Pumpkin Sunflower Seed Granola Bars

I have a granola bar addiction. There’s something so wonderful about these tiny squares of oats loaded with other goodies that I can never get enough of.

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I think my granola bar obsession peaked in college because granola bars became “special treats.” Let’s face it: groceries in New York can be expensive. As in a box of 5 Kashi bars is literally $7.99 at Duane Reade. Unless I bought granola bars at Trader Joe’s which I find a leeetle bit too sweet sometimes, granola bars became occasional treats I would buy only when they were on sale or when I was home on breaks. And then on breaks I’d go to Target and buy like 10 boxes of granola bars and pack them all in my suitcase and bring them back to school with me. I’m sure if my luggage ever got searched it was a lol to TSA.

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My dream granola bar is chewy, full of big chunks of nuts and lots of textures, and loaded with dried fruit, and a healthy dose of chocolate. Most of the time. Other times I want something a little simpler and more like a not-sweet snack that will keep me going in the afternoon. That’s right folks – sometimes I want things that aren’t too sweet. Gasp. I know. The nice thing about cooking/baking is that if you want these babies sweeter, you can add as much sugar as you like and make ’em to your liking. Making things from scratch is great, isn’t it? Thought so.

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These bars have a nice, deep earthy flavor thanks to the pumpkin + sunflower combo. Grinding up the nuts into a nut butter not only binds the oats together, but gives them a hearty texture and some staying power thanks to all the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats they have to offer.

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I honestly liked these more than I expected to. They’re chewy but hearty. And they have this distinct deep savory-sweet flavor that keeps you wanting to nibble. They’ll grow on you with every bite. Prep time is minimal, and one batch gives you a whole pan / week’s worth of snackies. I suggest you mix up your usual granola bar routine and give these a whirl. Make your days be full of peace, love, and excessive amounts of granola goodness. 🙂

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds [or, if you have it, 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter + 1/2 cup sunflowers]
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup – 3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on desired sweetness
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional, but recommended)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Place 1/2 cup sunflower seeds in a food processor and puree until the seeds reach a smooth nut butter paste. Add canned pumpkin and continue to puree until well mixed.

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3. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar. Mix well.

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4. Add pumpkin/sunflower seed butter mixture to the oat mixture. Mix until well combined and all oats are moist. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sunflower seeds and mix again. The mixture will be thick and cookie-dough like.

5. Line a 9×9 baking sheet with parchment paper or grease well. Pour dough into pan and press down using a spatula or your hands.

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6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and fragrant and edges begin to pull away from the sides slightly. They make seem a little gooey when you take them out of the oven but they will continue to set as they cool.

7. Cool completely and cut into whatever sized bars you want. Store in an airtight container or bag for up to a week.

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Candy Corn Cookie Cake [Pumpkin + Banana Chocolate Chip]

Apparently I’m really into making things that look like candy corn. First I made this roasted veggie corn pizza thing, and then on Sunday I made this giant cookie cake for a post for Spoon and frosted it so when you cut it, it looks like a piece of candy corn. When I get into something, I go all out. Hence why I posted like 5 pumpkin recipes in a row.

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Speaking of pumpkin, I went to Trader Joe’s this Saturday and got so excited and overwhelmed by all the new pumpkin products that I actually had to leave quickly without letting myself buy any otherwise I would have easily spent $50. I decided I had to go home and think about which to buy first so I don’t end up with nothing but pumpkin spice sugary things in my pantry. This recipe also has pumpkin. #cantgetenough The middle layer of the cookie is pumpkin. And the outside layer is banana. Get it? Orange/yellow. Just like a piece of candy corn.

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Using pumpkin and banana also makes this cake a dairy free/vegan option as it replaces using butter + eggs that a cookie mix calls for. Yes I used another mix. When I write for Spoon my goal is to be appealing and realistic to a college student. And when I was in college (omg I feel old saying that), I rarely had a fully stocked pantry or the desire to buy many things at once, so using a mix would have appealed to me, even though I still prefer every-last-detail-from scratch. But this makes it fast, easy, and less to purchase/clean up. Go with it. You can also make this recipe by assembling and whisking all the dry ingredients of regular cookie dough. But a mix will work just fine.  A lot of cookie and cake mixes are actually dairy free if you look at them. Just check the back of the package! Or use a fancy specific dairy free one like this.

