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Lately & A Protein shake for coffee lovers

Hello, hello! Here we are on the last day of July…can you believe it? I sure can’t! Just 5 more weeks and I move back to Massachusetts with Brandon…eeeek! Where has summer gone? It is FLYING by. Since my schedule has pretty much been all over the place the past few months, it seems like time is going by faster than ever. Some nights I’m in Maine, others I’m in New Hampshire, now-and-then I head to Boston, and I try to get to Cape Cod when I can. On-top of that, there’s been weddings, work every weekend, and apartment searching. Needless to say, life lately has been very busy, but fun too! Lately in the last few weeks I:
…attended a beautiful wedding:
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Our friends Anna and Matt said ‘I do’ in a beautiful outdoor ceremony, filled with heart-felt vows, readings, wonderful people, and so.much.love. I adored every second of it!
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…have spent my days off with my Mom:
Sadly, my time of living back at home with my parents is quickly coming to an end, so I’m trying to soak in as much time with them as possible. My Mom and I have planned an outing each week where we do something together that we both love. Last week, we shopped and had lunch on the water. This week, we worked out together, shopped again, and went blueberry picking.  I couldn’t love this lady more. 
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…have been addicted to making the same breakfast, every day:
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Truthfully, I get into breakfast ruts quite often, meaning I eat the same thing over and over again every day. However, when I decided to do a gluten-free, dairy-free cleanse a few months ago, I began starting my day with a homemade protein shake for breakfast (along with a bowl of fruit) and to this day I am still hooked on this combo, even post-cleanse!  This recipe is just too good not to share. For the coffee lovers out there, I think you’ll love this shake. To me, it tastes just like a Starbuck’s Frappuccino, without the added calories and extra guilt. I literally eat/drink this 6 days a week before work in the morning. It’s delicious, satisfying, gluten-free, dairy-free, gives me the coffee taste I crave AND keeps me full for hours.

Double Coffee Lover’s Protein Shake
Ingredients
1/2 cup reduced sugar Almond Milk (I use Original or Vanilla Almond Breeze brand)
5-6 frozen strawberries (mostly de-thawed)
1 handful of fresh spinach (washed and dried)
2 scoops Arbonne Vanilla Protein powder
1 packet instant coffee (I use Nescafe Taster’s Choice hazelnut flavor)
1 TBSP decaf instant coffee
1/2 cup crushed ice (to start)
2 TBSP cold water
Shake of cinnamon

Directions
1) Add almond milk, thawed strawberries, protein powder, and spinach to blender.
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2) Using a coffee mug, mix instant coffees together with a splash of water and stir for a few seconds until it’s mixed together. Then add this liquid to the blender.
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3)Top with crushed ice, water, and cinnamon.
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4) Blend until mixed well. If the shake is too thin, add more ice. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more water and/ or Almond Milk if desired. Enjoy with a spoon or a straw!
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I can’t get enough of this protein shake. I make mine thick enough to eat with a spoon, but it’s delicious through a straw, too. If you try it, I hope you love it.

What have you been up to lately?
Do you make shakes for breakfast? If so, what’s your go-to recipe?
Do you “eat” your shakes, or am I the only one?  Winking smile

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a spring in my step…April confessions

Hey friends, happy April 1st! Since it’s the beginning of the month and all, why not start with confessions?

1) Alleluia, Amen, Praise the Lord…it’s April!
This may sound dramatic but I have been waiting for this day ALL YEAR LONG. It’s not just because I’m sick of winter though (even though I am SO OVER it). The real reason I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of April is because today’s the first day in two years that I can actually say ‘Brandon’s moving home THIS MONTH!’ {Insert happy dance here}. I am 100% positive that there is a spring in my step today.
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This was the welcome sign I made for his Sept./Oct. 2012 visit home…ahhh the memories. I get chills just typing this!

3 weeks until the best day ever at the airport.
3 weeks until a hug, kiss, and hand-hold can physically happen.
3 weeks until goodbyes won’t exist.
3 weeks until our new beginning. 
Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait!!
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2) My Nana is my idol.
Nana turned 87 over the weekend and even though Boppa wasn’t well enough to join us, we made the best of it with a girls dinner on the ocean full of cocktails, live piano music, laughs, and tears. At 87, I can only hope to be as loving, vibrant, witty, youthful, full-of-life, and as fashion-forward as my Nana.  Leopard scarf and matching leopard flats at 87? She is my idol.
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3)Black ice is no joke.
Two days before my sister’s bridal shower, I fell and sprained my foot…Ooooof it was painful.  I wish I could tell you that I sprained it doing something athletic, but that’s just not the case.  I was actually volunteering when it happened, and all it took was a slip on a patch of black ice.Black ice is no joke, my friends. I was in so much pain that I proceeded to crawl to my car and cry for 30 minutes. I ended up not walking on it for most of Friday and Saturday, so by the day of the shower, it felt strong enough to walk on. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse!   I was more-so freaking out about not being able to wear heels than my actual injury ( I know, it sounds shallow),but a new dress with no heels? That wasn’t happening. I’m pretty much all healed, with the exception of a nasty bruise. I’ll spare you a picture!

