marvelous monday & happy october! baked cinnamon-sugar donut holes

There has been a briskness in the air lately that feels just. so. autumn! It’s lovely. It makes me want to curl up under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. {If you’re looking for a good book, I’ve been devouring Elizabeth Berg’s novels lately … I fell in love with her novels Durable Goods and Joy School back in high school, and she is an author I can always return to and feel like, YES, she gets it — this is why I want to be a writer, this is what I want my books to do for people! I nearly always have at least one good, full-hearted cry while reading her books, and I always feel sad to finish them because I don’t want to leave her characters. I’m reading Open House right now and it is wonderful!}

But, yes, back to autumn … I was thrilled when Maria at Two Peas & Their Pod put together this fantastic list of 50 pumpkin recipes! I found myself checking off every one: yes, I want to make that; ooh, that looks delicious; yes, that one, too! Like a kid in a toy store a week before Christmas: I want them all! ūüôā

One of the recipes that immediately caught my attention was baked donut-holes. I’m always looking for a way to health-i-fy things. Hmmm, homemade baked donut holes? Why not give it a whirl?

I am SO glad I did! They are pretty much mini-muffins, but roll them in cinnamon-sugar and they do taste like donut holes. These are pumpkiny, cinnamon-sugary, and perfect for autumn. Make them for breakfast and eat them warm from the oven with a big glass of milk!

baked cinnamon-sugar donut holes

ingredients:

For the Donuts:
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned plain pumpkin {not pumpkin pie filling}
1/2 cup skim milk

For the Coating:
4 tsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. In a separate, large bowl whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. While the muffins bake, melt butter in one bowl and combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.

6. Remove muffins from oven and cool for 2 minutes. Dip each muffin in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar to coat. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature.

{This recipe is adapted from The Craving Chronicles.}

YUM. And easy! And {for a donut} relatively healthy, too! Hard to beat that. ūüôā

Happy autumn!
-Dallas

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Time spent: about 30 minutes
Cost: about $5

peach streusel muffins

Happy weekend everyone! Hope you are out doing something relaxing, lovely and joyful. It is a gorgeous sunny crisp fall day here in West Lafayette, and I am soaking it in! My plans for the day include lunch at Panera, doing some work there, and then going for a nice walk down by the river. I’m making orange chicken with veggies in the crock-pot for dinner tonight … I’ll let you know how it turns out!

You may remember a few weeks ago I found a recipe on the blog Stacey Snacks for peach streusel muffins … at the time I didn’t have any peaches so I adapted it to make blueberry streusel muffins. They turned out great! However, I was eager to try it with peaches as the original recipe called for, and I finally did.

The results were incredible! These just might be my favorite muffins ever. Stacey was right about the combination of the peaches and the streusel topping … heavenly!

I was a little intimidated first by the streusel topping, but believe me it is super easy to make. These muffins are also a healthy breakfast or snack {or even tasty enough for a healthy dessert!} because they are packed with peaches and use applesauce and protein-packed Greek yogurt in place of oil.

peach streusel muffins

for the topping:
– 1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal
– 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

for the muffin batter:
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup sugar {or 1/4 cup stevia/truvia}
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3 eggs
– 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup Greek yogurt
– 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
– 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
– 2 ripe peaches, cut into chunks {I like mine with the skin on for extra nutrients, but you could certainly peel them if you prefer}

1. For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the butter, and mix until well blended. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, yogurt and vanilla.

5. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until just moist and blended, being careful not to overmix.

6. Fold in the peaches.

7. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan until the batter comes to the top of the paper liner or pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar streusel topping, and lightly press the topping into the muffin batter.

8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Have a scrumptious weekend!

‚̧ Dallas

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-Time spent: about 1 hour {including bake time}
-Cost: less than $5

You might also enjoy these previous posts:
blueberry/blackberry/raspberry muffins
good morning sunshine muffins
coconut zucchini muffins

incredibly easy pumpkin spice cookies

In honor of tomorrow being the Autumnal Equinox, or first official day of autumn, I decided to celebrate by baking these incredibly yummy — and incredibly easy! — pumpkin spice cookies.

I came across this recipe about a month ago on one of my favorite blogs, Peanut Butter Fingers — I absolutely love pumpkin desserts and pastries, so right away I was on board. Then, when I saw that all you need is TWO ingredients to make these cookies, I was amazed. I knew I needed to try out this recipe for myself!

These cookies are thick, moist, and full of pumpkin goodness. They were super delicious warm from the oven yesterday and they still tasted fresh when I had a few for dessert tonight. Plus, since there is no butter, oil, or even eggs in this recipe — and pumpkin is a great source of Vitamin A and C — these are pretty healthy as far as cookies go!

