Quick and Easy Pumpkin Muffins

It’s no secret that I love to cheat and start with a mix when making baked goods.  I’m capable of cooking from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I always have time to do it.  These muffins took me less than half an hour to make, and that includes gathering the ingredients, cooking time and cleaning up.  That’s almost faster than my son can inhale them.  Almost.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 17.5 ounce box blueberry muffin mix (I like the fat free Krusteaz)

1 15 ounce can pumpkin

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, no shell

2 tablespoons vanilla turbinado sugar

Pumpkin Muffins 1

Set the can of blueberries from the muffin mix aside for another use.  I use it to double the berries in blueberry muffins.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the muffin mix and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the pumpkin and mix until combined.  Spoon into a greased muffin pan.  Spread the batter so it covers the bottom.  Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds evenly over the tops.  Repeat with the sugar.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool.  Makes 12 muffins.

Pumpkin Muffins 2

If you’re wondering about the vanilla turbinado sugar, I keep a container of raw sugar with split vanilla beans in the pantry.  I just add more sugar when it gets low.  It adds a crunch to the top of muffins and is great in hot tea.

Pumpkin Muffins 3

These muffins are dense and a little chewy.  Mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top would be delicious instead of the sugar.  Hmm…that might be breakfast tomorrow.

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Breakfast in a Jar

All the staring at jars last week for my Friday Favorites made me realize I hadn’t shared this recipe with you.  I’ve been eating this concoction for breakfast for the past few months and I’m not sick of it yet, so that’s a good sign.  And it’s good for me.  Gasp.

Breakfast 1

To be honest, this started as Breakfast in a Plastic Container, but I store them in the freezer and the lids kept breaking when I tried to pry them off.  They are prettier this way, and the lids don’t break, but they do freeze my hand.  An insulated jar-holder might be in my future.

Breakfast in a Jar

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats (you could use quick-cooking, but I like this texture better)

1 teaspoon ground flax seed

1/2 teaspoon chia seeds (if you aren’t familiar, I found them in the health food section and they look like poppy seeds)

1 teaspoon mini chocolate chips

1/2 tablespoon shredded coconut

1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds (toast on a pan in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes)

Combine in a jar.  If you’re not going to eat it right away, store in the freezer.  The flax and chia seeds keep better there. 

When you’re ready to eat it, add:

2 – 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, to taste (I prefer it a bit creamier)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey, also to taste

Breakfast 2

Stir well and enjoy.

Breakfast 3

The first time I made this, I used honey Greek yogurt, until I realized it was the full-fat version and the nutrition stats stung a bit.  I switched to nonfat plain and added honey.  With the chocolate chips and coconut you could leave it out, but I like things a little on the sweet side.  I think a little peanut butter would be tasty in here too.  Mmm.

Breakfast 4

I make a dozen or so of these at a time, then I can just pull one out and add the yogurt and honey.  I’ve found these keep hunger at bay until lunch, unlike some quick breakfasts I’ve tried in the past.

Join me again on Wednesday for a jar-inspired dessert I made for my family last weekend!

No Bake Energy Bites

I came across a recipe on Pinterest this weekend that I had to try.  Well, let’s face it, I actually just saw a photo I liked and clicked through until I found the recipe.  It IS Pinterest, after all.

I love things that are easy to make, use ingredients I can pronounce and are easy to substitute, and have at least some health benefits.  These little babies fit the bill on all levels.  They also just happen to be delicious.

No Bake Energy Bites 1

The original recipe can be found on Smashed Peas and Carrots.  I’m sure the recipe would be fantastic as written. However, a combination of a lack of certain ingredients and a hatred by one of my children of those ingredients required some substitutions.  I WILL be trying these with the coconut though, and my son and I will eat them all.

I made a double batch because I have a sixteen year old boy.  ‘Nuff said.  As I mentioned, no coconut and I was short on flax seed by half.  I did have a box of Dulce de Leche Cheerios in the cupboard that everyone was underwhelmed by, so I put those through the food processor and threw them in.  I forgot that they’re lightly sweetened, so I should have cut back a bit on the honey.  They’re yummy, but a little sweet.

I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup peanut butter because my mixture was a little too crumbly, but I think that was because the cereal crumbs were drier than the coconut and flax seed would have been. 

The instructions say to roll into balls, but I found I needed to squish them into balls.  I was afraid they wouldn’t hold together, but as long as I smooshed them, they kept their shape.  I think they would work as bars also.  I would smash them into a pan before refrigerating, then cut them into bars after they’re cold.

If you have time, scan through the comments following the recipe for some great ideas for substitutions.  I can’t wait to try these with some different ingredients.  Which could be today, since the ones I made yesterday are gone.  Already.

No Bake Energy Bites 2

Banana Bread

One of my son’s favorite things I make is banana bread.  In fact, I’m pretty sure he asks me to buy bananas just so he can leave them on the counter until they turn black.  He does actually eat them once in a while, just to throw me off.

banana bread 1

I’ve developed my own recipe over the years, and have found it works as bread or muffins.  It usually doesn’t last long around here, but if you hide a loaf, it’s better the second day.

 

Banana Bread

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (3 – 4 medium)

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the lemon juice and milk.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans.

Mix sugars and butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs until well-blended.  Add bananas, milk/lemon mixture and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in flour and baking soda until just moistened.  Pour into loaf pans.  Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool.

banana bread 2

Occasionally, I add a cup of chocolate chips.  Sometimes I throw in a little cinnamon.  If I’m in a healthier mood, I replace half of the butter with applesauce, yogurt or fat-free sour cream and replace the eggs with egg substitute.  I always use skim milk.  If you do use something besides butter, the bread is better the first day.