So here is a recipe for cookie cake. It would be a hit for a Halloween party. Or, if you live alone and mostly hang out with your dogs cause all your friends are far away, you can be like me and have it all to yourself. I currently have about 80% left of it in my fridge from baking it earlier today. And a giant batch of chocolate bark for an upcoming post. #foodbloggerproblems. I’m okay with these problems, btw.

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You can view the Spoon version right here, or you can simply look at the recipe below. Happy eating!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Total Time: 30-35 minutes

Level: easy 

Ingredients:

1 bag chocolate chip cookie mix

½ cup canned pumpkin

1 large overripe banana

½ cup white chocolate chips, divided

1 ½ cup white frosting of your choice (vanilla, cream cheese, etc) —> I recommend making buttercream with 1 1/2 sticks butter or Earth balance non-dairy butter substitute + 4 cups powdered sugar + 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Divide cookie mix in half in two separate bowls.

3. Peel and mash banana. In one bowl, add mashed banana. In another bowl, add canned pumpkin. If desired, add yellow food coloring to banana portion, and orange to canned pumpkin portion.

4. Mix each bowl of cookie mix and pumpkin or banana until a dough forms.

5. Grease a pizza pan or 9 inch cake pan. First, make an outer ring with the banana cookie dough mix. Fill the center with the pumpkin cookie dough mix. Add half white chocolate chips to center to form a small circle.

6. Place in the oven and bake until the cookie is browned and fragrant and a toothpick releases upon insertion in the center, 15-25 minutes.

7. Allow to cool. Add remaining half white chocolate chips to center on top of the melted/baked white chocolate chips.

8. If frosting, dye half frosting yellow and half frosting orange by mixing food coloring or food dye into frosting. Frost with yellow frosting around the outer banana ring and orange frosting around the middle pumpkin ring.

9.Slice into triangles originating from the center and serve.

{Healthier, Vegan} Pumpkin Muffies

I love Panera. “Meet me at Panera Bread” is one of my favorite phrases to hear. Perhaps it’s a nostoglia thing (I ate a lot of Panera growing up) but p-bread forever has a soft spot in my heart. Those sourdough rolls. The baguettes. Their Strawberry Poppyseed Salad. Dat soup. The bread bowls. The bagels. The Med Veg sandwich with the cilantro-jalepeño hummus. The fact that my bestie Sarah Cath worked there. The unlimited in-house coffee refills. I could go on forever.

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When it comes to the baked goods Panera has to offer, Pumpkin Muffies also have a special place in my heart. To me, pumpkin muffies represent surprises my dad would bring me if he had grabbed lunch there during work, a (welcomed) treat on rare school mornings, or special weekend breakfast noms. I remember the excitement I’d feel every time I’d get that signature brown paper bag with that Panera criss-cross pattern and could see the bottom had a slight greasy oil circle at the bottom. At that moment, I knew: it was a Pumpkin Muffie, just waiting to give me a powder sugar mustache.

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Fluffy, sweet, pumpkin-y, and with those strange powder sugar balls, these babies are incredible and I love them unconditionally. I don’t quite know why I’ve never tried to make them at home before, but yesterday morning for whatever reason I just needed to do so. And that’s just what I did.

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I made mine with oat flour because it results in super soft baked goods, which is exactly what I was aiming for, and they’re whole grain, so they feel less junk-y than the original ones. The muffins themselves are super fluffy, almost bouncy, cinnamon-y, and are a bit less sweet than the Panera version.

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I used chia seeds + water as an egg substitute/nutritional booster, but you can also use flax, applesauce, or an egg if that’s more your style. The topping? That’s still pure sugary goodness. And that is totally fine.

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How do you make them muffies you ask? I placed a biscuit cutter on my baking sheet, put two generous spoonfuls of batter into it, allowed to batter to kind of adhere to its shape for a hot second, then lifted the biscuit cutter and repeated this 12 times until I had 12 muffies. You could also use a circular cookie cutter, pipe in a circle using a wide-tipped pastry bag or plastic bag with a large corner end snipped off, or do your best and try to spoon the batter into circular shapes. It’s up to you. Even if you bake them in a muffin tin as regular muffins, they will still taste delicious, don’t you worry. 😉

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients – Muffies:

  • 2 1/4 cups oat flour (all purpose would also work)
  • 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (any kind will do)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seed + 2 tablespoons water (can also use 3 tablespoons apple sauce)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of salt

Ingredients – Topping:

  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a small bowl, combine almond or soy milk and vinegar. Set aside and allow to curdle for at least 10 minutes. In another small bowl, combine chia seeds + flax seeds and water and set that aside too.

