Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans


This update of the quick and easy pumpkin cranberry muffins in “Naturally provide better quality dairy-free desserts” is that my young granddaughter decided to sprinkle chocolate chips and some chopped on top of their muffins before baking The result of the pecan. (All Costigans think that chocolate makes everything better!) I am sure that taking 5 minutes to cook the sugar and spices into the pumpkin puree will make the best muffins, and the pumpkin puree can be made a few days in advance, even freezing. Stir the remaining puree into oatmeal or blend into a smoothie. If time is tight, use pumpkin pie mixture. (The farmers market is a good organic version.)



For the Spiced Pumpkin Puree:

  • 2 cups unsweetened canned pumpkin purée
  • 2/3 cup organic whole cane sugar (such as Sucanat), or use brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the batter:

  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 2/3 cup soymilk or almond milk
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cooled Spiced Pumpkin Purée
  • 1/4 cup mild tasting extra virgin olive oil, or any neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or preferably 1/8 teaspoon orange oil, optional
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons sliced or chopped pecans



Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Oil a 12-cup standard muffin tin including the top.

To make the Spiced Pumpkin Puree: Combine all the ingredients in a medium skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Lower the heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until the purée is dark and shiny, slightly thickened, and the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and spoon into a shallow dish to cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month.

To make the batter: In a small bowl, mix the soy or almond milk with 2 teaspoons of the apple cider vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes to clabber.

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the strainer. Stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Whisk to aerate the ingredients.

Combine the Spice Pumpkin Purée, oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, orange extract or oil and the remaining 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in medium bowl. Add clabbered milk and whisk until well blended. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a spatula only until the batter is smooth and no traces of flour remain. Stir the cranberries into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly, filling each cup 3/4 full. An ice cream scoop makes filling the cups easy. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with 3 to 4 chocolate chips and a few pieces of pecans.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until muffins are golden and a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool the tin on a rack for 5 minutes. Carefully run a thin knife between the muffins and the inside of the cups, and lift each muffin onto the rack to cool completely.

Store in a tin for a day or freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost uncovered.

Note: This recipe leaves you with some leftover Spiced Pumpkin Puree, which can be frozen and reserved for another batch of muffins. Costigan likes to use the leftover puree to make pumpkin-spice smoothies. It’s also good stirred by the spoonful into cooked oatmeal or plain grits.



Calories: 196

Total Fat: 6.7 g

Sat. Fat :1.2 g

Cholest. 0.0 mg

Sodium: 217 mg

Total Carb: 31.6 g

Protein: 3.1 g

Fiber: 2.9 g



Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans
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Best Homemade French Toast Ever

Best Homemade French Toast Ever

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but finding something the whole family can agree on? That’s another story. However, once you know how to make french toast, even your pickiest eaters will become fanatics. Our classic and fluffy french toast recipe is simple enough to serve on a weekday but can be gussied up to add to your brunch menu.

Our super easy (we promise!) recipe for making French toast from scratch takes just minutes, and it means you can get a decadent and sweet breakfast on the table even on the busiest of days (though it’s certainly not a healthy breakfast — but you already knew that). Our dish starts with milk, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla, which get whisked together. We use challah, a sweet and eggy loaf, as the base for our classic french toast recipe, but you can use any bread you have on hand. The best french toast recipe relies on thick slices of bread that can soak up all of the spiced custard for the ultimate fluffy breakfast treat.

Once the slices are pan-fried to the perfect golden brown, you can top this easy and impressive breakfast with anything you like We love a dollop of Greek yogurt, a sprinkle of fresh berries, and a drizzle of maple syrup which makes a breakfast perfect for weekdays and special occasions alike. Or drizzle on warmed Nutella, pile on the sliced bananas, and add a scoop of the best ice cream, and this easy french toast recipe becomes dessert. Pass the fork!


YIELDS: 4 servings                     TOTAL TIME: 0 hours 25 mins



6 large eggs
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 1-inch-thick slices challah bread
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

Yogurt, berries, and pure maple syrup or honey, for serving

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  • In large, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  • Working in batches, place 2 bread slices in egg mixture and let soak 2 minutes. Flip and soak 1 minute more (both sides of bread should be totally coated in mixture).
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet on medium-low. Once melted, add soaked bread and cook until golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to wire rack. While toast is cooking, soak next batch of challah slices.
  • Repeat with remaining butter and bread. Serve topped with yogurt, berries, and syrup or honey if desired.


bread, butter, eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla


eggs and milk mixed together in a pan


milk egg mixture with cinnamon added


cooking french toast slices in a pan


Best Homemade French Toast Ever
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Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake

We topped elegant strawberry shortcake with a ghoulish white chocolate skull in this spectacular Halloween dessert. Pour over the hot strawberry sauce to reveal the surprise inside!

