Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie + 2 Confessions

I have two confessions.

Confession #1:
I bought a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner.
Yes, I actually purchased a store-made pie.

For Thanksgiving dinner, no less.

It's kind of against everything I was ever taught growing up.
See, my mom is a homemaker icon, not to mention pie contest winner,
my dad would give anything for an extra piece of her famous Strueberry Pie...
and I also have a few younger brothers who have probably made more piecrusts than I have.

I'm lucky they didn't disown me.

But let me explain myself here...
Honestly, I'm not really a pumpkin pie lover.  I just eat it out of tradition.
 Plus, this year I was also making
rolls, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce,
while simultaneously doing the zombie shuffle in my kitchen due to a baby with recurring ear infections (& subsequent night wakings),

So I threw in the towel and 
Bought. A. Pumpkin. Pie.

Don't get me wrong, I loved making all those Thanksgiving dishes...I just didn't have the stamina for a pie too.

I did, however, make this pumpkin chocolate cheesecake pie a week before Thanksgiving for a potluck.
If you're a non-pumpkin-pie-lover like I am, 
OR if you just want something a little more fancy-shmancy than an old pumpkin pie,
you should make this.

Homemade pie crust,
cream cheese layer on bottom,
chocolate in the middle,
and a pumpkin layer on top....
"mmm" is all I have to say.

Confession #2?
Maybe I do like pumpkin pie, after all.  
That is, as long as you throw in some cream cheese and chocolate.  :)

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
From bhg.com
8 servings

1 deep dish pie crust (I used this one)
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup half-and-half
chopped chocolate for garnish

Preheat oven to 450.  Prepare and roll out deep dish pie crust and lay in a 9 1/2 to 10-inch deep-dish pie plate.  Trim the edge of the dough and flute it high.  Line the crust with double thickness of foil and bake 8 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until golden, about 6 more min.  Let cool and reduce oven temp to 375.

In a bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1 egg until smooth.  Spread onto cooled pie crust shell and sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

In a clean bowl, mix pumpkin, brown sugar, and spice.  Add 4 eggs and gradually stir in half-and-half.  Carefully pour pumpkin mixture over chopped chocolate layer.  Cover edges of pie crust with foil to prevent from becoming too brown.  Bake 60-65 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove foil and let cool.  Cover and chill within two hours (let chill overnight for best flavor).  Garnish with additional chopped chocolate before serving.


Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice, 
for me,
is probably a once or twice a year necessity.
So it's not something I always keep on hand or like to spend precious dollars on,
and just for a measly little container of it too.

But recently, finding myself in need of it, and finding my little container smelling
not-so-pumpkin-y anymore, 
(it had been expired for over a year...or two),
I decided to make my own.

It was a tad overwhelming with how many different versions google dug up, 
but this one looked the best to me
mostly because I loooove cinnamon
and the ratio just kinda seemed right.

I guess there's no way to really know if it's good unless you bake somethin' up with it
and taste it.

Which is exactly what I did.
And it passed with flying colors.
And that will be my next post.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
big pinch of cardamom (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.  Use in any recipe calling for pumpkin pie spice.


Hearty Chickpea Soup

I know Fall is not officially over yet, 
but because today is a beautiful fall day and
because my weather-man is forecasting snow for tomorrow,
I feel the need for a "Farewell to Fall" post.

It's impossible for me even think of the word "Fall" without thinking of my mother-in-law.
She is the Queen of Fall.
As soon as leaves begin to redden and crisp up,
you can walk into her house, and, without fail, be greeted by
a home-y cinnamon or pumpkin aroma.
You can walk out onto her deck and smile at
homegrown pumpkins and bright, beautiful mums.
After a crisp fall walk, she'll make you
a delicious, warm fall soup.
I've never met anyone who loved fall more.

On a recent, particularly crispy fall day,
I made one of her soups.

It's vegetarian, yet hearty and comforting.
The combination of cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger in this soup =
absolute genius.
And although it makes me think of fall, I guarantee it will grace our table this winter too!

...catchya later, Fall...

Hearty Chickpea Soup
From my mother-in-law
4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 can (14.5-oz) diced or tomatoes (no salt added)
2 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
lemon wedges, for garnish

In medium saucepan, heat oil on medium heat.  Saute celery, carrot, onion, and garlic 3-5 minutes.  Add cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger.  Cook 1-2 minutes longer.  Add broth, chickpeas, and tomatoes and simmer until vegetables are soft.  Add chopped spinach leaves and lemon wedges on top just before serving.


