Healthy & Delicious Pumpkin Bread

I created a healthier version of the classic Pumpkin Bread that still tastes moist and really delicious using fresh pumpkin puree, coconut oil instead of butter, & half wheat flour instead of all white. This bread is super soft and has a nice crustiness on the top.

I cooked my pumpkin in the Instant Pot, but you can certainly roast yours in the oven or even use canned pumpkin puree if you don’t happen to have a sugar pumpkin on hand like I did.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flourimg_0139
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted if too hard to mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (or 1 15oz can)

Start by greasing one 8″ x 4.5″ loaf pan and preheat the oven to 325.

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Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

 

 

Add coconut oil and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat together until fully combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy. Add in pumpkin puree.

Turn the blender down to a low speed and gradually add in the flour mixture. It may not be completely smooth in texture due to the pumpkin puree and that’s fine.

Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. My toddlers devour this, especially with some whipped cream cheese on top and cut into squares!

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Puree

We have had this sugar pumpkin on our counter since Halloween and since its still looking healthy, I decided to make a pumpkin puree today and then some pumpkin bread from that.

With the Instant Pot it is SO easy to make the puree- probably 3 minutes total of labor.

Simply cut the pumpkin in half with a paring knife all the way around and scoop out the seeds.

Place a cup of water and the steam tray in the bottom of the Instant Pot, and place the pumpkin halves on top.

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Set the Instant Pot for 14 minutes on the manual setting and the pumpkin is perfectly cooked- the shell of the pumpkin falls right off.

Then scoop the pumpkin itself into a bowl or back into the Instant Pot liner and blend it with an immersion blender. My 2.5lb sugar pumpkin yielded 3 cups of puree.

Voila! A quick pumpkin puree for baking or smoothies.

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Whole Wheat English Muffins

Store-bought english muffins do not compare to these homemade whole wheat ones! They are simple to make and use ingredients that I always have at hand. Because the dough needs to rise for about an hour I normally make a batch the night before while I’m feeding the kids so that they are ready and waiting to toast up in the morning.

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For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons active yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

First, combine the yeast and water in a small bowl with a spoon and set to the side.

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Next put a small sauce pan on the stove on low and put 3 Tablespoons of the butter as well as all of the milk in there. When the milk is warm and the butter has melted, pour this into a mixing bowl and whisk in the yogurt, honey & salt.

 

 

 

 

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Now dump the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

 

 

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for 60-90 minutes. It will double in volume and you will see the yeast making holes rise in the dough.

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Preheat your oven to 350 and place a sheet pan in the oven to heat.

Get a saute pan warm on med-low with 1 Tablespoon of butter in it. Once the butter has melted, use an ice cream scoop and put two smaller scoops into each muffin, placing the second scoop of dough on top of the first to get some height to the muffins.

 

 

Cover the pan and allow the muffins to cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, flip them over and replace the lid on the pan. Allow the muffins to cook another 3 minutes and then place them in the oven. Cook the english muffins for 11 minutes in the oven and then move them to a cooling rack. Start the next batch of melted butter and muffins on the stove while the first one is cooking.

With a smaller sauté pan like the one pictured, I do 3 batches of muffins. In the morning we cut our muffins in half, toast them, and then enjoy them with butter and jam. My kids go crazy for them and I keep and serve them for a few mornings.

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Apple Butter in the Instant Pot

We have a farm near us here that sells 40b boxes of apples for $10 every Friday, so I have been busy making apple pies, apple sauce, and now apple butter. I’ve made the slow cooker versions of apple butter before and really loved them, but I thought that it would be nice to get a batch of it done in an afternoon vs a entire day and a half in the slow cooker (including canning).

Because my apples are the Pink Lady variety and pretty sweet already, I only used 3 cups of sugar total for 10lbs of apples for this recipe, and it tasted very sweet when it was done. Most online apple butter recipes ask for more than twice that amount of sugar, but it all depends on the sweetness of your apples and the level of sweet tooth your household has.

This recipe is super simple and the longest part is peeling the apples. I peel mine because they are not organic, but if yours are you could always leave the peels on- especially since much of the nutrition of the apple is in the peel. It will break down in the cooking process and still blend up smoothly with a hand blender.

For this recipe you will need:img_0036

  • 10lbs apples
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup water

First, peel and core the apples

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Now add 1 cup of water to your Instant Pot and then layer in half the apples. Sprinkle both sugars over the apples and then add in the rest. Put the cinnamon and cloves on top of the remaining apples. This left my Instant Pot very full, as you can see- I could barely get the top on.