3. In a large bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk until well combined.

4. Add canned pumpkin, sugar, almond milk + vinegar mixture, and chia seeds + water into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Use a spatula or spoon to fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

5. Place a silicone baking pad or sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place a biscuit cutter or circular cookie cutter down on the sheet. Place two generous spoonfuls of batter into the biscuit cutter. Allow the batter to form to the shape of the circle. Lift the biscuit cutter, and repeat 12 times until you’ve made 12 circular muffies.

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6. Place muffies in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until puffy, fragrant, bouncy upon touch, and a toothpick placed in the center of the muffies comes out clean.

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7. Place muffies on a cooling rack and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine powder sugar and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix together.

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8. Once muffies have cooled, sprinkle topping all over them. I recommend doing this right once muffies are COMPLETELY cool, and/or preferably right before eating, otherwise the powder sugar may absorb into the muffies and they’ll look shiny and weird. Store in plastic baggies or an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. These also freeze and reheat well. Especially in the toaster. Yummies = when you have toaster muffies. Hooray! Muffies all week long. Happy Monday everyone :)!

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Curried Pumpkin Hummus

As I’m writing this post, the Packers vs. Bears game is on TV. I know this because of social media and because none of my friends want to hang out right now. Currently I’m watching an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians [one I’ve already seen]. Everyone in Wisconsin is now officially judging me. But no matter, I love football games. I see them as the perfect time to go to the mall, Target, the gym, or Trader Joe’s (no lines!! no people!!).

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So I’m not watching the Packer game. Football just was never a thing in my household growing up and then I went to NYU so that’s self-explanatory. I just don’t football. I DO go to football parties. For the food. And if I were watching the game right now, I would find this hummus a perfect “game snack.” Instead, it’s a good Kardashian snack. For today. But I encourage you to enjoy it however you please.

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So let’s talk about this Curried Pumpkin Hummus, shall we? This idea came about because I often combine canned pumpkin and store-bought hummus on sandwiches/wraps/etc and have grown fond of the tastes and textures together. When taking fridge inventory yesterday afternoon, I noticed about a leftover 1/2 cup canned pumpkin to use up, a can of chickpeas, and a freshly emptied container of hummus, so this was a no-brainer. I typically buy store bought hummus because honestly I think it’s one of those things that’s pretty-well done in the food world, and it’s easy and clean and tasty and cheap, so why not. Apprehension to spend a pretty penny on a large container of tahini also usually stops me from making hummus, because I just never end up using much of it. So rather than purchase tahini, I use sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or nuts, and puree them to give the hummus that nutty flavor.

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But yesterday all stars aligned when I realized I had everything I needed, and as I’ve been itchin’ to try out a pumpkin hummus recipe for a while, I gave it a whirl with delicious success! The curry flavor was a no-brainer for me, as well, as curried-flavor anything is something I tend to dig. The slightly spicy and earthy flavors of the curry powder and cumin pair nicely with the umami flavors of the pumpkin and chickpeas. You can make it spicier if you want with more paprika or cayenne pepper, but I urge you not to skip the curry flavors. They really marry the other ingredients together.

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Now use up that leftover pumpkin and make a fresh batch of festive hummus. Eat it with veggies or on a sandwich or on a tortilla [PS currently obsessed with THESE oh my goodness!]. Also pickles. Because pickles’n’hummus are secretly a match made in heaven. #trustme

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts or almonds (use what you’ve got!)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 heaping tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (more if desired)

Directions:

1. Place tahini, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts or almonds into a food processor or blender. Purée until the nuts reach a paste, the consistency of a nut butter.

2. Mince garlic, and add it to the food processor. Pour extra liquid from the chickpea can and dump the chickpeas into the food processor. Add canned pumpkin. Purée until desired consistency is achieved. Most people like it super smooth. I prefer it a wee bit chunky.

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3. Add curry powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and sea salt. Mix until spices are well incorporated.

