As with most food bloggers & writers, I love to bake and cook for loved ones. Whenever we have guests in town, I enjoy feeding them well. A lot of the time when I meet up with girlfriends, I’ll bring them some of my latest kitchen creations to try. I show my love for people by making them nutritious, delicious food.
When I stay at my parents’ house in Jersey, it’s fun to make snacks, dinners, and desserts for everyone to enjoy. A few weeks ago when I was there, I was a little off of my Chef Nicole game because I was under the weather, but I still whipped up some yummy recipes for them.
Continuing with the blueberry theme, I also made bluebery oatmeal chia bars one morning – except when I took the baking dish out of the oven, I mistakenly placed it on a burner that was on low heat….and then left it there for hours. I was in the kitchen the whole time and didn’t even smell the bars and pan burning because my sinuses were all congested! It actually worked out well because my dad loves burnt things. They wound up being super dry, but he was a fan of them anyways…so it was only half a kitchen fail!
Another muffin recipe that I decided to make were peanut butter & jelly banana muffins. I first shared the recipe on here years ago when I was a newbie blogger, and I hadn’t made them in quite awhile. My dad loves PB & J (and so do I!) so I thought he’d like these. I always like having muffins, bars, or energy bites around as a healthy snack, and we all snacked on these muffins throughout the week.
This is the story about how I tried three times to create a naturally green recipe and totally failed… but came up with two yummy recipes in the process!
St. Paddy’s Day is coming up this Friday, and I was actually thinking ahead a few weeks ago when I decided I wanted to come up with a sweet recipe that had a green hue, sans food coloring.
I first heard that the chlorophyll in sunflower butter can turn baked goods green when it interacts with baking soda/powder when a friend of mine accidentally wound up with a green colored sunflower butter recipe, so my original idea was to make sunflower butter banana muffins. The result? They did not turn green, and they also turned out a bit dry, so it was a no go.
I decided it was possible that because I mixed all of my muffin ingredients together in my food processor, it too vigorously combined the ingredients and broke down the baking soda properties too much to successfully interact with the sunflower butter enough to turn them green. So for attempt #2, I made sunflower butter breakfast cookies that I only mixed by hand until the ingredients were combined.
While the cookies turned out yummy & I’ll be sharing that recipe soon, they did not turn green at all. Whomp whomp.
Feeling over the whole sunflower butter idea after two failed attempts, I moved onto another idea: making something with matcha. Matcha is a green tea powder with powerful antioxidant properties and a bright green color.
So for naturally green recipe attempt #3, I made matcha chocolate chip banana muffins. The batter was looking like it may have had a green hue to it prior to baking, but when I pulled them out of the oven, I practically screamed, “NOO, they look normal!”
While these muffins aren’t green in color, it turns out they’re delicious, so I’m sharing the recipe with you today. Made with oats and banana, they have some of my favorite healthy baking hacks – including the use of apple sauce & coconut oil. They’re sweetened only with maple syrup, banana and dairy free dark chocolate chips, and the matcha flavor is subtle.
Packed with apple, pumpkin, banana and cinnamon, and free of refined sugar, these healthy vegan muffins make for a great autumn snack, small breakfast, or guilt-free dessert!
One of my favorite September activities is apple picking. But since it’s pretty warm and summery feeling in San Diego in September, sometimes I forget that the apple orchards are ready to be visited. A few years we’ve been too late in the apple picking game and either a.) go when the orchards are pretty picked over, or b.) miss apple picking all together (like last year!). BUT NOT THIS YEAR!
Nope, in 2016 I was on high apple picking alert! In the San Diego area, the best area to visit for apple picking is Julian – a cute little town I’ve talked about before. It’s about a 75-minute drive from my house, and it’s like a whole different world there.
It’s known for its farming, apple pies and boutique vineyards. It’s the kind of place where some of the local establishments don’t have websites. It’s country living still close to the wonderful city of San Diego, and it’s a fun little getaway spot.