Whip up a batch of these cookies and enjoy a taste of autumn!

pumpkin spice cookies

– 1 box of spice cake mix {I used Duncan Hines}
– 15 oz can of pumpkin
– chocolate chips, marshmallow, white chocolate chips, nuts {optional mix-ins for the cookies}

1. Preheat your oven for 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, dump the cake mix and pumpkin. It will look like this:

3. Keep stirring until the pumpkin and cake mix are fully combined. The batter will be thick! {This recipe doubles as a great arm workout, haha!}

4. Drop the pumpkin by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. If you’d like, add chocolate chips, marshmallows, or nuts to some of the cookies. {I used white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips in about half the cookies, and the rest I made plain.}

6. Bake 15-20 minutes or until cookies are firm in the middle.

Yummmm… ENJOY!

Happy autumn, everyone!
-Dallas

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-Time spent: 30 minutes {including bake time}
-Cost: about $4.00

blueberry streusel muffins

I spent a rainy afternoon last weekend at Starbucks writing, reading and grading. Sometimes it’s nice to just get out of the apartment — if I stay inside all day without getting out at all, I start to feel a little claustrophobic. I call it the “closed-in feeling” and when it hits, the only solution is to grab my bag and books and keys and head out! Even just heading down the street to Starbucks is enough to clear my head and get me into productive mode.

I ordered my usual Zen green tea and since I was a little hungry I also tried a blueberry muffin. I really loved the crumb topping and as soon as I got home, I thought: I want to make my own version!

So this morning that’s what I did.

I found this recipe on the blog Stacey Snacks for peach streusel muffins … I didn’t have any peaches so I adapted it to make blueberry muffins. I’m looking forward to trying the recipe with peaches sometime soon though! The photos on Stacey’s blog look amazingly scrumptious.

Here’s how my blueberry streusel muffins turned out:

blueberry streusel muffins

for the topping:
– 1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal
– 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

for the muffin batter:
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup sugar {or 1/4 cup stevia/truvia}
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3 eggs
– 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup Greek yogurt
– 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
– 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
– 1 & 1/2 cups blueberries

1. For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the butter, and mix until well blended. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, yogurt and vanilla.

5. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until just moist and blended, being careful not to overmix.

6. Fold in the blueberries.

7. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan until the batter comes to the top of the paper liner or pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar streusel topping, and lightly press the topping into the muffin batter.

8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Update: These were delicious right out of the oven, and still moist and fresh-tasting a couple days later when I finished the last of the batch. They’re a great way to use up the last of your summer blueberries! I especially loved the streusel topping!

YUM!

Have a delightful day, everyone!

Always,
Dallas

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-Time spent: about 1 hour {including bake time}
-Cost: less than $5

You might also enjoy these previous posts:
blueberry/blackberry/raspberry muffins
good morning sunshine muffins

marvelous monday: strawberry chocolate-chip pancakes

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? Marvelous, I hope!

I had a fun, relaxing and productive weekend. It was a great balance of work and play! I did some grading and lesson-planning, worked some on the novel I’m writing for my thesis, and did some baking! {Delish new muffin recipe coming later this week, hooray!} The highlight of the weekend was definitely Saturday night, when I drove an hour to Indianapolis to see Bob Dylan in concert!!

It was a beautiful summer evening and the concert was held in an outdoor venue, so we got to enjoy the sunset just as Bob Dylan was beginning to play. I loved the casual, picnic atmosphere. There were no assigned seats {at least not in the back section where we were sitting!} Instead, people sat in blankets or lawn chairs in the grass. It was lovely.

And Bob, of course, was rockin’! It was so neat to hear him play so many of his classic songs live. For an encore he played “Blowin’ in the Wind” which might be my favorite of his songs. You can just barely make him out in this photo I snapped — in the middle of the stage in the black jacket, playing the piano. Can you spot him?

What a fun time! I had a blast. What are some of your favorite concerts you’ve ever been to?

I wanted to start the week off on a luxurious note, so for breakfast I made strawberry chocolate-chip pancakes. How can this not be a fantastic week with these babies kicking it off?

