Pumpkin Bars

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Ingredients:

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c almond meal
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4th tsp cloves
1/4th tsp ginger powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
6 tbsp coconut oil (softened)
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Combine flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, vanilla, and coconut oil (softened). Mix the two bowls together. Add a splash of milk or almond milk if batter is too thick. Pour into baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 min. Cut into 8 pieces.

Cream cheese icing (from carrot cake recipe on the blog): Combine 1 box (16 ounces) powdered sugar, 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/2 cup margarine, softened and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl. Beat until smooth.

Once the pumpkin bars have cooled, top with the cream cheese icing.

Sweet Potato Butternut Casserole with Candied Pecans

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it is time for my favorite Turkey Day staple. Here’s a recipe for my family’s sweet potato butternut casserole with candied pecans — a fail-proof winner! My family typically makes it with only sweet potatoes but I modified the recipe this year to incorporate butternut squash. It makes the dish lighter and is still incredibly delicious — more like a sweet potato/ butternut crumble than a veggie side.

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Ingredients:

1 1/4 c mashed sweet potatoes

1 1/4 c butternut squash (alternatively, swap this amount for sweet potatoes)

1/4 c brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 c melted butter (I used earth balance)

3 tbsp milk of choice

1/4 tsp salt

Roast sweet potatoes and butternut squash at 350 until done. Cool, and scoop out with spoon. Puree in food processor until smooth. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased casserole dish and top with the following just before baking.

Pecan topping:

1/4 c almond meal

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c chopped pecans

3 tbsp c melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients together and sprinkle on the casserole. Then pour melted butter on top. Bake uncovered for one hour at 350.

Healthy Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese Icing

Well I’ve posted a pumpkin pie, muffin, and bread recipe. Scones were next on my list. I topped them with a family favorite: cream cheese icing. Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a healthy dessert.

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Ingredients:

2 c whole wheat flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 c brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4th tsp cloves

1/4 c maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp orange extract

1 c pumpkin purée

1/3 c cold butter

1/4th cup plain yogurt

Top with cream cheese icing (recipe below)

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder,  and spices. In a separate bowl, mix the maple syrup, vanilla, orange extract, and pumpkin purée. Mix both bowls together. Add cold butter and yogurt. You may need to use your hands to knead the dough and thoroughly incorporate the butter into the mixture. Place dough in a well greased round baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 min. Cut into 8 pieces.

Cream cheese icing:

Combine 1 box (16 ounces) powdered sugar, 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/2 cup margarine, softened and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl. Beat until smooth.

Best Carrot Cake

This is my family’s favorite cake that we make at least once a year. This year it was for my 25th birthday. Anyone who claims they do not like carrot cake because it’s “healthy,” has not tasted this cake.

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The recipe is an old xeroxed page from somebody else’s cookbook, so unfortunately I can’t give proper credit. However, there is a blurb at the bottom of the page, which says:

Grace Meadows from Taylorville, Illinois was a finalist in the “Bake-A-Cake” category of the Blue Ribbon Culinary Contest at the Illinois State Fair, Springfield, Illinois.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my family does!

Directions:

Makes 8 to 10 servings

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups brown sugar

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

3 cups grated carrot

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Beat eggs and oil in a small bowl. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Add egg mixture; mix well. Stir in carrots and pecans. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Spread with Cream Cheese Icing.

Cream Cheese Icing: Combine 1 box (16 ounces) powdered sugar, 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/2 cup margarine, softened and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl. Beat until smooth.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

The season of bulky scarves, pumpkin spice lattes, and colorful leaves is upon us. Happy fall folks!

Now that it’s officially pumpkin season, here’s one of my favorites – spiced pumpkin bread!

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1/2 c honey, maple syrup, or agave

1/4th c brown sugar

1/2 c coconut oil

2 eggs

1/4th c almond milk (or milk of choice)

1/4th c apple sauce

1 c pumpkin purée

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp baking soda

2 c whole wheat flour

Pecans or walnuts (optional)

Sprinkle oats on top (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the coconut oil then immediately mix it with the honey, sugar, and eggs. The coconut oil will begin to solidify so stir in other ingredients right away. If clumps of coconut oil begin to appear, place in warm place (for instance, on top of the oven). Then add in the almond milk, pumpkin purée, apple sauce, and vanilla.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and flour) then combine it with the coconut oil mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan (9″ x 5″ x 2 1/2″). Sprinkle a few oats and cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, around 35 minutes.
  5. Let cool and serve with pumpkin butter from TJ’s.