Level: Intermediate

Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling and cooling times)

Active: 1 hr 10 min

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Chocolate Skull:

4 ounces white chocolate melting wafers

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil

4 ounces strawberries, sliced

Cake and Filling:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see Cook’s Note)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

8 ounces strawberries, sliced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry White Chocolate Sauce:

8 ounces strawberries, finely chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 ounces red candy melting wafers



1. For the chocolate skull: Add the white chocolate melting wafers and coconut oil to a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the front and back cavities of a 2-part medium plastic skull mold (3-by-4-by-4-inch) and tilt to swirl the chocolate around until coated entirely (you can also use your finger to swirl the chocolate around). Tap out any excess and freeze until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.  

3. Reheat the melted chocolate, if needed, and brush the sides of the mold cavities with a second layer. Freeze until set, about 5 minutes. 

4. Carefully unmold the skull halves and fill one with the sliced strawberries. Microwave the melted chocolate again until smooth, about 30 seconds. Use the melted chocolate as glue to carefully attach the skull halves. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

5. For the cake and filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 6-inch round cake pan with 3-inch sides with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the paper. 

6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  

7. Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low just to incorporate, then beat on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and continue to beat until creamy, about 2 minutes (the mixture will look curdled, but will come back together after everything is combined). With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

9. Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, turn the cake out onto the rack, remove the parchment and cool completely.  

10. Meanwhile toss the sliced strawberries and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the strawberries to release their juices. 

11. Cut the cake into 3 layers with a long serrated knife. Place a cake layer on a cake stand and top with half of the strawberries. Spread 3/4 cup of the whipped cream on top. Repeat with another cake layer, the remaining strawberries and 3/4 cup whipped cream. Top with the final cake layer and remaining 1/2 cup whipped cream. Position the skull in the center of the whipped cream.

12. For the strawberry white chocolate sauce: Add the strawberries and granulated sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have broken down and thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to the saucepan (discard the solids). Add the cream and red candy melting wafers to the sauce and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until melted and hot, 10 to 15 minutes. 

13. When ready to serve, pour the hot sauce over the center of the chocolate skull.



Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)

Halloween Strawberry Shortcake Skull Cake
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Cake and Filling:
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Rosemary Mustard Pork With Peaches

Rosemary Mustard Pork With Peaches

Level: Easy

Inactive: 8 hr

Total: 8 hr 45 min

Cook: 20 min

Prep: 25 min

Yield: 12 servings


Two 16-ounce containers strawberries

Two 6-ounce containers blueberries

One 6-ounce container blackberries

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pinch kosher salt


One 8-ounce package cream cheese

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 prepared angel food cake (about 12 ounces)

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish, optional

1 1/2 tablespoons apple jelly or apricot preserves, for garnish, optional


1. Trim and quarter the strawberries and set aside. Combine the blueberries, blackberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup water, lemon zest, juice and salt in a medium saucepot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries break down and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

2. Place the cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. In a second large bowl, whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold about one-quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until lightened, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

3. To assemble the trifle, rip or cut the angel food cake into 2-inch pieces. Place half the cake pieces in the bottom of a 12-to-14-cup trifle dish or large bowl. Top with about half the blueberry sauce, half the cream and half the quartered strawberries. Repeat the layers with the remaining cake, berry sauce, cream and strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 hours or overnight. Before serving either dust with confectioners’ sugar or heat the apple jelly in the microwave for 25 seconds to loosen, and then brush over the strawberries.

Rosemary Mustard Pork With Peaches
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Best-Ever Pumpkin Cheesecake

Best-Ever Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sure, classic cheesecake is delicious. But PUMPKIN cheesecake? Now that’s a dessert worthy of your Thanksgiving table. The gingersnap and graham cracker crust are actually genius, and that shimmering layer of caramel is the literal icing on the [cheese]cake. It’s one of our all time favorite pumpkin desserts—and that’s saying something, considering we have over 80 recipes.



3/4 c. graham crackers, crushed

3/4 c. gingersnaps, crushed

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp. granulated sugar kosher salt

3 (8-oz.) bars cream cheese, softened

1 c. packed light brown sugar

1 c. pumpkin puree

1/4 c. sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice, plus more for garnish

Warm caramel, for garnish

whipped cream, for garnish

Chopped, toasted pecans, for garnish



1. Preheat oven to 325° with a rack in the middle position. Grease an 8” springform pan with cooking spray.
2. Make crust: In a large bowl, add cookie and graham cracker crumbs. Stir in butter, granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt and mix until well combined. Press crust into bottom of pan.

3. Meanwhile, make cheesecake batter: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin puree, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Add eggs, 1 at a time, until well combined, then beat in flour, pumpkin spice, and ¼ tsp. salt. Pour cheesecake mixture over crust.

4. Double-wrap outside of pan in aluminum foil, making sure to cover the bottom. Place pan in a large baking dish, place the baking dish in the oven, and pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the pan. Bake until only slightly jiggly in center, 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes.

5. With oven door propped open, turn oven off and let cool 1 hour in the oven. Remove from water bath and discard foil, then refrigerate cheesecake until cooled completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.

6. Garnish with a layer of caramel and a few dollops of whipped cream around the edge of the cheesecake. Sprinkle all over with pecans and more pumpkin pie spice.

Best-Ever Pumpkin Cheesecake
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