I love this recipe for homemade from-scratch buttermilk pancakes I found on the terrific blog Newfashioned Mom, but you could also substitute your favorite boxed pancake mix.

strawberry chocolate-chip pancakes

– 1 cup unbleached flour
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 5 tablespoons powdered buttermilk (or 1 1/4 c. fresh buttermilk, skip the water)
– 1 egg
– 1 cup water
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup chopped strawberries
– 1/2 cup chocolate chips
– butter for greasing pan

1. Heat pan or griddle on medium-low.

2. To make pancake batter: sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, egg, water, and vanilla extract. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir together until big lumps disappear. {Batter should still be slightly lumpy.}

3. Grease pan with butter and pour in your pancake batter. I use a 1/4 cup scoop.

4. If desired, drop in the chocolate chips and strawberries. I prefer to cook chocolate-chip pancakes and add the strawberries on top after.

Option 1 on the left, Option 2 on the right.

5. When batter begins to bubble in the middle, use a spatula to flip the pancakes over. Cook until golden-brown on both sides.

6. Serve immediately with warm syrup. YUM!

Whenever I make pancakes, my first batch is nearly always a hot mess. Still tastes good, but not as pretty as the others. At least this one kinda looks like a heart! ‚̧

Hope you have a wonderful week filled with strawberries & sunshine!

-Dallas

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-Time spent: 20 mins
-Cost: less than $5

baked mango with brown sugar & cinnamon

I have a quick, easy & delicious recipe to share with you today!

At the grocery store yesterday mangoes were on sale for $1. I never really ate mangoes until a year or so ago — I’ve always enjoyed mango-flavored things, like gelato and tea and smoothies, but for some reason buying the actual fruit at the store was intimidating to me.

Then Mike came into my life. As I’ve shared before, Mike loves trying new foods, especially exotic and intriguing fruits. On one of our first grocery trips together, he bought a mango and showed me how to test it for ripeness. We let it soften for a couple days until it had some give, like a ripe avocado. Then Mike showed me how to prepare it: slicing the fruit off from the core and peeling off the skin. I was surprised at how easy it was!

Ever since then, I’ve been enjoying mangoes on a fairly regular basis. Last night I was in the mood for something new, so I decided to try baking a mango, much in the way I’ve baked peaches and pears in the past.

baked mango with brown sugar & cinnamon

– 1 mango
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Slice the mango away from the core and arrange the pieces, skin down, in a glass baking dish.

3. Sprinkle the slices with the brown sugar and cinnamon.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sugar-cinnamon mixture starts to bubble. Peel off the skin and serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Mike and I enjoyed this as a healthy dessert tonight! I think it would also make a great snack, or even breakfast!

Hope you’re having a wonderful week! Make today a masterpiece!
-Dallas

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Time spent: 30 minutes {including bake time}
Cost: $1.00

cranberry ice cubes & cherry-cranberry jello

I came down with the stomach flu last week and completely lost my appetite. But it has been so hot outside that I wanted to make sure I kept hydrated. What really sounded good to me were ice cubes {for the coldness} and cranberry juice {for the flavor and Vitamin C!} My sweetie Mike had the genius idea of combining the two things to make cranberry ice cubes. They are the perfect way to stay cool in the summer heat while also enjoying a pop of flavor!

cranberry ice cubes

-cranberry juice {we used 100% juice, a mixture of cranberry and apple}
– water
– ice cube tray
– toothpicks {optional, to make little popsicles}

1. Fill a large cup with half water and half cranberry juice.

2. Carefully fill the ice cube tray.

3. If desired, add a toothpick to each ice cube for easy removal.

4. Freeze until solid, remove, and enjoy!.

Mike also used these cranberry ice cubes to make Jello for me, which was hands-down the BEST Jello I have ever had! He used the sugar-free cherry flavor and combined with the cranberry ice cubes it was the perfect mixture of sweet and tart!

cherry-cranberry jello

– 1 package sugar-free cherry jello
– cranberry ice cubes
– water

1. Make jello according to package directions, except instead of using regular ice cubes, use cranberry ice cubes!

2. Put into the fridge to chill for an hour, until jello-jiggly!

YUM!

Hope you have a cool, relaxing weekend! Stay healthy!
-Dallas

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Time spent: 15 minutes, plus fridge & freezer time
Cost: $2.00

chicken & quinoa salad

A few weeks ago, Mike and I went down to Indianapolis for the day. We went to California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, one of my favorite restaurants — I used to eat there all the time when I lived in California, but since moving to Indiana the closest one is in Indianapolis about an hour away. Whenever we go there, I always get my favorite pizza, the Barbeque Chicken Pizza. This time I tried something a little new: the Hawaiian Barbeque Chicken Pizza {pretty much the same pizza, but with pineapple added. YUM!}

Another item on the menu, however, did catch my eye: a healthy and delicious-looking chicken quinoa salad. I ended up sticking with my tried-and-true fave pizza, but I made a mental note to sometime come up with my own version of the salad inspired by the CPK version.

