Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins

Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins bring the heart-healthy goodness of olive oil to your breakfast table.


Is olive oil all it’s cracked up to be? You hear it touted as the heart-healthy oil–almost a savior of recipes. Something’s got three pounds of cheese and oodles of bleached, refined flour but it has olive oil???? Must be healthy!

As a nutritionist, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that olive oil automatically makes anything good for you, but it does come with significant health benefits.

As part of a Mediterranean diet, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), especially if you’re already at risk. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people at risk of CVD who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with–get this–extra olive oil had fewer major adverse cardiovascular events than those who supplemented with nuts. In another, more olive oil (yes, more fat and calories!) helped reduce body fat and improved blood pressure.

Wiki-wiki-whaaaaa?

I’m convinced that subbing olive oil for other oils and butter whenever possible is a smart choice. I’m especially into including it in baked goods. (These delicious banana chocolate muffins and orange cake are among my favorites.) As long as the olive flavor isn’t overpowering, I find it a really nice, mellow complement to the sweetness of most baked goods.

So, being that it’s fall and therefore time for ALL THINGS PUMPKIN, I of course wanted to give olive oil a whirl in some pumpkin muffins. Trouble was, I had a hard time finding a recipe. When I Googled “Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins,” it yielded very few results. “Pumpkin olive oil face mask” was much more popular. (Why would you put these delicious ingredients on your face without putting them in your mouth??)

Clearly, it was time to get creative. I adapted this recipe from the one on Olio Olive Oils’ website. A bit less sugar, a bit more time in the oven, and a yogurt-milk blend instead of time-consuming DIY buttermilk made these turn out perfecto–full of pumpkin spice flavor with a delicate, chewy crumb.  I *may* have conveniently hidden the Tupperware full of these muffins under our countertop bread stash, where my kids wouldn’t readily notice them.

If you’re looking to add more olive oil to your home baking, you won’t be disappointed with these perfect-for-fall treats!

P.S. Want to know more about cooking oils? You can learn more about which oils work best for which types of cooking in this guide I wrote on Healthline.com.

Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins

Bring the heart-healthy goodness of olive oil to your breakfast table with these pumpkin muffins!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 c. milk, any variety
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • scant 1/3 c. white sugar
  • scant 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (even better if it's olive oil-based.)
  • In a large bowl, stir together olive oil, applesauce, eggs, yogurt, milk, and pumpkin until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients and combine until no lumps remain.
  • Distribute among prepared muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes.

Notes

Adapted from Olio Olive Oil.

Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs

The unique flavors in this Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs blend perfectly for a memorable side dish. 

A few weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner.

Am I allowed to say that?

This is such a weird time where admitting to a dinner party feels like confessing an affair. (Also where coughing is the new farting.) Granted, our dinner group only just grazed the “gathering of 10 people” mark, so technically, we weren’t overstepping any official bounds. (There, now no one can yell at me in the comments.) Plus, personally, since having people over for dinner is something like a religious calling in my life, I felt pretty okay about inviting another family into our home after weeks of only virtual contact with friends.

While deciding a menu for our much-anticipated guests, I asked my husband if there was anything in particular he’d like to have on our special night. “How about that couscous thing you make?” he said, “The one with apples and herbs?”

I knew right away what he was talking about. I’ve been making this Giada de Laurentiis recipe for pearl couscous with apples, cranberries, and herbs for a few years now, and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t *sound* like it’ll be anything spectacular–and then you eat it and go…

Not surprisingly, the wife of the couple who joined us for dinner ended up asking me for the recipe–not the first time someone has asked! Which I figure means it’s about time to share it on the blog.

So what makes this such a standout side? First of all, we have to give credit to the real star of this dish: the pearl couscous. If you’ve never had this larger, meatier type of couscous, you’re seriously missing out. It’s just the most delightful thing to eat–almost squeaky in its chewy roundness. Meanwhile, a savory olive oil and fresh herb dressing soaks into not only the couscous, but also into tart green apples, crunchy almonds, and sweet dried cranberries. While it may sound like more of an autumn combo, I think it’s one to enjoy all year round. It’s delicious all on its own, or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork chops. Magnifico!

