Pumpkin spice mini chocolate chip protein muffins

Not sure if you noticed that I had written my last 3 blogs on the same day 3 weeks ago. I do try to write my blog about something I had made at some point during the current week but in preparation of being out of commission for about a month because of carpal tunnel surgery I was scheduled for I wanted to get a little ahead of the game.  
IMG_5495I am doing better but still on limited use for another week or so.  I have found it virtually impossible to limit my most dominant hand to 1 lb and limited chopping for a month. For someone who loves to be in the kitchen and garden it hasn’t been easy; don’t tell my doctor but I know I have cheated a little more times than I can count.
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IMG_5496IMG_5497IMG_5498Since we are in the midst of pumpkin season I thought I would share a Pumpkin Spice Muffin with you all. I am still trying to be a little more healthy but without compromising taste; this recipe is low in calories and fat and has a nice supply of protein – for those like me counting macros; you can find them listed at the bottom of this and hopefully most all of my blogs.

Pumpkin spice mini chocolate chip protein muffins

1 cup oatmeal flour (quick oats ground in food processor – see below)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
3 egg whites
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium banana, peeled and mashed
1 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 container applesauce

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°
Place liners in one muffin pan and lightly spray with baking spray.
In a large bowl combine egg whites, yogurt, pumpkin puree, honey, vanilla extract, banana, applesauce.
In a second bowl combine oatmeal flour, almond meal, vanilla whey protein powder, pumpkin mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Combine flour mix and egg mix together until smooth.
Fill each tin ¾ of the way full, spreading evenly.

Bake for 20 minutes.
Store in the refrigerator

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Macros = 1 Muffin
170 Calories – 5 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 8 g Protein

Caramel Salted Nuts

Did I get you at Caramel? Salt? or the Nuts? I am going to apologize up front for sharing this with all of you, they are sinfully delightful! If you choose to make them; you will not be disappointed. I seem to have a problem with taking something somewhat good for you; the nuts; and adding a little more love; the salt and the caramel to bring it another level.
IMG_5364I have made this 3 times in the last couple of weeks. While that may sound like we have gone overboard on eating caramel salted nuts; we only got to eat 2 of the batches. I am not sure if I ever mentioned my crazy dog. I call him my ungrateful rescue; he has a severe case of separation anxiety and he only does this out of spite; he really has NO idea how good he has it. I am fairly certain that most would have given him up with all his shenanigans. Destroying shoes, clothes, stairs, doors to name a few. He has also been known to counter surf on occasion;  yep he found the sealed container of nuts on the counter, took them into the den and ate ALL of them. Thankfully there were no adverse effects to his digestive system. I wonder if he even enjoyed them?
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I do need to share that he does have some good quality’s as well; you will never find a more cuddly animal. He is most happy when sitting near or better ON you. And if we could all be so lucky that someone; anyone be SO excited when you walk into a door.
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If you have never made caramel before; it really isn’t that hard. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Firstly it is VERY hot so don’t get any on you. Secondly stir it once and then leave it alone. You can swirl the pan but let the heat do the work and you will be rewarded in kind.

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Nuts
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of cashews
1 cup of walnuts

On a sheet pan place in a 350’F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Just enough to barely brown them. Let them cool.
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Caramel
¼ cup water
1 ½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a sauce pan place the sugar and water stir to combine and then let it be. You can swirl the pan a few times until it starts to brown. It will continue to brown so don’t take it too far. Remove it from the heat and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

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While the caramel is still hot add the nuts and salt into the saucepan. Working quickly spread the nut mixture onto the same sheet pan with either parchment or Silpat. Flatten out with a couple of forks the best you can. Once cooled and hardened break apart and enjoy!

