Posts Tagged ‘muffins’

You already know that my pants don’t fit.  I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to diet around this time of year.  It is so cold out that the last thing I want to eat is salad.  What really appeals to me are dishes like chili, lasagna, fresh baked cookies… comfort food.  Add on holiday celebrations, office treats, and Christmas candy sales; I am hopeless.  Well, it is fair to say that I won’t lose any weight in the last week or so of December, but I will do anything I can not to gain more weight.  As a result, I am making an effort to lighten up some of the desserts I am making over the next few hours weeks.

cheesecake 2

Honestly, I don’t do well “giving up” anything. I don’t do well with portion control either.  The first step in trying to combat that is pre-portioning desserts.  The other thing I like to do is take out some of the fat and calories where it won’t be missed.  Previously I’ve made ice cream desserts that taste delicious but are made with lots of low-guilt ingredients.  Well, I decided to make Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes using lower fat cream cheese with a few more decadent ingredients to balance them out.

cheesecake 5

These cheesecakes are made with a crunchy pretzel crust, a creamy peanut butter filling and chocolate chips snuck in as a layer above the crust and throughout batter.  By the way, you’d be so proud of me.  I only ate two of them!  That may or may not be because I gave some to friends and left the rest in my parents fridge.  Sorry, Mom:-)

cheesecake 4

This recipe is actually very easy and revolves mostly around a food processor.  I figured if I needed to take out the appliance for making a crust, I might as well use it for the cheesecake batter too!

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels


Run them through until they are mostly fine crumbs


In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

adding butter

Add sugar

adding sugar

Stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Mixing crust

Press a couple tablespoons of crust ingredients into two muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for about 6 minutes

crust pre-baking

When crust comes out of oven, layer with several milk chocolate and caramel chips

chips on crust 1

Regular chocolate chips would also work, but I really like the combination of caramel, chocolate and peanut butter; set pan aside

chocolate caramel chips

Meanwhile, prepare cheesecake batter; you can shake out the crumbs from the food processor, no need to wash it

cream cheese 1

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

cream cheese 2

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt

adding sugar flour and vanilla

Combine well

sugar flour vanilla mixed

Add your eggs

add eggs

Measure 1 cup of peanut butter chips

peanut butter chips

Microwave about 45 seconds and stir; microwave in additional 20 second increments until chips are melted; note this will be very thick

melted pb chips

Add peanut butter to cheesecake batter

add peanut butter

Process until smooth and creamy

pb mixed in

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl and fold in chocolate chips

fold in chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter in muffin tins

badder in pan 1

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until mostly firm

baked 2

Serve drizzled with chocolate and caramel or sprinkled with pretzel crumbs

cheesecake 12

Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes, lightened up

Makes 24 mini-cheesecakes


1 1/2 cups finely ground pretzel crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, separated

1 8-ounce block fat free cream cheese, softened

1 8-ounce block reduced fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter chips*, melted

1/2 cup milk chocolate and caramel chips

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels and run them through until finely ground

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Press mixture into two sets of muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for 6 minutes

When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle a few milk chocolate and caramel chips into each cup; set aside

Shake crumbs out of food processor and use it to prepare cheesecake batter

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt; cream until well combined

Add eggs and mix well

Add melted peanut butter chips to cheesecake batter and process until smooth and creamy

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl; fold in chocolate chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter into each cup

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until tops are mostly firm


*You can replace these with regular peanut butter (not natural)

The peanut butter flavor isn’t really strong; some people may prefer this but I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter chips next time (using regular peanut butter could also help)

cheesecake 7

cheesecake 11

Are you worried about weight gain during the holidays?

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dinner 2

Lots of desserts

dessert table 4


bar 2

More meat

dinner 3

Delicious side dishes


Too many desserts

dessert table 2


guests guests 2 lauren sara

guests newlyweds



decor 2

decor 3

room 1

Much too many desserts

dessert table after

More food than one could imagine out of a NYC kitchen


More people than you’d usually fit in a 1-bedroom apartment

getting food

5 Years of Thanksgiving with Friends

Five years ago, in what started out as a “dinner club” with two other couples, Matt and I hosted our first mock Thanksgiving dinner with friends.  Four friends came to Matt’s apartment at the time for a turkey, sweet potato casserole, and some other dishes that aren’t memorable enough to stand out in my mind.  It was a fun night and such a success that in the years that followed, our intimate dinner party of six has turned into an annual event with almost twenty friends.  It gives us an opportunity to be in the kitchen together, share an evening with many of our closest friends, and show them how thankful we are for them through delicious food.

matt lauren cooking

This year’s dinner was so much fun and full of many tasty traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes: Turkey, Brisket, Turkey Meatloaf, Salad, String Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

dinner 1

And of course, as you surely already know, lots of desserts

dessert table 5

Cookie sandwiches: Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches with White Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mocha Ganache and Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

sandwich cookies 2

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake bars

bars on plate 1

Cookie Dough Topped Brownies

cooke dough brownies

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

caramel bars

Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Bars

Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream and Mocha Ganache

I am excited about the recipes I have to share from the dinner party over the next few weeks!  There are definitely some new desserts that I know I’ll be making again

What is your favorite Thanksgiving-related tradition?

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In case you haven’t noticed, I have a sweet tooth:-) I always have room for dessert, but if you can make a side dish that tastes like a dessert, isn’t that even better?  Combining that with the fact that pumpkin is one of my all time favorite dessert flavors, you can understand why I’d be a fan of pumpkin bread.


I’ve had lots of pumpkin muffins and breads, some are dry, some are too dense, and some just lack a true pumpkin flavor.  This recipe, however, produces a light, moist and flavorful bread that also works for muffins.pumpkin muffins 1

This recipe is super easy.  It is the one my mom has been making for years and she had gotten it from a friend of hers originally.  You can do all of the stirring by hand so no mixer necessary.

First, take your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt) and whisk them in a large bowldry ingred

Set that aside and combine your wet ingredients, pumpkin, oil, water and eggs

wet ingred

Add your wet to dry

adding wet to dry

Stir until well combined


The recipe is set to make 3 pumpkin bread loaves, however I wanted a little bit of variety

badder in mini muffin tin

An ice cream scoop makes the perfect transfer to muffin tins

scooping badder 1

scooping badder 2badder in reg muffin tin

A few pumpkin seeds for crunch



pumpkin seedsmuffin badder with pumpkin seeds



1 loaf for good measure

badder in loaf pan

Bake until bread and muffin tops are rounded and a knife comes out cleanregular muffins done loaf 2



mini muffins cooked

Cool everything on wire racks

all pumpkin

Eat it as a side dish



Or for breakfast

pumpkin muffins 2

My Favorite Pumpkin Bread

Makes 3 regular-sized loaves OR 1 loaf, 1 dozen regular sized muffins and 2 dozen mini muffins


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 small 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)  – about 1 3/4 cup

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup water

4 large eggs


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Grease pans with non-stick cooking spray and/or line muffin tins with cup holders

Whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl and set aside

Combine wet ingredients (pumpkin through eggs)

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix well until combined

Pour batter into baking pans

Baking times for different forms:

Loaves: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Regular muffins: 18 to 25 minutes

Mini muffins: 16 to 20 minutes

Bake until bread and muffin tops are rounded and a knife comes out clean



Cool pumpkin bread out of baking pans on wire rack


What is your favorite dessert-like side dish?

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