I’m happy I served this for our friends, and I stand by the decision to have them and their kids over for dinner. (I’ll even confess that we’ve now had friends over for dinner TWICE. Rebelzzzz.) Cooking for others after a lengthy stretch of isolation did wonders for my sense of well-being. And, if you ask me, while social distancing for physical health matters, connecting with others–yes, even in REAL LIFE–matters, too.

Pearl Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs

Chewy pearl couscous pairs with tart green apples, sweet cranberries, and an herbed olive oil dressing in this memorable side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins

Ingredients

For the couscous:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced

For the dressing

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

Cook the couscous:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous. Cook and stir until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.

Make the dressing:

  • While couscous cooks, whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

Put it all together:

  • In a large serving bowl, combine cooked couscous, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cranberries, almonds, and apples. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from the Food Network.

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

These Lemon Ricotta Muffins are sweet, rich, and cake-like–even though they contain whole wheat flour and not a ton of sugar!

Even though I live in one of the hottest places in the country, I still always look forward to the end of winter and the beginning of spring. (Especially now that I’m getting older and seem to be turning into a cranky old lady about the cold.) Here in Phoenix, one of the signature harbingers of spring–along with our beautiful wildflowers and the snowbirds leaving town–is the harvesting of lemons.

I don’t have a producing lemon tree myself, but my mom does, and BOY does that thing produce. There’s no way I could get through the lemon juice from the 49,000 lemons she brought over recently (in addition to the 49,000 I’m sure she also has at her house), but I of course want to hang on to it for use in tasty muffins, sauces, desserts, and more.

My favorite method for preserving all that good, fresh juice? Freezing it in a handy-dandy ice cube tray.

A couple of weekends ago, I enlisted my eight-year-old daughter to help me with juicing–a task she actually seems to enjoy. There really is something kind of fun about watching the whirring devastation of the juicer emptying lemons of their insides. We let it do its quick work, poured the juice into individual little wells, and…

Boom! Fresh lemon juice for months to come!

Now that I have a freezer full of lemon juice, I’ve been going a little nuts with the lemon recipes. The other day I made a batch of these lemon ricotta muffins–which was a bit of a leap of faith, because the lemon ricotta muffin recipes I’ve tried in the past have been a complete disaster. (Granted, that’s probably because I tried to substitute cottage cheese for ricotta and ended up with hard, chewy balls of baked cheese in each bite. Learn from my mistakes: Do NOT use cottage cheese for ricotta in baked goods.)

These muffins, on the other hand, turned out delicious, with a rich, cake-like texture. The creamy ricotta added moisture while eliminating the need for butter or oil. And not only did these taste like spring with their light lemon flavor, some pretty muffin liners (from TJ Maxx) made them look extra fresh and appealing–almost like Arizona wildflowers blooming right out of my oven.

For an Easter brunch or sweet afternoon snack, give these Lemon Ricotta Muffins a try! And tell me in the comments: What flavors make you think of spring?

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Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Rich, cake-like, and full of lemony flavor, these muffins are a special treat!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Breakfast
Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 c. almond milk
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, mix both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add all remaining ingredients. Stir gently until combined.
  • Divide batter among muffin cups and bake 16-20 minutes. To retain freshness, store baked muffins in the refrigerator.

Notes

Adapted from MyRecipes.

 

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Allow me to introduce you to a very good friend of mine: My all-time favorite pancakes. I know a lot of people would give me some serious side-eye to for saying that the greatest pancakes of all time involve whole wheat and oatmeal (there are a lot of white flour/buttermilk devotees out there) but stick with me. Cuz these pancakes are a-mazing.