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4. Pour into a festive bowl and enjoy the way you would other hummuses. I like it on tortillas, raw veggies, and pickles. Yes pickles. Don’t knock it til ya tried it. 😉

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Mini Pumpkin Donuts with Chocolate Drizzle [vegan]

Once upon a time I published a recipe for Mini Shortcut Vegan Banana Muffins with Coconut-Almond Glaze. I was surprised at how much responded to like it. Turns out, people like shortcuts. Like using a mix to make something quickly, but jazzing it up to make it more special. I could go on and on about how I’m typically opposed to mixes, but truth is they come in handy, and recipes that incorporate mixes to save time are just as important as a from-scratch Cronut recipes which take 16 hours from start to completion. All baked goods have a time, place and life situation, and sometimes ya need a shortcut!

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So fastforward form summer (when I wrote that recipe) into fall. It’s pumpkin season! [In case you forgot]. I certainly have not forgotten this fact. I’m practically orange from all the extra beta-carotene I’ve been consuming. I feel like people are going to start intervening and telling me to lay off the tanning beds. But really, peoples, I just love my sweet potatoes and carrots and pumpkin. #besties #beta-c

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So yes, I used a plain cake mix to make these [I used Cherrybrook Kitchens] and instead of using oil and eggs and whathave you the way one would typically make a cake, I used canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and pseudo-buttermilk, put them in mini-doughnut pans, and made baked cake doughnuts. I then drizzled melted chocolate chips on some. On others, I used leftover cinnamon-sugar from my Apple Cinnamon Duffins. Both are good options.

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So toss these things into a bowl and put them in your oven and then you have a bunch of adorable mini pumpkin muffins to enjoy in the fall foliage. These are so quick to come together, that they’ll leave you for other really important fall activities like homework or apple picking or eating squash.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Level: Easy peasy!

Ingredients:

  • one box cake mix [I used Cherrybrook Kitchen]
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour (you may or may not need this – the pumpkin can make things a little too moist, and if you feel the batter is too doughy, add a little flour to dry it out a bit)

Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 1/2 of a 12-ounce bag dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (optional)

Option 2 for Topping – Cinnamon Sugar Coating:

  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, pumpkin, oil and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well.

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3. Pour cake mix into mini doughnut pan. I have this one from Wilton. I’m a big fan. I got it at Jo-Ann Fabrics. You can get one there or online. Also if you don’t have a mini doughnut pan and ain’t got time fo gettin’ one, use a mini cupcake pan. Or even a regular muffin pan. They will all work and be delicious. They just might not quite as cute. This doesn’t matter, aside from likes on Insta.

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4. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until doughnuts are browned, fragrant, and bouncy when touched.

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5. Allow doughnuts to cool completely. Meanwhile, in a small microwave safe bowl, combine coconut oil (can be omitted if you don’t have it) and chocolate chips. Place in the microwave and heat in 30 second increments until chocolate chips are melted, stirring after each increment. This should take 2-3 minutes total.

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6. Once doughnuts are cooled, use a pastry bag, spoon or fork to drizzle chocolate over the doughnuts. Yummy. I like chocolate.

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7. If you want a cinnamon-sugar coating, melt the coconut oil or butter in a small microwave safe bowl in the microwave in 30 second incremients, stirring after each increment until melted. Mix cinnamon and sugar in another small bowl. Dip or use hands or pastry brush to lightly coat each doughnut in coconut oil/butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.

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8. Allow the chocolate to cool/harden onto the doughnuts. Then take these babies to a party to share, or straight to the face. 😀

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Pumpkin-Apple Spice Fruit Roll-Ups !

Another beautiful fall day = another reason to put fall flavors in EVERYTHING. Fall is my favorite flavor season. I practically live for squashes and sweet potatoes and root vegetables of all sorts so when they are at their peak of bounty and freshness I am basically a full-grown kid in a vegetable-candy store. Do you know what else I love almost as much as fall veggies? Apples. Which also happen to gracefully be at their freshness peak in fall. C’mon now – one bite of any fresh fall apple and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fall apples just taste different. Aka fresher. More like the orchard. Juicier. Tangier. Sweeter. More magical. Fresher. All at once. They are perfect.

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So let’s hear it for fall produce. #gofiber. But you know what else is wonderful about fall? PIE SEASON. To quote my sister, “pie fixes everything,” and in our family we believe that all life moments are pie-appropriate. However, in the fall, they seem to pop up more on menus and in homes, particularly those that follow the fall-flavor theme. Pumpkin and apple are regular Thanksgiving favs, and all-year-round favorites for me.

