My absolute favorite month of the year comes to a close on Saturday. To me, there is something a bit magical about Octobers in Michigan. The crisp air makes for the perfect running weather, complete with the crunch of fallen leaves underneath your feet. The trees transform into the most beautiful shades of yellow, orange & ruby red. And life always seems to slow down a bit after a busy summer season. I love relishing in the quiet of weekend mornings as we watch the leaves fall from our windows. And nothing can make a sleepy morning better than a delicious breakfast paired with hot coffee. I thought I would use a few classically “fall” ingredients for a sweet and hearty breakfast. These waffles are perfectly spiced with a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, but the star of the dish is pumpkin. The pumpkin gives the waffles a slightly orange hue and a deliciously subtle sweetness. Paired with a touch of pure maple syrup, and you have yourself the perfect breakfast.
Ingredients: Makes 5 waffles
1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 beaten egg
1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons canola oil
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour through allspice) and stir until combined
In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, pumpkin and canola oil.
Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined
Spray hot waffle iron with cooking spray and pour batter into waffle iron
I can still remember my first drive up to East Lansing, Michigan. My parents were taking me to Michigan State University for a college tour, and I was a bit apprehensive. All I knew about MSU was that they had a great hospitality business school, and everyone who went there seemed to be a football or basketball fanatic. And since I’ve never been a real sports enthusiast, I wasn’t quite sure if Michigan State could ever feel like home to me. But sure enough, I started my freshman year at Michigan State, and quickly fell in love with the beautiful campus and the camaraderie of the student body and alumni. And a few years later, I fell in love with a boy who loved Michigan State Football. Fast forward 8 years, and believe it or not, one of my favorite weekends of the year is our annual MSU Football tailgate. All of our college friends get together for at least one home game a year, to celebrate our alma mater. And although I still wouldn’t consider myself a football fanatic, I do love putting together a stellar tailgate. Thanks to our “head ring leader,” Arielle, we typically have a pretty impressive set up. Everyone brings a different dish to share, and we end up with everything from bagels, to sliders, to assorted cookies and salty snacks. This year I tried to provide a healthier breakfast option that was still delicious and seasonal. And I knew I could find a delicious and healthy recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Ambitious Kitchen. This recipe results in decadant tasting pumpkin bars, that are healthy enough for a nutritious breakfast. Plus they feature pumpkin, making it the perfect fall treat.
Ingredients: Makes 16 bars. Recipe from Ambitious Kitchen
3 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 8×11 or 9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Make oat flour: Place oatmeal into blender or food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes until oatmeal resembles flour.
Measure out just 2 1/2 cups of the oat flour and place in a medium bowl. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla extract, oil, and applesauce for 1-2 minutes until the consistency is smooth and creamy. Slowly add in oat flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Gently fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Once finished baking, cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Cut into 16 slices.
It always seems like summer is completely filled to the brim with fun events and outings. Whether it’s a quick vacation or local festival, I have something planned nearly every weekend through the end of August. But as much fun as beer festivals, vacations Up North and constant dinners with friends are, the summer habit of eating out more often has left me feeling a little less than healthy. So to make up for our weekend fun, I’ve been trying to eat as healthfully as possible during the week days. I find it gives me a lot more energy, and stops the awful stomach-aches I often get from too many meals away from home. But even in a healthy diet, I think it’s important to leave room for dessert. And it just so happens that I found a recipe that is both nutritious and decadent at the same time. These chocolate banana muffins taste more like fudge brownies than your run of the mill banana bread, yet they are healthy enough to eat for breakfast. They contain no butter, oil, eggs or added sugar, and with the use of gluten free oats, can be made completely gluten free. But again…they taste like fudge brownies. In my book, you can’t get much better than that.