So even though it seemed early for autumn to already be here, off we went to Julian last weekend for some local apples.
For all of you locals, the orchard I chose is called MJ Ranch – mainly because they’re organic growers, had their opening day last weekend so I knew they’d be stocked with fruit, and because they’re dog-friendly and I wanted to bring my pup along. The Visit Julian website has a good list of U-Pick orchards listed here.
It turned out to be the best year yet that we’ve had with apple picking! The trees were lush with a variety of apples, and the farm also grows pears as well.
As you can see in the picture above, Harley made some friends at the orchard and enjoyed eating fruit from the ground (and this little girl had Harley lick the apple she was actually eating – not too sure about that!). There were lots of people there with dogs, which was fun.
We came home with two full bags of apples ready to be eaten. It’s funny comparing local, organic apples to typical store-bought ones. They’re smaller, flawed and not perfectly shaped – just how apples were meant to be I think!
Naturally, I had to do some sort of baking with a couple of the apples that very day.
I had been thinking of making pumpkin banana muffins, so instead, I added some chopped apple to the mix to make it a very autumn-ish muffin recipe – using just a food processor as my mixing bowl!
In my household, we eat a lot of bananas. We’re not quite up to par with some plant-based eaters that I’ve come across who routinely eat 10 bananas in a day (whoa right?), but my hubby and I go through around a dozen bananas a week together.
I primarily eat them in smoothies, with nut butter, or atop yogurt and smoothie bowls. My hubby usually eats them in his protein shakes or on their own, especially to refuel after he’s gone for a run or bike ride. Since we love our naners, it only makes sense that we both dig banana bread!
Last weekend I wanted to make a chocolate chip banana bread as part of a gift for our friends’ birthday party for their 2-year old – who I remembered loved my banana bread the last time I shared one with them. I have a go-to vegan banana bread recipe that I’ve made many times, but I wanted to try making a couple of healthier swaps this time around.
I wanted to make a bread to keep for ourselves, but had the idea to come up with a batch of banana bread muffins instead, because a.) I find banana bread to be so yummy and addicting, so portioning it out into muffins seemed like a good idea, and b.) I wanted to bake both the banana bread and the muffins at once, since I only have 1 bread tin and was short on time.
More specifically, let’s chat about these maple cashew butter stuffed banana muffins – which are all decked out for the holidays because I simply couldn’t help myself from nabbing candy cane muffin decor. Between having a very Christmas-y weekend watching both Home Alone and Elf, plus going ice skating (more on that later this week!), along with lighting up my living room with my Christmas tree and fireplace decorations every night and playing nonstop Christmas music as of late, I’m full blown in holiday mode. I can’t get enough of it!
But back to food. For this recipe, I played around with coconut sugar for the first time with muffins. I was pleased with the result, and will be experimenting with coconut sugar more often moving forward! The muffins are stuffed with a maple syrup & cashew butter blend that is a delicious combo of sweet + salty. I also pumped up the cashew flavor by using Almond Breeze‘s new Almondmilk Cashewmilk Blend in the batter. I love anything cashew!
At any given time, there are probably 10 jars of nut butter in my pantry. I most often spread it on fruit or throw it in my smoothies for some extra creaminess and flavor. I also am a fan of incorporating peanut/cashew/almond butter into my baked goods, like today’s muffin recipe.
One brand of nut butter that you’ll always find in my kitchen is Peanut Butter & Co. I especially love their Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter! While I love smooth nut butter, powdered peanut butter is also a staple in my kitchen. So, you could imagine my excitement when I got involved in a Fit Approach collaboration with Peanut Butter & Co. to experiment in the kitchen with their new powdered peanut butter line, Mighty Nut.
Created from quality USA grown peanuts, Mighty Nut is a non-GMO powdered peanut butter line made by roasting and pressing the peanuts. What remains is the protein, fiber and delicious peanut buttery taste – but much less fat and calories. Mighty Nut is now available in 4 varieties:
Flax & Chia
I decided to come up with a muffin recipe that gives you lots of chocolatey and peanut buttery goodness, while also being low in fat and calories. These wholesome, gluten free babies were the result:
For the base of the muffins we’ve got some oats and Mighty Nut chocolate powdered peanut butter.
