2 New Pumpkin Recipes That Top My List (Because I Don’t Dislike ALL Of Them)

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Even though I recently wrote about how out of control the pumpkin trend is, I really do love lots of the pumpkin-flavored deliciousness that this season offers. I think that’s what bothers me most about the pumpkin spice explosion of late — it makes me feel like I’m buying into this sloppily overdone trend when I consume anything pumpkin lately, and it makes me cranky. Pumpkin things were delicious way before they got so over the top!

(I’m not nearly the only one hating on the “slap pumpkin on anything even if it doesn’t make any sense” trend. Did y’all see John Oliver’s pumpkin-themed diatribe last week? Worth checking out):

So anyway, like I was saying, there are lots of pumpkin-y things I can totally get behind. Some tried and true classics, like pumpkin bread, pumpkin granola, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin pie (better yet, pumpkin GINGER pie), and pumpkin soup. And then there are some new-to-me recipes that I’m trying for the first time this season. I thought I should share these new additions with y’all:

Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter

Just this week, Kevin was amazed to learn that crock pots can be used for much more than just stews, chilis, and roasts. I knew about the diverse skill set those trusty crock pots have, but haven’t done a good job taking full advantage. We decided that needed to change, and so I whipped up a batch of crock pot pumpkin butter the other day. It is SO good. Use it to top bread, muffins, oatmeal, pancakes, eat it by the spoonful — there’s really no wrong way to consume this stuff. Plus, it’s crazy easy to whip up. (Are you sold yet?)

Ingredients 

  • 2 15-ounce cans of pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Combine pumpkin purée, maple syrup, and vanilla in your crock pot.
  • Cover, and either cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours (a great overnight option!).
  • During the last hour of cooking, add the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and crack the crock pot lid to let moisture out (making for a thicker consistency).
  • Once cooled, store in jars and refrigerate.

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallow Popcorn

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How good does this stuff look? It tastes just as awesome — promise. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a couple of weeks now and sure am glad I did. We love some kettle corn at the Keller house, and this is a gloriously autumnal take on that snack. (Confession: This recipe uses pumpkin spice marshmallows — one of the items I ridiculed in my last pumpkin post. I’m now eating my words.)

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of popped microwave popcorn
  • 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin spice marshmallows or 24 marshmallows

BONUS RECIPE: Apple Cider Cupcakes With Nutmeg Frosting

Okay, so this isn’t a pumpkin recipe, but it’s a decidedly fall one, to be sure. I made this Eat, Live, Run recipe recently and it’s pretty close to perfection. I’d recommend adding it to your fall sweet treats list ASAP.

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My “Eggo Your Way” Recipe Contest Entry: Veggie Hummus Waffle Pizza

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Since deciding not to enter the Truvia Baking Star recipe contest recently, I’ve started looking into other recipe contests to take part in. I rounded up a handful of contests happening over the next couple of months, and decided to kick things off with Eggo Waffle’s “Eggo Your Way” Contest. Choose which Eggo variety to incorporate into your dish, and develop a recipe that uses the waffle in some way.

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After a bit of thought, I opted to go with Honey Oat Eggos and use them as a pizza crust topped with hummus (rather than traditional sauce), veggies, basil, and goat cheese. The result? This is a really great dish, and something I can see us making again. It comes together quickly, uses fresh and healthy ingredients, and tastes awesome. (These could work well as an appetizer or snack using the Eggo Homestyle Mini Waffles, too.)

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The contest allows for multiple entries by the same person as long as each recipe is significantly different from the others (I couldn’t submit another pizza recipe, for example), so I might enter another recipe or two! Please send any waffle-related recipe inspiration my way as I’m putting those to-be-determined entries together.

For now, though: Pizza. On a waffle. Here goes:

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggo Honey Oat waffles
  • 1/4 cup hummus (whatever flavor you prefer — I used Tribe Everything hummus, which is our new favorite from Costco)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, julienned and then chopped into two-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned and then chopped into two-inch pieces
  • 1/8 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 4 basil leaves, torn into smallish pieces
  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Toast waffles until browned and crispy, then set aside.
  • In a skillet over medium-high heat, sauté garlic for 2 minutes.
  • Add zucchini and red pepper to skillet and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes (until vegetables are softened slightly), then set aside.
  • Spread generous amounts of hummus on each waffle, covering to the edges.
  • Layer on the vegetables, olives, and basil to the hummus base, and top with goat cheese.
  • Sprinkle crushed red pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy! (I recommend eating these with a fork and knife, just as a heads up.)

