Pumpkin and Chocolate Swirl Bundt Cake

 

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One of my favorite fall ingredients to bake with is pumpkin. Pumpkin is very  nutritious having twice our daily value for vitamin A and containing lutein and beta-carotene, antioxidants which are linked to improving eye health and cancer prevention. Pumpkin is not only good for us but it is delicious in both sweet and savory recipes and can be used as a healthy substitute for oil, butter, and eggs in baking.

What I like best about this bundt cake recipe is that it combines all my favorite flavors including pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso.

Pumpkin and Chocolate Swirl Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cup or 14 ounces of pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

powdered sugar

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the softened butter, white sugar, and light brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Reserve one cup of the batter for the chocolate swirl.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon to the remaining butter mixture and mix until well blended.
  6. Using a double boiler method, slowly melt the dark chocolate, milk , and espresso powder together. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly and whisk in the  unsweetened cocoa powder. Add the reserved one cup cake batter and mix well. IMG_1483
  7. Spoon one-third of the pumpkin batter into the prepared bundt pan, and spread evenly. Spoon half of the chocolate batter by heaping teaspoons over the pumpkin batter and smooth with a spatula. Repeat layers, spooning remaining pumpkin batter on top.
  8. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Flip over,  remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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Rhubarb and Almond Muffins

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Rhubarb is popular for its bright red color,  natural tart flavor and the way it compliments well with many foods.  It is often combined with fruit or sugar in muffins, cakes, breads, pies, and sauces.  The peak season for rhubarb is early summer but it can be frozen and used in recipes throughout the year.

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This rhubarb muffin recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking.  In my version, I substituted part of the white flour for almond flour,  decreased the amount of sugar, and added almond slices to the topping resulting in a muffin that  is moist and has the tartness and the natural sweetness of rhubarb.

Rhubarb and Almond Muffins

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour sifted
  • 1/2 cup super fine almond flour sifted
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb (1/4 inch in size)

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Clean and rinse rhubarb under cool water, trim and lightly peel off outer fibrous layer.

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon and whisk to blend.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the sour cream mixture into the dry ingredients with a spatula until the batter just comes together. Do not over mix.
  4. Gently stir in the diced rhubarb. The batter will be thick.
  5. Spoon the matter evenly into the muffin cups.
  6. Top each muffin with sliced almonds.
  7. Prepare topping: In a small bowl mix together 3 tablespoons of sugar with a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  8. Bake muffins on a center rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack.

 

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Chocolate Ganache Mini Fruit Tarts

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These mini fruit tarts may look fancy but are easy to make and healthy to.

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The gluten-free tart crust has a light buttery taste and a delicate crumb texture that is similar to a shortbread cookie. Instead of a high fat creamy filling I used a dark chocolate ganache as a base for my raspberries.  Different fruits can be substituted such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mandarin oranges.  These mini fruit tarts are the perfect portion size and very diet friendly.

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Almond flour is a healthy gluten-free baking alternative to processed wheat flour.  It is carbohydrate friendly and more nutritious than traditional wheat flour.  Almond flour is  a good source of fiber, heart- healthy mono-unsaturated fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.

Chocolate Ganache Mini Fruit Tarts

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups super-fine almond flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In a small bowl whisk egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together.
  2. In a food processor mix almond flour and powdered sugar until combined. Scatter butter pieces over the top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses.      IMG_1317
  3. With the food processor running, add the egg mixture through the feed tube and continue to process until the dough just comes together around the processor blade, about 12 seconds.
  4. Turn the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper fold over and flatten into a 6 inch disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before rolling the dough out, let sit on a counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter  approximately the diameter of a muffin cup to make the mini tart crusts. Place each mini tart crust in a muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners, making approximately 14 tarts. Chill tart dough for approximately 20 minutes. This is a good time to preheat your oven.
  6. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake tarts for 20 minutes until lightly golden brown.
  7. Cool on a wire rack and make the Chocolate Ganache.

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Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Warm cream in a microwave or stove top just enough to melt chocolate.  Mix well and drop by a level teaspoon evenly on to cooled tart shells. If desired tarts can now be frozen and topped later with fruit and seedless strawberry jam.

Top with raspberries. Melt seedless strawberry jam and with a pastry brush lightly spread over the raspberries.

