a balanced plate with room for dessert

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Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Hello there, muffins! These little lemony bites are a good reminder that spring is right around the corner. It’s just hiding under piles and piles of snow. Piles that keep getting bigger and bigger… but eventually the snow will melt. Until then, keep dreaming of sunshine and happiness and cram your face full of these delicious lemon poppy seed muffins.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins |

They’re whole wheat, but they’re not heavy. And the little sub of applesauce makes them just a teeeensy bit healthier. These are great to share, but they’re also great to keep for yourself. I made a double batch and shared a little and froze the rest. I now have a stash of these bad boys sitting next to my dairy-free cinnamon rolls.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins |

Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, slightly cooled
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
3 lemons, zested
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place liners into a muffin tin and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in soy milk, lemon juice, canola oil, coconut oil, applesauce, zest, and vanilla extract. Mix until ingredients are just moistened, being careful not to over-mix.
  3. Fill prepared muffin tin three-quarters full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


recipe slightly adapted from Prevention RD, originally from Vegan Brunch


Ooey Gooey Dairy-Free Cinnamon Rolls

I wish I could sleep in a bed of these cinnamon rolls – warm, fluffy, gooey deliciousness. I swoon a little every time I walk past a bakery and smell cinnamon rolls baking away. And then I cry a little because I can’t eat the dairy-laden treats.

Oeey Gooey Dairy-Free CInnamon Rolls |

So here’s my solution to my cinnamon roll problem. This isn’t a quick recipe, but the recipe is simple and the results are so worth it. I need to make a mental note to always make a double batch of these bad boys because they freeze beautifully. I let them cool and then individually wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in freezer bags. Then when I’m craving some cinnamony goodness for breakfast (or for a snack), I just pull one out and microwave it for a minute and ::bam!!:: (Almost) freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

Oeey Gooey Dairy-Free CInnamon Rolls |

The icing is probably unnecessary, but it makes the cinnamon roll real pretty 🙂

Ooey Gooey Dairy-Free Cinnamon Rolls
makes 1 dozen

for the dough:
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

for the filling:
2 1/2 tablespoons vegan margarine, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

for the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

to make the dough:

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Add in margarine and vanilla and stir until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, combine yeast with warm water in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until mixture is foamy.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. Whisk egg into the milk mixture until well combined. Pour milk and yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until dough forms a sticky ball. Add in remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading well after each addition, until dough turns smooth and soft but still slightly sticky. The amount of flour you use will vary, but I usually use about 3 1/4 cups.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball and place in bowl, turning to coat in oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

to assemble the cinnamon rolls:

  1. Lightly grease a large baking pan. A 9×13-inch pan works well, or a large pie or cake pan.
  2. Punch dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Roll dough out into a 20×13-inch rectangle. Spread melted margarine evenly over the dough.
  4. Whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture onto dough, making sure to get it all the way to the edges.
  5. With the long end facing you, roll dough up evenly. Gently pinch the edge to seal. With the seam-side down, cut the dough in half. Cut each half into 6 equal pieces for a total of 12 cinnamon rolls.
  6. Place rolls cut-side down in prepared baking dish, making sure to leave a little space between the rolls to allow them room to expand. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap and bake cinnamon rolls for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  8. Allow cinnamon rolls to cool slightly in the pan to soak up the cinnamon sugar before icing them.
  9. Whisk together powdered sugar, almond milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Drizzle over slightly cooled cinnamon rolls.


heavily adapted from Food Network


Mini Vegan Apple Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

These doughnut muffins are adorable. I mean, how can anything this small not be cute? They’re also dangerously addictive. And since they’re so small, it’s really easy to eat a lot of them in a short amount of time. Thank goodness that these are a bit healthier than the traditional fried doughnut!

Mini Vegan Apple Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins |

I think next time I might try stuffing these little bites with some raspberry preserves to recreate one of my guilty pleasures: jelly filled doughnuts.