Hope that your first full week of January has been awesome, and that you have some fun weekend plans ahead. Speaking of fun, today I’ve got a fun recipe to share with you guys!
Whenever I go food shopping, bananas are always on the list. I buy a ton of bananas! A and I both use them for smoothies almost daily, plus I like to smear bananas with nut butter or top yogurt bowls with banana slices often.
However, I somehow wound up with too many bananas in the house over the past week. We couldn’t eat them fast enough, and before I knew it, I had 5 brown bananas sitting in my fruit basket. I threw a few of them in the freezer for later smoothie use, and then I had a yummy idea for the remaining ones…
I have a few updates for you all on the blog front. I’ve updated my recipe pages to include all of my latest kitchen creations. I also updated my workout page, which now includes a new section for my hiking spot posts. Lastly, I added a ‘travel & fun’ page so that all of my travel posts, restaurant and winery experiences, as well as random adventures are in one place. Fun stuff! And now onto food – banana pumpkin muffins to be precise…
After a morning yoga session, running errands, and going hiking with my hubby and puppy yesterday, I came home and decided that a bit of baking was in order.
Since I had an open can of pumpkin and some ripe bananas ready to be eaten in my fruit basket, and I’ve been loving muffins lately, I whipped up some tasty banana pumpkin muffins.
As usual, Harley “helped” me by being underneath my feet the entire time in hopes of catching a good bite of something. 😉
Pumpkin & banana really compliment each other well. I sprinkled a cinnamon & brown sugar topping onto the muffin batter to give it that extra flavor oomph. At only 135 calories per muffin, these babies are perfect as a snack or part of breakfast or lunch.
A couple of days ago, I was on a mission to come up with a mini-something recipe that could serve as a baby snack or dessert.
An I’m-waiting-for-dinner-to-cook-and-need-to-eat-a-little-something-ASAP recipe.
Also an I-just-ate-dinner-and-am-not-really-hungry-but-want-a-bite-of-something-sweet snack.
Since pumpkin eats are constantly on my brain these days, I naturally incorporated some into the recipe – in more than one way. I think that including chocolate in a sweet recipe is always a good idea, so this recipe quickly became a combo of chocolate + pumpkin yumminess. And then there was the mini muffin tin I happened to see peering from my cabinet just waiting to be used, all of which resulted in these babies…
Then comes the *secret ingredient* part…
I wanted to omit use of any oil and make this recipe super healthy in general, but I still wanted them to be moist. Especially when incorporating protein powder like I did here, the recipe can get dry easily. I did some research online to see what people most frequently use in protein powder brownies/cakes/muffins, and I kept finding black beans to be the common denominator.
Now, I’m not really a fan of putting ingredients in things that don’t seem like they should be there, though I certainly have tried it.
Avocado in chocolate mousse? Get outta here!
Tofu in homemade dressings, desserts, etc.? No thank you. Been there, tried that…it wound up in my garbage can.
But I decided to give the black beans a go in my muffins. I figured I can’t knock it ’til I try it, right?
Besides using pure pumpkin in the muffin bites, I also decided to use some pumpkin cream cheese to keep the recipe nice and moist. Trader Joe’s pumpkin cream cheese = nom.
The recipe also included honey, cinnamon, cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips. When I combined everything in my food processor, I was still feeling skeptical about using black beans.
But once the batter was smooth, I was very happy with what I tasted. Friends, I wouldn’t lie to you – it did NOT taste like black beans. It just tasted like chocolate pumpkin goodness, and after I spooned the batter into my mini muffin cups, I ate as much batter out of the food processor as I could. I was like a little kid eating the remnants of boxed brownie mix with a wooden spoon after my mom put the brownie batter in the oven (I obviously did that EVERY TIME my mom made brownies growing up!).