Homemade Taco Seasoning

After finding myself out of taco seasoning the other day,
with a half-made pot of taco soup on the stove,
I hastily googled, "homemade taco seasoning."

After browsing several, I knew this would be the one.

This recipe comes from Perry's Plate, one of my favorite food blogs.
So, I made it, AND...
The soup tasted better than with the usual store-bought packets.
Natalie's taco seasoning has all the expected ingredients...plus a few secrets...
namely cocoa powder & oregano,
bringing your hum-drum taco seasoning up a few notches.  :)

Moral of the story:  next time you're in a pinch for taco seasoning (or in a pinch to pay a dollar-plus on one measly sodium-loaded packet), this is your answer.

I'm planning on making this in bulk to use in place of store-bought packets from now on...

Perrys' Plate Taco Seasoning

For one packet's worth of taco seasoning (3-4 Tbsp):
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I would personally leave this out if young children were eating it)
1/8 tsp ground coriander

For about 4-5 packets worth of seasoning, quadruple the above recipe.  
Combine all spices together and store in an airtight container.  Use in place of store-bought taco seasoning!


Chocolate Witches Hats

In an attempt to be festive & Halloween-y,
I made some simple witches hats...
(an idea I spotted on Pinterest)

At first I was a little disappointed at the blemishes & marks in the chocolate,
but quickly realized that it just gives the "hat" a more tattered look...
the more blemishes, the better!

Happy Halloween...a couple days late...  :)

Chocolate Witches Hats
Fudge-striped shortbread cookies
Chocolate kisses
Orange frosting (I used a simple buttercream frosting--next time I'll make my orange darker!)

Pipe orange frosting around the circle on the bottom side of the cookie (for piping the frosting, I used a ziploc bag and cut off the corner).  Place a chocolate kiss on top.


Fall Apple Dip

This is a classic autumn snack that I permit myself to make once a year.

One of those recipes where you mix crisp & crunchy local apples
sweet & creamy dip.

This was something else I brought to that baby shower recently helped with (sorry for the lame picture in a dark room!).

I used walnuts this year, but salted peanuts are my very favorite garnish for a sweet & salty yumminess!

Fall Apple Dip
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup salted peanuts or walnuts (optional)

Beat all ingredients, except for nuts, together in a bowl.  Add nuts, if desired, and serve with apple slices.


A Different Kind of Cake...(zero calories!)

I recently helped throw a double baby shower,
where I got to make diaper cakes!

Now, I don't really consider myself a crafty person, but I thought it was something I could probably do without too much of a fuss.  :)

I kept them pretty plain and simple,
but you can easily dress up a diaper cake with lots of
baby toys
doo-dads of all sorts.

But I'm not really a doo-dadd-y person.

If you are, we should be friends and you can help me
become more doo-dadd-y savvy.  (?)

(I can't take credit for those cute giraffe pops my friend made!)

I've also seen the rolled-style diaper cakes, but liked the look of this style better, plus the diapers will be easier for the new mom to use (they won't be all rolled and crumpled up).

I used this link as a guideline, but learned some things along the way that I liked better.
So, next time you're itchin' to make a cake but want to cut the calories WAY down...try making a diaper cake.  :)

Non-Rolled Diaper Cake
Makes 1 three-tier diaper cake

-56 Pampers Swaddlers diapers (size 1) (bottom tier-30, middle-20, top-6)
-a 10-in cake pan, to help mold the bottom two tiers & hold in place while wrapping the rubber bands around
-2 large rubber bands (for the bottom two tiers)
-1 medium-sized rubber band (for the top tier)
-cardboard, cut in a circle for a cake stand (I measured this after I made the bottom tier according to how big I fanned out the diapers)
-tissue paper for wrapping the cardboard cake stand
-1 empty paper towel cardboard roll
-glue (hot glue gun works best)
-ribbon for decorating
-baby toys, clothes, flowers, buttons, doo-dads, etc for embellishments

The link that I mentioned above gives pretty good instructions for the assembly.  
I used all 30 diapers for the bottom tier (I didn't stuff any in the middle) and just used plastic grocery bags to stuff in the middle (I did this for the bottom two tiers).  This also fanned the diapers out a little further, which I liked (you could also stuff blankets or onesies in the middle).
I only had a glue stick for attaching the ribbon, but ended up having to use some tape in the back to keep it together--a hot glue gun would be a much better choice!
All in all, it was a lot of fun to put these together--next time it'll go a lot faster now that I've done it once!


