Nowhere is the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” truer than in recipe development. And, for me, at no time is it truer than during Lent. These Espresso Sugar Cookies were born out of a little bit of culinary and spiritual necessity.
Let me explain.
In the 40 days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that we Catholics observe this time of year, it’s customary to make sacrifices that unite us with the sufferings of Jesus in some small way. It may sound lame or insignificant, but this year one of my sacrifices is giving up chocolate.
But mannnnn I want chocolate so. bad. every. day. I’ve had a few Reese’s pieces, which technically don’t contain any chocolate, but my husband claims that’s cheating. And hey, maybe having any sweets might be considered cheating, but for me, relinquishing chocolate for six weeks is sacrifice enough. I’m okay continuing to eat other, non-chocolatey dessert foods here and there.
That said, it’s kinda tough to find desserts I actually like that aren’t chocolate. In my efforts to scare up something a little bit like chocolate, but not chocolate, in the last nine days since Ash Wednesday, I thought I might turn to the flavor of coffee. After all, chocolate and coffee often pair together, and according to The Flavor Bible, they’re complementary tastes.
Plus, I happened to have some espresso powder hanging around from when I recently made this totally indulgent, craaaaazzy layer cake for a friend’s husband’s birthday. Why not give espresso powder a spin in non-chocolatey cookies?
Trouble is, almost every baked goods recipe on the internet that uses coffee also calls for chocolate. I mean, mocha is KING in cookies, pies, cakes, cheesecakes, and more. So it was up to me to create my own espresso sugar cookies! I’m so glad I did!
These cookies are chewy and light, with just a hint of crispiness around the edges. They taste like coffee, of course, but not in an overpowering way. They’re the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon or after-dinner cup of joe. Leaving chocolate out of the equation actually allows the espresso flavor to shine through all on its own.
So, believe it or not, I kinda love that these cookies don’t include any chocolate! Who’da thunk?
Espresso Sugar Cookies
- 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 1 1/4 c. white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3-4 Tbsp. milk
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and mix.
- Mix in flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add milk, t tablespoon at a time, and mix until the batter holds together but isn't visibly wet.
- Drop cookies by the tablespoonful onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until set. Store in an airtight container.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
Cashew butter puts a unique spin on the expected in these chewy Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies.
Not too long ago, I received an assignment from one of the publications I write for about the nutrition of cashew butter. Having limited experience with this particular nut butter, I was basically starting at square one. I’m your typical American when it comes to nut butters–as in, peanut butter is my gold standard. When our family lived in Germany a few years ago, the lack of this grocery staple in stores led to much weeping and gnashing of teeth (until my mom arrived from the States bearing some precious PB).
Doing a bit of research for my article led to some interesting revelations about cashew butter. Even though it has a teeny bit more calories than peanut butter, its fats are 80% unsaturated (aka the healthy kind). Plus–how weird is this?–certain antioxidant compounds in cashews have been associated with improved vision and eye health. You can read my full article with all cashew butter’s health benefits here.
Coincidentally, I happened to receive a few samples of cashew butter shortly after writing my article. One of which was this intriguing salted caramel variety.
Up until now, I’ve been noshing it slathered on graham crackers and as a dip for green apples. (Not sure if it’s giving me superhuman vision yet, but it sure is tasty.) With its creamy texture and comparable flavor to peanut butter, I figured I could put it to work in some of the other vehicles I’d normally use PB for…like cookies!
These Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies are a twist on the usual peanut butter oatmeal cookies. They’ve got the craveable crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside you know and love in the best peanut butter oatmeal cookies, with a slightly different taste. I especially enjoyed the hint of salted caramel in the variety I used, but you can easily use any kind of cashew butter here.
I guess I’ve come full circle on my cashew butter journey. Now that I know a bit more about it and have used it in several ways, I’m all aboard on the nut train. And I’m pretty sure if you try these cookies, you will be, too.
Cashew Butter Oatmeal Cookies
- 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 1/2 c. cashew butter
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- generous 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine butter, cashew butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and egg. Blend with a hand mixer until well mixed, 1-2 minutes.
- Add oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix by hand until combined.
- Form into balls and drop onto greased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes until tops of cookies are set. Cool 10 minutes and store in an airtight container.
Maple Oatmeal Muffins bring simple, wholesome goodness to your morning! Make a dozen with a single bowl.
Like many Americans with a bit of disposable income and nowhere to vacation this summer, we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel. (Cause, you know, great idea during a pandemic to rip up the cooking and eating space in your already stressed-out home. 🤪)
Anyway, we’re three weeks into the chaos of dishes in the bathtub, makeshift cardboard countertops, and appliances in the bedroom. I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when our new cooking space is sparkling and beautiful–and my husband has proven himself to be EXTREMELY capable at renovating–but man, it sure makes mealtimes tough.
I’ve been hanging in there at dinnertime with some pre-made frozen casseroles, but at breakfast there’s only so much cereal and frozen waffles I can eat. After awhile, I need my baked goods to start the day! (It’s no secret that I’m a muffin–aholic.)
With my mixing bowls in my office and measuring cups in my family room, I’ve needed to stick to the old KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid…which is why I chose this maple oatmeal muffin recipe recently. It’s made with just one bowl and super basic ingredients like oats, maple syrup, and nuts. This way, I was able to whip up a dozen hearty muffins without making an even bigger mess in my kitchen (though I *did* have to wash the bowl in the bathtub). Plus, no need to pull tons of ingredients out of my pantry and clutter up my already untidy space!
The flavor of these muffins is not overly sweet, with the maple syrup adding its signature depth. As for texture, they’re slightly dense with pops of crunch from pecans. I’d recommend them for those times when you want a tasty baked good for breakfast but don’t have much to dress it up with.
Despite my torn-up kitchen, when I made these maple oatmeal muffins, it felt so good to sit down to my favorite type of breakfast once again. Not only were they wholesome, hearty, and perfect with a smear of butter, they helped me feel just a little more normal. (And, kitchen remodel or no kitchen remodel, couldn’t we all use anything that helps us feel more normal these days?)
Maple Oatmeal Muffins
- 1 c. quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 c. milk, any type
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- scant 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2/3 c. maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
- 1/3 c. chopped pecan pieces
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats and milk. Let stand about 5 minutes to soften the oats. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
- Make a well in the center of the batter and add maple syrup, egg, and melted butter, mixing to combine. Fold in pecans.
- Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake 15-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
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
- 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
- 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.