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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

It's that time of year again where everything seems to be made with pumpkins. Last year, I went a little overboard on my pumpkin use. I was whipping up pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin granola, etc. But this year, I'm keeping it cool and sticking to some basics. I've already made some muffins and a pumpkin based chili. But now I plan to hold off on pumpkin because I want to make sure I enjoy my favorite holiday dessert (pumpkin pie) without being sick of the main ingredient!
These muffins are delicious and pack just enough pumpkin to give you a delightful taste of autumn. They are quick, easy to make, and the perfect grab-and-go breakfast. Enjoy!

Note: I always link back to the source where I found the original recipe. But sadly, I cannot find the source for these! I found the recipe scribbled on my recipe pad and could not locate a bookmark. I feel terrible so if the person who posted this recipe should ever happen to stumble on my blog, I apologize in advance. Please send a comment so I can attribute the recipe to you!
Pumpkin Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup WW flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 - 3/4 c pecans (or nuts or seeds of your choice)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tin.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet (pumpkin puree through vanilla extract) ingredients.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  5. Fold in the pecans.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Detox Salad

This past weekend, Ron and I spent Friday and Saturday in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is a little town about 2.5 hours from Seattle that is modeled after a Bavarian village and surrounded by mountains. I've wanted to visit this place for several years now, so when I saw that they had an Oktoberfest marathon weekend, I was stoked. As soon as we learned we were moving to Seattle, I registered us for the half-marathon! Awesome! Well, not completely 100% awesome. Ron and I have been on a streak of going on terrible short weekend trips. First, our trip to Whistler, B.C. was cut short thanks to my getting terribly ill (and Ron wearing shorts in 10 degree rainy weather). Then, our weekend trip to San Francisco was quite possibly the worst trip I've ever experienced in my life. So we weren't expecting much going into Leavenworth but we still had high hopes.

Overall, the trip wasn't terrible so we were pleasantly pleased! Perhaps our bad streak is over? (Please say yes.) The town absolutely exceeded my expectations! It was completely adorable with cute little shops that all seemed to be Christmas related; I spent nearly an hour inside Kris Kringl! But it was the hotel -- ohhhh, the hotel -- that caused us to duck out a day early and lose a couple hundred dollars (a room during off-peak time is $79 but was marked up to $249 per night for this weekend!). The hotel was... BAD. You see, I somewhat knew going into it that the hotel was not going to be good. The run was scheduled for the last weekend of Oktoberfest - the most popular weekend of the year in Leavenworth - so nearly all rooms were booked by the time I was trying to get a room. So, when I found one, I jumped on it without doing much research. A few days before the trip, I checked the reviews and saw that our hotel was ranked 20 out of 20 hotels in the little town. Oh boy. Let's just say we should've slept in the car. Dirty grim aside, at 3:00 in the morning, I was still up, staring at the ceiling wondering why we weren't invited to the party above us. I didn't complain about, ahem, the bugs, smells, or stains, but I did mention the noise to the woman at the front desk. "For $250 per night, I just assumed we'd get some sleep in the hotel." She replied, "It's Oktoberfest. What do you expect? Most people are drunk so we figure it's a non-issue if guests just pass out." Oh, ok. Hospitality fail?

But, despite our lack of sleep, we somehow ran a delirious 13.1 miles the following morning. I think we would have done much better if we had slept and didn't spend 50% of the course running on single-file trails in the woods. But it went ok and we had fun. The sun came out and the mountains were beautiful. We spent the remainder of the morning walking around Leavenworth and eating hearty German fare that inspired me to go on a vegetable binge once we returned. So here is this delicious detox salad that is based off of a salad from Whole Foods. I've never tried the Whole Foods version but so long as I have these ingredients, I'll be making this amazing recipe from Oh She Glows blog. I feel rejuvenated and detox'ed already! It makes a ton so you'll be eating leftovers for days.
Detox Salad
from Oh She Glows
  • 2 heads broccoli, stems removed
  • 1 head cauliflower, stems removed
  • 2.5 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4-6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • pure maple syrup, to drizzle on before serving
  1. In a food processor, process the broccoli until fine. Add into large bowl.
  2. Process the cauliflower until fine; place in bowl. Process the carrots; place in bowl.
  3. Stir in the sunflower seeds, currants, raisins, and parsley. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Drizzle with maple syrup to taste and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chocolate and Pecan Biscoff Blondies