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So why not – when presented with a dehydrator theme for September for The Recipe Redux – combine all the flavors of apple and pumpkin into a yummy, portable snack that’s junk free and nutritious? And thus, Pumpkin-Apple Spice Fruit Roll Ups were born. Inspired by pie, made healthy and delicious by nature/you and your oven. These are easy as, well, pie, but a great way to give you a glucose boost in the afternoon without making you feel sluggish and icky. They’re perfect study or hiking snacks and make magnificent adorable additions to lunchboxes. What they lack in flourescent color, they make up for in flavor. You won’t regret making these, I promise.

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{A side note about The Recipe Redux – the Recipe Redux is a super cool network of bloggers who make healthier, delicious recipes and submit them into contests every month based on a theme chosen by the group. It is the only recipe contest founded by registered dietitians ! I’m inspired by many of the blogs and hope you’ll creep around the links below and find some other good stuff. I personally am excited to see the other dehydrator recipes and I’m VERY thrilled to be a part of it this month and looking forward to entering in months to come!}

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Back to the roll-ups: they’re incredibly simple to make. The hardest part is waiting for them to dehydrate in your oven while they fill your entire house with magnificent spicy-sweet-pie aromas. If you can hold out for those 3 hours though, you’ve got yourself a week’s worth of delicious goodies at your fingertips. You can do it. Just remember, pie [flavored things] fix everything.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Level: easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 large apples
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

Directions:

1. Peel apples and chop into small cubes. Place in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (about 3 tablespoons) and cook until very tender, about 20-30 minutes. You could also do this in the microwave, using a microwave safe bowl and cooking increments of 2-3 minutes, checking tenderness after each increment.

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2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cool apples in the refrigerator, then place in a food processor or blender with the canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Blend until a smooth baby-food-like purée.

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3. Line a baking sheet with a sil-pat or parchment paper. Pour apple-pumpkin mixture over the baking sheet and using a spatula, spread mixture to make a thin, even coat covering the pan.

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4. Place in the oven for 2.5-3 hours, until the fruit-roll ups look leathery, putty-like and have darkened a bit. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

5. Use a kitchen shears or sharp paring knife to cut into strips or rolls. If you want to make roll-ups with the traditional peel-off wrapper component and everything, place first transfer the whole fruit leather from the sil-pat onto a clean sheet of wax paper, then cut into one-inch strips with a kitchen sheers. Roll up and place in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy~!

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Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding

Now that it’s mid-September, it’s officially time to put pumpkin and pumpkin spice in everything you eat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pumpkin is practically the best thing that’s every happened to the culinary world. I’m obsessed with it. I honestly will eat canned pumpkin with cinnamon and a spoon. People think this is weird. I know it’s delicious.

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But canned pumpkin – besides providing a delicious fall-like umami flavor – is also a great way to bump up the veggie content, fiber, potassium and beta-carotene of basically everything. I use it a lot for both sweet and savory dishes and can’t wait to share many of them right here on kbaked.com.

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But first – let’s talk breakfast. I love chia seed pudding. I also love pumpkin. Genius idea: put them together! Add pumpkin pie spice! Eat what tastes like pumpkin pie filling in a bowl for breakfast! Bonus: it’s healthy! Chia seeds are known power foods filled with healthy-fats, fiber and omega-3s, and make an excellent pudding if allowed to plump up in the presence of a little liquid. This works with almond or any other milk, and the pumpkin only makes it thicker, creamier, and more scrumptious. Add as much or as little sweetener as you like. Maple syrup keeps the fall flavor profile on point, but anything will do! Heck, I’d even eat it without any sweetener. I.love.pumpkin.

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Anyways, make this the night before. Prepping takes like 46 seconds, and when you wake up all you have to do is take it out of the fridge and eat it. It could not be easier. In fact, it may be the easiest recipe on kbaked.com to date. Enjoy this delicious, healthy treat as breakfast, dessert, or a snack. It will keep you full and happy for at least a few hours, as would pair nicely with a pumpkin spice beverage if you’re into excess like I am. Happy fall and happy eats! xoxo, kbakes.