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Then set your Instant Pot to cook for 2 hours on manual pressure with the valve in the sealed position.

When the time is up, place a dish towel over the steam valve and do a quick release. Press cancel on the Instant Pot so that it doesn’t stay warm and open the lid. I let my apples cool for a while before I used my hand blender on them so that I didn’t burn my hand while blending.

As you can see, the apples break down a lot and shrink down in size to half the volume that you started with.

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My apples and spices blended down easily with a hand blender into a smooth, silky consistency.

You can now either freeze your apple butter in mason jars or tupperware, or process in a water bath and can. I ended up with 11 pints of dark, tasty apple butter to enjoy and give out to friends.

 

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Basil Pea Risotto in the Instant Pot

One of the most popular uses for the Instant Pot that I hear among my friends is for a quick and delicious risotto. With minimal work and about 20 minutes, you can achieve a perfect texture and just play with your main ingredient from there.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Cups arborio rice
  • 5 Cups stock (whichever you prefer- veg or chicken, or water mixed with bouillon if you must)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 Cup dry white wine
  • 2 Cups frozen peas, defrosted in warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil (or a basil “stir in paste” works almost as well in the winter)
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 Cup sour cream (optional but delicious)

Start by setting your Instant Pot on sauté mode and when hot add the butter & olive oil.

Once the butter has melted add the onion. Let the onion cook, stirring often until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes (remember the Instant Pot gets very hot on sauté mode).

Add in the rice and stir to coat with oil, toasting the rice itself for about a minute while constantly stirring. Once you start to see pieces of rice turning a bit brown, add in the white wine, bay leaf and garlic. Stir this in well for about 30 seconds.

Pour in the stock and mix. Close the lit and set the vent to sealing. Set the instant pot on manual and 6 minutes (on high if you have the 7-in-1 model).

Take half of the peas and a tablespoon of water and puree in a food processor until you have a smooth, bright green paste.

Once the 6 minutes are up on the Instant Pot do a quick release and open the lid. It will appear that there is still quite a bit of liquid in there but don’t worry- it firms up very quickly. Put the Instant Pot back into sauté mode and stir in the peas and pea puree, basil, and sour cream. Grate in parmesan and salt and pepper to taste while you continuously stir the pot until the liquid is absorbed and you have a sticky yet creamy consistency to your risotto and serve immediately.

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HelloFresh Review

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Will all of the meal delivery services running crazy deals at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be fun to try some out and do reviews on them. I am also hoping to shake up my cooking habits and experiment with styles I wouldn’t otherwise tend to cook.

Being a stay at home mom that loves to cook from scratch and married to a husband who brings home huge quantities of beautiful seafood probably doesn’t make me the target audience for one of these services. I have the time and resources to make whatever I want each day (if I have the energy on top of chasing around two toddlers!).

That said, the kids and I were very excited when our first HelloFresh box arrived!

We picked out three recipes for our delivery:

  • Cranberry Turkey Burgers with Green Salad
  • Crispy Sole with Caper Sauce and Potatoes
  • Beefed-Up Bolognese with Poblano Peppers and Thyme

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Everything arrived packed up in individual boxes for each recipe, with the proteins at the bottom of the box directly on the ice packs. Also included was a recipe book with a page for each dish.

The produce and meat looked very fresh.

We started with the Cranberry Turkey Burgers.

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The box contained:

  • one shallot
  • 2oz sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2oz mayo
  • 2oz cranberry sauce
  • 5oz spring mix
  • 1oz dried cranberries
  • 1.8oz pecans
  • .85oz balsamic vinegar
  • two buns

The recipe itself was fairly easy: chop shallots & thyme, combine with the meat and panko, and form patties to cook.

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While the patties are cooking, you simply mix together the mayo and cranberry sauce to make a spread for the burger buns, and toss the salad mix with the pecans, cranberries, balsamic & a bit of olive oil.

At this point I would love to show you a pic of the finished dish, but we ate it too fast and I forgot to take one!

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It was a good dish but not fantastic. The burger was a bit dry- I’m surprised that they didn’t add any egg to it. The salad was good, we really liked the greens themselves.

The recipe was extremely fast and simple to make, which earns a lot of points in my book. The high caloric amount didn’t make me delighted however- over 800cal per person for a turkey burger and a salad. I prefer to do heavier lunches and lighter dinners personally, keeping the calories under 600 so that I can have a glass of wine with dinner. I wonder if they could have saved some calories by doing a sauce on the burgers that didn’t contain mayo but that added some sharper tastes to cut through the burger.