Mini Vegan Apple Cinnamon Donut Muffins |

Mini Vegan Apple Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins
makes 24 muffins

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

for the cinnamon sugar topping:
2 tablespoons vegan butter substitute (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, allspice, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce, oil, sugar, and almond milk until well combined. Pour mixture into dry ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  4. Fill your prepared mini muffin tins 2/3 – 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes, or until a light golden color.
  5. During the last couple minutes of baking, melt your butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Combine your sugar and cinnamon in a separate small bowl.
  6. Once the muffins are done, dip the top of the muffin in the melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place on a wire rack and repeat with remaining muffins.

Tip: I used a toothpick to pick up the muffin, dunk it in the butter, and then roll it in the sugar. It saved my hands from getting burned and it was a little neater than using my fingers.

recipe slightly adapted from Milk Free Mom

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Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins

Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins |

A cup of coffee is definitely not the best part of waking up. At least not for me. These muffins, though? These muffins are worth waking up for. I am cranberry-obsessed. I seriously cannot get enough of this tangy fruit. I need to make a mental note to stock up on the fresh berries while they’re available so I can hoard them in my freezer and use them throughout the year (and not just during the holidays). If you’re searching for some easy brunch ideas for your holiday gatherings, give these muffins a try!

Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins |

Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons orange zest (from about 4 large oranges)
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (from about 4 large oranges)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a muffin tin or line with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in orange juice, canola oil, applesauce, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix by hand for 5 seconds or until wet and dry ingredients just start to come together. Add in cranberries and walnuts and continue to mix until ingredients are just moistened, being careful not to overmix.
  3. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.


recipe slightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

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SNAP Challenge: Day 4

Today’s Feeding America prompt: “Are you worried about your groceries running out before the end of the Challenge? Do you feel you are eating a healthy, balanced diet? What nutrition decisions did you have to make?”

In a word – yes. I am worried about running out of food. I think that’s something that I’ve mentioned on a daily basis in my summary posts. I have the tiniest bit of money leftover and I keep thinking about what I can do with that money just in case we run out of food.

I think the menu is healthy, but not as healthy as we normally eat. Our house is usually stocked full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. This week, we only have a few fresh produce items. We have free garden produce – tomatoes, zucchini, hot peppers and I purchased bell peppers, bananas, and grapes. I usually buy exclusively whole grain pasta, rice, and bread, but this week the only whole grains I purchased were the whole wheat bread and oatmeal. I was able to buy some boneless, skinless chicken breast, but I bought 85% lean ground turkey instead of my usually 93% or 99%.

I’m also not used to the lack of variety we have. For example – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten oatmeal every single day (sometimes several times a day) before this. I like to switch up my breakfast items! Before, I would choose between cereal with almond milk, a breakfast sandwich, egg and veggie scrambles, or half a bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and some fruit. I’m not huge on “sweet” breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles, and the like have no place on my plate during breakfast!), but I love savory breakfast foods! I got sick of eating oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar by the end of Day 2 and ended up making a savory oatmeal with spices mixed in. Mike found it revolting, but it was just the change I needed!

For the MyPlate recommendations, we’re pretty darn close to meeting all minimums except for dairy. I’m getting no dairy at all. Like I’ve mentioned before, I can’t handle it any more. I didn’t fit lactose-free milk into our budget. I’m not a big milk drinker anyway, so getting rid of that was no big deal to me. Mike’s getting some from cheese, but not nearly enough. Something to work on for next time, I guess…

All that said, I am so thankful that we have a garden. Even though it’s 2 hours away, Mike was able to bring down cherry tomatoes, zucchini, herbs and a few hot peppers from the garden the day before the Challenge started. In a way, it kind of feels like cheating… but when I think about it, we haven’t really used much from the garden “stash” at all aside from the hot peppers and my occasional cherry tomato snack.

Snack wise, we’re doing a lot better. I don’t have access to any of our popcorn supplies (gosh, I miss kettle corn), rice cakes, or baking supplies. Another thing I really miss? Chocolate from my favorite Appleton chocolate shop, Wilmar’s. I’m obsessed with their cherry pie chocolate bar: milk chocolate with Door County dried cherries, almonds, and sea salt. Swoon! I keep a bar in my desk drawer and I eat one piece almost every day when I’m in the office. Having the bar in my desk drawer and not being able to eat it is hard. Mike doesn’t have access to his go-to snacks either. Good for our waistlines, not so good for our mood.