I’ve never been particularly good with change. I was that delightful child who cried at the beginning and the end of every school year. My poor parents. I have always been someone who has thrived on a set routine, so any major life change typically throws me for a loop. When most of my peers looked forward to high school and college with excited anticipation, I was busy mourning the loss of the current state of life that I’d just gotten used. And though I looked forward to the new chapters in my life, I still dreaded the changes that those looming graduation days brought. I hated the thought of saying good bye to precious parts of my life that encapsulated the current season of life- be it a hobby, a job, or a friendship, I was always scared of what would happen if that goodbye turned out to be permanent. Even when unhappy phases of life came to a close, I still feared what would happen next. When I left my first full time job, a job that was marked by stress and anxiety, I still left with a slight sense of regret. Because I didn’t know what would happen next. Yet here I am, only a a week away from the biggest life change I’ve ever experienced, and there isn’t a trace of sadness or dread in my temperament. I can’t wait to begin my married life with Eric. I can’t wait to experience the ups and downs and the changing tides of our life together. I’m excited to make plans for the future, but change them as we go. Because we’ll be partners in it all, and that is pretty fantastic.
But luckily, the best parts of my current phase of life, get to come with me in my next chapter as a “Mrs.”One of which is going over to my Mom’s house and spending the afternoon chatting and baking. We made these breakfast cookies last weekend as a nice little break from wedding planning, and I realized that baking with my mom has been something I’ve carried with me through each phase of life. From the time I was a 1st grader standing on a stool to help her make cookies, to the times I came home for weekends in college to cook dinner, time in the kitchen with my mom is ever present. And though I’m excited for changes to come, this is one thing I am so happy will never change.
These “cookies” are so healthy you could easily eat them for breakfast, but they are definitely sweet enough for dessert. They include entirely wholesome ingredients and are incredibly addicting.
Ingredients: Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Makes 24 cookies
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 fig butter (The original recipe calls for apple butter, but since we couldn’t find any apple butter, we substituted with fig butter found at Trader Joe’s and it was delicious)
1 large banana, mashed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried raisins
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until just combined
Place tablespoons of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 for 15 minutes
Before I landed my current position in Hotel Sales, I worked as a wedding & event planner. I worked at a private club and later a hotel, planning and coordinating weddings. I worked with a number of brides and mothers-of-the-bride from the beginning phases of booking their wedding to the actual wedding day itself. This included small intimate affairs and lavish 300 person weddings, but for some reason all of the brides had one thing in common. They were all at some point, completely stressed out. And I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was the hundreds of chair covers I tied or the thousands of escort cards that I painstakingly alphabetized, but I sort of became immune to the details that stressed so many brides out. I always had the idea that when it came to my own wedding, I wouldn’t care about the details.
My philosophy has always been if I end up married to my best friend at the end of the day, the wedding will be a success. Sure, I’ve had fun planning cute little details for our big day,(I’m not letting those years in the industry go to waste!) but when it comes down to it, the only thing I really care about is the actual getting married part of the wedding day. So because of this, I always thought I would be the exception to the “stressed out bride” norm. And for the most part I have been. Even though so many brides-to-be go on some sort of crazy crash diet to look their very best on the big day, that just isn’t my style. Because it’s a wedding, not a beauty pageant. And even though I kind of hated the way they did my hair for my “bridal hair trial” I’m not too worried, as I’d much rather just do my own hair anyway.
But the type of stress I didn’t expect to take on was the guilt. The guilt of having family members and friends spending so much time to throw not one but four bridal showers for me. And the guilt of asking my best friends to fly into town and wear a dress I picked out so they can stand by my side at the alter. And the guilt of running into people I went to high school with that might possibly expect an invitation despite the fact that we lost touch years ago. So even though I promised myself I would be cool as a cucumber when my big day rolled around, certain types of stress are inevitable. And for me, this has resulted in terrible stomach aches that my doctor attributed to “wedding stress.” As a former wedding planner, I’m a little embarrassed. But I guess that’s life. So to combat my “stress induced stomach pains” I was told to relax and avoid a few food groups to see if it helped at all. And one of these forbidden food groups was dairy. And since I had just purchased some Chobani Greek Yogurt, I decided I needed to use it in a different way. And that is how this muffin recipe came to be. The muffins have a slightly tangy flavor from the key lime flavored yogurt which I think pairs really nicely with the sweet blueberries. Just make sure you add the blueberries in while they are still frozen or else they will bleed and result in some ugly blue muffins.