Next we tried the Beefed-Up Bolognese with Poblano Peppers & Thyme.

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This box contained:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, already peeled
  • 2oz fresh thyme
  • 14.5oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 8oz linguine
  • shredded parmesan
  • 1oz sour cream
  • 8oz ground beef

This recipe took a few more minutes and had more steps than the turkey burgers. First, thinly slice the pepper, mince the garlic cloves and do a small dice on the carrots & onions.

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Get a big pot of water boiling for the pasta. Sauté the pepper in some olive oil, add garlic, then set aside. Sauté the onions & carrots with the thyme and then add the beef, peppers and diced tomatoes. Let this simmer and then add in a cup of the pasta water, sour cream and salt and pepper.

This dish took me a total of about 40 minutes, and I would say I chop pretty fast. I was also feeding two toddlers dinner at the same time.

I really liked the end result, but I don’t feel that it was very healthy- I wouldn’t normally eat pasta (or beef for that matter). The calories are high- 795 per serving- but I did find the servings themselves pretty healthy.

Pricing

I found an introductory deal for our week of HelloFresh that was a total of $19.95 for the week. That’s 3 meals, each for 2 people, so it breaks down to $3.25 per serving.

Normal pricing for a week of HelloFresh is $59.94, which then breaks down to $9.99 per serving per person.

Conclusion

Overall, I found the HelloFresh recipes to be relatively quick and easy. The instructions are clear and have great pictures. I would anticipate the pasta taking most people a lot longer than it took me however, and at 40 minutes for a week night meal that’s not super quick in my opinion. I also thought that they could have been healthier- lower in calories and with less empty carbs and more vegetables.

Sustainability-wise, I appreciated that much of the products were packed in materials that can be recycled. I also liked that there was an insert in the package that talked about where the food came from- what farms, with short backgrounds on each. I would have liked to know that all of the proteins were raised naturally and humanely or sustainably fished (there was info on the chicken that said it was raised according to these standards, but nothing else).  It made me uneasy to use diced tomatoes out of a can without a label stating that it was BPA-free. We also buy all organic produce, and this obviously was not, which would affect my decision to use the service on a continuous basis.

The online interface for ordering I found extremely easy. You simply click the meals that you want, and any combination is accepted. With Blue Apron if you click on a certain meal then others are greyed out- you can only order certain items with others if that makes sense. It must have to do with the cost of ingredients for some recipes vs others. I preferred HelloFresh in this department because it ticked me off with Blue Apron to select one meal only to find that this then ruled out 2 other selections which I wanted.

These meals are great for someone that wants fast, simple weeknight meals and who is highly active and can handle dinners in the 800 calorie range without gaining weight! The menus are more geared towards simple, comfort-food type dishes with familiar ingredients and taste profiles.

At $60/week or $240/month they aren’t cheap, but if you actually wanted to make each meal and went grocery shopping for the ingredients you would be spending a lot more. By using the menu service you get a variety of meals already portioned out for you, and there’s no waste (there are also no leftovers however for lunch the next day).

 

 

 

 

Celery Root Soup in the Instant Pot

 

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I love using celery root in soups, roasted with other vegetables, and as a puree. This week I have been craving broth-based blended soups that are hearty yet not heavy and that have clear, simple tastes.

Using the Bone Broth that I made in my Instant Pot, I threw together this soup in a total of 25 minutes (including cooking time!).

For this soup you will need:

  • 2 large celery roots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tart apple
  • 1 lb yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 3 cups broth, either chicken or vegetable will work, or bouillon
  • 2 cups water

First,  thinly slice the leek then peel the garlic and dice the rest of the vegetables.

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Then put your instant pot on the sauté function; add oil and allow it to heat up for 30 sec or so.

Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Your Instant Pot sauté function is pretty hot- I would correlate it to a high on your stove top- so you really need to keep an eye on the Instant Pot while it is on in this mode.

When the leeks are softened, add all of the other veggies and toss in the oil.

The add 2 cups of water and 3 cups of broth; chicken or vegetable broth would work here.

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Place the lid on and lock it. Set the Instant Pot to Soup mode and adjust the time to 20 minutes. Ensure that the pressure valve is in the closed setting.

 

 

 

 

When the 20 minutes are up, do a Quick Release of the pressure and open up the lid.

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If you have a hand emulsifier or hand blender, I find it easiest to simply blend the soup straight in the Instant Pot liner and serve it out of there. You could also puree this in a blender of course.

I like to add salt and pepper to taste at this point.

 

 

 

Mine was perfect with some fresh cracked pepper on top and freshly made wheat bread!

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