Pumpkin Muffins

Pin It It's that time of year.  Turkey Day is right around the corner and being in a foreign country starts to get a little sad.  Normally we love the perks of living overseas, more holiday, travel, culture.  We were in Italy just a few weeks ago, so I really can't complain, I know. 

But when no one around you understands the meaning of Thanksgiving, a day devoted to stuffing your face full of Turkey and all of the fixin's, spending time with the fam, watching football (for some, certainly not me), and the overall cozy holiday feeling, all followed by a day of shopping that would be unimaginable to most here, you feel a little homesick!  Get my drift?  Not to mention, having a Thursday off pretty much rules.  Oh Thanksgiving, how I love you.  You might quite possibly be the best. holiday. ever.
That said, being away won't stop us from diving happily into a Thanksgiving dinner and celebrating with some fellow Americans here in Belgium.
But, while I am at work on Turkey Day :(, you should think about whipping whip up these delicious Pumpkin Muffins for breakfast, to keep your family's hunger satisfied while the aroma of turkey, stuffing and pecan pie are filling your home, of course.  Better yet, whip them up the day before, I find they are even more moist the second day.

And I am sure you have leftovers from the last recipe you made using canned pumpkin.  But, if you are opening up a fresh can, don't fret.  I found this list from Simple Bites which has a great compilation of 23 ways to use leftover pumpkin puree.

This pumpkin muffin recipe is healthified, so you can feel good about serving it to the family Turkey Day morning, while you watch the parade.
 Pumpkin spice candles not necessary. 

Pumpkin Muffins
as adapted from MidniteJasmine at allrecipes.com

serves 12

3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/t nutmeg
3/4  t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves

2 eggs
1/4 c shredded carrots 
a heaping 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1/3 c chocolate chips (more if you like very chocolatey!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease three 12 cup muffin pans, or line with paper muffin liners.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix eggs, carrots, pumpkin and applesauce in a seperate bowl.  Add the wet mixture to the dry.  Stir to combine.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Fill muffin tin 3/4 full.  Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Turkey Day all! 


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Pompeii: Ancient Ruins

Pin It Now, believe it or not, we did do more than just eat on our trip to Italy.  Though it may not seem like it, from my prior post describing a schedule based strictly on what to eat next.  In between eating we did lots of sight seeing, but in my opinion eating is still one of the highlights to any vacation, especially one to Italy!

We arrived in Rome late a few Thursdays ago and picked up our trusty rental car.  It got us around, but didn't always smell the best while doing it.  We headed straight to Rome's Camping Village Fabulous for the night.  We were a little skeptical about our "Chateau" in the small camping village outside of Rome, but the price was right, and we just needed a place to stay before heading South.  It actually turned out to be pretty nice, surrounded by giant Sycamores, it really felt like camping fabulously.  

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day at the Chateau, in spite of a forecast full of rain (the rain was still to come).  We decided before heading straight to Minori, the small coastal town we were staying in outside of Amalfi for a few days, we would first stop at the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii and spend sometime wandering the ancient streets of a city that was buried in volcanic ash in 79 AD.
Whether you get to Pompei by car or train, follow the signs for Scavi (which is Ruins in Italian).  When you get your ticket go to the small information booth to the left and ask for a free guide booklet.  It is basically a booklet version of the audio guide and you can save a few bucks by reading it yourself, following the numbers along the way.  We came across lots of people attempting to follow a guidebook they had purchased from outside sources with no such luck and offered a few of our extras.  Don't get lost in Pompeii!  Pick up a free book!
We walked through old temples and bakeries, The forum, where political decisions were made and which Mount Vesuvius still lurks eerily in the background. 
We saw large houses and gardens of the wealthy, with beautiful frescos.  We even duked it out in the ampitheatre.  May the best man win.

Obviously, I let him win.
In the end we were all friends again.

But the saddest part of the visit, were the plaster casts of the victims.
 A whole town and its people were lost in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii.  It is amazing that we are able to see the remains of a working culture of so long ago today. If you ever get the chance to visit Pompeii, you definitely should.

After our visit we fueled up on some pizza and bruschetta (the tomatoes are just better in Italy), then headed to Minori.

