Pumpkin muffins and other lovely things

If you know me at all, you probably know I would have to say summer is my least favorite season. I just don’t particularly enjoy sweating for seven straight months here in Texas. I’m much more a fall and winter girl, and this is a major reason why I’m seriously considering moving north after college. Saturday we finally welcomed the first real cool front of the season, and my coffee shop study space was flooded with Texans breaking out the boots and sweaters and coming in for a hot pumpkin spice latte like it was actually COLD (maybe only 60 degrees). It’s been absolutely gorgeous, and I can finally get the sense that fall is in the air.

My mom got to come visit me for a quick trip, mainly to attend the Phil Wickham concert with me and a few of my friends.  IT WAS AMAZING.  We were on the FRONT row, and I could have touched him if I wanted.  If you don’t know Phil, he has the voice of an angel and is such a powerful vocalist and worship leader.  His songs never fail to usher in God’s presence and speak deeply to hearts. It was a refreshing night of music, and I’m so glad my mom could experience it with me.

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Another super study Saturday at Common Grounds was had with my friend Jenna, who is a focused pre-med student with never-ending homework like myself. We know how to make studying fun, though, and always find ourselves taking breaks to just laugh at our lives or remind ourselves of an encouraging Bible verse sometimes. She is always such an encouragement to me, and I try to be a source of support for her, too. I’m so blessed by her friendship, especially because we’re both passionate followers of God that just happen to also want to be doctors. It’s so cool how we can relate to each other so well on our paths to follow God’s calling on our lives in joy amidst the stressed and competitive atmosphere of other Baylor pre-health students.

Of course with the drop in temperature, the first thing my mind went to was my obsession with fall baking, specifically pumpkin-flavored anything. After a long day, nothing beats the therapeutic process of making a batch of warm and good-for-the-soul pumpkin muffins.  When I do bake, I always am a fan of lightening up the traditional recipes, but without sacrificing any flavor.  I used The Slender Student’s (a fellow Texan college-aged blogger with tons of healthy recipes – check her out!) recipe, but I used Truvia baking blend (use half of the listed amount for sweetener or sugar in any recipe) and added 2 oz finely chopped 76% dark chocolate instead of the chips for even more chocolate-y goodness throughout.  They have NO butter and NO sugar (except for the small amount in the chocolate), but I promise they still perfectly sum up the flavors and cravings of fall in one bite.
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Move over, McMuffin

You can taste it, can't you?

You can taste it, can’t you?

This sandwich (and all possible variations of it) is an absolute staple in my diet.  Since I try to steer clear of sodium-loaded packaged deli-meat and strive for an almost vegetarian lifestyle during the week, eggs and egg whites are a popular source of protein in my quick everyday meals. Perfect for breakfast or lunch, the five minute prep is the same (if not less) than that wait in the drive through to spend a few bucks on a sub-par fast food egg sandwich.  Whole grains in the bread + protein in the egg and cheese + good fat in the avocado + fiber, iron and other minerals in the spinach = well-balanced perfection. Did I mention it tastes down-right fantastic? I make several different versions but my favorites tend to be either this Tex-Mex spin or an Italian/Greek flavor (sun dried tomatoes, feta, pesto). I also switch around between all egg whites or one whole egg, and also sometimes use regular whole wheat bread in place of the English muffin. Why not take a break from that boring bowl of cereal for your morning meal or that monotonous turkey sandwich for lunch and try it out?

Ingredients

1 whole wheat English muffin

1/4 – 1/3 c liquid egg whites

1/2 – 1 oz EXTRA sharp cheddar, sliced or shredded

1/3 medium avocado

Handful of fresh spinach

S&P/garlic powder/cumin/chili powder

chopped fresh green onion

chopped fresh cilantro

Choice of salsa

Directions
While toasting the muffin, pour the egg whites in a small bowl (the size of the muffin is best so it fits nicely) sprayed with cooking spray.  Add seasonings, green onion, cilantro, and top with cheese.  Microwave on high to desired doneness (maybe 45-60 seconds).  Spread the avocado on one side of the toasted muffin, top with spinach, salsa, and cooked cheesy-egg mixture. Eat up and enjoy!

Banana Blueberry Protein Pancakes (plus some variations)

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I thought for my first uploaded recipe I’d begin with what we all know is the best and most crucial meal of the day (even though I’m not afraid to admit I’ll eat these at any time, anywhere).  These are seriously the best breakfast any day of the week.  They’re loaded with protein, fiber, and the bonus of healthy fat of the nut butter to keep you full until lunchtime or to fuel that morning workout that we all love deep down.  Regular pancakes usually leave you feeling completely stuffed and on a sugar high, only to crash and feel hungry shortly after.  You can play around with any fillings, toppings, or yogurt add-ins to make them your own perfect creation.  I never make them the same way twice.  When I first saw this idea, I thought no way could oats + egg whites = healthy pancake perfection. Long story short – I was wrong.  The main idea is that you use equal parts oats and egg whites depending on your caloric needs, stomach growls after a long Saturday morning run, or how many hungry friends are coming over for a quick and easy weekend brunch (1/4 c, 1/3 c, 1/2 c, etc.), and adjust the other ingredients proportionally. The banana in the batter is completely optional, but I think it really helps the texture. This recipe is my standard and will make 1 large or 2 smaller pancakes with about 1/4 c yogurt sauce.

Ingredients

1/3 c quick cooking oats

1/3 t baking powder

dash of salt

vanilla extract to taste

sweetener to taste (I’m a big fan of all-natural Truvia in all my cooking/baking, but a little sugar never hurt anyone)

1/3 c liquid 100% egg whites (I use the carton, but you can always use whites separated from your eggs)

1/3 soft banana, mashed

1/4 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt (Chobani is my favorite b/c it’s usually cheaper than other brands)

1/2 – 1 T almond butter (or any nut butter)

splash of milk (I usually use unsweetened almond, but anything’s fine)

1/2 c fresh blueberries

**Optional batter add-ins/toppings : cinnamon, protein powder, ground flax, chopped nuts, dried fruit, cocoa powder, PB2 (powdered peanut butter with most fat removed), any fresh fruit, chocolate chips, pumpkin puree (SO good)

Directions

Combine oats, baking powder, salt, sweetener, and any other seasonings you want.  Add whites, vanilla, and mashed banana.  Let the batter sit for a few minutes while you heat a pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium/high heat.   Pour the batter as one big pancake or a couple smaller ones and let the egg whites set up for 2-4 minutes.  Whenever it’s holding together enough that you can flip it, that’s when you know.  The other side should only take another 1-2 minutes.  You don’t want to over cook them, because they can get tough.  For the yogurt sauce combine yogurt, almond butter, vanilla/sweetener/spices to taste, and if you need to thin it out a little, add the splash of milk.  It should almost look like a frosting.  I like to heat it for about 20 seconds, just so it’s warm with the warm pancake.  Top your pancakes with the sauce and finish with the fresh berries on top.  Dig in with a generous cup of coffee and enjoy a plate of pancakes completely guilt-free!