Spiced Persimmon Bread

This is a variation of James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon bread recipe. It was my first time baking with persimmons and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The persimmons paired with the spices and nuts make it an ideal bread for fall and winter. Use very ripe and soft Hachiya persimmons. Once the persimmons are mushy, you can simply peel off the skin and mash them with a fork. No food processor or blender necessary.

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Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup honey

1/4 cup apple sauce

3/4  cup coconut oil

3 eggs

1/4 cup cognac

1 tsp salt

11/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp ginger

2 cups persimmon purée

1 ½ to 2 cups walnuts or pecans

1 ½ to 2 cups raisins or diced fruits (apricots, dates, or cranberries)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, honey, apple sauce, coconut oil, and eggs.
  3. Peel and purée the persimmons (note: I like to leave some whole persimmon pieces in mine). Mix in the cognac. Then add to the second mixture with the wet ingredients.
  4. Combine the two mixtures then fold in nuts and dried fruit.
  5. Transfer the batter into a well-greased bread dish.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow the bread to cool before serving.

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

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Recipes makes approximately 20 cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup earth balance

¼ cup coconut oil

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

½ cup cocoa powder

2 cups shredded coconut

1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Mix melted earth balance, coconut oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla together. In another bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips together. Combine the two bowls. Mix well.
  2. Using a spoon or your hands, roll the batter into ~20 balls. Press with a fork and sprinkle with coconut.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

Matcha Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’ve always loved Matcha Green Tea but it intimated me to bake with it. I finally decided to take a chance and it paid off. These cookies hit my matcha craving. I purposely made them not too sweet, although the chocolate chips make the cookies sweeter than you would expect. If you’re a matcha lover, these cookies are for you! Plus, matcha is rich in antioxidants and boosts memory.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar (add another 1/4th cup if you prefer sweeter cookies)

1/2 cup earth balance (or preferred butter, melted)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup chocolate chips

pinch of salt

Directions:

Mix flour, matcha, salt, and baking soda together. In a separate bowl, beat (with an electronic mixer or blender) the maple syrup, sugar, melted earth balance or butter, vanilla, and eggs. Once the batter is light and fluffy, mix with the dry ingredients. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Roll into 1 inch balls. This recipe makes roughly 18 cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Take out and place on wire rack until cool. Enjoy!

Eating my way through Rue Montorgueil

Discover Walks  invited me and a few other bloggers on a food tour along rue Montorgueil. Our lovely guide, Marie, gave us an authentic tour of this iconic Parisian street that is home to numerous cafes, boulangeries, patisseries, and butcheries. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and all the shops were just beginning to open. Our tour concluded in a picnic with all the French staples: bread, cheese, charcuterie, and pastries…

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Marie posing with our baguette 

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Our first stop was a fromagerie called La Fermette. Marie told us that France has 370 types of cheeses so if you’re up for the challenge you can eat a different kind of cheese each day of the year. Roquefort is the oldest (and smelliest). The origin of the blue color is from the limestone in the Roquefort region. We settled with a less pungent Roquefort and a few goat cheeses.

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Next, we headed to a boulangerie Blouet to buy our baguette. Bread is sacred to the French. The French are so reliant on their baguette that there is a French law forbidding boulangeries in the same area from going on vacation at the same time. Nevertheless, I know French families who keep a frozen baguette in their freezer, just in case. There is a competition each year called the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française for the coveted prize of best baguette of the year. In 2015, the winner was Le Grenier a Pain. Originally the baguette was bread for working men who would get into fights with their bread knives. To discourage the use of knives, the longer traditional baguette was created so it could be broken, not cut. This is why now you break your baguette. Do not make the faux pas of cutting a baguette! Fun fact: the croûton or end of the baguette is supposedly the best part. It is always a fight to get it!