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Orange and Mango Green Smoothie

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Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies  are a great way to get your fruit and vegetable servings in for the day or when you need extra nutrients. They are quick and easy to make, a powerhouse of nutrition, and can be customized to your needs. Commercial or store-bought smoothies often are high in calories and contain added sugars, fats, and artificial ingredients. Homemade smoothies can be delicious and much healthier, less expensive,  and when prepared right can offer many health benefits. The basic ingredients of a smoothie include a liquid base, fruits and vegetables, healthy add-ins, and ice. There are endless ways to make a smoothie. For my green smoothie I chose the following ingredients:

  • Oranges and Mangos : are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene, and dietary fiber.  They help to prevent harmful free radicals, boost the immune system,  protect the skin , and slow down aging.
  • Baby Spinach: contains chlorophyll, iron, vitamin A, D, E , and K, helping to purify the  blood and detoxify the liver. Chlorophyll gives spinach its green color and is important for blood and bone health and cancer prevention. Spinach and other leafy greens contain hyaluronic acid which help in collagen formation to maintain  healthy skin and joints.
  • Kefir: is a drinkable liquid yogurt that contains many strains of  probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria which help to keep our digestive system healthy and prevent illness. Kefir is also a good source of calcium and protein and is well tolerated for those who may be lactose intolerant.
  • Bananas: are high in potassium, vitamin B6 and C, and fiber. Bananas are healthy for the heart and help to maintain good blood pressure. Banana fiber contains prebiotics which support the growth of good bacteria in our digestive system .
  • Flaxseed: Ground flaxseed is high in omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Ground flaxseed supports  heart health, prevents inflammation, and improves the absorption of  Vitamin A, D, E, and K.
  • Ginger: is an ancient spice known for its many health benefits.  Ginger helps with digestion, boosts our immune system, and is also anti-inflammatory. Ginger may help to relieve exercise induced muscle pain, osteoarthritis, and lower fasting blood sugars.

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Tips to making the perfect Smoothie

  1. Choose fresh or frozen produce. Wash fresh produce thoroughly to remove any possible soil, bacteria, and pesticide residue. Produce should be cleaned right before using with a vegetable brush and then rinsed under cold water. Peel produce with non-edible skins.
  2. Using Frozen Fruit gives your smoothie a creamy texture and helps to decrease the need for additional ice .
  3. Layer each ingredient starting with the liquid ingredients first. Add leafy greens, proteins, fruits, and healthy add-ins. Blend at low speed first and gradually increase the power. The liquid base will help to keep the solids moving to create a smooth consistency without small pieces remaining.
  4. Choose healthy add-ins. To boost the nutrition of your smoothie add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, ground flax seed, chia or hemp seed.
  5. Avoid adding refined sugars. If additional sweetness is desired add a little fruit concentrate, stevia, dates, or maple syrup to taste.

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Recipe:

Orange and Mango Green Smoothie 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baby spinach trimmed
  • 1 medium orange peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen mango cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium banana sliced and frozen
  • 1 cup orange cream Kefir low fat smoothie sweetened with stevia
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup ice

Directions:

Layer ingredients in order in your smoothie maker or blender. Blend at low speed first to incorporate ingredients. Gradually increase speed and blend to a smooth consistency.

Enjoy!

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It is best to drink your smoothie right away. You can keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  Freeze your smoothie in small containers or in ice cube trays to enjoy at a later time.

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Mini Orange Scones

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I think one of my most favorite guilty bakery pleasures is the Scone. Sadly, typical bakery scones are high in sugar, fat, and calories. I wanted to create a scone that was not too- sweet,  and still had the tasty, light and crumbly goodness of my favorite treat.

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Recipe Tips

  1. Misen en Place is a French cooking term meaning “putting in place”. Making scones is quick and easy when you organize and arrange all your kitchen tools and ingredients in order before starting the recipe.
  2. Have the right kitchen tools. A food processor and zester will help give you the most perfect scone every time.
  3. Use chilled or frozen butter.  If the butter is allowed to soften too much it can react  with the baking powder and baking soda too soon resulting in a tough, dense scone. 
  4. Do not overmix ingredients. For light and flaky scones gently fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until a soft dough begins to form and there is still some crumbled dough.
  5. Use fresh ingredients. For the best citrus flavor use freshly squeezed orange juice and grated orange zest.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour sifted
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter frozen and cut into 1/4 teaspoon or pea size pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried and diced fruits such as currants, prunes, apricots, and cranberries
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% yogurt
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • white sanding sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