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Recipe by Ina Garten  

Almond Flour Blondies

I am a huge impulse buyer – KP stop laughing! My girlfriend KP gives me crap all the time for picking up something obscure and totally not what we were out shopping for. The area around the register is pretty dangerous for people like me; lucrative for the store though.
IMG_5279My daughter had made a few almond crust lemon curd tarts awhile back, at the time we couldn’t find almond flour in our little town so she had to make her own; she is so clever. So when I was out shopping and came across a large bag of Almond flour sitting at the end of an aisle I grabbed it.
IMG_5268Since I made this impulse purchase she hasn’t made any tarts; so now what am I supposed to do with it? Oh and I forgot to mention that I was at my club store when I “found” the bag so you might be getting a clearer picture that the bag I bought was a 10 pound bag of almond flour Yikes!
IMG_5271Since Almond flour is crushed almonds it is a little on the sweet side so I think it would only be good for something sweet; though I haven’t explored what to do with it extensively that is the way I am going with it.  I made an almond flour blondie that is sooooo good.  The only noticeable difference I found was that my blondie while ooey and gooey, it was also a little crumbly but that hasn’t stopped me from making them again.
IMG_5274Almond Flour Blondie

½ cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

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If you need to soften your cold butter; slice it into smaller pieces it will soften quicker

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan.
Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix on high till they become light and fluffy. Takes about 3 minutes.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until everything is incorporated. Stir in the chips and nuts if you are using them.
Pour the dough into the greased baking dish. Smooth the dough and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15-20 minutes slice and enjoy!
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Healthy Yummy Oatmeal Muffins

A couple of weeks ago we were staying with some friends up North. The guys went skiing and us girls stayed back at the house. We got some things done, went shopping and then for a very nice walk. The inspiration for this weeks recipe came from my girlfriend making a healthy muffin as something to grab on the way out the door in the morning when in a rush. I can appreciate that; most mornings are pretty hectic around here.  We have also been eating a lot more healthy oatmeal for breakfast.
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My daughter purchased a really cool rice cooker that we try to put steel cut oats in the night before and set the timer for them to be ready when we wake up. It also keeps them warm until we shut it off; which is cool since my daughter wakes up several hours after us; bonus is they taste great and pretty healthy for us.


Back to the healthy muffin. I looked around online for a recipe that I might want to try. I will admit I wasn’t sure how well they would be perceived. I have tried to “health” up things before and haven’t been too successful; or at least well enough to make them a regular thing.
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The first thought about the recipe I found when I read No Flour No Sugar No Oil – I thought NO WAY!
IMG_5047I was very hesitant since I didn’t have any eggs or milk on hand that the recipe asked for and I didn’t have enough bananas so I also grated an apple and made them anyway. I ended up using egg beaters and some Kefir that I bought that no one liked drinking straight; but in a recipe how terrible could it be.  
IMG_5048They smelled good, looked good and believe it or not my husband LOVED them; seriously he immediately ate 2 of them and has done nothing but praise them since . Luckily my daughter and I both really liked them and I was totally amazed that even with my changes they were a hit so much so I have made 4 batches in total; mostly because I wanted to use up the Kefir before it went bad I plan on packaging them up and putting them in the freezer.
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Ingredients
2 ½ cups old fashioned oats (1 ½ cup ground, 1 cup whole) (keep some aside  and press on top of muffins before baking – optional)
2-3 large overripe bananas – I used banana & grated apple – applesauce would work too
2 large eggs – egg beaters also work
⅓ cup honey
¾ cup milk – I used kefir
2 teaspoon real vanilla
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup currants – optional
⅓ cup chopped nuts – optional – I used pecans

Directions
Preheat oven to 325’F. Place oats on a baking sheet and make for 10-15 minutes to brown; stir once. Once cooled; in a food processor place 1 ⅕ cups of oats and blend, you are going for a flour like consistency. Turn oven to 350’F
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Mash the bananas and grate the apple add to the rest of the wet ingredients; eggs, honey, milk and vanilla.
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Add dry ingredients; including all the oats to the wet ingredients and mix till incorporated. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the oats to soak.  Add fruit and nuts if using

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Approximately 163 calories each

Line 12 cup muffin tin with wrappers; scoop batter into cup filling to the top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Recipe adapted by cookingatclarktowers: Brendid.com

Parmigiano Reggiano – crisps / alfredo / rind broth

If life gives you lemons you are supposed to make lemonade right? What do you do when someone hands you 3 enormous blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese?  Well I make Alfredo, Parmesan Crisps, Risotto, and Parmesan rind broth and basically grate it on anything and everything I want.