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Workout Wardrobe Wish List: Fall 2014 Edition

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Seasonal changes mean wardrobe updates as well — and workout clothes (as far as I’m concerned) are no exception! It’s especially hard to resist adding to my workout wardrobe when I see all the great new styles that were just released. (Thanks a lot, Pure Barre, for the adorable temptation that I endure each time I go to the studio. Sigh.)

And, since it’s not fair for me to go through this tempting season alone, I thought it was only fair to share some of my favorite fall activewear pieces with you lovely folks. Some are for layering and wearing to/from the studio. Others are for the actual workout. Either way, they’re awesome and you’re welcome. :)

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What new workout styles have caught your eye this season?

 

A Collection Of Awesome Halloween Costume Ideas For Couples

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Guys — it’s nearly Halloween! I looooove this holiday, and want to be sure Kevin and I start planning appropriately so we can rock a couple costume this year. (We went as Captain Planet Planeteers a couple of years ago, which was really fun. I’d like a similarly awesome costume idea for us this year.)

Though I’m not typically a DIY-er, I am when it comes to costume making. I’m not a fan of getting a from-the-box costume from one of those pop-up Halloween stores, so it’s got to be something I can piece together thanks to a trip or two to Goodwill and/or Michael’s and some good old-fashioned crafting.

And so, festive readers, I’m looking to you to weigh in on costume ideas for the Kellers. Here are some pretty great options I’ve stumbled upon of late. Let the voting begin. (Note: We’re leaning towards #1.):

1. Birthday Girl and Piñata:

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2. Popeye and Olive Oil:

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3. Lego People:

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4. Bob Ross and His Painting: 

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5. American Gothic:

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6. Richie and Margot Tenenbaum:

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4 Fun Smoothie Recipes To Brighten Your Morning

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I’ve mentioned my affinity for smoothies in previous posts, but lately I’ve gotten the urge to add to my go-to smoothie line-up. You know — mix things up a little bit to keep mornings interesting.

Here’s a handful of smoothie recipes I’ve discovered lately that are delicious, filling, and a little different from my typical spinach + unsweetened almond milk + frozen banana + chia seeds combo. (Don’t get me wrong: those banana smoothies sure are delicious, but a girl needs a little variety, you know?)

My favorite thing about these new smoothies is that even though they’re a little different (for me, at least), they don’t contain anything I don’t already buy or have on hand (a.k.a. no protein powders or additional supplements needed). Score! They’re all dairy-free as well.

Before we get to the recipe portion of this post, I wanted to share a few quick tips on blending the perfect smoothie:

  • Make sure to add liquids to the blender before solid/frozen items.
  • Start the blender at the lowest speed and work up to higher speeds once the mixture smoothes out.
  • Add ice last (if called for in your recipe).
  • If your smoothie won’t fit into a single cup, you can freeze the extra in an ice cube tray and blend it back into a smoothie later.
  • If you’re working with a frozen banana, be sure to peel your banana before putting it in the freezer. That makes it easy to just throw it into the blender when you’re ready for a smoothie!

Okay, now on to the deliciousness. Happy blending!

Banana Cocoa Smoothie

  • 1 1/2 bananas, frozen
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon almond butter or PB2 powder

Blend and enjoy!

Avocado Mango Walnut Smoothie

  • 1 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 medium Hass avocado, peel and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups frozen mango cubes

Blend all ingredients until fully combined.

Blackberry Basil & Lime Smoothie (this one’s a find from Slender Seven!)

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 cup blackberries, frozen
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 lime, squeezed
  • 1 packet Stevia

Combine ingredients in a blender until creamy.

Cherry Almond Spinach Smoothie

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  • 1/4 cup raw almonds, soaked in water overnight (or 6-12 hours)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 handful kale (stems removed)

The night before, place almonds in a bowl and cover with water. The following morning, drain the water and place almonds in your blender. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes (until the almonds are creamy). Add remaining ingredients, blend, and enjoy!

 

Why I’m Not Entering The Truvia Baking Star Video Contest (Even Though I Really Wanted To)

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When my friend Bethany told me Truvia was hosting a baking contest to promote their new Truvia Baking Blend and Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, I was wholeheartedly on board. I’ve been looking for ways to introduce my blog to new readers, and thought this could be a perfect way to do that. Plus, it just sounded like fun! The finalists get to go to NYC and prepare their recipe for a group of judges for a chance to be named Truvia Baking Star. “I mean, I’d be okay with being named a ‘Baking Star,'” I thought. And, as you readers know, I try to keep things healthy (both through food and lifestyle) while balancing in sweet treats, so I liked the idea of cutting calories with this sugar substitution, too. And so I began testing recipes to enter into the contest.