What we ate today:

  • Breakfast: savory oatmeal with an egg (me), whole wheat toast with peanut butter and raisins (Mike)
  • Snack: cherry tomatoes and grapes (me), grapes and a cookie (Mike)
  • Lunch: three bean turkey chili with elbow macaroni,
  • Snack: nothing for me… I ate it all in the morning 😦
  • Dinner: sweet & sour chicken with rice (Mike) and pepper chicken with rice (me)
  • Snack: peanut butter with raisins (Mike)

I think Mike and I were both struggling with not having a snack or dessert, so I whipped up a batch of healthy cookies for us. I had to improvise with what we had purchased for the SNAP Challenge. They’re super simple (4 ingredients!!!) and surprisingly tasty!

healthy 4 ingredient banana oatmeal cookies |

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
makes 1 dozen cookies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
½ cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.
  2. Mix bananas with oatmeal and peanut butter until well combined. Stir in raisins until evenly distributed.
  3. Roll into 1.5” balls and place on prepared baking sheet 2” apart. Gently press down on each cookie with the bottom of a cup to flatten slightly.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.


Hot Italian Sausage & Pepper Hash

It finally feels like summer to me. I’m taking a week off work  to explore some great things out west with my family. Mike, my dad, step-mom, brother and I are trekking out there to do some serious exploring.

trip out west

We’re doing a little bit of everything, from Vegas to Grand Canyon North & South Rim, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon with a bunch of stuff in between. I’m super excited since it’s going to be my first time ’round those parts 🙂

Downside(s)? The heat. I melt in the Wisconsin summer. I will surely die in the heat of Vegas (100°F? Why does this temperature even exist?) and surrounding areas. I’m also a little worried about my workouts. I’m bringing my running gear and I bought a travel yoga mat to help me stay on track. My plan is to run 3 times and do yoga 3 times while we’re out there. My regular routine, essentially. Hopefully I can stick to it!

We’re leaving for the airport in a few short hours and I still have a huge list of things to finish up (like the apple crisp in the oven). I’m running off to do some last minute packing now, but I’ll leave you with a super simple and super delicious recipe – enjoy!

Hot Italian Sausage & Pepper Hash |

Hot Italian Sausage and Pepper Hash 

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-19 ounce package hot Italian sausage links, casings removed
3 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
10 mini bell peppers or 3 large bell peppers, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
6 large eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook onions, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place sausage in a medium pan over medium-high heat and brown, chopping up links into crumbles with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Cook until browned and drain off excess fat.
  4. Stir sausage into onions and add in potatoes. Season with salt and pepper  to taste. Cook for 10 minutes. Pour potatoes and sausage mixture into a large baking sheet and sprinkle sliced peppers on top. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  5. In the last few minutes of baking, heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook eggs until desired doneness is reached. Scoop hash into bowls and top with an egg. Serve immediately.


Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lightened Up Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins |

I’m a cookbook junkie. I have shelves and shelves of cookbooks of all different types. I seriously love them. I honestly love just having them – I don’t cook a lot from them. In fact, most of my cookbooks get looked at once, maybe twice a year. As always, there are exceptions. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking is my most recent purchase and I’m obsessed with it. Every single dish I’ve made from it has been amazing. If you don’t own this book, I beg you – BUY IT!

Now, these muffins… so so good. In fact, I made these about 2 months ago for some friends. They were gobbled up before I even got a chance to take a photo for the blog. Thankfully, these muffins are also very easy to make and really tasty so I didn’t mind having to make these again! In fact, I whipped these up before heading to work on Friday. It only took about 20 minutes of prep time and another 20 for baking. I  made a few adjustments so they would be a bit healthier and I loved how they turned out!

Lightened Up Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins |

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
very slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

3 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (6 – 7 medium – large bananas)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2-12 cup muffin pans with liners or grease with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together bananas, sugar, brown sugar, butter, applesauce,  milk, and eggs.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Fill prepared muffin cups with batter, filling each one 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing the muffins and placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.