4) Once again, I have an iced coffee addiction.
Thanks a lot Dunkin’ Donuts for introducing the ‘Cookie Dough’ iced coffee flavor. So much for not spending money on coffee…now there’s absolutely zero hope for me in that department! My goal is to try and stick to my two coffee per-week limit. However, since it’s only been out for two days and I’ve already had two, I am fairly certain I am already failing miserably.
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5) I have a pancake problem.
It seems like ever since I adapted to a gluten-free (for the most part) lifestyle, my love of breakfast foods has grown and grown. I could seriously eat smoothies, pancakes and waffles all day every day. Last week I had a pancake craving around lunchtime so I tried a similar version of this sweet potato pancake recipe from Tina at Carrots ‘N’ Cake.  Now I’m hooked!

Cinna-Pumpkin Spice Sweet Potato Pancakes
Adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake
Ingredients:
1/2 cup sweet potato (cooked and mashed)
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Directions:
1) Clean, peel, and chop a small/medium sized sweet potato into chunks, then put it in a microwave safe dish with a small amount of water, cover with saran-wrap and cook for 4-5  minutes, or until soft. Let it cool off, mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth, and measure out a 1/2 cup.

2) Preheat skillet on stovetop and coat with cooking spray. Then combine the 1/2 cup of sweet potato with the remaining  7 ingredients in a mixing bowl (or food processor) and mix well. (I used my hand-mixer).
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3) Once your skillet is heated, add the desired batter amount you’d like and cook evenly on both sides.
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4) Add your desired toppings and serve immediately.  I topped mine with almond butter, raisins, and slivered almonds, but the combinations are endless (granola, pecans, cashews, anything!)
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#pancakeproblems

What are you looking forward to the most about April?

Has anyone else tried the new Dunkin’ flavors? If so, what’s your favorite?

My favorite oats on-the-go

Hey friends! I hope you all had a great start to your week and/or had a relaxing day off if yesterday was a holiday for you. It happened to be a holiday for me and I was psyched! I got back from visiting my twin sister in Connecticut late on Sunday night so after a day full of travel, I was happy to have a day to ease back into things on Monday.
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Kimmie and I at dinner over the weekend
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Beautiful Mom and beautiful Deb

Speaking of the weekend…my Mom and I had a memorable few days with my sister, her puppies, and her fiancé at their home in Connecticut.To say we were sad to leave is a definite understatement; family time is truly the best time. Anyway, we weren’t planning on staying for as long as we did, but because of the storm warnings we had heard in advance, we actually left our house in Maine at midnight on Wednesday night and drove through the night to beat the storm, arriving around 5:00 a.m. in CT.  (Yes we are a bit crazy, but we beat the storm.) We got a great greeting from the puppies, too, so it was worth it!
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It was important for us to be there because her wedding is now less than 100 days away!  Wedding preparations were our mission this weekend, and wedding prep we did. Veil and garter shopping/buying, seating plans, invitation prep, wedding band hunting… you name it, we discussed or accomplished it. It was an extremely productive few days. I love this beautiful bride-to-be.

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I have to admit, our fun-filled weekend made it a bit challenging to stay on track food-wise.  Just to update you, I’m still mostly following the “clean-eating” plan I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. I say ‘mostly’ because I’ve occasionally had some dairy and gluten (and chocolate and champagne…oops), and this weekend was no exception. In all honesty, though, as strict as I felt this plan was at first, it has gotten easier and easier with time. Now I simply feel that I’ve adapted to this way of eating and I just really enjoy it and the way I feel, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to deprive myself from my old favorites once in a while. (Favorites such as pink bubbly and cookie dough Oreos).

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While in Connecticut, the three of us squeezed in a couple of at-home workouts together which was great, but food-wise, when you’re near New Haven, CT and have the opportunity to eat their pizza (literally voted #1 in the USA) how could you not eat it? My gluten-free and dairy-free guidelines were pushed to the wayside that day, which I was perfectly happy with because it was truly worth it to me! 

