Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

I never shy away from baking for my kids schools when asked.  It is something I love doing – and gives me a great excuse – especially when they are looking for something on a Monday…weeknight baking is sometimes challenging, but I usually find a way to fit it in – while my laptop is on the counter and I am typing emails in between steps.

This one really got me though.  There are some kids in my daughter’s class who are allergic to seeds and nuts – not just a mild allergy either – severely allergic.  I guess there are also dairy allergies in the class, so the teacher just decided to cover all her bases and asked for nut-free, seed-free, non-chocolate vegan muffins.  What fun!  Now we have a challenge.  I combed the internet for the perfect recipe, and found this one from Namely Marly, which I highly adapted to basically a new recipe.

So, as I was making these, my older daughter came downstairs to see what I was doing and if she could help.  I told her I was making a nut-free, seed-free, vegan pumpkin muffins, and she just gave me this look – it was not a look of “Mom, you are the greatest!!”  Instead she went into this…”Mommy, I told all my friends that you are the best baker ever, I can’t bring these in, they will never believe me!”  I told her to trust me, as I cringed inside.  Making muffins without eggs wasn’t going to be pretty.

They came out of the oven, and they actually looked and smelled pretty good.  I couldn’t help but to rip right into one, and aside from the strange silky smooth consistency (probably because without the egg, the ingredients don’t completely bind?), they were pretty good.  So – the next time you get a strange request to make something for school – I highly recommend these – my daughter said they were actually a hit – and for a 4th grader to say that, it means a lot.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup rice buttermilk (rice milk combined with 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)


Heat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spray your muffin pan with vegetable spray or use paper liners.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, add the rice milk and apple cider vinegar. Let this sit for a minute so the vinegar can combine with the rice milk. Next add the pumpkin, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Stir until combined. Add to the flour mixture, and stir until combined. You can also add chocolate chips if you’re in the mood, but those are optional. Be careful not to stir the batter too much. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin pan, until about 2/3 full.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes (for regular muffins) and 10-12 minutes for mini-muffins and let cool for about 5 minutes before diving in.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins or about 3 dozen minis.

For a printer-friendly version, please click here:  Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

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Hello Kitty Cake Pops

What a weekend…I finished up Thanksgiving, and went immediately into preparing for my younger daughter’s birthday party, which was today.  I had a day to do errands, then a day to bake.  The party was a stuffed animal tea party – everyone got to bring a stuffed animal to our house, which then joined them for the tea party – which consisted of a healthy lunch (carrot sticks, cheese and cracker, fruit salad, PB&J or grilled cheese) and then the birthday treats.  I made some cookies, brownies and the cake pops.  Now, I have to admit that these were partially my fault.  Every year my girls comb through the cookbooks, especially the dreaded Hello Cupcake (which I consider food porn, because really?  seriously, is this for real?), and choose something outrageous for me to make.  This year, I really wanted to try making cake pops, so I brought them up on the computer one day and asked her if she would like them for her birthday.  Ok, now what 5-year-old girl would not say yes to adorable Hello Kitties made of cake and melted chocolate?  I knew that as soon as I pulled them up, it was a done deal.

Ok, so I know this was all my fault, so no need to feel sorry for me (unlike when these were chosen) – but I was still stressed about making them.  I made the cookies, made the brownies, and when everything else was done and I had nothing else to procrastinate with – I started the cake pops.  They were actually not THAT bad, although – yes, it did take some skill.  The only way to get Hello Kitty to be nice and smooth is to double dip.  Yes, that means you dip them in the chocolate once, wait for them to cool, then dip them again.  What that also means is that you have to start with a head that is a lot smaller that you think is appropriate – but don’t worry, it will get bigger.  I also stuck the bow on and the nose when the chocolate was still cooling, it was a lot easier than attaching them afterwards with some melted chocolate.  I basically followed Bakerella’s recipe though to a T – aside from what I just described.  I have to post these crazy things every once in a while – and I always say when I do – these are not quick, these are not easy, and they are not healthy – but for your daughter’s birthday – it is more than fine, it is well deserved.  Go have fun with them – and don’t stress too much – hopefully you will have as much luck as I did!



Bake cake according to boxed instructions for a 13×9 size.  After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (Use the back of a large spoon, but it may be easier to use fingers to mix together. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)

Shape the Hello Kitty heads into a semi-flat oval shape. Melt some white chocolate melts in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stir each time until melted.  Insert tip of lollipop stick into some of the melted candy and insert into the bottom of the Hello Kitty head.

Place them in the freezer for a little while to firm up.

Take two white chocolate chips and dip the bottoms in the melted candy and then place/glue them on the top of Hello Kitty head.

Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the ears are firmly attached to the head, dip the entire Hello Kitty head in a bowl of the white melted candy. Make sure the bowl is deep enough so you can get it in one dunk. Then remove and gently tap off any extra coating. This will help smooth it out, too.  If you don’t think the heads are smooth enough, once the chocolate has hardened, dip them into the chocolate again.

When the Hello Kitty heads are drying, apply the hearts and m&ms to make a bow and the yellow rainbow chips to make a nose.