Stay tuned for Minori, Capri & Roma!
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When in Italy

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Adjusting back to Reality after 10 days in Italy is not easy.  My days were filled with the question "what should we eat next?" and our schedules looked something like this:

9 am - Italian coffee as strong as diesel fuel, made in our Bialetti Percolator, accompanied by a Nutella filled croissant.  You know how I feel about Nutella.  I was in 7th Heaven and it's only 9 am.

11 am - Gelato.  Pistachio, Mango, Nutella, Dark Chocolate, Raspberry.  As delicious as they all are, I always find myself going back to Pistachio (which is 1,000 times better than pistachio ice cream, ick).
See all of the Nutella in the background?
1 pm - Pizza, Pasta, Ravioli, Lasagne, Gnocchi accompanied by gorgeous Buffalo Mozzarella salads.  Each meal was better than the next.  
I lah-lah-loved the fresh olives. Yum.

4 pm - Snack time.  Coffee and Gelato?  When in Italy.  Or maybe some roasted chestnuts would float your boat?  Okay, I may be exaggerating, we really didn't eat this much!  Side note: while we were eating delicious food and frequently, in our defense, we were walking (normally uphill) all day, everyday, especially in the South!
They remind me of potatoes, but potatoes are better.

8pm- Dinner. Pizza, Pasta, Chicken, Fish accompanied by Vino Rossi y Bianchi Italiani

And can't forget a little after dinner Lemoncello!
 Life. Is. Good.

So you can see, after 10 days of this kind of schedule.  Adjusting back?  Not so easy.  Stay tuned for more details on our trip to Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Capri & Roma!
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Speculoos CheeseCupCakes

Pin It If you have ever been to Belgium you have tried it.  The famous Speculoos Cookie.  Typically served with your espresso or cafe au lait is an individually wrapped Speculoos cooking (or two, if you are lucky!).
It's similar to a gingerbread cookie with a warm cinnamon-y & ginger spice, yet not quite as strong.  In Belgium you can find Speculoos everything from ice cream to beer.  Yes, I tried a speculoos flavored beer at a Christmas beer festival last year.  Let's just say I prefer my Speculoos in the form of ice cream, biscuit and especially these Speculoos CheeseCupCakes!
These individual Speculoos Cheesecakes are to die for.  Speculoos paste is the perfect cheesecake partner.  Move over graham cracker crust, hello Speculoos. 
The best part is that they come together in a snap.  Now all you need to do is to go out and get yourself some Speculoos paste (hopefully that won't be too difficult!).  Trust me, tt's the new Nutella.  However, f you want to stick to Nutella because you can't find the ultra creamy Speculoos paste, I have you covered there, too.  You can try my Nutella Cheesecake Cupcakes, which are equally as decadent!  (Edited note:  After doing a little googling, I found the Trader Joe's has a Specuoloos Cookie Spread.  Not the same brand, but normally Trader Joe's doesn't dissappoint.  Click here for the details!)

Speculoos Cheesecake Cupcakes
 makes 12 cupcakes



12 Speculoos cookies, crushed
2 Tbs unsalted butter softened


16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 organic eggs at room temperature

2 Tbs flour

1/3 cup Speculoos Paste


Extra Speculoos Paste

Chopped Speciloos


Preheat oven to 325 F (163 C).  Crush Speculoos using a food processor or mortar and pestle (anything will do, just crush those bad boys).  Add the butter.  Blend until uniform.  Layer a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Spoon a spoonful of the crust in each liner.  Smoosh down with a small glass (or pestle).   

Put the cream cheese and sugar in a small mixing bowl.  Mix together until smooth.  Add the eggs and flour.  Beat until mixture in uniform.  Spoon 1/2 of the cheesecake mixture over the crust.  Smooth the top with the bottom of a spoon or butter knife.  Add the Speculoos to the remaining cheesecake filling.  Layer over the first cheesecake layer.  Smooth the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set.  Cool on a wire rack and chill.

Frost with a layer of Speculoos Paste.  Top with chopped Speculoos and serve.  Enough Speculoos for you?  Trust me you won't be able to get enough.

Melt in your mouth goodness.  Bon App├ętit!!  

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