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Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 0 minutes, but should be left to chill for at least 2-3 hours

Level: Could not be easier.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon sweetener of choice (I suggest maple syrup or brown sugar; sugar, agave, or honey would also work quite well)

Directions:

1. Combine chia seeds, pumpkin, almond milk, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Mix well.

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2. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight until the pudding has firmed up and become pudding-y. That’s a real word I promise.

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3. Top with sweetener and any other toppings you may desire (shredded wheat, nuts, or whipped cream if you’re feelin’ naughty ;-)) and EAT.

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An Honest Recap of my 5 Day “Primarily Plant-Based” Lifestyle Experiment

It’s not a secret that I have been a vegetarian for over 13 years now. Or maybe it is. I don’t know how well you know me.

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more to “plant based” than #justplants doe

As my choice to not eat meat is judged as hashly by some as my love for the Kardashians and Teen Mom, let me delight you with the story of my vegetarianism:

It went like this: I stopped eating meat around age 10 because I straight up didn’t like it. That was pretty much it. I got tired of explaining to friends’ parents why I didn’t want to eat the cheeseburgers they served for dinner or to the paraprofessionals why I had zero desire to touch those “chicken” nuggets on my tray.

hashtag what vegans eat
hashtag what vegans eat

So one day, I just started saying “Can I have something else please? I’m a vegetarian.” And then before I knew it, I actually kind of was a vegetarian. We didn’t eat too much meat in my household anyways (mostly poultry and fish, and in smaller amounts than most) and my parents didn’t see it as a problem, so vegetarianism has since turned into a pretty regular part of my lifestyle for so long that I can honestly never realistically see myself eating meat again. I genuinely just don’t even think about it.

oatmeal #5ever, dont forget the #cannedpumpkin #srslydoe
oatmeal #5ever, dont forget the #cannedpumpkin #srslydoe

Sure, I’ve cooked chicken and seared lamb chops and gutted shrimp in my food science class, but I didn’t want it. If I ever did crave a piece of chicken or a beef burger, I’d eat it. But in the past 13 years, it hasn’t happened. And through diet analysis projects I’ve done for nutrition classes, I have learned that I do eat a varied, balanced diet, and am not missing out on any vital nutrients whatsoever (yes, I eat plenty of protein, through the diet analysis I learned I almost eat double what I actually need and actually started cutting back my overly-consciencious efforts to “get enough”). So do I have any desire to eat meat? Nah. But if you do, that’s your thing. Go for it. I’m not going to stop you.

i bet you thought this looked good and didn't even realize it was #vegan #meeither
i bet you thought this looked good and didn’t even realize it was #vegan #meeither

I’ve always wanted to try out the vegan thing, even if just for a little while. A lot of people may ask themselves (or directly to me, some quiet rudely and judgmentally I might add), why I would try this.

Well, shit. I don’t know..a lot of reasons. For one just to see if I could do it. Secondly, to see if I felt any different. Third, it’s not a secret that  this country tends to consume quite a large amount of animal protein compared to others, and that trying other things might not be the worst idea. Lastly, as a way to be forced expand my culinary creativity and as an excuse to try new recipes. I tend to be a creature of habit and get into eating a lot of the same.

is bread a carb? #yes is it #vegan? #yes also, #delicious
is bread a carb? #yes is it #vegan? #yes also, #delicious

So for the first time since the birth of the Greek Yogurt mega-fad, I broke my 2-Fage-a-day habit and ate a primarily plant based diet for 5 days.

Notice how I didn’t straight up say “vegan,” because my intent wasn’t to be 100% pure vegan. Primarily Plant Based means the following (at least to me):

  • I did not purposely consume any diary or meat products (obviously meat, but also no direct cheese, eggs, milk, ice cream, etc, etc)
  • I did not freak out at small traces of things in products, ie, if there were “traces of egg whites” in my toaster waffles. You better believe that those babies still entered my body. This made it much more realistic to stick to, and far less restrictive.
not a relevant photo. but a cute one. #sleepynugget
not a relevant photo. but a cute one. #sleepynugget

So, last Monday through Friday, I gave this a whirl. And here’s what I experienced:

The Good:

  • I tried lots of new yummy things, including this lovely Black Rice Pudding stuff. I’m hooked and happy about it 🙂
  • I ate a boat load of creative oatmeal bowls. The key, I tell you is canned pumpkin. #sogood
  • I made lots of vegan tacos, with black beans, squash, avocado, black rice, salsa, and all sorts of other goodies.
  • I enjoyed a delicious vegan meal at Beans & Barley with some friends. [PSA..their marinated tofu is on another f**king level and everyone on earth needs to try it]. I also need to recreate it. ASAP.
  • I tried some other new things, like making my own cheese from cashews, and creating other nut butter sauces for pastas. Lots of new recipes from this experiment will be popping up on the blog in the coming weeks. hashtag creativity
this was rly good.
this was rly good.