I love these pancakes for the same reasons I love oatmeal: because they’re so hearty and filling–and healthy, too! I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I eat a stack of white flour pancakes, I find myself hungry again by mid-morning. Unlike those full of refined carbs, these whole wheat breakfast babies have longer-lasting complex carbs that stick to your ribs. And they manage to taste just sweet enough with only one itty bitty tablespoon of brown sugar.

Plus, instead of buttermilk, these use Greek yogurt, which makes them extra rich and thick. Quick-cooking oats take a soak in the yogurt (and some milk) to soften them so they’re not too crunchy in the finished product. And–possibly best of all–a cinnamon-nutmeg spice mixture gives the pancakes an almost chai-like flavor.

If you like oatmeal, I think you’ll agree that these take the (pan)cake. They keep well, so feel free to make a big batch on the weekend and continue enjoying throughout the week. Slap some peanut butter on top and you have a wholesome mid-morning or afternoon snack. Or make them with bacon and a fruit salad for BFD (breakfast for dinner). Any way you serve them, they’re a high-protein, whole grain menu choice you can feel good about.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Whole wheat oatmeal pancakes bring the hearty goodness of oatmeal to your favorite weekend breakfast!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp. milk of your choice, divided
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed

Instructions

  • In a large measuring cup, soak the oats in 3/4 c. Greek yogurt and 2 Tbsp. milk for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • To the dry ingredients, add the soaked oats, the remaining 1/2 c. Greek yogurt and remaining 4 Tbsp. milk, the egg, melted butter, and brown sugar. Stir until just combined.
  • Heat a griddle over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop batter onto griddle. (You may have to use a greased spatula to flatten the batter a bit.) Cook about 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from Epicurious.

Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes

I could sit down with a good cookbook like a good novel. A nice night in, to me, is poring over a new cookbook, imagining each step of each recipe, and picturing the delicious finished product. It’s basically the equivalent of fantasy fiction for cooks.

With a fairly large collection of cookbooks (plus compulsively checking them out from the library, as I do) there are always those recipes I bookmark during my perusing and think, I’ll make that eventually. But time goes by, I find new and exciting ideas on Pinterest, and sometimes things I think I’ll make fall by the wayside.

These Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes are one such recipe.

For years I’ve been a fan of Real Simple’s line of cookbooks, and this recipe called out to me from Meals Made Easy as long ago as–dare I admit it–2009. I thought it looked healthy, easy, and bit unique. I mean, how often do you put fish in a tomato? Sounds kinda weird…but not in a bad way. Plus, I find the idea of food as its own serving container ADORABLE and kind of a genius way to minimize on doing dishes.

The thing is, though, heirloom tomatoes are only in season so often. And even when they are, I usually pass them by in the grocery store, thinking they’re just a little too fabulous for me. They’re the fine china of vegetables: Fancy and gorgeous, but really? For everyday?

You know what, though? Yes! Why NOT splurge on something as healthy (not to mention gorgeous) as heirloom tomatoes? I picked up these multi-colored models yesterday determined to finally put fish in a dang tomato!

The results were worth the wait. (Of ten years, haha.) I really enjoyed not only the process of stuffing these heirlooms for unique presentation, but also the fun of eating them. The tuna mixture is flavored with a Mediterranean profile of lemon juice, olive oil, capers, parsley, and pepper, but could be played with any way you like. Plus, if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free or dairy-free, these fit the bill.

Give them a try for a tasty, healthy, seasonal summer lunch!


Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes

This light and healthy Mediterranean-flavored lunch is a fun way to soak up the flavors of summer!
Servings: 2 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 6-oz. cans tuna, drained, preferably albacore packed in olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • 1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • drizzle olive oil, if you used tuna packed in water

Instructions

  • Using a paring knife, slice a circle in the top of each tomato. Scoop the flesh out of tomatoes, leaving about a 1/4 inch-thick tomato "shell." Drain any excess water out of the flesh you've scooped and dice it into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Place diced tomato in a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
  • Scoop the mixture into your tomato shells and serve.

Notes

Adapted from Real Simple.