This recipe makes 16 mini scones

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  1. Place the flour, sugar, grated orange zest, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the mixing blade. Pulse to combine about 6 pulses.
  2. Scatter butter pieces evenly over the flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the dried fruit.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the yogurt and milk until smooth.  Add the orange juice, vanilla, and maple syrup mix until well blended.
  4. Fold the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined and a dough begins to form.
  5. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 3-4 times or 5-10 seconds.
  6. Divide dough in half and lightly pat into two 7 inch circles about 1/2 inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 equal size wedges.
  7. Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Sprinkle wedges with white sanding sugar.
  9. Bake scones 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops are puffed and lightly brown. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Scones taste best fresh from the oven but can be stored for a few days in an airtight container.

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Enjoy a  Mini Orange Scone with your favorite tea or coffee beverage.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

 

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I wanted to create a healthy version of a Chocolate Crinkle Cookie that would be moist and have the same fine texture and delicateness of a traditional chocolate crinkle cookie.This recipe is adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook , a well known resource for cooking and baking. The changes I made to the original recipe are:

  • Decrease the amount of brown sugar from 1 1/2 cups to just 1/2 cup of brown sugar, The dark chocolate, cocoa, and espresso  enhances the rich chocolate flavor without the added sugar.
  • Decrease the number of eggs from 3 to 1, and add plain Greek yogurt.  Substituting Greek yogurt for part of the eggs in a cookie recipe helps to maintain protein content while decreasing the amount of fat and calories.  In baked goods a 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for each egg.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

This recipe makes 30 to 32 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup white flour (5 ounces)

1/2 cup unsweetened 100% cocoa (1 1/2 ounces)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)

3 ounces dark chocolate chips

1 large egg

1/2 cup light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

1/2 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons espresso powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces )

1/2 cup  confectioner’s sugar (2 ounces)

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Using a food scale to measure ingredients helps to ensure accuracy and quality of cookies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Into a medium bowl sift  flour and cocoa. Mix in the baking powder and baking soda.
  3. Microwave the chocolate chips and butter together in a bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Whisk brown sugar, egg, Greek yogurt, espresso powder and vanilla together in a large bowl.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir together until well combined. Fold in the flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  6. Place granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar in two separate small bowls. Form cookie dough by using  a one tablespoon cookie scooper and rolling dough into balls. Roll balls of dough first into granulated sugar and then into the confectioner sugar. Evenly space balls of dough on to prepared cookie sheets.
  7. Bake cookies one sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and cracked and the edges have begun to set, and the centers are soft but not gooey. Bake about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cookie rack and cool completely.

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Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Homemade Baked Pita Chips

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My favorite go to appetizer  for  family get-togethers and parties is Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip. A slow cooker can be one of your best kitchen helpers when you are entertaining.  I like that you can make this appetizer ahead of time, you can do other things while your food cooks, and  it frees up your oven and stove top for other cooking and baking. This dip is also easy to transport and stays warm and delicious while entertaining. Instead of store-bought chips I like to make home made baked pita chips.

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Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry

14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup olive based mayonnaise

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

8 oz. lite cream cheese, cubed

8 oz. lite sour cream

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup milk/heavy cream (optional)

Directions

Spray a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir together until ingredients are evenly distributed and then pour into the slow cooker.

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Cook on high for 1 and 1/2 hours. Stir well and continue to heat for 30 more minutes  until cheeses are melted and the dip is heated through. If the dip is too thick, stir in milk or heavy cream little by little until desired consistency. Turn the slow cooker down to low and keep warm during service.

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Serve with homemade baked pita chips (recipe to follow), bread or crackers or with assorted fresh vegetables such as  celery, carrots, and cucumbers.

img_1124Homemade Baked Pita Chips

These pita chips are much healthier than fried store-bought chips, are easy to make, and can be customized with your favorite seasonings.

Ingredients

5 Round Pita Pockets

Olive oil

Garlic Salt

Dried Chopped Basil Leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

  1. Cut each whole pita round in half, then into quarters, and then into eighth’s to make eight equal size triangles.
  2. Place on a single layer on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper
  3. Using a pastry brush lightly brush triangles with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic salt and dried basil leaves.
  4. Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes until lightly crisp.

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