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We then stopped at a butcherie to complete our charcuterie board with pâté, garlic sausage, goose rillettes, and saucisson. We went to a park by Les Halles where we enjoyed all the delicacies we bought from the day.

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#bloggers

Let’s not forget dessert. Next we strolled to Sohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris, where the Queen of England visited. They pride themselves on having the best chocolate éclair in Paris. We ended our tour at Fou de Patisserie, which sells all the best pastries of Paris from the most renowned chefs and shops. We sampled lemon Financiers and the Mille-Feuille, consisting of layers of puff pastry and cream. A perfect ending to the tour!

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If you would like to take part in this awesome tour, use my code BLOGLOVE10 to receive 10% off.

Chefchaouen- The Blue Pearl of Morocco

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Chefchaouen 

 

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Chefchaouen, Medina 

 

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View from Salon Bleu in Tanger

We flew into Tangier, a port city on the Straight of Gibraltar. You only need an afternoon here to walk through the Medina (old city) and petit/grand Socca. Do not fall prey to the men who will offer to lead you to your hostel or hotel, as they expect payment. The next day we took a 3 hour shuttle to Chefchaouen or Chaouen, known for it’s blue-washed buildings situated in the Rif Mountains. It is one of most unique and stunning places I have ever visited. It is rumored that Jewish refugees introduced the blue walls to symbolize the sky and the heavens. Now, people also believe that the walls are painted blue to repel mosquitos. Regardless of the reason, this blue city is not to be missed!

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Local paint in Chefchaouen

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On the outer edge of the Medina in Chefchaouen

Now, on to the food! Moroccan cuisine is characterized by ras-el-hanout, a typical North African spice, which is a blend of around 30 spices including cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, and cardamom. You must try tagine, a signature Moroccan dish consisting of meat and vegetables cooked in Moroccan spices and served over couscous. Afterwards, enjoy the traditional Moroccan mint tea, made by boiling water with mint leaves and adding a generous amount of sugar. Tip: ask for the sugar on the side. The dishes are also served with bread and olives. The bread is cooked in a wood-fired oven giving it a crunchy outer layer and doughy inside.

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Snack Assada

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Beldi Bab Ssour

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Fresh Moroccan Bread!

Highlights:

Medina (old town): You can spend a whole day getting lost in the maze-like medina, where we stayed. The dazzling blue walls are lined with vendors selling patterned blankets, jewelry, and pastries.

Outa el Hamma Square: Main square where most restaurants and hotels are located. There is always something going on from religious processions to people dancing on the street.

Spanish Mosque: The Spanish Mosque is located about 20 minutes (by foot) outside of the medina and offers beautiful views of the city.

Cascades d’Akchour: A beautiful waterfall hike about 45 minutes from Chefchaouen.

Where to eat:

All the restaurants have a similar menu, but here are the ones I recommend:

Beldi Bab Ssour (Chefchaouen, Medina): A local spot that gets very crowded. It is around 3-4 euros for a main dish. We sat a communal table and met a local artist who gave us recommendations on what to order. The tagine is excellent.

Restaurant Aladdin (Chefchaouen, Medina): Located in the main square and a bit more expensive. The atmosphere and décor alone are enough to eat here. The rooms are lined with with colorful tapestries and patterned cushions. You feel like you walked into another world. Plus they have two outdoor terraces with panoramic views of Chefchaouen. However, the food was mediocre. I recommend going for mint tea or appetizers to enjoy the ambiance.

Snack Assada (Chefchaouen, Medina): Another cheap local spot that offers outdoor rooftop seating.

Restaurant Al Kasbah (Chefchaouen, Medina): Another delicious restaurant off of the main square. They have colorful tables and chairs on the street that are surrounded by plants. You feel like you are eating in the jungle.

Salon Bleu (Tanger, Medina): A beautiful restaurant that has a rooftop terrace with unbeatable views of the city. I recommend going at dusk and watching the sunset. It was our most expensive meal of the weekend, although still affordable—we paid 15 euros for an appetizer, main course, dessert, and mint tea.

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Homemade local pastries in Chefchaouen

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Al Kasbah

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Salon Bleu

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Drinking fresh juice in Chefchaouen!