100 Calorie Chocolate Muffins

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Are you the type of person that can’t resist when a moist piece of chocolate cake is staring you right in the eye?

Welcome to my world.

Having a baking blog comes with its own set of health risks. If I make a strawberry cake for my blog, that very same cake sits in my kitchen for a week until I have finished it off—with Matt’s help of course. This is why I always try to have friends or coworkers that I can pawn my baked goods off on, lest my waistline be spared a few hundred calories. But more often than not, I find a reason to keep [insert name of delicious baked good] in the apartment for a few days so that I can enjoy it. The result is my eating way more than I intended. In this post, I’m sharing one of my best kept secrets.

What would you do if I would you there was a muffin that was only 100 calories that also tasted delicious?!

I’m not pulling on your heart strings. I was introduced to the world of Vita-Muffins about a year ago, and I became hooked. When I found out they had their own package mix that you can buy off of Amazon, I knew I’d died and gone to heaven. Now this post is hardly meant to be a promotional product review, but that’s sort of what it has become. By just adding egg whites and water you instantly have 12 portion sized muffins that you can store in the freezer for the moment that you need a chocolate fix. These muffins are a lifesaver for me. No they aren’t as tasty as a samoa cookie, but they still do a pretty good job of satisfying my sweet tooth.

100 Calorie Chocolate Muffins

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Ingredients
1 package Vita Muffin mix
3 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup walnuts or chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with paper or aluminum baking cups. Combine VitaMuffin Mix with egg whites and water. Blend well. Scoop about 3 tablespoons of batter into each baking cup. For topping, evenly distribute 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. Bake for 23-27 minutes, or until firm.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
These are so foolproof I feel guilty offering any advice. Just be careful not to over-mix the batter or it will become tough.

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins

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Although the holidays have come and gone, it appears that I can’t let go of one of my favorite seasonal vegetables—sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of beta carotene. They actually contain more beta-carotene than any other fruit or vegetable… including carrots! Sweet potatoes have about five times more calories than pumpkin, mostly due to the high amount of sugar. While sugar might not be great for your health, I love the flavor that it brings to baking. That is why I really enjoy substituting sweet potatoes for pumpkin in recipes.

In true fashion, I swapped in sweet potato for this muffin recipe that originally called for pumpkin. The result is a muffin that is subtly sweet with aromatic hints of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I would happily serve these muffins to guests for breakfast or even wrap them up as a present, which is exactly what I did for Matt’s mom. Although they might not be test kitchen approved, Matt and I were so addicted to these muffins that we divided them equally between ourselves and neither one of us was willing to share!

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins
Makes about 18 muffins

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Ingredients for Topping
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
15 ounces baked and pureed sweet potatoes

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two standard muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

For the topping, combine flour, butter, sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the muffins, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix well (I like to use a whisk). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at low speed until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add sweet potato and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Turn speed down to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pans, filling each muffin tin about ¾ full. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (use a butter knife to lift them out of pan).

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When making muffins, always fill any empty muffin tins halfway with water. This ensures that your muffins will bake evenly.

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Oven Baked Cheese Crackers

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The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has finally settled down and I found that for once I had absolutely nothing that had to be accomplished this past weekend. It was a great feeling. Usually when I have a little extra time on my hands I like to come up with something new to bake.

Matt and I have some healthy eating goals for the New Year so I figured that I would try and get off to a good start this last week. I made some cabbage soup for lunch but I knew that wouldn’t be enough to keep me full throughout the afternoon. I decided that crackers would be a nice addition to much on. It can be fun to make a homemade version of a common snack because then you actually know what you’re eating. I’ve never been overly concerned about ingredients or food additives over the years. But who really needs disodium diphosphate and glucose syrup in their afternoon crackers?!

These crackers are so easy to make. They would be perfect served at a party, packed as a travel snack, or simply eaten while you’re lounging on the sofa.

Cheese Crackers Recipe
Makes approximately 3 dozen

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Ingredients
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese
4 tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup half and half

Directions
In the bowl of a food processor combine all ingredients but half and half. Pulse to combine. As the food processor is running pour in the half and half in a steady stream. Remove dough from bowl and roll out on a floured surface. Roll so dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to cut dough into small squares and pierce with a fork to create holes. Bake at 400°F for 12 minutes. The crackers will slightly puff as they bake. Remove from the oven when the edges are golden brown and crispy looking. Store in an air tight container for up to a week.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
For additional flavor, brush crackers with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a spice of your choice before baking. I used a little paprika for some added flavor.

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New Year’s Black Eyed Peas

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Happy New Years to everyone!

The New Year is always a time for reflection on the past year, and an opportunity to look forward to the promise of the upcoming year. Every New Year I take a look at my bucket list and add a few new items that I want to accomplish. My bucket list is continually changing as I cross some items off and add new ones.

Last year, I committed myself to reading the bible in its entirety. It had been on my bucket list for ages and I was admittedly intimidated by the task. Using an online program called YouVersion, I had a reading that was assigned to me each day. I would use either my computer or my iPhone to read my verses. It was a big commitment and I’m so glad that I was able to carry it through to the end.

As I look forward to this New Year, who knows what items I will tackle on my bucket list. Maybe this will be the year that I run a half marathon. Or perhaps I’ll go deep sea diving. It’s the feeling of optimism and hopefulness that I love about the month of January.

Now… onto things that are cooking related. In the Southern United States, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. Growing up, my dad always cooked black-eyed peas on New Year’s day. Since Matt and I were in Ann Arbor, I decided to make some for us to bring in the New Year. Aside from remembering to soak the beans overnight, this recipe is as easy as it gets!

Black Eyed Peas Recipe
Approximately 10 servings

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Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Directions
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Soaking beans allows the dried beans to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort. Soak most beans in three times their volume of cold water for six hours before cooking.

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