I stocked up on Truvia Baking Blend and Truvia Brown Sugar Blend (they don’t sell it yet at grocery stores near me, but I hunted it down in Target) and tons of additional ingredents and I began with testing out healthier versions of my tried and true blondie recipe.

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In addition to subbing out the white and brown sugar for Truvia versions, I tried using whole wheat flour instead of white flour and reducing the butter by half.

I baked a version with avocado — no go. Tried adding Greek yogurt instead of the full amount of butter. Nope. Replaced half the butter with applesauce. Not the same. None of these batches were bad, per say, but none were even close to as delicious as my standard recipe. Check out all my failed attempts, with meticulous notes (in case one turned out well and I wanted to recreate it):

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Three batches later, I thought maybe the Truvia wasn’t to blame, and instead it was the butter substitutions piece. So I baked another batch of blondies exactly the way I usually do, but used Truvia instead of white or brown sugar. (I adjusted the amounts as Truvia instructs, too.) Still not anywhere near the same.

Next up: Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies — another favorite recipe of mine. Again, I used Truvia instead of the white and brown sugar the recipe calls for, but everything else remained the same. Another fail. (Again — not bad, but not something I wanted to share.)

What about almond coffee cake? That recipe only uses white — not brown — sugar, and has very few ingredients. So I gave that a go, and it was…not good.

I wanted to try baking with coconut oil, so I tried a new cookie recipe — something I pieced together from various coconut oil cookie recipes I found — and baked this twice, trying to tweak it a bit. Still not bad, by any means, but not especially good, either. (They look better than they taste.):

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Kevin helped me taste test throughout, and he was equally unimpressed. His feedback: “None of it tastes bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as the stuff you usually bake.” Also, specifically regarding the coconut oil oatmeal cookies: “They taste like grocery store cookies.”

If baking is my “thing,” I’d hate to promote a recipe that was just so-so. I mean, I have so many WONDERFUL recipes to share — I just couldn’t feel good about mediocre. I couldn’t feel good about grocery store cookies.

And so, I officially decided I was not destined to be the next Truvia Baking Star. In fact, I’m still not convinced that this Truvia baking sugar works. I bake a ton, and this just did not perform the same as regular sugar. Sorry, Truvia. Maybe I wasn’t using the product right, but I could not make this stuff work for me. I would have been a terrible Truvia Baking Star anyway, considering I can’t really feel good about endorsing the product! I’ll stick to regular sugar. I have lots of evidence that it makes my baked goods taste really, really great.

And, when all is said and done, I’d rather have one really good cookie (and then hit up a Pure Barre or yoga class to balance things out) than a couple of “sort of good for you” grocery store-tasting ones.

Getting To Know The Girl Behind SlenderSeven.com (Plus, 7 Chances To Get The New App For Free!)

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Nikki Azzara and I have lots in common.

We both love to cook, have a deep appreciation for Pure Barre and running, and consume both salads and smoothies as much as possible. (Bonus points: we share an affinity for Icelandic-style yogurt and ketchup.)

Nikki channeled her affinity for cooking into a wonderful website called Slender Seven, and the whole premise is all the recipes on the site can be made with seven ingredients or fewer. Pretty great idea, huh? (As a supporter of foods with fewer ingredients, I’m wholly behind this site.)

In addition to having a limited number of ingredients, all of Slender Seven’s recipes are healthy (and gluten free) as well, so you can feel great about any of the dishes you try from the site’s database (dessert included!). The site’s tagline is “Cook simply, eat healthy, and feel happy” — something I can definitely support.

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In addition to using the site online, Nikki recently released a Slender Seven app, which lets users to browse recipes with ease and save their favorites. It has a grocery basket function, allowing you to add ingredients to a shopping cart and create grocery lists on the go and check off ingredients as you shop.

Great news to you lovely readers: Nikki has passed along a coupon code you can use to download the Slender Seven app free of charge (normally it’s $1.99 in the App Store)! Codes are limited, though, so I’ll be sending them out to the first seven people (get it — seven?) who comment on this post with an email address where I can reach you to pass along your coupon code.

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I met Nikki last year (she was a business student at Wake and crossed paths with Kevin, since they were both interested in entrepreneurship), and I loved getting to talk to her as she was getting Slender Seven up and running. Since then, she’s graduated from WFU and has made Slender Seven her full-time job.

I asked Nikki to share a bit about her site, her inspiration, and her plans for Slender Seven’s growth:

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1. Where did you get the idea for Slender Seven?