To make muffins, pour into greased muffin pan and bake at 400 for about 16 to 20 minutes.

banana bread 3

The only drawback to this recipe is that you have to plan ahead.  Black bananas make better bread than yellow ones.  Believe me, we’ve tested that theory more than once.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola

My daughter asked me to buy some granola last week.  She wanted to stir it into her yogurt.  I wrote it on the grocery list, then somewhere a little voice said “You could make granola!”  I’ve never made it before, so I don’t know what that was about, but it seemed like something that would be pretty hard to screw up.

I searched through several recipes but none of them were exactly what I wanted so this is my version.  I’ve found it very hard to leave alone since I took it out of the oven last night, so I’m calling it a success.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 1

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine in a large bowl:

6 cups rolled oats

2 cups cashew pieces

1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Stir in:

1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

After all ingredients are well combined, spread out on two large, ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.  Stir.  Return to oven for 10 minutes.  Stir again.  Cook 5 minutes longer, or until golden.  Pour onto paper towels to cool.  I added 1 1/2 cups broken, dried banana chips, sprinkled over the cooling granola.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 2

If you don’t like cashews or sunflower seeds, you can use any kind of nuts.  Replace the peanut butter with almond butter.  It’s fairly sweet, so you could leave out the brown sugar if you prefer.  To cut down on fat, replace some of the oil with applesauce.  Add some dried fruit after it’s done baking.  Try different seasoning instead of, or in addition to, the cinnamon.  Add ground flax seed or wheat germ.  Throw in a few chocolate chips.  If some people in my house wouldn’t have rejected it, I would throw in some coconut.  In fact, I might do a coconut, dried pineapple and macadamia nut batch.  You almost can’t go wrong.

We’ll see how long this stuff lasts in my house.  I think I might as well add the ingredients to next week’s grocery list right now.

Jennifer’s Hanukkah Latkes

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a guest.  She is an extremely talented cook, which comes in handy since she’s routinely feeding the nine people who call her house home.  She and her family are gearing up to celebrate Hanukkah, so she’s agreed to share one of her favorite recipes with us.  Meet my sister, Jennifer!

My name is Jennifer and I have not only followed Staci’s crafts on her blog since she started, but since I’m her sister I’ve pretty much followed her crafts my whole life. So naturally, I was really excited when she asked me to guest blog for the first day of Hanukkah!

There are lots of fun things our family does for Hanukkah. We play dreidel, light the menorah, decorate with snowflakes, exchange gifts and learn about the story of Hanukkah. But the thing we spend the most time on by far is the food. Traditionally, this is a time for foods fried in oil (hey, nobody ever claimed Hanukkah food was healthy!). We have a few dishes we like to prepare during the week, but at our house it’s not Hanukkah until I have made latkes – and there are never leftovers!

I first made latkes about five years ago. I followed recipes but never found one that had a great texture, so I ended up making up my own. I really like the texture of the shredded potatoes mixed into mashed potatoes. Here’s what I came up with:

Latkes

4 C. Mashed Potatoes (it helps if you already have leftovers – I use Russets)

2 Large or 3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, shredded

½ Medium Yellow Onion, shredded

2 Large Eggs

1 C. Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Jennifer's Latkes 1

Mix all these ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl. Using a ¼ cup measure, scoop mixture and form into flat patties. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for about five minutes. Depending on the size of your skillet, gently lower three to five patties into the oil. Cook for about four to five minutes until golden brown. Flip and cook for another four to five minutes on that side. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. You will need to add about two more tablespoons of oil after removing each batch of patties. This recipe will make about 26 latkes. It can easily be cut in half, but I could never get away with that at my house. We like to serve our latkes with applesauce and sour cream. If by some crazy twist of luck you end up with leftovers, they can be stored in the refrigerator for three or four days and heated up in the microwave or oven. Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah!

Jennifer's Latkes 2

Staci’s Breakfast Cookies

When I first created this recipe, I called them breakfast cookies, because I was making them as a granola bar substitute that the kids could run out the door with.  Over the years, we’ve affectionately come to know them as Karate Cookies and, more recently, Track Cookies.  Karate tournaments and track meets have got to be two of the longest sporting events on the planet, with no easily accessible food, so I started making these cookies to bring along for fuel.  They probably saved some lives a few times, as a hungry athlete is a cranky athlete.  Not to mention their parents.

Staci’s Breakfast Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1/4 cup wheat flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 cups oatmeal (quick oats or process 3 cups old fashioned briefly in a food processor, add last cup unground)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine margarine and peanut butter.  Add sugars, molasses, vanilla and eggs.  Stir well.  Add all remaining ingredients. Stir until completely combined.  Drop with 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool.

Makes about 48 cookies.

This is an extremely flexible recipe.  You can substitute half of the butter with applesauce.  They taste good, but are best eaten the same day they’re made.  No molasses?  Leave it out or substitute some honey.  The ground flax seed could be wheat germ, ground nuts, more oats or even ground cereal.  Of course, you could use white flour if you don’t have wheat.

If I were the only one eating these, I would add some coarsely chopped nuts.  Sadly, my kids think nuts are for eating alone and not using in a recipe.  I do sometimes throw in some chocolate chips.  They don’t complain about those.  You could add some raisins or other dried fruit, if that’s your thing.

Track season is over and there are no karate tournaments on the horizon, so this batch might actually make it to breakfast.