Mini Vegetable Quiches

Never judge a book by its cover.

...Or a mini vegetable quiche by its top.

Sometimes things aren't picture-perfect for your eyes, 
but are perfectly yummy for our insides (ha).

I made these for a special occasion a couple weeks ago when we got together with some friends for brunch.
Because it was a special occasion, I added bacon.
However, these can easily be vegetarian-ized by omitting the bacon.

When I mixed 'em up, I got on one of my veggie-lovin' kicks and added a few too many veggies, 
which caused my muffin tins to overflow, leaving me with not-so-pretty mini quiches.
Although the mini quiches were fun, next time I make them, I may just throw the batter in a small casserole dish.
Then I can make them without any suppression of my veggie love. :)

*Two side notes: 
1.  I finally just fixed my blog feed!  Become a follower if you'd like to receive updates!
2.  I just added pictures to my Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes post, in case you were wanting a visual.

Mini Vegetable Quiches
12 servings
Adapted from Costco Magazine

12 foil baking cups
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2-1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or mozzarella are yummy)
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup frozen, diced hash brown potatoes (or pre-baked red potatoes)
1 large handful raw baby spinach, chopped
1/2 lb bacon or sausage, cooked, crumbled, and drained (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms until tender.  Add hash browns and spinach and cook until hash browns are heated through and spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat and stir in meat, if desired.  Place baking cups in a muffin pan and distribute batter evenly among baking cups.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until eggs are set.


Healthy Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

After indulging in popcorn, ice cream, brownies, and...umm...(do I dare say it?)...bacon (yikes!), I decided it was high time for a healthy post.

I often find myself at a loss for easy, healthy things to have around for my husband to throw in his sack lunch for school every day (and I don't even have kids in school yet...I'm in trouble!).

Granola bars are always easy, but as I stroll down the cereal/granola bar aisle at the grocery store, I literally cringe when I read the ingredients...
(have you seen me there before?  I probably look really awkward--my apologies)
...usually including some type of corn syrup, many unpronounceable things, 
and loaded with sugar.  

SO, I was really excited when I found this recipe.  I've tried homemade granola bars before...but this is definitely the winner.  It has simple ingredients, takes 5 minutes or less to throw together, 
has the approval of my little (big) school-boy of a husband. :)
It's a perfectly healthy, no-sugar-added, and yummy, addition for anybody's brown sack.

(No more cringing for me--feel free to peruse the cereal aisle once again, void of a certain cringing lady.)

Healthy Granola Bars
9 servings (easily doubled)
slightly adapted from Spark Recipes

1 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped fine
2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp slivered or chopped almonds
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup natural peanut butter or almond butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine first 7 ingredients (oats through flaxseed) in a large bowl.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together honey, peanut butter, and vanilla; microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted (or heat on stovetop).  Add to dry ingredients and stir, evenly coating with the peanut butter mixture.
Press firmly into and 8x8 ungreased dish (I used the back of a spoon sprayed with cooking spray).
Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let cool completely before cutting into squares.  I like to individually wrap them in plastic wrap--all ready to be thrown in the brown sack!
*Notes:  I like to chop the raisins & almonds up even more for a finer texture for my toddler; it also helps the bars stick together.
I frequently double this recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 dish for about 3-5 minutes extra.


Cinnamon Popcorn

 I grew up making homemade popcorn with my family for our weekend movie nights.  
My brothers and I had a very precise, two-man (kid) technique to pouring the melted butter over the freshly popped kernels (a dangerous mission if you ask me).

Man #1= the butter pourer
Man #2= the bowl spinner

..and Man #3 (a.k.a. my mom)...the rescuer, who always came to sprinkle the right amount of salt on and mix it all up perfectly and make the chaotic, popcorn-butter mess right again.

It was always such a treat to lay out the green picnic blanket in the family room, 
where we chomped on popcorn out of the designated orange "popcorn bowl," 
sipped homemade milkshakes--my dad's specialty--
and watched some quality Disney.

