufchatel cream cheese
1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (can use reduced fat cheese)
1/2 cup freshly grated gruyere cheese (can sub in any good melting cheese, such as monterey jack)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or more depending on heat preference
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, whisk together and heat pumpkin puree and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot.
Reduce stove heat to low. Whisk in cheeses until fully melted.
Stir in nutmeg and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir drained pasta into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined.
You can eat and enjoy after mixing pasta with the sauce or you can put it all in a casserole dish, sprinkle with more cheese and put it in the oven at 375, for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Serve with an extra dusting of nutmeg, if desired.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin-Pecan Coffee Cake

Of all the breakfast type breads there are to enjoy, coffee cake would be among my very favorite! It may even rival cinnamon rolls! When I growing up my mom would sometimes make the Bisquick version of coffee cake. I always loved it, although I'm sure I wasn't as wild about the "cake" part of it, so I mostly consumed the streusel topping - yum! To me, coffee cake is just pure comfort food!

Here is a great coffee cake with the twist of pumpkin added to the mix! This is a "lighter" recipe as it does not have a ton of butter added. The streusel topping, however, more than makes up for it. With the added pecans, it is bursting with flavor! The "cake" part is a winner because of the explosion of pumpkin flavor.

Start by melting butter in a cake pan, then adding a mixture of oats, brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon.

Pouring the pumpkin mixture on top and ready for the oven.

Out of the oven, now comes the fun! Flip it over on your serving plate...

And here you have the finished product! I had no trouble getting it out of the pan.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Pumpkin-Pecan Coffee Cake
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1 teaspoon butter or stick margarine
  • 1/4 cup regular oats
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter in bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Combine oats, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Sprinkle oat mixture over bottom of pan, and set aside.
Beat 3 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar at medium speed of a mixer until mixture is well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add the egg, and beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the pumpkin and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Spoon batter evenly over oat mixture. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, and invert cake onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homemade Sports Drink

My faithful running companions

After I had all my kids I thought I would never run again. In junior high and high school I had been very active. Even through all my years of having and raising babies I tried to keep fit with aerobics. Once my youngest was weaned and not attached to my hip anymore I started walking. But running? Nope—out of the question! Until one day…. My oldest son was home from college, my next oldest was on the cross-country team and they both encouraged me to run with them. I told them they were nuts, but they prevailed at last. I went running! I went about a mile without stopping! Eight years later, I'm still going strong and am just four weeks away from running my first half-marathon! I never thought it would come to this.

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated and replenished while in such intense training. I was not comfortable drinking your typical sports drinks, you find everywhere. So a friend of mine told me about the wonders of coconut water, (not to be confused with coconut milk), it is the clear liquid inside immature coconuts. The benefits of this liquid are many; all natural, only 43 calories per cup, more potassium than a banana, and a preventative for dehydration (to name just a few).

I have also added some cherry juice to this drink. When I went to purchase the juice at the health food store there was a great article on the benefits of cherry juice after a work out. The article stated that it was great for replenishing the body after work outs and it also keeps muscle pain to a minimum!

Coconut water is pricey, and works out to be a little more than the sports drink you see in the photo above. I typically make this drink after one of my longer runs.

I have found this drink to be a huge help in my post work out time. If I'm not careful, my energy level will really dive if I don't have the proper hydration, potassium, minerals, and salts after my runs.

Homemade Sports Drink

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 4 teaspoons black cherry concentrate or to taste* (see note at bottom)
  • splash of lime concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2/3 cup purified water

Stir all ingredients together until salt and sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate until cold.

Yield: 1 serving (about 14 ounces)

*Note: Feel free to substitute any juice for the cherry. If using juice that is not a concentrate, you needn't add water.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin and Mushroom Pasta with Gorgonzola

My daughter-in-law posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, several fall dishes that she had already prepared and enjoyed. She was way ahead of me, as I was just easing into the season, still not wanting to let go of summer.

I was telling my new daughter this past weekend that compared to me, when I first got married, she is leaps and bounds ahead with her cooking and desire to eat good foods. In fact, I have not yet told her this, but just hours before her beloved (my son) was born, I had served Hamburger Helper to my husband...I wasn't hungry that night–hmmmm, I wonder why? I am very happy to report that my Hamburger Helper days are long since gone, as I have discovered the joy of real (and healthy) food.

So, my daughter-in-law found this recipe over at Closet Cooking and it came highly recommended. The flavor combinations are different but they just work together beautifully. We enjoyed this very much.

I started by slicing the mushrooms.

Caramelizing the onions and mushrooms. Such wonderful aromas!

Looking more like a sauce with the addition of spices, pumpkin, gorgonzola, and cream.

The finished product. You should have seen me agonize at the grocery store about what kind of pasta to use. I finally opted for the mini-bow tie. It was a good choice but I think any pasta would do just fine! I did alter the recipe slightly, I found the sauce to be thick with just a 1/4 cup of cream. So, I added another 1/3 cup of half and half to the sauce. Also, if you want a more intense flavor with the sauce, I would suggest not using as much pasta.
This was so tasty and delicious!

Pumpkin and Mushroom Pasta with Gorgonzola
Adapted slightly from Closet Cooking

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion (sliced)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon sage (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola (crumbled)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 handful sage leaves

Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the onions and mushrooms and slowly cook them until they are nice and caramelized, about an 20 minutes. Start cooking the pasta. Add the garlic, sage, red chili pepper flakes and nutmeg and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the pumpkin puree, cream, gorgonzola, salt and pepper and simmer to reduce for a few minutes. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the sage leaves and fry until Crispy. Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve garnished with the crispy butter fried sage.

Yield: 4 servings