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My plate x 2 (at least)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with staying on track food-wise when they’re traveling, so I felt like this would be a good topic to address. This weekend was the first time since starting the clean-eating plan that I would be traveling, so it was a true test, that’s for sure. However, I tried to strategize my meals as much as I could.  For example, something that always seems to help me stay on track food-wise when I’m on the road is keeping my breakfasts and lunches consistent with what I’m used to eating.  We did this in Connecticut, too, by starting the day with protein shakes and fruit for breakfast, and having big salads for lunch. It filled us up but didn’t slow us down, something so crucial when you’re busy!

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This is something that helps me during the school week, too. My class schedule this semester is pretty much all over the place, since Mondays and Wednesdays I’m gone from roughly 8:30 am-10:00 p.m., and Tuesdays/Thursdays I have night class and I don’t return home until around 9:00 p.m on those nights, either. Needless to say, starting my days off with a wholesome breakfast and packing ‘real’ snacks and hearty lunches  is integral to fueling me through the days. That being said, overnight oats have become my staple lunch at least 3 days a week. I love them because I can prepare them the night before and just grab-and-go the next morning. They’re wholesome, protein-packed, versatile, and just so-darn-delicious. Here’s my go-to recipe :

Cinnamon-Almond Overnight Oats
Ingredients:

-Small to mid-sized container (I use a glass jar)
-1/2 cup gluten free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
-1/2 cup of Almond Milk (original or vanilla Almond Breeze) Use enough to immerse the oats. Add 1-1.5 tbsp. water if oats are not immersed in liquid fully.
-1/2 TBSP chia seeds (optional)
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
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Toppings
(Feel free to mix it up with different fruits, nut butters, and nuts; these are just suggestions!)

1/4 cup blueberries
1 TBSP almond butter
1/2 TBSP silvered almonds

Directions:
Add oats, almond milk, water, chia seeds (for added protein), and cinnamon to your jar or container, stir well, and store in fridge overnight. Add desired toppings the next day before eating. Store in cold space before consuming.
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The next morning when you take your oat jar out, you’ll see that your oats have soaked up a majority of the liquid and they are now a thicker consistency. If they seem too dry, stir in a little more almond milk or water, that will help. Trust, me, they may not look pretty but they are delicious,  full of protein, and will keep you satisfied for hours.

Most days I top my overnight oats with almond butter and blueberries, but on other days I’ll choose apples, raisins, and walnuts. The possibilities are endless.  Plus, I can easily tote these in my school bag without worrying they’ll be crushed (unlike a sandwich or something of that nature), or I can leave them in my car to keep them cold. All I do is bring a spoon along with me, and I’m golden. I’ll be enjoying these today for breakfast or lunch, I can’t decide yet!
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Are you a fan of overnight oats?
Do you struggle with staying on track with your eating habits when you’re on-the-go?

Muffins Make It Better

This week, muffins have just made it better. The “it” being studying, snacking, breakfast preparing, everything. Between all of this studying, I needed a pick-me up. Is it just me, or does anyone else ever feel like they just NEED a muffin?  Or a sweet little pick-me-up of some kind? I feel like this pretty much all the time thanks to my massive sweet-tooth, but when you add being in the middle of finals on-top of a sweet-tooth, my cravings have been out-of-control. Things got even worse this past weekend after seeing ‘National Donut Day’ mentioned on nearly every blog I read! After seeing picture after picture of delicious-looking donuts popping up, there was no question that I had to bake something for a Sunday brunch and get-me-through-the-week treat. With no Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme’s in Australia, Brandon and I were out of luck on the donut front, but not on the muffin front.  This week, homemade muffins have just made studying better, and I’m very thankful for that!
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These aren’t just any muffins, these are Blueberry Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins, and they are definitely a healthier alternative to your traditional bakery muffin. I combined three of my favorite things for these muffins: blueberries, oats, and cinnamon. The result was a tasty, sweet and satisfying baked treat. These are perfectly good to eat on their own, but I’ve also been crumbling mine on top of my oatmeal in the mornings, as well as eating them warm as a snack, too.

