Fudgey Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Fudgey Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Some of the best memories that I have of baking with my mom and brother involve muffins. It was never super fancy – definitely just the packets of muffin mix you buy at the store. But they were easy and “healthier” than cookies.

I laugh to myself now thinking that muffins are healthy. They can be! Just not the ones from the store… or these muffins really. These fudgey muffins are really just cupcakes waiting for frosting. Dust some powder sugar over them – instadessert!

Fudgey Vegan Chocolate Muffins

This recipe is very quick to make and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry ready to go. The only liquid is canned puréed pumpkin and a splash of almond milk. That’s healthy, right??

I used part of my red velvet cake recipe (which is really just chocolate cake if you don’t add food coloring and vinegar) plus pumpkin and almond milk. The amount of almond milk you use can really be up to you. The less you use, the denser your muffins will be. The more you use, the more cake like they will be. I love how dense these are but my husband prefers a little more cake like. I use a quarter cup of almond milk for these.

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These can be stored for a week in an airtight container at room temperature. They also freeze well and can stay frozen for about three months before you thaw them. But why freeze them when they are so delicious hot out of the oven? I bet if you put a spoonful of nut butter on top while they’re warm it would be amazing. 😊

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Mixing these babies up can be a challenge if you have grip issues (read: pregnant lady grip issues) since there isn’t much in the way of viscous liquid. The pumpkin will eventually mix in with the almond milk into the dry ingredients. I recommend using a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Life is much easier with either.

Enjoy making these fudgey vegan muffins. I hope they are as big of a hit at your house as they are at mine!

 

Fudgey Vegan Chocolate Muffins

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

These chocolatey, fudgey muffins are easy to whip up in a pinch and will be a hit with your family.


Ingredients


– 2 & 3/4 C all purpose flour (you can sub oat flour)
– 2 C granulated sugar
– 1/4 C cocoa powder
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 C almond or other dairy free milk
– 1 12-14oz can pumpkin puree
– 1/2 C dairy free chocolate chips (Optional)

Directions


1. Pre-heat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with cups or spray with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Once dry ingredients have no lumps, add in the vanilla, almond milk, and can of pumpkin puree.
4. If adding chocolate chips, stir them into the mixture. The batter should be thick and smooth.
5. Scoop 2 TBS of batter into each muffin cup. I used an ice cream scoop for this. It will take two batches to cook all of them.
6. Bake for 17 minutes.
7. Cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container for up to a week on your counter.

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How We Successfully Spent Two Weeks Car Camping in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – Part 1

How We Successfully Spent Two Weeks Car Camping in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – Part 1 – Be Prepared

In late 2016, my husband and I found ourselves in Alamogordo, New Mexico exploring White Sands National Monument. It was out of coincidence that we were there, but it changed our views on traveling in the US. Our visit to White Sands sparked a desire to become more in touch with the natural world around us and to visit more National Parks, Forests, and Monuments.

It was this time last year that we decided it was time to visit Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. We booked our campsite months in advance because we read that they fill up quick (and they do!).  Visiting these two iconic national parks was one of our most memorable vacations. Not because of where we were or the history of the parks, it is because of what we accomplished just by being there in the outdoors for two weeks.

Disclaimer: this post is NOT intended for anyone looking to do any hardcore backpacking. If you are someone who wants to put everything in their car, drive across the country, and pitch a tent mere feet away from your vehicle – this is for you!

It took a LOT of preparation for us to be able to spend two weeks living out of our car and in camp sites. Going to a national park and NOT staying in a hotel nearby requires a lot of thought and effort. Car camping is certainly not for everyone but my husband and I have enjoyed camping together since our first spring break when we started dating 8 years ago.

Preparing for Two Weeks of Car Camping in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks(1)

This is going to be a two part post: the prep and the survival. Again, a lot goes into traveling across the country to spend two weeks in national parks.  Part 1 is all of the preparation we did and what we wish we would have done in order to have a smooth(ish) trip. Part 2 will be how we did once we got to the parks.

Preparing for Two Weeks of Car Camping in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks

Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton are relatively remote parks.
In my mind, I had pictured Yellowstone as this massive park yet everything you wanted to see was very close together. All the blogs I had read never mentioned drive time between sights (we’ll get to traffic in part 2). You might think that Artist’s Point and Old Faithful are just minutes away from each other. In reality, they are on opposite sides of the park. It will take about 45 minutes to get from the east side to the west side of the park depending on where you are at. With how remote they are, make sure you fill up your gas tank frequently at the pumping stations scattered throughout the park.