Last November while taking an entrepreneurship class at WFU, I decided to pursue my passions for health and cooking in conjunction with my marketing major and launch Slender Seven. The site was a way for me to share my recipes by promoting simple cooking and healthy eating with family, friends, and followers. The recipes are all original and use seven wholesome ingredients or less (gluten-free friendly, too!). Seven seemed like the perfect number of ingredients (not too many, not too little) to minimize the time and effort spent in the kitchen without sacrificing the healthfulness. These recipes make sense for anyone (college students, working professionals, parents) who is looking to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

2. Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
Magazines, Pinterest, friends, and family. I love looking to these sources for inspiration, then I work to create original recipes that fit the Slender Seven criteria. I love being challenged to come up with healthier alternatives to not-so-healthy recipes.
3. I love to bake. What Slender Seven recipes would you recommend I try?
One of the Slender Seven fan-favorites is our Slender Cookies, which makes for a healthier cookie by combining 2 bananas, 1 cup oats and any of your favorite toppings (chocolate chips, sprinkles, peanut butter, etc.). Any of our muffin recipes (blueberry, cornbread, blackberry vanilla) are also delicious, and if you want some no-bake sweets, check out my all-time favorite, the Sweet & Salty Squares.
4. What fun new things should we expect from Slender Seven in the future?
I am working on turning one of my favorite recipes (cookie dough…more to come!) into an actual consumer packaged good, which will be sold in grocery stores. This product launch will be the first step towards establishing the Slender Seven brand name in the retail market, and I hope to continue down this path by launching more products.
5. What food brands or recipe sites do you most admire?
I most admire the entrepreneurial-type organic food brands that are redefining healthy eating with their amazing products. Particularly companies such as Justin’s nut butter, KIND bars, The Chia Co, etc. are an inspiration because they have grown to be wildly successful, built on the foundation of transparency, quality, sustainability, and community. Furthermore, I love learning about the brands (Justin’s, Dang, Barnana, Harmless Harvest) that have a cool story and purpose, which is very encouraging for me.
6. What are your top SEVEN essential ingredients to have on hand at all times?
In no particular order:
1. (Frozen) Bananas – There are always 5+ peeled bananas in a baggie in my freezer, since I make banana-based smoothies every morning!
2. Yogurt – Greek or Icelandic (skyr) yogurt is always in my refrigerator, ready for eating or baking.
3. Organic Stevia – I keep this on hand for coffee, baking, or anything that may need some natural sweetening (to replace sugar or artificial sweeteners).
4. Ketchup – As sad as it is, there are many things I simply cannot eat without ketchup, so you will always find that in my refrigerator. My favorite is Simply Heinz, because it has no high fructose corn syrup. I have recently started using Sir Kensington’s Spicy Ketchup, which adds a nice kick!
5. Quinoa – When in doubt, I always cook with quinoa. It is such a versatile ingredient that can be used for breakfast lunch or dinner! The health benefits of this superfood are amazing and quinoa is gluten free.
6. Garlic Powder – It’s always in my spice cabinet because it makes dinner recipes even better!
7. Chia Seeds – I eat chia seeds every day, either on yogurt, in smoothies, or in recipes (can sub for eggs). Chia seeds are the highest plant based source of Omega 3, fiber, and protein, and they are loaded with nutrients.
Check out all the great recipe options on SlenderSeven.com, and you can also follow the brand on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Some Favorite Advertising Activity Of Late

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It’s been a while since I posted a good ole ad round up for you lovely readers, and since I’ve been seeing some great work out there I thought it was time to pass a few ads along. Some of these fall into the more traditional space while others are definitively out of the box (ahem…Tim Hortons), but all are clever and well executed.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did!:

  • Starbucks recently released a series of great commercials told through a combination text message/face-to-face exchanges that illustrate in a very relatable way how much more fulfilling in-person time can be as opposed to time spent communicating via technology. Here’s my favorite of the bunch (and you can watch the other two here):

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  • Aldi Australia just rolled out a new ad series called “Like brands. Only cheaper.” It allows the discount grocery chain — known for being able to keep its prices low by offering their own store brands rather than any mainstream brands — to discuss their brands’ quality in relation to more expensive competitor brands, but they bring it to life in a downright silly way.

