Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Spice Pumpkin Bread

     Pumpkin bread is one of the greatest joys of Autumn. As a kid, there was nothing like coming home from school to a freshly baked loaf, the aroma of warm pumpkin mingled with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove wafting from the kitchen. (Of course, pumpkin bread always tastes better the day after you bake it!)

     Now that October is nearing and it's starting to get chilly, I decided that making pumpkin bread would be a wonderful way to welcome the cool weather. My five-month-old daughter "helped" me make this bread. She loved putting her hands in the flour and helping me mix the batter. So sweet!

     This is actually my mom's recipe, tweaked just a little to use all whole, unprocessed foods. I've used sprouted whole wheat flour instead of white flour and maple sugar instead of refined white sugar. The maple sugar's flavor is very subtle and I think it blends well with the spices. And of course I replaced the vegetable oil with good old fashioned butter. Not sure about butter? Butter Believer has a great article here about why vegetable oils are bad for us.

     Feel free to add in some raisins, dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or whatever else strikes your fancy. I like just Plain Jane pumpkin bread, but feel free to experiment (and I'll pretend you aren't crazy).

     Enjoy a hearty slice for breakfast with your morning latte, or save it for a late afternoon snack with a steaming mug of hot cocoa (mix hot milk with 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 Tbsp maple syrup). Enjoy the cool weather!

Pumpkin Bread

1 stick organic butter, room temperature (and more for greasing pan)
1 cup maple sugar
2 pastured eggs, beaten, room temperature
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup water
2 cups organic whole wheat flour or sprouted whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 9x5 loaf pan with butter.

2. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until well blended.

3. Mix in eggs, pumpkin and water.

3. In separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients.

4. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet, stirring manually. Mix just until moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX.

5. Bake for 60 minutes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Only Way to End a Really Bad Day

Healthy Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

by Lori Elizabeth Drew

       You know that feeling when you've had a really rough day - maybe you lost your homework, had a fight with your significant other, and got run over by a bicyclist all before your second cup of coffee? There is only one thing that can help you feel better on a day like this: chocolate.

       But wait, then you remember you are trying to eat healthy. So Reese's isn't an option anymore, what with all that sugar and other processed junk in it. But don't resignedly reach for those unsatisfying carrot sticks just yet! Here is a recipe for chocolate peanut butter cups that has all natural honey to sweeten it and good-for-you coconut oil! And I'm telling you they are better than Reese's! If you have one of these bad boys melting in your mouth, you won't even notice the neighbor's dog digging up your begonias.

       Alright, I'll come clean and tell you that this is not my recipe, although I wish I could take credit for it! I got this recipe from a phenomenal website called "The Nourishing Gourmet." Here's the link to the recipe: A Better Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

       Let me share with you a few pictures I took while I prepared my batch of these delicious morsels. Here is my peanut butter, honey, vanilla and coconut oil all mixed up. I don't like crunchy peanut butter cups so I left out the nuts, but you can go nuts and add whatever nuts you want! I did find it a little difficult to get all the coconut oil mixed in properly because it was solid, so next time, I may try melting it just a little bit to mix it in.

       One note about the coconut oil that you should know: the final peanut butter cups do have a slight coconut flavor. I think this is a wonderful thing, but if you really hate coconut, try the recipe with some other fat mixed in, like butter or ghee. I can't tell you whether or not it will work, but it's always worth trying!

       Pop those in the freezer for a bit while you melt the chocolate. I placed a pot with water on the stove and then placed a bowl in that. I let the chocolate heat up slowly while the water heats up, mixing constantly. Then when it is mostly melted, but still has a few chunks of chocolate in it, I remove the bowl from the heat. It is very important NOT to let the chocolate melt completely because it will burn easily! After you remove it from the heat, then you continue mixing it and the rest of the chocolate will melt.

       Here they are all ready for the freezer. I actually doubled the amount of chocolate that the recipe calls for. You can never have too much chocolate.

       Stick them in the freezer and wait! I know it's hard to wait, especially when you see that it's your Aunt Marge calling AGAIN to complain about the postal service. But I promise your day will start to get better once you pop one of these peanut butter cups in your mouth. Let the answering machine get it, and enjoy a break.

       Have you tried this recipe? Did you do anything differently that made these peanut butter cups even more divine? Leave a comment!