The only town we visited while staying the parks was Jackson, WY. Located on the west side of Grand Teton NP, it offers an airport, dining, lodging, and shopping. Traffic to and from Jackson wasn’t too bad. Just don’t go around 9am or 5pm – picture rush hour traffic on a two lane road to and from the park! A LOT of tourists stay in Jackson during their visit. On the way back to the park, you get a nice photo op with the National Park sign.

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Grand Teton National Park Entrance from Jackson, WY.

Tune Up Your Car and Insurance
Driving from Oklahoma to the middle of Wyoming was no small feat. We drove my husband’s mid-size SUV. We got new tires, changed the oil and filters, signed up for AAA roadside insurance, and thought we were totally okay to make this trip without issue (more on that in Part 2).

Go Camping Ahead of Time
Nothing can better prepare you for spending time in a National Park car camping than actual camping. My husband, D and I went on multiple camping and hiking trips before taking the journey to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. This allowed us to see what we truly needed and to make a list of the things we wished we would have had.

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Morning at Robber’s Cave State Park

This also showed us what we were able to tolerate. As in, I wanted to sleep on a blow-up air mattress instead of roll out mats (which we still packed), how many days I could go wearing my hiking boots and no other shoes, how many days I could go without showering, etc.

Book Campsites in Advance
Grand Teton did not allow for advance booking so we did a lot of research on which campsites filled up the quickest and which ones we wanted to stay at. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights fill up the fastest. We got to the campground we wanted at about 11am and had no issue. I recommend Lonely Planet’s “Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks” book for mapping out the campsites and their location relative to the activities you want to do (available on Amazon).
We ended up at our first choice, Colter Bay. We were able to walk to the general store and to Jackson Lake from our site. It also had a pretty great view. Note: the picture below is just of our tent. There are also bear boxes at every campsite. Ours happened to be on the other side of our site where we parked our car.

Yellowstone is a whole different story. Campsites are at capacity almost every night during the summer so booking in advance is a must! You’ll need to start NOW (February/Early March) and book through the agency that runs the sites (Xterra). Their link is available through the National Parks website.

When to Go
D and I went at the end of June 2017 and it was absolutely perfect weather. There was one day when it stormed but that’s what rain gear and water resistant shoes are for.  After asking a colleague who used to live in the area about the weather, he suggested that the end of June/early July is best. This is because mating season is over and there are no baby animals for mamas to protect.  June/July is also when the snow is almost gone but the days aren’t too hot.
When we climbed Mt. Washburn, there was still a good amount of snow the further up we got but very little snow, if any, left in the rest of Yellowstone or Grand Teton.

Snow on Mt. Washburn

 

 

Food and Water
While NPS provides a plethora of dining and grocery options for all visitors, it is very advantageous to cook meals at your campsite with food you brought with you. We packed a large black tote with canned goods (soups and beans), oatmeal, instant coffee, and other dried goods. In our cooler we brought chopped fresh veggies sealed in plastic bags and divided into meal size portions (we are vegan so no meat), jelly (for PB&Js), sports drinks, a few cans of Diet Coke, and hummus. We also had a five gallon water jug that we constantly filled so we had water to drink and to cook with. Cooking at your site will save you money in the long run since the dining options can be pricey.
We have a two burner Coleman stove so there was no campfire cooking for us. I desperately tried to make s’mores but it wasn’t worth it. Since we drove around all the time, we rarely ate lunch at our campsite. We made sandwiches and ate hummus and trail mix for lunches. Much cheaper than finding a veggie sandwich or salad at one of the restaurants.

What We Packed
Packing for any trip might just be my favorite part. I love to plan and organize, so I have made this list for you. D packed very similar items (minus female only things). The only things we wish we would have packed were a mosquito net and a wash tub for dishes.
I thought I had taken a picture of the car before we left, but alas, I did not. In the next post I’ll show how much room everything took in our car.

Happy planning!