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wine bottle just for scale – wink wink

A couple of weeks ago a friend showed up with 3 blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for me to do with how I please. I truly was dumbfounded. Firstly how I was so lucky? Secondly how much did they get that they could share?  A VERY good friend of theirs sent them a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for Christmas. I couldn’t imagine sending or receiving such an extravagant gift. That’s a good friend to keep!
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I put one of the blocks into my food processor and came out with 12 cups of grated cheese. Just to have on hand; I remember when I was a kid the green canister of grated “cheese” in the fridge was the standard. My children grew up with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano; spoiled I tell you, just plain spoiled. With no green canister in our lives what to do with all the rinds; I used to just throw them in the trash. For several years now I have been saving the rinds of the “tiny”(well; now) blocks of Parm. and put them in my risotto and soups and sauces to add additional flavor to the broths. I recently read about making broth with Parmigiano Reggiano rinds. I have always used chicken broth for risotto but I am SO going to use the rind broth and probably; well at least for a few months use nothing else for soups, stews and my creamy salty risotto.

Parmesan crisps – on a baking sheet lined with parchment or better yet a Silpat
mound a tablespoon full of grated cheese and flatten each a bit. Bake at 325’F for 5-6 minutes.
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Simple Alfredo Sauce – 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper. In a sauce pan melt butter. Add heavy cream and simmer (do not boil) for 3-5 minutes. remove heat and add grated cheese and pepper.
Serve over fettuccine noodles or spinach ravioli like I did.

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you want it thick enough to coat the back of your spoon

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swipe your finger across the spoon to test for doneness

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Spinach Ravioli Alfredo sprinkled with fresh basil

Parmigiano Reggiano rind broth – 8 quarts of cold water, 7-8 cheese rinds, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon thyme.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain over a large bowl. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days or break up into smaller containers and freeze for a few months.
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I personally wouldn’t make just a rind soup; I really didn’t like the taste of the plain broth but using it added a rich depth of flavor to risotto and using it as a braising liquid is just plain heavenly.

Must try Granola

I have NO idea why it has taken me SOOOOOO long to make a batch of granola. Seriously; we all love it; we or more like; I buy it; Over the years I’ve bought all different kinds/brands. I have even gone so far as to write down the ingredients listed on a local company’s bag of my favorite granola. I am only slightly embarrassed to say that that was YEARS ago; literally at least over 10 years ago.
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So I would like to thank you all for getting me off my butt and finally pulling the trigger on not only buying the ingredients; which has been in my pantry for a couple of weeks now. Today is the day I make it happen. If I didn’t write a weekly food blog I probably would still be holding onto a piece of paper that says rolled oats on top of it. I am always looking for something yummy and simples to share with you all. So I finally made one of the easiest recipes on the planet. While you might have to buy a few ingredients that you probably wouldn’t have on hand the reward is pretty fantastic.
img_4888img_4889img_4890I also finally now know why it isn’t exactly the cheapest snack on the shelf. This recipe makes a lot of yummy granola. Keep it in an airtight container and it should last a few weeks. If it lasts that long; in my house if it makes a week and a half I will be shocked!
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Granola – preheat oven to 325’F

Ingredients
8 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups wheat germ
1 ½ cups oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions
Line two large baking sheets with something – Parchment, tinfoil and if you are lucky Silpat mat

In a very large bowl combine oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, coconut and the nuts.

In a medium saucepan combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for a minute and then pour over the dry ingredients; stir to combine. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes take out and stir; bake for another 10-15 minutes just till toasted. Once cooled it will be a little crispy. You can break it up totally or leave some a little chunky.

you can add raisins and or craisins if you wish

Adapted from Megan’s Granola – all recipes