How I Felt:

  • I didn’t feel deprived or hungry at all. I ate a lot, and a wide variety of foods. I even purchased some really delicious vegan cake slices from whole foods and found some diary-free cookies at Target and snacked on these chocolate muffins I made. Instead of my usual basically-ice-cream-flavored froyo, I forced myself to try some of the non-dairy berry sorbets and found out they were delicious. I also got some really good sorbet gelato one evening. I realized I have been neglecting fruity frozen things because I like classic ice cream so much. No longer. I will now be mixing it up more. I thought the whole desserts thing would be a huge road block, but it wasn’t that hard at all. I honestly thought the whole thing would be a lot harder.
  • I craved greek yogurt on the second day, and was going to quit my experiment and eat it because I don’t believe in denying your body it’s cravings, but because a crazy rain/hail storm prevented me from getting to the store I couldn’t get my paws on any, so I ate something else, and the craving passed, and I didn’t crave greek yogurt (or any dairy, actually) for the rest of the experiment.
  • I felt quite energized throughout the whole thing. Actually, moreso than usual, but I’m not going to make any miracle claims because this could have been placebo or a combination of many factors.
  • I genuinely, truly, did not miss dairy or eggs as much as I thought I would. And I’m a Wisconsin gal.
  • I realized that a lot of things I like are already vegan without trying to be. Like a lot of dark chocolates. Oreos are also vegan (which goes to show just how real that cream filling is….).Also Trader Joe’s soy cheese is actually delicious, but contains casein, and is therefore not vegan. #awkward
  • I felt like my dogs still looked just as cute this entire week as they usually do. Okay yes that was necessary to include.

IMG_5650

What Was Not So Great:

  • I feel like a completely vegan may get tricky hard to follow in a lot social situations. When cake is served, you better believe I’m finna want to eat it. I also felt that for me personally, it could also be tricky when to be a guest at parties or family functions. Which is why I don’t plan to stick to this long term (like I said, it was an experiment).
  • I was a bit less regular than normal (#tmi). Perhaps it’s all the time I’ve spent around pre-med people and/or working in hospitals, but I’m not shy about the fact that I have a long history of chronic IBS. And strangely, even though I was eating probably even more fiber than usual, I wasn’t quiet as good at my business as usual. I think my body is used to all the probiotics from all the yogurt I usually eat. Yes, I know probiotic pills exist. I also know that your body better processes all things directly from foods in place of from vitamins or supplements.
these are vegan. and phenomenal.
these are vegan. and phenomenal.

Final Thoughts:

Nope, I’m not vegan-ish this week. I stopped on Saturday because I was at a bachelorette party and wasn’t about to pass on cookie cake or mac’n’cheese being served. I’m not about that #denial life. I am eating less Greek Yogurt [as in, not a giant tub per day as pre-experiment] and am really into some of the new things I whipped up last week. Recipes soon, I tell ya, recipes soon. I also haven’t craved eggs at all since, but next time I do I will eat them. I’m also now also on a vegetarian taco kick, as well as a pasta and undying black rice kick. These are not bad things.

Overall, it was an interesting experiment. I know my choice to do this experiment was greeted by delight by some and some pretty rude comments by others, but I my reasons for the experiment were purely for personal growth and curiosity and I have zero regrets doing it.

At the end of the day, what people choose to put or not put in their mouths is actually a really strange topic, but it’s everyone’s personal choice, for better or for worse (I personally hope you make good choices and please #dontdoatkins if ily). It’s also important to point out that vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Like I mentioned above, Oreo’s are vegan. lol enough said.

So I end this far-too-long post with a glass of almond milk hot-chocolate and a puppy snuggled into my side, and ask you to be mindful of the following things: what you eat, what you read, what you believe, and to remember that you must moderate all things, including moderation. Cheers to all people who stopped reading 6 paragraphs or earlier ago; have a great week!