Always done in jammies, of course, and on Saturday nights, with sponge curlers in my hair for church the next day.
What more could a little girl ask for?  It was perfect.

Needless to say, homemade popcorn holds a place in my heart.
So when our neighbors gave us a Whirley-Pop Popcorn Maker for a wedding gift,
it was love at first sight.

Between me and the Whirley-Pop, I mean.
(you already know of the undying love between me and the boy next door :)

(This is now our designated popcorn bowl :)

Anyway, this recipe put our Whirley-Pop to good use...I think I am finally in the acceptance stage of the grieving process in my farewell to summer,
so I am now welcoming--even embracing--all things warm and cinnamon-y.

"Bring it on.
(Name that Disney movie...here's a little hint.)

Cinnamon Popcorn
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
6 servings
10 cups popped popcorn (about 6 tablespoons unpopped kernels)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 pinches salt, to taste

Pour popped popcorn into a large bowl and set aside.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, sugar, and cinnamon and stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Slowly pour mixture over popcorn and stir, using above two-man technique.  :)  Sprinkle on a couple pinches of salt, to taste.  Transfer popcorn to a large baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until crispy.
Cool before serving.


Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

I am desperately holding on to summer.

After such a horrendous, record-breaking, housebound winter...
followed by a cold, rainy spring...

I just haven't fully recovered yet.
(Yes, I'm being dramatic...but winter is dramatic too, which is why we don't get along.
Opposites attract, right?)

Anyway, I found myself panicking this morning when I woke up to not only a cold house, 
but also a baby with a cold. :(
(Summer, are you really leaving me?)

So, to aid me in my grief as I hesitantly bid summer farewell, 
I'm sharing a delightful summer recipe I made on a recent family visit.

...So speaking of opposites, let's talk sweet strawberries and, well, sour sour cream.
A((n) opposite) match made in heaven.

It's definitely rich,
so only a few dainty bites are needed to satisfy even the greatest of ice cream desires.

On second thought, my dad was able to have several not-so-dainty bites...
but he is the exception.  :)
(Love you, Dad.)

Summer, I miss you already.

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

1 lb fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, & sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Combine strawberries & sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar begins to dissolve.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the strawberries (and their liquid) with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice until almost smooth but still chunky.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then freeze in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Homemade Cocoa Brownies

Rich.  Fudgy.  Simple.  Chocolate.  Brownies.

I recently brought these to a baby shower and they were loved.
I was nervous when I first took them out of the oven because they looked cake-y (you might as well make cake instead of make cake-y brownies...according to me). 

But no, they were rich and fudgy.  Just how brownies should be.

Homemade Cocoa Brownies
From Tasty Kitchen
9 servings (pictured is a halved recipe in a mini pan)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips (or less)

Cream butter and sugar together.  Beat in eggs & vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
Spread batter into a lightly greased 8 or 9-inch baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool before serving.


Summer Squash Bake

*Side note:  I just made crispy yam & black bean burritos the other day and served them with plain yogurt and mango salsa...and...let me tell you, it was divine!

you may have noticed that most of what I make is meatless.

 this squash-bacon-cheese dish is a MUST-HAVE for me every summer.
At least once.
Lucky enough for me, my mom made it when we visited this summer (thanks, Mom!)

I told her I could live on this stuff.

That is, until I die of overconsumption of bacon.

A diagnosis I didn't learn in nursing school,
what a way to go.

I literally buy bacon once or twice...maybe three times a year...and this recipe indubitably makes it onto the reasons-to-buy-bacon list.

I've loved that word, indubitably, ever since I learned it from Schoolhouse Grammar Rock (watch it and it'll be the best three minutes of your life).

Lolly, lolly, lolly get your adverbs here...

Anybody with me?

Summer Squash Bake
From my mother
6 side dish servings

8 cups sliced yellow summer squash
6 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp chicken bouillon

Cook sliced squash in large pot until fork-tender; drain.  Meanwhile, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan, add chopped onion to bacon drippings, and cook onion until soft.  Roughly chop or crumble bacon into pieces (about 1/2-inch pieces).

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add rest of ingredients, including the bacon pieces and cooked onion.  Add the cooked & drained squash.