When my hubby, whose not crazy about beans, tasted the muffins, he had no idea that there were black beans in them. Not only did he give the muffins a thumbs up at first, he keeps eating them and not questioning my vague description as them being “nice and healthy chocolate pumpkin bites.” Muwahaha.
I’ve been eating the muffin bites on their own as a few-bite mini snack, and also have been cutting them into a couple pieces and topping my yogurts with them. As I said in my last post, I pretty much top my yogurts with anything tasty that’s in my kitchen!
If there’s anything that screams autumn, it’s apple picking.
After last weekend’s failed attempt at visiting an orchard, yesterday was a successful afternoon of apple picking. My hubby and I journeyed to the town of Watsonville to check out Clearview Organic Orchards. Unfortunately we always seem to be a little late in the game when it comes to picking apples, and the trees were pretty picked over. We still found some good apples, and supplemented the rest of our bag with apples that had already been picked from the trees earlier.
When the guy at Clearview Orchards told me that he “robs” the bee hives every week to get the raw local honey that they sell, I knew I’d want to nab a jar for myself. I put honey on everything lately! You may have already noticed this with my recent recipes – including the one I’ll be talking about in a moment today. 🙂
They also had ginormous banana squash. I’ve never cooked with banana squash before, and would totally have gotten one to experiment with had we not taken my hubby’s motorcycle to the orchards. I was already worried about the heaviness of a backpack full of apples on the ride home – let alone with one of these babies added to the mix!
What we did come home with was the honey, a butternut squash, and quite a bunch of Fuji and Granny Smith apples. Adam and I both love apples, and I have no doubts that we’ll easily eat em all.
Upon coming home with 10 pounds of apples, I couldn’t contain my foodie excitement and got right down to making a couple of recipes with them. Today I’m sharing this one with you:
I got the idea to make apple raisin muffins from Jazzy Vegetarian Classics, a cookbook I mentioned last week that I was recently sent to review. More on that at a later date, but its healthy apple muffins sounded like a great idea to me. I made some modifications to the cookbook’s original recipe, including subbing maple syrup for some of my new honey, adding ground flaxseed to the mix, nixing pumpkin seeds and changing a few of the ingredient amounts.
Do any other bakers out there find that muffin recipes tend to underestimate the amount of servings that it will make? Even though I changed some things up from the original recipe, it should have still made the same amount of muffins. The cookbook says the recipe will make 6 muffins, and I wound up filling 12 cups with muffin batter! I wonder if there are giant muffin tins out there that everyone’s using, or if my muffin tin is mini sized and I just don’t know it…. Anyways, having 12 now 10 of these around this week is fine by me!
I love how clean and healthy these muffins are. They turned out subtly sweet, making them good for any time of day: as part of breakfast or lunch, or as a snack or dessert. I ate them plain today, but have a hunch that they’d be awesome toasted with a touch of butter or with some TJ’s pumpkin cream cheese spread.
I was in love with this spread last year and couldn’t resist buying it last week. Fall = pumpkin obsession for everyone and their mother, including me. And now, here’s the recipe:
Author: Foodie Loves Fitness, Adapted from Jazzy Vegetarian Classics
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup raisins
5 small apples (I used Fuji)
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup ground flaxseed meal
½ cup almond milk, plus more as needed
½ TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from ½ small lemon
2 TSP baking powder
1 TSP ground cinnamon
⅛ TSP sea salt
Preheat oven to 375. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin cups.
Peel, core, and roughly chop the apples. Puree them by placing in a food processor and blending until the consistency of apple sauce is achieved (Don't completely liquefy).
In a large bowl, place flour, flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to combine.
Add the raisins and apple puree, and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
Stir in the lemon juice, zest, honey, and almond milk, and mix just until incorporated. The batter should be thick, but if it seems overly dry, you can stir in more almond milk until the mixture is moist.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake until golden and a tooth pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, around 30 minutes.
Place muffins on a wire rack to cool before enjoying.