  • Kit Kat had a short and sweet response to the iPhone 6’s much-discussed #bendgate drama. Nice move, Kit Kat:

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  • I don’t love Budweiser, but I sure do love most of their ad work. They’ve created another winner with their latest work — a spot highlighting responsible drinking habits (i.e. choosing not to drive when you’ve had too much). Puppy? Check. Sweet, peppy music? Check. Storyline that will tug at your heartstrings? Check. Solid, Budweiser. Solid:

  • Orange — a French telecom corporation — released this ad that I just had to include in my list. Obviously, I don’t think “spending time with your kids” while actually watching soccer games is the best way to parent, but it’s inarguably a funny play on the whole “quality time” bit. Here’s “Best Dad” by Orange:

 

 

Ringing In Fall With Glazed Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread

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The last couple of days, I’ve had to remember to grab a jacket before leaving the house in the morning. It’s getting darker earlier in the evening. There are more and more apples appearing on grocery store shelves.

It seems as though fall has officially arrived, and so on this rather lazy Sunday morning I went on the hunt for a new recipe to deliciously usher it in. This quick bread has fall written all over it (or, I suppose, baked right into it). It’s full of apples (in the form of applesauce), cinnamon, and oats, and — bonus! — will make your house smell like autumn while it’s baking.

I’d recommend enjoying a slice of this bread with a cup of tea or coffee. It would make a great hostess gift, too, for get-togethers this season. Just split the batter between a few small loaf pans and you’ll have adorably tasty gifts!

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A couple of things in particular that I love about this bread:

1. It’s not too sweet. Unlike many quick breads, this actually feels like an appropriate breakfast option. (Don’t you kind of feel like you’re doing something wrong when you have banana bread for breakfast? Feels more like cake or something.) This is an exception in the best way.

2. In most other recipes I’ve tried with a glaze or frosting element, the glaze/frosting to cake ratio is way off. I often end up with WAY too much glaze/frosting than cake to put it on, and just have to toss the extra. This recipe, though, makes just the right amount of glaze for the bread. (It’s the little things, right?)

Okay — let’s get to it:

Ingredients (for bread)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients (for glaze)

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

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Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans. (I used one tiny pan and one slightly larger than average one, but you can split the batter between two standard-sized pans instead.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, oil, eggs, yogurt, applesauce, and vanilla.
  • Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients by hand until just combined.
  • Divide batter between your two loaf pans and bake for 30-35 minutes (small loaf pans) or 40-45 minutes (larger loaf pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Once you’ve removed the bread from the oven, prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar (be sure to sift it first so the glaze isn’t lumpy!), applesauce, and cinnamon.
  • After the bread has cooled for a while, remove the loaves from their pans and transfer to a cooling rack, then spoon glaze over the top. (Be sure glaze sets completely before slicing.)

Happy fall!

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Is The Pumpkin Trend Out Of Control?

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Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of fall. I like the clothes, the apples, the roasting of vegetables, the soups, the bonfires, Halloween, the whole deal. And, while I can get down with lots of pumpkin-themed goodness, I’m starting to feel like the whole trend is getting a bit nuts.

Is anyone else with me?

I mean, there are certain pumpkin things that are undeniably amazing. Pumpkin bread. Select pumpkin beers. Pumpkin donuts. All solid. But when I walked into Trader Joe’s (one of my favorite places on the planet) the other day and saw that seemingly about a third of the items in the store started with “pumpkin,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Really? Pumpkin cornbread? Pumpkin toaster pastries? I saw pumpkin hard cider recently at another grocery store. Come on — that CANNOT be good. Not to mention the fact that the ever-popular Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (I’m sorry — #PSL) was released this year on September 2. September 2? All of America just got done grilling out for Labor Day weekend!

I don’t want to be a hater. I really don’t. And I’m sure many of these pumpkin-prefixed foods are perfectly delicious. What I suppose I really don’t like is the obviousness of it. Are we consumers are really going to load up on just about anything with “pumpkin” in the title? Where’s the line, people?

(Don’t even get me started on “gluten-free.” I get slightly enraged every time I see a product that obviously has no gluten — something someone with a gluten sensitivity would absolutely know doesn’t contain gluten — prominently declaring “Gluten-Free!” on its packaging. Bags of spinach. Fruit. Seriously? GLUTEN-FREE DOES NOT MEAN HEALTHY OR LOW FAT OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN BEING DEVOID OF GLUTEN. Plus, there’s this. Please excuse the poor quality of this video, but you have to watch this scene between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel from This Is The End where they discuss gluten. Best quote: “Gluten’s a vague term. It’s something that’s used to categorize things that are bad. Calories — that’s a gluten. Fat — that’s a gluten.”):

(Okay, Anna. Focus your frustration back to the pumpkin stuff.)

I asked the interwebs to show me some of the more ridiculous pumpkin-flavored products, and here’s what I found.

WHO IS BUYING THIS STUFF?*:

(*Yes — those are pumpkin spice flavored condoms there at the end. I rest my case.)

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