Bake in a casserole dish (2-quart size) at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.


No-Yeast Pizza Dough with Whole Wheat

Long name for a simple recipe.

Amidst my awkward we're-moving-so-use-up-what-we-have-in-our-cupboards stage a couple weeks ago, I found myself with all of the essential pizza ingredients...except for yeast.
My favorite whole-wheat pizza crust recipe calls for yeast, but I didn't have time to run to the store.

So, after googling around a bit, I found a recipe on cooks.com and adapted it to my liking.
This recipe provides more of a soft, bread-y crust, rather than a thinner, crispier crust.

Given the choice, I would choose my yeast recipe over this, BUT, if I find myself in another
pizza-craving, hopeless, yeast-less circumstance,
this will be my go-to!

Make this crust for a yummy Zucchini Pesto Pizza!

(If you're more of a soft-crust fan, this may end up being your favorite.  To each his own.:)
*This is my most popular recipe!  Let me know how you like it!

No Yeast Pizza Dough with Whole Wheat
Makes 1 pizza crust
Inspired by Cooks.com

1 1/2 cups regular whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and knead by hand in bowl for about 2 minutes. Place onto baking sheet and press out into desired shape (thinner crust works better for this recipe). Bake for 5-10 minutes (depending on how thick it is). Take it out, add sauce and toppings, then bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until toppings are cooked and edges of crust are lightly browned.


Baked Zucchini Quesadillas + VICTORY

I.  Made.  It.
Through a whole summer in a mini kitchen using a mini oven, mini baking sheet, pseudo-freezer, yadda yadda yadda.

We arrived back home a couple days ago.
I walked in the house and kissed my Kitchenaid.

Just kidding.
Kind of.

Just wait till you see what will be coming out of of that Kitchenaid this fall and you'll see how much you missed it too!


Back to business.

This is a simple recipe for those who have garden zucchini growing out of their ears!
It's super versatile; switch up the veggies or cheese for whatever you have in your fridge and you're bound to be as pleased as punch.

I mean, pleased as quesadillas...?
Whatever, I'm just glad to have my Kitchenaid back.

Baked Zucchini Quesadillas
6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small zucchini (about 1 lb), halved lengthwise & thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 big handfuls fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
4 (8-in) 100% whole wheat flour tortillas
2 cups grated pepper jack

Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add onion, salt, & cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft (5 minutes). Add garlic & cook for another minute.

Add zucchini, corn, and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini & corn are soft and spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

Brush one side of each tortillas with olive oil. Lay two of them, oil side down, on a baking sheet. Divide zucchini mixture & cheese between both. Place remaining two tortillas on top with oil side up. Gently press down with a spatula to seal.

Bake for 5 minutes, flip them over, and bake for another 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream & salsa, if desired.


Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (with whole wheat!)

My time in our temporary kitchen is dwindling...thus begins the make-random-stuff-out-of-what-you-have-left stage.  Good thing I have a very non-picky husband!

I looked in my cupboard and I had:  whole wheat flour, oats, almond butter, and dark chocolate chips...
which equals cookies, of course!

I started with a peanut butter cookie recipe from allrecipes.com, substituted almond butter for the peanut butter, and healthified a few things.

Soft and chewy, while crisp on the outside.  We loved them!  And with almond butter, dark chocolate (antioxidants!), whole wheat, and oats...how can you go wrong??

Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup natural almond butter (of course, peanut butter works too)
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup regular whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I like 60% cacao)

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and almond butter until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Separately mix flour, baking soda, and salt; then combine with wet mixture. Fold in oats & chocolate chips.

Shape dough into golf-ball size balls and bake on ungreased baking sheet for 8-12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Let cool in pan--if you can bear to wait--for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.


Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes

These pancakes are super moist while still maintaining fluffiness.
A hint of sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon add the perfect amount of sweetness, making these absolutely




So delectable, in fact, that I ate that whole plate myself.
You think I'm kidding?
Okay, I am.
BUT...I wanted to.  :)

*sigh* ...soft, fluffy pancakes with fresh summer berries and warm maple syrup drizzled on top.
Need I say more?

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes
Makes 6-8 pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp plain, nonfat yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together dry ingredients, then separately whisk together wet ingredients.  Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and lightly grease it.  Pour batter (about 1/4 cup size) onto the skillet.  When pancakes bubble, flip them over and finish cooking on other side until lightly browned.  Serve with fresh fruit and warm maple syrup.


