Monday, October 24, 2016

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

I think I'm sending mixed messages. I've been posting some healthy recipes, some gluten free, some sugar free, a nice variety of healthy-sounding things. These muffins are by no means 'healthy' or free from anything. They're wonderful and decadent and a great twist on fall flavors but definitely more of a good for the soul treat than a good for you treat.

That all being said, these are pushing the banana walnut muffins out of the front running spot for most popular. They also were more work intensive as they have a cream cheese filling. I haven't restocked my kitchen with all my fancy gadgets so no hand mixer blending cream cheese here. I did however buy a whisk! Officially moved in. So I let the cream cheese soften overnight instead and then it was nice and soft, easily stirred without a mixer.

Initially, we're keeping everything separate. Flour (the gluten-full kind), pumpkin pie spices (or if you have the store bought combination of pumpkin pie spice), baking soda and salt go in one bowl. I definitely adding baking powder by mistake. It's times like these I realize I shouldn't make muffins at 9am pre-breakfast and also adding your ingredients to different sections of the mixing bowl makes it easy to scoop out such an error.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar and brown sugar. There's something festive about brown sugar, it's often used for fall and holiday baking so I'm all about it. Add in the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Simple whisking will suffice here. Carefully add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, you'll get a puff of flour cloud happening. With stirring by hand, you just get some flour sloshed over the sides. Either way, expect flour showers.

Once the flour is stirred in and you have a lovely orange batter, fill the muffin tin about 3/4 full. Before popping in the oven though, we make the cream cheese part! Mix your softened cream cheese with sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth and spoon a solid dollop (scientifically speaking, a dollop is a tea-spoon amount--not to be confused with a teaspoon which is a precise unit) on top of each tin of muffin batter. Use a toothpick or knife to swirl around the cream cheese. It doesn't look pretty but it will bake and puff up nicely.

It's really hard to tell when these are done by poking the top because of the cream cheese. So definitely use a toothpick or skewer in the center of the muffin to confirm when they're baked through. Likely this will be 40 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before consuming en masse. We aren't going for healthy here.


  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 8 oz. plain cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and sugar until combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla. Whisk until smooth again.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture into the egg mixture. You can use a wooden spoon for this, whatever gets all the flour mixed in and leaves you with a smooth orange batter.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling 3/4 of the way.
  6. In a small bowl, stir/mix/beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla.
  7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the muffin batter. Use a toothpick or knife to swirl the cream cheese topping with the pumpkin batter.
  8. Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top for fun, if you have some lying around.
  9. Bake until cooked through and firm, about 40 minutes.
  10. Makes 12-18 muffins.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chocolate Banana Muffins

A couple Mondays ago, I asked what your favorite muffin was so I could get some inspiration for future Muffin Mondays. And you sent some great ideas! Mostly fall-oriented which makes me happy. More pumpkin and apple muffins are in the future. Also some cranberry and more unique flavors (I definitely need to organize my Pinterest boards...).

In the meantime, chocolate for breakfast! These double chocolate muffins are really close to cupcakes. Normally bananas replace an ingredient like butter or oil but this was an addition that made them more breakfasty, right?

A little cocoa powder goes a long way, transforming the standard batter into some dark chocolatey goodness. But one type of chocolate isn't enough, gotta add some chocolate chips too! Folded in with extra love and care.

Baked for 30 minutes until firm, a glass of milk is in order for this sweet muffin!


  • 1 cup bananas, mashed (1-2 bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup and 1 Tablespoon almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the vanilla and egg. Whisk together until smooth.
  3. Stir in the oil and milk. Next stir in the sugars. 
  4. Slowly fold in the cocoa powder until incorporated. Then add the baking soda and salt. Lastly, fold in the flour.
  5. Before spooning the batter into the pan, fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Fill each muffin liner 1/2-3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until firm. 
  8. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Homemade Pesto

My  mom is an expert gardener. She often sends me pictures of her vegetable haul which includes tomatoes, zucchini (courgette), yellow squash, spaghetti squash, fresh herbs and rhubarb. She was telling me recently how she's preserving the vegetables and making tons of pesto. I got jealous and immediately wanted pesto.

I haven't had much luck finding spaghetti squash in London so when I saw Whole Foods had them, I bit the bullet and bought two. Savoring these precious squashes and making a variety of pasta sauces for them made me happy. In addition to my go-to bolognese, I also decided to make pesto. Handling fresh basil for the first time in a looong time felt so good. The smell is so strong but not in an overpowering way, just in an enjoyable, nostalgic way.