I tried out this recipe tonight, and it turned out great! Both Mike and I give it two thumbs up!

{This recipe currently serves two people, but can easily be modified to serve more.}

chicken & quinoa salad

– 2 chicken breasts
– 1 cup uncooked quinoa
– 1 and 1/4 cups water
– 4 cups arugula {or your choice of lettuce}
– 1 cucumber
– 2 roma tomatoes
– 1 tsp chopped garlic
– feta cheese to taste
– pine nuts to taste
– salad dressing to taste {I used fat-free sesame; I think a balsamic vinagrette would be nice, too}

1. Cook chicken in a pan on the stove until golden brown; I used a nonstick pan, but you might want to use a little olive oil if you’re worried about it sticking to the pan.

2. While chicken is cooking, boil 1 and 1/4 cups of water. Stir in quinoa and garlic and cook about ten minutes, until all the water is absorbed.

3. Slice up the roma tomatoes and cucumber and cooked chicken.

4. Serve quinoa and chicken warm over bed of arugula. Top with tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, pine nuts, and salad dressing.

YUM!

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Time spent: 25 minutes
Cost: about $6.00

lemon bars for my gramps

I have always been especially close with my Gramps — I’m even named after him! {His middle name is Dallas.} I’m really grateful to be home for this week and get to spend time with my family. I love being able to just hop in the car, drive three minutes down the road, and pop into my Gramps’s house to say hi. We usually end up chatting over TCM movies, episodes of M*A*S*H or “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

Speaking of The Food Channel, my Gramps loves lemony desserts. Lemon meringue pie, lemon cake, lemon sorbet. He was diagnosed with cancer this past December {that is mercifully in remission now} but ever since undergoing radiation his taste buds really crave sour food. So I decided to make him some lemon bars after I was inspired by this recipe on a blog I love, Recipes Happen.

I’d never attempted lemon bars before, but these were easy-peasy and turned out really well! I like the shortbread texture of the crust mixed with the smooth tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the powdered sugar on top.

gramps’s favorite lemon bars

for the crust:
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup powdered sugar

for the lemon topping:
– 1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
– 3 eggs
– 3 tablespoons flour
– 1/3 cup lemon juice {I used two medium-sized lemons}
– zest from one lemon {about 2 tablespoons}
– powdered sugar to dust on top

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and set aside.

2. Combine the softened butter, flour and sugar to make the crust. Dough will be crumbly. Press into the bottom of the baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.

3. While crust is baking, make the lemon topping: beat the eggs and add the sugar and flour. Juice the lemon and pour the juice through a sieve to make sure no seeds get into the dessert! Grate the lemon peel and add to the mixture. Blend well.

4. Pour the lemon topping over the hot crust and put back into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

5. When done, lemon bars should be solid in the middle, not soupy. Dust with powdered sugar. I’d recommend letting them cool before attempting to cut them. {I personally think lemon bars are delicious refrigerated!}

Enjoy! Gramps and I sure did! ūüôā

Hope you have a wonderful weekend with lots of time with your loved ones,
Dallas

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Time: 40 minutes {including bake time}
Cost: about $3.00

chocolate spice zucchini muffins

As you have probably figured out by now, I love baking. I haven’t met many baked goods that I don’t like! {I have an especially hard time staying away from the bakery items at Starbucks … I always go in planning to just get a healthy green tea, but the pumpkin bread and/or maple scones love to call my name!}

That said, I do love baking things myself because I love taking a delicious recipe and tweaking it to make it healthier, while hopefully still retaining the deliciousness level.

Which is why when I came across this recipe for chocolate zucchini muffins, I was super excited to try it out. Anytime you can figure out a way to sneak some veggies into a chocolate fix seems like a win to me!

These turned out chocolatey, moist and I liked the hints of cinnamon and spice. They’re pretty healthy as far as muffins go. You could probably add some frosting to these too if you wanted to make some uber-healthy cupcakes!

chocolate spice zucchini muffins

– 3 egg whites
– 1/2 cup sugar {I used 1/4 cup white sugar & 1/4 cup brown sugar}
– 1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup grated zucchini
– 1 & 1/2 cups flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
– optional: mini-chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl beat the egg whites. Beat in the sugar and applesauce. Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini and stir well.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

4. Pour the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture and stir until just moist.

5. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 of the way full.

6. Optional: For a topping use any, all or a combination of the following: brown sugar, chopped nuts and mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle tops of muffins just prior to baking.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Store loosely covered.

-Time: 40-45 minutes {including bake time}
-Cost: about $3