Need for muffins=fulfilled : –)

Blueberry Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

 

makes 12 muffins

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk, divided (I used skim)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (or chips of your choice- I used Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips)

Directions
1)Preheat oven to 350 F (176 degrees Celsius), and line 12 muffin tins with muffin liners.
2) Add the oats to a small mixing bowl and add 1/2 cup of milk. Let the oats soak for 5-10 minutes, while you prepare the first few steps of the muffins.
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3) In a large bowl, combine the egg and brown sugar and whisk together until it’s smooth and caramel in color.
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4)Next, add in the vanilla and the butter (make sure it’s at room temperature), whisking well. Try to smooth the batter as much as possible; there still may be some small butter chunks but try to get as many out as you can.
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5)Add the flour, soaking oats, baking soda and cinnamon to the mixture and stir it all-together. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk and combine until smooth.
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6) Now fold in the blueberries and cinnamon chips (or the chips of your choice). Be careful not to over-mix.
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6)Spoon the batter evenly into each muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon sugar if desired. (I like to do this because it adds a nice crunch to the top! )Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until cooked through.
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Cinnamon-sugar topping
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Finished Product!
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These muffins are delicious whether they’re served warm or cold, and the possibilities for toppings are endless. Enjoy them with margarine, a nut-butter, jam, plain or with topper of your choice, it’s up to you!
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What’s your favorite muffin?
At a bakery, my favorite is  a coffee-cake muffin. Blueberry is a close runner-up!

When do you crave sweets the most?
I crave sweets in the worst way when I’m stressed!

P.S. Countdown to home: 9 days : –)

A Healthier Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake

Hey there, happy weekend, all! It is Sunday morning here, and I couldn’t be happier. After an intense cardio-boxing class, there is a fun-filled day of sun and rest ahead. But first, a fun breakfast!
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I have to admit, during the week I am a boring breakfast eater. I love oatmeal, so I tend to eat some-sort of oatmeal or cereal combo with fruit salad almost every day of the week. That’s why I think the weekends call for something special, whether it be pancakes, french-toast, homemade muffins or breakfast out, just something different to mix it up.  My Mom always made us special weekend breakfasts growing up, so I hope to carry on this tradition for my family, too.

Anyway, it was fitting that I bake something blueberry-inspired this weekend, since I had a SERIOUS craving for blueberry muffins all week. Come to find out, we didn’t have muffin tins (fail!), so I decided I’d make a blueberry coffee-cake instead. The best part is, it’s delicious yet good for you too.  I, like most people I know, love muffins, cakes, donuts, and pretty much any baked good, but I’m not a big fan of buying them. I prefer to make them on my own to lighten them up a bit. So after some searching online, I found a recipe on Pinterest (what else!) that I modified slightly to add my own twist.

Just a quick tip—try to use a spring-form pan to cook this if you have one. If you don’t have one, use a flat baking dish, such as a 9X12. I had to go with my only option, a pie dish, and it took quite some extra time to cook due to the center being elevated. Either way, it was delicious yet light; a wonderful (healthier) breakfast treat for the weekend. We loved it, hope you do too!

Lightened-Up Blueberry-Almond Coffee Cake
Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1/2 cup fat-free milk 
1/2 cup vanilla fat-free (or lite) yogurt  ( if you don’t have vanilla, use plain)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

For the topping:

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup oats (optional)

Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F . Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
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    2. Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in another mixing bowl. Then stir the flour mixture into the egg/liquid mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Careful, don’t over-mix! 
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    3. Next, toss 1 and 1/4 cups blueberries in 1 Tbsp. flour, so that the colors don’t bleed too much. Fold them into the batter, and pour into a lightly greased 9-inch spring- form pan. If you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a flat baking dish (like a 9X12). (Don’t use a pie dish like me, or it will affect the cooking time!) Sprinkle the top with remaining 1/4 cup blueberries.
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    4. For the topping, stir together 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, sliced almonds, oats and the cinnamon. Then sprinkle over batter.
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    5. Bake at 400° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until center is cooked through thoroughly. Cool in the pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, and then if you used one, remove the sides of the spring-form pan.
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    I love this breakfast, it’s so pretty to look at! The oats on the topping are just an idea, but I thought they added a nice crunch. Plus, with the caramelized brown sugar, it’s a winning combo. Pair this with a cup of fruit, and maybe some yogurt for a balanced brunch! I’ll be honest, it was hard to stop at one slice, but since it’s healthy, you can have another.Hope you enjoy this!

    Tell me, what is your favorite breakfast treat?

    A brand new breakfast bowl

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love oatmeal. It fills me up for hours, warms me up in the morning, and is just plain delicious. The problem is, since I eat it at least 5 days a week, I tend to go through phases where I’m just plain sick of it. Today, I hit that phase. However, I knew once I got to my desk I’d crave something warm, filling, and syrupy. Enter—a brand new breakfast bowl. A brown rice breakfast bowl to be exact and boy was it delicious!

