Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins

I recently tried Kodiak Cakes pancake mix (Power Cakes, Protein Packed) and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I’ll make pancakes for breakfast once in a blue moon, but this mix boasts 14g of protein for 3, 4-inch pancakes…so I wanted to give it a try. I prepared the batter with milk (which brought the protein up to about 18 g) and a little cinnamon and they came out great! A healthier alternative if you enjoy a classic pancake breakfast every once and a while.

I decided to make muffins using what was left of the pancake mix and added my own fall flare to the recipe listed on the box. Here’s my recipe:

Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes flapjack mix
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup non-fat or 1% milk (I used 0% fat fairlife milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Grease muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with muffin batter. Bake for about 14-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

power-pumpkin-muffinNutrition Information: 1 muffin – Calories: 139 cal  Total fat: 5g  Saturated fat: 3g  Sodium: 148mg Carbohydrates: 19g  Dietary fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 6g – calculated via MyFitnessPal

Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara, family, and friends approved! At the request of a colleague of mine, I made these muffins without banana and used pumpkin instead. The flavor worked well with the cinnamon and created a moist texture in the muffin. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of the Power Cake mix, but I was running low and decided to use old fashioned oats to make up the difference. If you are after a lighter, more airy muffin, you might want to use regular or whole grain flour. I am happy with how these came out and look forward to experimenting with different variations and recipes! Dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and peanut butter anyone??

Pineapple (Chocolate Chip) Muffins


For me, 90 degree weather is no deterrent to turning on the oven – especially when it means ultimately enjoying and sharing a tasty treat. I picked up a pineapple from the store and had a hankering for muffins, so I decided to try something new and make pineapple muffins. The recipe made 21 muffins – 12 of them were plain pineapple, 9 of them I made with chocolate chips (couldn’t resist!).

Pineapple (Chocolate Chip) Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 2 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (I used 1/2 cup of skim and 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 slices pineapple, diced into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, milk, and applesauce. Pour the wet ingredients into the oat and flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the pineapple pieces and chocolate chips, mix together. If you don’t like chocolate chips, you can skip that step and bake the muffins as is. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray (or use cupcake liners) and use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to fill the tins 2/3 of the way full with the muffin batter. Bake at 400 degrees F for 16-18 minutes. Makes 21 muffins.


Pineapple (Chocolate Chip) Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara and Family approved! I had never baked with pineapple before trying these muffins and wasn’t sure how it would work out, but these are tasty! I used less sugar than normal, assuming that the juice from the pineapple would make up for it and also used applesauce instead of butter or oil. The only time I’ve had pineapple and chocolate together has been in Edible Arrangements (chocolate dipped pineapple), so I thought I would try the combination here. The chocolate chips stole the show with the pineapple flavor appearing subtly in the background. The nutrition information below is for a batch of 21 muffins, if all of them were made with pineapple AND chocolate chips. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information: 1 muffin – Calories: 146 kcal  Total fat: 3 g  Saturated fat: 1 g  Sodium: 563 mg  Carbohydrate: 27 g  Dietary fiber: 1 g  Sugar: 11 g  Protein: 3 g

Almond Butter Cookies

When you’re in the mood for fresh baked cookies but don’t want to deal with a lot of ingredients, mixers, or if you are short on time – this is your recipe! These almond butter cookies are incredibly simple and easy to whip up. You only need 4 ingredients, that’s right 4. In just a few quick steps you’ll have a full tray of nutty cookies to enjoy.

Almond Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl mix together the almond butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Scoop the dough by 1/2 tablespoon full onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (easy clean up!). Use a fork to press down on the cookie to make a criss-cross pattern and sprinkle with just a touch of salt. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cookies cool for a minute before transferring to a wire rack or fresh sheet of parchment paper to cool. Makes 35 cookies.


Almond Butter Cookies: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! love peanut butter, it’s one of my favorite foods, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to exploring other nut butters. Almond butter is a great option for those who are allergic to peanuts or who don’t like peanut butter (gasp!). This recipe originally called for peanut butter, but I wanted to experiment and give almond butter a shot. I was not disappointed! These cookies have great nutty flavor and certainly do the trick when you get a craving for something sweet. And as an added bonus they are pretty low in calories so you don’t need to feel guilty about having a few!

Nutrition Information: 1 cookie – Calories: 62 kcal Total fat: 3.8 g Saturated fat: 0.5 g Sodium: 15.7 mg Carbohydrate: 5.9 g Dietary fiber: 0.7 g Sugar: 5 g Protein: 1.5 g

Fully Loaded Banana Bars


4 lbs of oats!

I went a little overboard with produce purchasing this past weekend and I’ve found myself with a whole bunch of bananas that I haven’t even touched. A few of them felt borderline overripe, so I decided to whip something up before they all go to mush. Inspired by my pantry stocked with plenty of oats (4 lbs!) and a jar of Peanut Butter & Co’s Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter, I decided to try making a banana-chocolate-peanut butter-peanut-cranberry-oatmeal bar…Fully Loaded Banana Bars for short.

Fully Loaded Banana Bars

  • 3 small bananas (soft enough to mash with a fork)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 tbsp Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp peanuts


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray to prevent sticking. In a large bowl, mash together the bananas and apple sauce until somewhat smooth (a few lumps are okay!). Add the sugar, egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda; mix well. Next, add the whole wheat flour and old fashioned oats, stir to combine. Add the peanut butter and mix well, then add the dried cranberries and peanuts. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Let cool. Makes 12 bars.