Once the heads are completely dry, draw the eyes and whiskers on using an black edible ink pen

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Hello Kitty Cake Pops

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  What a day – I hope everyone ate very well today, I know I did.  I actually didn’t feel like I cooked that much, I had lots of helpers – including my husband who made an incredible smoked turkey on the Big Green Egg.  I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow.

So – what did I make for Thanksgiving?  Pretty much the usual – and like I said, I had a lot of help.  My mother baked a pie and made the stuffing and gravy, my sister brought cheese from LA, my friends brought the vegetables and a delicious chocolate pecan pie, and I filled in the rest – mashed potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin bread, and don’t forget about the pre-dinner cocktails.  I did make something different last night though for dessert – something I hadn’t made in a long time (at least a couple of years) – pumpkin bread pudding.  I remember making this and absolutely loving it – not only was it easy, it tasted like you slaved over it all day, and boy was it creamy and delicious.  Since I have a house full of people to feed, I figured it was time again.  Everyone loved it – and again, it was so easy – it baked while we ate dinner, and was warmed when I served it.  Even though pumpkin season is basically over, you can make an exception for this one.

I hope everyone had a marvelous day celebrating whatever you are thankful for – I am thankful for my family and friends, the people I work with everyday, and for food – because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing tonight…and you wouldn’t be reading this right now.


  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (about 10-ounces)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes. Stir in golden raisins. Transfer mixture to 11×7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Serves 10-12

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pumpkin Bread Pudding

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Classic Fudge Brownies

It has been a while since I posted some good chocolate brownies, so I figured it was time.  Everyone loves brownies, and this time of year they seriously are your best friend.  There is no quicker dessert to whip up than a batch of brownies.  I do have a few quick desserts up my sleeve that I plan to post over the next couple of week, that are not brownies, but for the most part brownies are the go-to dessert when you need to make something quick, that everyone will love.

This time of year I always end up over-extending myself.  I always think I can do more than I can actually do.  With family coming into town, and Thanksgiving around the corner, I have decided to be ultra-organized this year.  I have every meal planned out – including dessert – and when I am going to make everything.  Most people think this is the way I am all the time – but surprisingly I am not.  Here it goes…I am not a procrastinater, but I do everything at the last moment – as we call it at work, “just in time.”  I am seldom early for anything, because I don’t like to waste a minute of time.  I try to cram things into every bit of spare time I have during the day.  It is a problem, yes, I admit it – and I am slowly realizing that I cannot keep this up.  So, let’s see how I do as the ultra-organized host this year.  As long as I don’t cram things in that are not planned, I think I will be fine..we shall see how it goes.

I found this recipe in Cooking Light, and after adapting it to my families preferences, I gave it a try.  Boy were these terrific.  They were super fudgy with a deep chocolate flavor, and there is no way you would ever know that this was a light recipe.  The best part was how easy they were.  Serve these with some vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce, and you have an amazing dessert that your guests will rave about.  Give yourself a break this week…without sacrificing on anything, even calories!


  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture and 1/2 cup chocolate; stir to combine.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Classic Fudge Brownies

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Tortilla Meatball Soup

As I have mentioned before, my daughter is part of a book club, and therefore, I am also part of a book club.  It is my first one, and I love it.  It forces me to read what she reads, and broadens my reading horizons beyond food.  So far, I have liked every single book we have read – I have to admit though, I do get some pretty interesting looks when I whip out my children’s book on the bus, but it makes for an interesting conversation if the someone actually gets the nerve up to break the silence and say a word.

When we started the book club, there were a few rules:

  1. we take turns hosting each month
  2. the host orders the pizza – enough for both the kids and the moms
  3. everyone else signs up to bring the rest:  drinks, fruit, appetizers, dessert, salad

So, for the past year and a half, we have been following the rules, and eating our pizza, one night a month.  I have been noticing that it is the kids that love the pizza, and the moms eat the pizza – but prefer the appetizers and salad.  This month things changed…and I was so glad they did.  Instead of pizza, the host provided soup – and three kinds I might add!  She did a spectacular job, and I guess her daughter made one all by herself – very impressive.  I thought it was a novel idea, and one I hope we stick to – and maybe shake it up a bit?  I could tell that the next host was feeling out the crowd a bit for the next one, and I was not the only one that like where this was headed.

So, I have already been thinking about when I host – fortunately it will still be winter time, so hopefully the soup theme will stick.  I love making meatball soups, so when I saw this in Cooking Light, I figured I better start testing.  The soup needs to be kid friendly yet hearty enough for a meal.  This one definitely fits the bill – my kids loved it, and with the meatballs, it was definitely filling.  So, as I said, hopefully this will stick – although kids really love pizza, and this is a bunch of really bright girls…I wouldn’t be surprised if they stage a rally soon – but until then, I will enjoy our new monthly dinner – and save the pizza for another night.


  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 ears corn on the cob
  • 4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed red potatoes
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat broiler.

Cut jalapeños and bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Arrange corn on baking sheet with peppers. Broil 4 to 6 minutes or until blackened, turning corn once. Place peppers in a paper bag; fold to seal. Let stand 15 minutes; peel. Mince jalapeños, and coarsely chop bell pepper. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Set aside.