    I found this recipe last year while reading Bethenny Frankel’s first book, Naturally Thin. I enjoy the book so much, I’ve read it twice, and I’m sure I’ll read it again. It’s down-to-earth, comical, and full of “real-life” advice, not your standard “diet” book. She includes her favorite recipes, and this just happens to be one of them. Before I read this, I would NEVER have thought to eat brown rice for breakfast. Rice has always been in the “dinner” category for me. Bethenny was right-on. This breakfast bowl is rivaling my favorite oatmeal bowls!

    To make my breakfast bowl, I used Uncle Ben’s brown “ready rice”, since that’s what I had in my cupboard. Really, any brown rice will do. Since mine was already cooked, I’m pretty sure that’s what explains the extra chewy and grainy texture of my rice. Not that I’m complaining. I loved it! This is simple to make, too. Add your rice, milk, toppings, and you have a protein packed, nutrient-dense breakfast in less than 5 minutes.

    Healthy Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl
    Adapted from Bethenny
    Ingredients

    1/2 cup brown rice
    1/4 C milk (I used skim)
    ½ tsp. cinnamon
    1-2 Tbsp. dried cranberries or raisins
    1-2 tsp. of sliced almonds or nuts of your choice
    1 Tbsp. maple syrup or brown sugar

    Directions
    1. Combine brown rice with milk, cinnamon, dried cranberries or raisins,1/2 the portion of nuts, and maple syrup/brown sugar in a saucepan.

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    2. Heat over medium heat, stirring until desired consistency is reached. (If your rice isn’t cooked, it’ll take around 5 minutes.
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    MMMMMmmmmmmm

    3. Once done cooking, top with additional nuts, cinnamon, granola, or toppings of your choice. Today, I topped mine with plump raisins, Kashi go-lean crunch, cinnamon chex, glazed walnuts, and sesame seed almonds. Heaven in my mouth!

    Enjoy your weekend! 

    Five minutes to Fantastic French Toast

    I realize this is my second French Toast recipe post in less than a month, but I had to share. This is so simple to make and you‘ll feel good about eating it, too! Plus, it’s different from most traditional French Toast recipes. It’s low in fat but big in taste. Now normally, I’m a stickler for whole wheat breads. 99% of the time I purchase whole wheat pitas, tortillas, baguettes, and english muffins. I’ve grown to love the hearty, grainy, texture and taste of these options, and I enjoy the benefits: additional fiber and nutrients, so they keep me satisfied for longer! However, I didn’t always feel that way…and sometimes white breads just taste better. That’s why on certain occasions, I treat myself to the good stuff: sourdough bread, Italian Loafs, and Portuguese English Muffins. My parents came over for brunch last weekend, and I decided to make French toast. But not just any French toast…Portuguese Muffin French Toast. The short list of ingredients may surprise you, and the best part is, you can make this in 5 minutes or less! I used my Mom’s traditional French toast recipe, and added a special sauce to top off the muffins.

    Ingredients (for two servings):
    Two Portuguese English Muffins (sliced in half)
    ½ cup egg beaters (or use 2 eggs)
    3/4 cup skim milk
    1 tsp cinnamon

    Sauce Ingredients
    1 ½ tablespoon of margarine
    1 tablespoon of cinnamon
    1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar

    **Optional Toppings

    1 tablespoon glazed pecans
    1 tablespoon slivered pecans
    Handful of raisins

    Directions:

     

    1)Hit griddle on medium heat and grease cooking spray.
    2)Beat or whisk egg beaters, skim milk, and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
    3)Dip each side of each muffin into the liquid mixture, as you normally would for French Toast. (note-if the muffins are very thick and absorb all of the mixture before you’re done dipping, just add additional skim milk, egg beaters, and cinnamon, and whisk again).

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    4)Place on griddle.

    thick muffin face-down on the griddle!

    5) Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in small, microwaveable bowl.

    pre-sauce

    6) Microwave for 30 seconds, stir thoroughly.

    sugared goodness

    7) Don’t forget to watch the muffins! Flip them once browned and cook the other sides.

    browned beauties

    8)Once thoroughly browned, remove from stove and move to a plate. Pour sauce mixture on cooked top of two of the toasts. Top with additional toppings of your choice.

    Five minute french toast with all the fixin's!

    I kept my toppings fairly simple, opting for slivered almonds, chopped glazed pecans, and raisins on top of the muffin for some protein and healthy fats, but you can make this recipe with your own favorite toppings, too. Fruit, cinnamon sugar, nutmeg, and cool whip are my next choices!

    enjoy!