Several weeks ago, I started noticing a number of recipes posted for Biscoff this or Biscoff that. Quickly, I learned that the makers of those fabulous little cookies had begun selling a peanut-butter like spread. Bloggers were talking about the spread on their sites and coming up with fancy new ways to use the goodie in their recipes. So, as a lover of all spreads. And as a lover of all things Biscoff. I immediately rushed to the grocery store only to find that my efforts were thwarted by the Biscoff company, who had not yet begun to distribute the product to Washington state.
Naturally, I turned to the interweb to discover that Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, as per usual, had the products in store. So I did what I always do. I phoned home. And even though I said "just look for it the next time you run to the store," but thirty short minutes later, I received word that Biscoff spread had been purchased and was practically en route to Washington in a fancy little care package. I am so spoiled.

I had fun for the first few weeks eating this delicious Biscoff spread. You might recall that I made bread with it. Then I made ice cream with it. Ron made "adventure sandwiches" with it. (Ask him if you are interested.) And for a few nights, it was used in place of peanut butter for my daily peanut butter and graham snack. (This occurred before I swore off peanut butter and graham crackers, a sad and devastating day that I have yet to recover from, but that's another story.) But most importantly, I made these blondies when the recipe was posted on this amazing blog.

These blondies are so good that I can't even begin to describe how good they are. I always brag about my ability to portion control but I seriously couldn't portion control with these. There was almost a fight for the last crumb! Thank goodness I halved the recipe or Ron and I would be oompa-loompas right now. Nothing stopped me from eating them - not even skinny models who bring on periods of self-loathing. (I browsed through a Victoria's Secret catalog while polishing a blondie off. I subsequently threw the catalog across the room shouting offensive comments at the innocent women inside the magazine, but that's a diversion. . .) But just trust me on this, these are THAT good. And who cares if it sets you back a few extra calories for the day (or week?) because they are worth it. Just be sure to check online to see if your local grocery store carries Biscoff spread. Otherwise, it looks like Mommy Dearest will be sending you a care package too!
Chocolate and Pecan Biscoff Blondies
from Duchess of Fork, adapted from Joy the Baker
  • 10 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Biscoff spread (please don't substitute this!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until butter is just melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from stove and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then stir in Biscoff spread.
  3. Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in eggs and vanilla. (Mixture will be thick.)
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together salt, flour, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pot Roast

I know I've made pot roast before and blogged about it. But I tried a new recipe recently and fell in love with the dish. I'm a fan of all root vegetables but rarely eat them. This makes me sad. So, I saw some parsnips and leeks at the farmer's market recently, thought of this recipe, and snatched them up for a hearty dinner. We loved this recipe. It was hearty, tasty, and delicious.
You'll likely see a lot of comfort foods posting on here for the next few weeks or so. The change of seasons brought clouds and rain. With the clouds and rain brought sopping wet running clothes and muddy legs. With the wet running clothes and muddy legs came the desire to eat hearty meals that make the house smell wonderful. So here's the first of many comfort foods to come.