Vegetable Enchiladas with Homemade Red Sauce

As summer's end fast approaches, garden vegetables are plentiful!

...and bountiful,
and beautiful...


even delightful.

And this dish is
of 'em!

(I know, the clever-est thoughts come into my head while I sit here and feed baby boy.)

This is one of my very favorite dinners (my husband agrees)!

Feel free to switch up the veggies in here if you want, according to whatever pleases your veggie-loving self. 

The feta cheese in these enchiladas adds a fun, tangy twist.

(Please notice our 100-year-old lamp in the background.)

This recipe does require some chopping & prep, but the filling and sauce can easily be made ahead.
(Or you could use a store-bought enchilada sauce if you're tight on time, although I highly recommend this homemade version. :)

P.S. I just added a recipe index tab at the top to make recipes easier to find!

Vegetable Enchiladas with Homemade Red Sauce
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
6 servings

Ingredients & Directions:
For the Filling:
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
8 oz baby portobello mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 cup red enchilada sauce (recipe below)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/4 cup canned diced green chiles, drained
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 & lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Transfer half of the drained beans to a small bowl & mash with a fork until mostly smooth; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion & bell pepper and cook til softened (5-7 minutes). Stir in zucchini & mushrooms and cook til tender (3-5 minutes). Stir in garlic and corn, cook for about 30 seconds, then add mashed beans and whole beans. Heat through.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup red enchilada sauce, the feta cheese, cilantro, and green chiles. Season with salt & pepper.

For the Sauce:
1 tsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sugar
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
salt & pepper, to taste (about 1/4-1/2 tsp each)

Heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion & cook until softened (5 min). Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar. Cook until fragrant (30 sec). Stir in tomato sauce & water, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened (5 min). Season with salt & pepper.

For the Assembly:
12 (6-in) corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
additional cilantro & feta for garnish

Briefly microwave tortillas until warm and pliable (30-60 sec). Place a heaping 1/3 cup of filling down the center of each tortilla. Roll up tightly & place seam-side down in prepared baking dish. Bake (at 450) for about 5-7 minutes in preheated oven. Take enchiladas out, pour remaining sauce over top, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until enchiladas are heated through and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with extra feta & cilantro for garnish, if desired.


Healthy Banana Bread

Overripe bananas are hard to come by at our house. My husband and I eat them daily (as will my sweeter-than-ripe-bananas baby...soon!), plus, the minute they start to show brown specks, I usually slice 'em up and throw 'em in the freezer for a future smoothie.

Well, the other day, I was pleasantly surprised at three overripe bananas in our fruit basket.
Of course, banana bread is the no-brainer answer to overripe bananas!

Banana bread is usually very cake-like (in flavor (which is good) and in nutrition (not good)), and I always think you might as well just eat cake. But not this time. This time I've brought a healthy banana bread recipe to the table! It's crispy on top and moist inside.

*I also wanted to substitute applesauce for the canola oil, but I didn't have any...next time!

Healthy Banana Bread
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

2 eggs
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup very ripe bananas (I like 1 cup mashed and 1/2 cup sliced, for some chunks)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

2 1/2 cups regular whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients up to the flour. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into a large loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Curried Coconut Chicken with Brown Rice

My husband and I really enjoy trying different international foods.
Indian food is one of our favorites, so I was super excited when I stumbled upon this recipe!
It will definitely make more appearances at our house.

Next time I'll try using fresh tomatoes instead of canned,
and possibly add some crushed red pepper flakes for a touch of heat.

Try it! Just be prepared for your house to smell like curry for a day or two. :)

Curried Coconut Chicken
adapted from allrecipes.com
makes 6 servings

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp salt & pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (14-oz) can light coconut milk
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp sugar
Prepared brown rice, for serving

Season chicken pieces with salt & pepper.
Heat oil & curry in large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes while stirring. Add in onions & garlic and cook until onions are translucent (8-10 minutes). Add chicken and stir to coat with spices. Cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.
Pour in coconut milk, drained tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar to skillet and stir to combine.
Simmer, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes; until sauce is thickened.
Serve warm over brown rice.

*Tofu would be a great substitute for the chicken to make this vegetarian

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