It's extremely easy to make pesto but I still did some research on different types recipes. Every variation I read had basil, pine nuts and garlic. But there was one that substituted half an avocado for the olive oil. I still used a little bit of olive oil for consistency but I'm all about the avocado. I also swapped ground almonds for Parmesan cheese.

In a food processor, combine basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, avocado, ground almonds and olive oil. Blend until the texture resembles pesto with no large chunks of leaves remaining. I initially tried this in a blender but there wasn't enough weight to make this happen so definitely do a food processor. I liked that some of the pine nuts weren't ground up but feel free to follow your heart on that one.

The Parmesan cheese is apparently important for flavoring so omitting it left the pesto not as dynamic in flavor. I would definitely add some onion powder or salt to it next time.

Mixed with some spaghetti squash and chicken and you have a well-balanced and fall-ful meal! You could use this as a marinade for chicken as well to make pesto chicken.

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 Tablespoon almond meal (or Parmesan cheese)
  • Olive oil
  1. In a food processor, add the basil leaves (I removed most of the stems), garlic (lightly chopped), avocado, pine nuts and almond meal (or cheese, if using). Top with a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Blend until the mixture is a course paste. If it's too dense, add more olive oil.
  3. Serve over spaghetti squash or regular pasta.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Green Matcha Smoothie

Do you know what matcha is? Do you think it's the same thing as maca? If you answered no and yes to these questions, you are not alone. Matcha was a big buzz word last year with cafes offering matcha lattes and these crazy looking comb things for matcha lattes. Maca...well, until I saw them on a menu side by side I realized I didn't really know they were two separate things but I think it has to do with chocolate.

Matcha is bright green and if you can taste color, it tastes green too. It's a subtle flavor so a plain matcha latte isn't a big deal but I've found adding some honey really brightens the drink up. Matcha has some caffeine in it but isn't as acidic as coffee. Other benefits I've discovered from Googling matcha, it is full of antioxidants, naturally detoxifies your body and can help with focus/attention. Sign up me at about 2pm every day.

I'm experimenting with different smoothie recipes to mix it up. The basic chocolate smoothie recipe is still great but I got some matcha samples at a Sweaty Betty event a couple weeks ago and thought the powder would make a vibrant green shake (spoiler alert: it did).

Usually green smoothies have spinach, apple, avocado, cucumber, all the different green fruits and vegetables. These did contribute to the green but the matcha really made it pop.

In a blender, combine coconut milk (for a little sweetness), avocado, spinach, vanilla protein powder and matcha. Blend until deliciously smooth. That's it! Super simple, perfect for getting through the morning mental fog.


  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 Tablespoon matcha powder
  • 2 scoops protein powder (Arbonne is my preference) 
  1. In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth. The end!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Butternut Squash Burger

When I visited London last year, I happened to be visiting over National Pancake Day. Now, in the US, we have these food holidays all the time and sometimes they come with free things like a free donut with your coffee or free coffee, for that matter. Pancake Day was no exception and I found a place that sounded perfect for the occasion: The Breakfast Club.

Of course, when we got there (on a weekday, no less) there was a line out the door. So when I moved here, I saw there was one near where I was staying so on day 1, checked out this place for brunch. I was impressed with their traditional breakfasts (including an American Breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausages and bacon) but they also had a variety of Eggs Benedict where you could swap the muffin (is it still an English muffin here?) for butternut squash. Genius!

I've now been to The Breakfast Club several times and most recently, had their veggie burger which was actually butternut squash, halloumi cheese, portobello mushroom and avocado. Plus goat cheese because more cheese! This was definitely a fork and knife burger.

It was so good and so fall with the squash, I decided to recreate it with white fish instead of cheese. I also definitely dropped the entire pan of roasted butternut squash on the floor. Five second rule!!

Roasted butternut squash is stacked with pan-seared white fish. I used cod seasoned with some lemon juice. Layer with portobello mushroom and avocado. I skipped the bun so stacked another butternut squash patty on top. Definitely fork and knife material here.

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 filets of white fish 
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 avocado
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. Prepare the butternut squash by first peeling with a vegetable peeler or carefully with a knife. Cut off the ends and slice into 1/2 inch slices. When you reach the bulb of the squash, scoop out the seeds and continue slicing. These pieces will be more like rings.
  3. Place the butternut squash slices on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until easily pierced with a fork, about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of one lemon over the fish. In a skillet, heat a small amount of oil to prevent the fish from sticking. 
  5. Cook until no longer transparent. I used skin-on fillets and cooked them skin up.
  6. In a separate pan, cook the portobello mushrooms until soft.
  7. Stack the fish, mushroom and sliced avocado between two slices of butternut squash.