Fully Loaded Banana Bars: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! These bars were so easy to throw together and are extremely tasty. They are very soft and moist – the perfect hybrid between banana bread and granola bars! I love the surprise crunch from the peanuts and the subtle chocolate peanut butter flavor in every bite! The possibilities for altering this recipe and playing with different combinations of mix-ins is endless: walnuts, diced apples, & cinnamon OR almonds, white chocolate, & dried cherries, I could go on and on. Enjoy these bars for breakfast, a midday snack, or even dessert! Banana Bar a la mode anyone?!


LOVE parchment paper – no mess!

Nutrition Information: 1 bar – Calories: 128 kcal Total fat: 3.3 g Saturated fat: 0.6 Sodium: 168 mg Carbohydrate: 23 g Dietary fiber: 2.7 g Sugar: 6.1 g Protein: 3.4

Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins

I must overestimate my banana consumption because it always seems like I’m left with a few overripe bananas on the kitchen counter! This time, I decided to use those mushy bananas to make some banana blueberry muffins for breakfast this week. I had some leftover apple crisp topping that I decided to sprinkle on top of these muffins for a little added flare. These will disappear in no time…


Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 370 F and line a muffin tin with paper cups. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until mushy. To the bananas, add the sugar and melted butter; mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the bananas and stir. Gently fold in the blueberries. Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way full. Top with streusel topping if desired. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.


Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara and roomies approved! These muffins are SO good! The banana/blueberry combination is delicious and keeps these muffins nice and moist. I thought that using whole wheat flour might make these muffins a little dense or grainy, but I can hardly tell the difference! Plus, you can feel good about these muffins being a source of whole grains. 😉 The topping I used was a combination of white cake mix, melted butter, oats, and chopped walnuts – the crumbles on top add a little sweetness and crunch. If you’re tired of making banana bread with your brown bananas, give these muffins a try! You won’t be disappointed.

Nutritional Information (per muffin, without topping) Calories: 225 kcal Total fat: 5.5 g Saturated fat: 3.3 g Sodium: 362.1 mg Carbohydrate: 44.2 g Dietary fiber: 3 g Sugar: 29.4 Protein: 2.5 g

Black Bean Brownies!

I know what you’re thinking: “Why would I ever eat a brownie made with black beans?” And I don’t blame you. I understand your concern. I don’t want my dessert to taste like vegetables or beans or anything else that it isn’t supposed to taste like. Enjoying dessert (in moderation!) is important, without it we would constantly feel deprived and potentially sabotage our efforts to eat healthfully. Let me tell you, these brownies give you the best of both worlds. You get some great nutritional benefits that your typical brownies lack without sacrificing any of the chocolately goodness.

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Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 can black beans (15 oz)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Rinse and drain the black beans (goodbye excess sodium). Combine the black beans, 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, and canola oil in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, a blender will work just fine. Process until smooth. Add the eggs, brown sugar, baking cocoa, vanilla, baking powder, and salt (I only had baking soda on hand, so I used about 1/3 of the amount of baking powder the recipe called for). Process again until smooth. Pour the batter into a 9-in square baking dish greased with cooking spray. Top the batter with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 12 brownies. (recipe from http://www.tasteofhome.com)

Nutrition: (1 brownie) 165 calories, 7 g fat, 23 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 4 g fiber

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Black Bean Brownies: Tara Tested, Tara and fellow MSU dietetic interns approved! I strongly recommend these brownies to every chocolate lover out there. These brownies are so dense and chocolately, you would never guess the main ingredient is a can of black beans. They are very dense and fudgey, so consider yourself warned if you prefer the consistency of cake-like brownies. I brought these to our weekly internship class and everyone was pleasantly surprised; no trace of beans! Go ahead and make these brownies for your next potluck or family get together without telling anyone what they’re made of and see if anyone notices! You’ll be doing everyone a favor providing a healthier, protein and fiber rich dessert!

Can’t Resist Apple Crisp

I decided to whip up my own version of apple crisp yesterday. It was a gorgeous fall day and a kitchen filled with that warm apple-cinnamon aroma was going to put it over the top. It didn’t hurt that I already had a whole sack of honey crisp apples my dad had given me!

The recipe was simple:

  • 5-6 honey crisp apples (or other variety of your choice), peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (can also use brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (plus some more for coating the dish!)

Heat oven to 350 F and lightly coat your baking dish with butter (I used a round pie dish, any shape dish will do!). Combine the sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp of the salt in a large bowl and toss to coat, making sure all of the apples get covered. Place the apple mixture in the prepared dish and set aside. In the same large bowl combine the sugar, oats, walnuts, flour, and remaining 1/8 tsp of salt. Using your fingers, blend in the pieces of butter until small clumps form and the butter is thoroughly incorporated – a few minutes. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and bake on the middle rack until the apples are softened and tender, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool, but not too much – serve warm!

Can’t Resist Apple Crisp: Tara Tested, Tara Approved!

This apple crisp was SO easy to make, I had everything I needed already on-hand and it was delicious. I decided to add walnuts to give the topping a little extra crunch (and protein!) which turned out nicely. The topping seemed a little dry and didn’t get as packed together as I thought it would – might have been because I went a little light on the butter compared to the original recipe. Enjoy this apple crisp with some vanilla ice cream on the side and you’ll be in heaven.  I suggest you give this apple crisp a try, it will hit the spot on any chilly autumn day!