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 6oz container Key Lime Greek Yogurt (or the flavor of your choice)
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
In a large bowl, beat milk, applesauce, yogurt and egg until well blended
Stir in next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) until just combined
Gently fold in frozen bluberries
Divide batter between 12 muffin liners
Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle
One of my high school friends recently pointed out to me that it has been 10 years since we entered our first year of high school. It just seemed so odd to me that 10 years have already passed since we were those gawky 15 year olds stumbling our way through 9th grade. And this got me thinking…if 15 year old me could see where I am now, would she be happy with where I ended up? My immediate answer was yes. I have a very happy, full life, so of course the 15 year old version of myself would be happy to see that. But I also think she would be pretty surprised and perhaps a bit confused when learning about the career I chose. When I was fifteen I flip flopped back and forth about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Some days I wanted to be a chef and other days I wanted to go into musical theatre. But no matter how many times my “dream job” changed it always involved either food or music. If you’ve read this blog for a while, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that food always had a part in my future ambitions. But perhaps the music part is a bit of a surprise. Yet once upon a time, music was a huge part of my life. I started singing when I was 5 years old, and couldn’t really get enough of it.
My high school days were spent in choir practice and voice lessons and there weren’t many things I loved more than singing in front of a big crowd. A pretty odd hobby for someone as shy as I always was, but somehow it just worked. Eventually I retired from my short lived singing career, but my love of music never went away. So I’m sure the fifteen year old me would be surprised that I ended up not as a singer or a chef…but a hotel sales manager. But even though I always scoffed at the idea of working in a hotel and even worse, working in sales, I truly love where I ended up. Because as strange as it may sound, my job actually allows me to be surrounded by both food and theatre. I get to spend half of my time planning catered events and creating menus for my clients. And because my hotel is located in the heart of Detroit’s theatre district, the other half of my time is spent working with the company managers of all of the Broadway musicals and plays that come into town. I even get to attend many of the new shows that visit the city. So I’m hoping fifteen year old Colleen wouldn’t be too disappointed with her 25 year old counterpart.
And even though the “food” part of my job doesn’t exactly involve cooking, I think I make up for that on the weekends. Last weekend I whipped up this sweet blueberry bread, with a few simple ingredients I already had in my kitchen. The bread is cake-like and would be delicious drizzled with a simple lemon glaze. I kept mine simple, but feel free to add a glaze or frosting to sweeten things up a bit.
Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Adapted slightly from AllRecipes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until smooth
Beat in milk and oil until well incorporated
In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder together
Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture until well combined
Fold in blueberries
Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf
When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind. So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling. In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon. I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 tsp sugar
In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
I’ve come to realize that my love of baking is very reflective of my personality. The process of baking is steady, quiet and requires quite a bit of patience. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that the addition of flour and baking soda will make bread rise, and the right amount of sugar will make it sweet. I think it is that steady dependability that has always made me consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Because much like the process of baking, I too am about as careful and calculated as one can get. Cooking, on the other hand, is much more spontaneous, loud and full of adventure. When cooking, you can throw a bunch of ingredients together on a whim and it often results in a perfectly harmonious dish. Yet with baking, the measuring of ingredients is key, and one must be precise and careful. And though I love the spontaneity of cooking, time spent baking is when I feel most at home in the kitchen. So when the weather starts to cool down, I jump at any chance to turn on the oven and spend the night whipping up some magic in the kitchen. And while many people my age spend every Friday nights out at the bars, I’m perfectly happy spending Friday evening in front of the oven. And that is just what I did last weekend. And starting off the weekend with a delicious batch of pumpkin muffins is about as good as it gets. I found this recipe over on SkinnyTaste.com and love how decadent these muffins taste despite its healthy ingredient list. They make for a perfect snack any time of day.