Place tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet; lightly coat with cooking spray. Broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning after 2 minutes. Set aside.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 garlic clove, panko, and the next 3 ingredients (through chipotle chile) in a large bowl, and gently mix until just combined. With moist hands, shape the meat mixture into 24 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each).

Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs to pan; sauté for 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove from pan. Add onion, potatoes, and carrot to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 5 garlic cloves; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add peppers, broth, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally. Return meatballs to pan. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and corn; return to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes or until meatballs are done. Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with 4 teaspoons Monterey Jack cheese, 2 teaspoons cheddar cheese, and 4 teaspoons cilantro. Top evenly with tortilla strips.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tortilla Meatball Soup

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Pumpkin Bread (Squash Harvest Loaf)

I just love this season, I love the smell of pumpkin and spices baking in the oven.  My mother has a wonderful pumpkin bread recipe that I have been making for years now, and it is fabulous.  I added some chocolate chips the last time I made it for an extra special treat…  This year I was actually going to skip pumpkin bread, because I have so many other goodies on my list – but something happened that made me rethink that choice.

The other week my good friend (and neighbor) were coming home from our morning boot camp class (which we try to attend two mornings a week), and she said she had a surprise for me.  It was 7am in the morning, so I was a little confused.  She opened the back seat of her car and took out this book.  It was still dark, so I couldn’t really see what it was, but she said it was her favorite cookbook from this bakery downtown.  When she mentioned it was the Macrina Bakery, the smile that was already on my face just exploded.  It was so nice of her to buy the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook – and little did she know, but that happens to be my favorite bakery in Seattle.  I was so smelly and sweaty, but gave her a big hug, and couldn’t wait to tear it open and start reading about all the treats inside.  She made my entire month.  She also mentioned that the Squash Harvest Loaf was her favorite recipe, so I had to give it a try.  It is fabulous – so moist and flavorful – and wonderfully sweet.  The perfect sweet bread for this season.  I only had pumpkin in the house, so that’s what I used – but really you can use any type of squash puree, and I am sure it would be amazing.  Thanks so much for the fantastic cook book – I am so lucky to have you as my neighbor and good friend!!


  •  2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk


Pre-heat the oven to 325 F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and two types of sugar and use the paddle attachment to mix on medium speed, for 4 mns.

Add the pumpkin puree and continue to mix for 2 mns.

Then, add one egg at a time.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the flour and the buttermilk alternatively, until the liquid is absorb each time.

Transfer the preparation in 2 oiled loaf pans measuring 9 x 5 x 3″, 2/3 to the top.

Cook in the oven for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out dry once inserted in the loaf. Remove and let cool for 20 mns before unmolding on a cooling rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pumpkin Bread (Squash Harvest Loaf)

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Truffled Pommes Anna

Who remembers this?  That was just about the best potato dish I have ever made – so wonderful and buttery, thin and delicate, with a wonderful crunchy outside edge.  Just the perfect side dish, seriously.   There was only one problem, it just didn’t look that good, it was just too brown.  It didn’t taste burnt, but it was just on the edge.  I happen to like things just a little extra done, but not everyone does.  I made that potato dish a least a few times before I felt like I could take a picture, and to tell you the truth, I still was not completely satisfied with the appearance.

This month I was flipping through my Cooking Light and I almost passed right over this recipe – thinking to myself – how could this one come even close to the one from Cook’s Illustrated?  It was the best potato dish ever?  Well, I decided that I just had to prove that to myself, and I gave it a shot.  I should always remind myself to keep an open mind about recipes – just because you thought you found the perfect one, doesn’t mean that there can’t be a better one.  In a way, that is why I never ever get bored with cooking, I am constantly longing to find the next best…  Ok, back to the story.  So, needless to say, this recipe has a fraction of the butter, and was really much simpler to make – since there was not a cornstarch step.  I also followed the recipe exactly, and used my cast iron pan.  I think that was the magic it needed.  When I flipped this baby over onto the plate, lifted off the pan – I screamed.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was – it came out PERFECT!!!  Just the right amount of crisp on top, and it was perfectly browned.  The only thing left was to eat it.  It couldn’t possibly taste as good without all that butter, BUT NO – it was SO MUCH BETTER!!!!  That truffle oil made the entire dish!!  No need for all that butter, and really, the amount of truffle oil seemed rediculously trivial, but it turned this potato dish into restaurant quality, no joking.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200 – go immediately to the store and get the ingredients, then go straight to the kitchen and watch the magic happen…


  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil, divided


Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine 2 teaspoons thyme and kosher salt in a small bowl.

Drizzle butter into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray. Arrange a layer of slightly overlapping potato slices in a circular pattern in pan; sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt mixture and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil. Repeat layers 4 times, ending with truffle oil. Press potato mixture firmly to pack. Cook over medium-high heat for 6 minutes without stirring.

Cover with foil, and bake at 450° for 20 minutes on bottom rack in oven.

Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Loosen edges of potatoes with a spatula or knife. Place a plate upside down on top of pan; invert potatoes onto plate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Truffled Pommes Anna

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