You can easily prepare this roast in a stockpot if you don't have a crockpot or don't want to spend all day waiting for dinner! Steps 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 are the same. But instead of using a crockpot, place your beef in a large stockpot. Bring the beef broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover the stockpot tightly. Simmer for 2 hours. After 2 hours of simmering, add the vegetables and continue to cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes or until the pot roast and veggies are fork tender. Then remove your pot roast and veggies from the stockpot and proceed with the next steps to make the gravy.
Hearty Pot Roast Dinner
from Washington Ranchers, Rathbun Angus Ranch
Yield: 6 servings
  • 2 tsp seasoned pepper blend or garlic-pepper seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast (2 - 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional if doing step #2)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, cut in half, or into quarters if large
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-1/2 x 1/2- inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 2-1/2 x 1/2- inch pieces
  • 1 small leek (white and pale green parts only), cut in half lengthwise then crosswise into 1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  1. Combine pepper blend and minced garlic to season the beef. Press evenly onto all surfaces of beef pot roast. 
  2. If desired, heat oil in stockpot over medium heat until hot. Brown pot roast on all sides. Pour off drippings and season beef with salt.
  3. Place potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and leeks in bottom of 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 quart slow cooker; top with seasoned pot roast.
  4. Pour beef broth around pot roast. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours or LOW for 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 hours, or until pot roast is fork tender.
  5. Remove pot roast from crockpot. 
  6. Skim fat from cooking liquid and measure 2 cups into medium saucepan (add beef broth or water to cooking liquid to yield 2 cups, if necessary).
  7. Combine water and cornstarch; stir into cooking liquid. Bring cooking liquid and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  8. Carve pot roast into thin slices. Season with salt, as desired. Serve with vegetables and gravy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Energy Bars

For some reason, I started drinking a lot more coffee since moving to Seattle. It was almost instant - as soon as we crossed into the county line - I started craving coffee. I'd get large to-go cups of 20 ounces of more when I was out running errands. I got a fancy new coffee pot that grinds fresh beans, in the loudest manner possible, in the earliest hours of the morning. I also lay in bed watching Frasier re-runs every night, secretly wishing there actually was a Dr. Frasier Crane, on a KACL radio station, and an actual Cafe Nervosa to go to in the mornings. On the one hand, at least I do not have a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, like everyone else in this town seems to have. But the coffee addiction is out of control. And it's not just coffee anymore! Now it's espresso too! I've developed this routine in the afternoon where I go for an afternoon walk to get an Americano around 2:00. Then, I sip on my Americano and listen to... Neil Diamond and shout the lyrics to "Cracklin' Rosie" until I feel happy enough to continue on my day. I don't get it either, I've never listened to Neil Diamond on a consistent basis before. But whatever makes us happy, right? And happiness is needed.
It's no secret that I'm not really, well, loving, liking, tolerating our time in Seattle. But instead of going off on a tangent about what I feel is stinky about this area, perhaps I should just work on the stinkiest thing of all: my attitude. Truthfully, it's quite exhausting being miserable. So I'm trying to change my attitude right now. And if Neil Diamond and copious amounts of coffee are going to assist in the process, then so be it. Every day, I count my blessings for the multitude of positive things I have, the health I have, and the people I am most grateful for. But I've had difficulty translating this to my general outlook and approach at life. Granted, I've never been one of those people with the brightest or sunniest demeanor. But I really need to focus on transitioning this gratitude-fueled energy to my outer well-being.

In addition to drinking coffee and Neil Diamond, I've also been finding happiness from these energy bars! This recipe come from my favorite Exercise TV motivator, Chris Freytag, a Minnesota native and serious exercise fanatic. Her workouts are kicking my butt, making me feel stronger, and I'm hoping that her workouts will transition me into wedding shape. These bars aren't free of sugar. (I might cut back next time.) But they are free of things that I don't like eating. They are adaptable (I'm thinking more seeds, or nuts, or raisins, or pretzels!), incredible, and delicious. They actually taste exactly like a Snickers or a Cliff MoJo bar. I've been using these to fuel on training runs for an upcoming marathon and they are definitely doing the trick and putting the pep in my step. Or is that the caffeine doing that? Whatever it is, try these next time you think about buying another PowerBar! An added bonus? They store easily! Wrap individual bars in wax paper and store in the freezer. Take them as you leave the house, let them dethaw for a few minutes, then enjoy!
Energy Bars
from Chris Freytag
Yield: 24 bars
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 1/2 cups puffed wheat cereal
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine oats, puffed cereal, almonds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and chocolate chips in a large bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, and agave nectar. Bring mixture to boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour mixture quickly over the dry ingredients (similar to Rice Krispie treats). Stir to combine. Note: the chocolate chips will melt.
  4. With wet fingers, wax paper, or the back of a spatula, press mixture VERY FIRMLY into a 9x13 pan lined with wax paper. Let harden. (Put in freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden quickly before cutting.) 
  5. Cut into approximately 24 pieces.