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from SkinnyTaste
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour though salt)
In a large bowl, place pumpkin, vegetable oil, egg whites and vanilla; Beat with and electric mixer until just combined
Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, beating until just combined
Scoop batter into a muffin pan, lined with muffin liners
I love the way food can induce so many different memories. Sometimes it’s an old cherished family recipe that will bring you back to a different time in your life. But sometimes it’s as simple as a childhood snack that can flood your mind with memories. This past weekend I had the urge to make some homemade blueberry muffins and I was suddenly reminded of one of my favorite childhood snacks. My mom used to always buy my brother and I those packaged blueberry mini muffins for an after school treat. Those 4 tiny muffins, studded with sweet blueberries always take me back to the days I spent in my Catholic school uniform chasing after my big brother. I remember being in Kindergarden and hating the time I had to spend without Sean. He was in the 3rd grade and went to school all day, whereas I was only in my Kindergarden class until noon. Since I couldn’t quite tell time, he would tell me he would be home right after Barney was on. And as soon as Barney ended I would run to the window patiently waiting for my friend to return home. My mom recently told me that there were a few times Sean was set to go to a friend’s house after school, but would ask if his friends could come over to our house instead because he knew how sad I would get when he was gone. And here we are, 20 years later and I still absolutely love hanging out with my big brother. My best friend LT brought Sean as her date to our friend’s wedding this past weekend and we had a blast. It’s funny, because there were a few of my old friends there who had never met Sean and I’m sure they were surprised at how different we seem. I was always known for being a bit quiet and reserved, whereas Sean is the life of the party and pretty much captures the attention of every room he enters. And though we may be opposite in a number of ways, we do have one very important thing in common. We will always be each other’s first friend. And I think that is one of my favorite parts of growing up with a sibling. It teaches you early on to make friend’s with people who are different than you. Because those are the friendships that teach you more about yourself and really help you grow.
And these were the thoughts that came to mind as I was peacefully whipping up these classic blueberry muffins. They filled the kitchen with the delicious homey smell of butter and sugar reminding me of childhood afternoons spent at the kitchen counter. These muffins pair tangy lemon juice with sweet blueberries, and the contrasting flavors pair really well for a deliciously nostalgic treat.
Ingredients: Makes 14 muffins, adapted from Forget Those Calories
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup yogurt(I used vanilla greek yogurt)
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon zest and juice
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (baking soda through flour)
Slowly beat dry ingredients into butter mixture until just combined (mixture will be crumbly)
Beat yogurt into batter until just combined
Stir in blueberries
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into greased muffin tins
For the streusel topping, combine all streusel ingredients (melted butter through brown sugar) and sprinkle 1/2 tablespoonful of topping over unbaked muffins
Place muffins in the oven and bake at 350 for 25 minutes
Before I started my massive cookbook collection and before food blogs stormed the internet, my main source of recipes was Cooking Light Magazine. I used to carefully scour page after page of this monthly magazine and rip out recipes even when I was in grade school. I remember making their marshmallow peanut butter brownies for my 4th grade birthday treat (with a little help from my mom, of course). And here we are,15 years later and I am still a huge fan of Cooking Light. From easy dinner recipes to decadent (but healthy!) desserts, I am pretty much a lifelong fan. And this recipe for Almond Quick Bread is yet another Cooking Light Recipe. The bread tastes rich and decadent and is full of almond flavor, yet it is low in sugar, fat and calories. That’s a win-win in my book. I recently made this bread for “my big girlfriend” Alexandra, because she just had her adorable new baby, Alex…who by the way, is pretty much the cutest baby in the world. This recipe is great to give as a gift and a perfect feature at a Sunday Brunch. So next time, skip the decadent bakery bread and try out this recipe- you definitely will not regret it. Enjoy!
Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Recipe from Cooking Light
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 7oz package of almond paste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup slivered almonds
In a medium bowl, combine first 3 ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside
In a large bowl, place cream sugar, butter and canola oil together until just combined
Add almond paste to sugar mixture and beat until well combined (about 3 minutes)
Beat in egg, one at a time
Beat in vanilla extract
Alternate adding flour mixture and milk into sugar mixture, beating well after each addition
Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle with slivered almonds