Car Camping Two Week Packing List


[gear]
– Tent
– 2 large tarps
– Extra tent steaks
– Strong twine
– Sleeping bags/mats/air mattress/pillows
– Headlamps and/or lantern
– Camp stove and propane
– Pot and pan
– Plates/bowls/mugs/water bottles
– Eating utensils (like an all-in-one spork/knife)
– Cooking utensils
– Camp soap/sponge/wash basin
– Paper towels/dish towels
– Spices
– 5 gallon water jug
– Life Straw or Iodine tab (bonus points)
– Fire starter/lighter/storm proof matches
– First aid kit
– Day packs with bladders
– Rain gear
– Ice chest/cooler
– Bear spray

[extras]
– Phone chargers with car adapter
– Emergency ponchos
– Camp chairs
– Hammocks
– Plastic sacks (for trash and wet items)
– laundry bag/laundry detergent
– towels
– hand sanitizer
– Battery powered alarm clock/thermometer

[personal items]
– 2 pairs hiking pants
– 1 pair long johns
– 1 pair shorts (2 for men)
– 1 pair athletic pants
– 1 pair jeans
– 5 shirts
– 2 base layers
– 4 pairs socks
– 7 pairs underwear
– 3 sports bras
– 1 heavy jacket
– 1 hoodie/light jacket
– hiking boots
– Chacos (doubled as shower shoes)
– tennis shoes
– Hats

[toiletries]
– Shampoo/conditioner
– Hair brush/hair ties/headband
– Glasses/extra contacts/contact soultion
–  Toothbrush/toothpaste
– Minimal makeup
– Nail clippers/nail file
– Q-tips
– Washcloth
– Body wipes
– Feminine hygiene products
– Bug spray/sunscreen
– Facewash

Almond Chia Granola

Almond Chia Granola

I am a super huge fan of dairy free yogurt. Although I haven’t learned to make it myself, I eat it on a regular basis. Sometimes the plain ol’ cup of vanilla yogurt gets boring. Granola is a super easy and cost effective way to mix things up!

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Since I’ve been pregnant, yogurt with granola (or really just granola by the handfuls) has been my favorite thing to eat while morning sickness is rearing its ugly head.  Eating things like chia seeds and almonds also makes sure that I am getting a good portion of the protein and vitamins that our growing baby boy and I need everyday! Making granola at home not only is saving us money, but it is also one less thing I have to remember forget at the grocery store.

The most expensive part of this recipe is the agave or maple syrup. If you aren’t plant based, you can substitute honey. Other than the sweetener, this recipe is sure to be the cheapest and possibly most delicious one you’ll make this week!

I recommend using parchment paper on your baking tray. This is mostly because I dislike cleaning, but you do get a better caramelization on the oats if you spread the mixture directly on the tray. It will be very pale before you bake it but should be a nice golden brown after you take it out of the oven.

 

There are a lot of things that you can substitute out in this recipe: flax seed instead of chia seed, chopped cashews or pistachios instead of almonds, honey instead of agave… you get the picture. The sky is the limit!

 

Almond Chia Granola - Copy

 

Almond Chia Granola

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This crunchy granola is packed with chia seeds and hearty oats. It's sure to give any yogurt an awesome boost of healthfulness.


Ingredients

– 3 C old fashioned oats
– 1/4 C chia seeds
– 1/2 C slivered or chopped, raw almonds
– 1/2 C agave, maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener
– 1 TBS lemon juice
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions


1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a 9×13 (or larger) baking tray with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. You may find that it is easier to add the chia seed last to get a more even distribution.
3. Once combined, spread in an even layer on a baking tray.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the tray halfway through and gently stir with a spatula or spoon. If you enjoy granola on the chunkier side, just give the tray a good shake instead of stiring.
5. After 20 minutes, remove from the oven. If you lack a golden brown color, continue to bake at 5 minute intervals until golden brown is achieved.
6. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

My husband, D and I have used the cash envelope system from Dave Ramsey’s methods for about six years now. We can finally say that we have mastered the art of cash budgeting! While we still put somethings on our credit card (fully paid off every month), we successfully use cash for our everyday expenses.

I have previously posted on how we significantly slashed our budget after we first got married. The envelope system has played a HUGE part in that. As we are now preparing for baby number one, we have refreshed our focus and have become diligently tracking our expenses. Whenever D and I are approached with questions on budgeting, we always suggest the cash envelope system.

I will outline and explain why the envelope system works for our life and how we specifically use it. I know that everyone’s budgets are vastly different, but this should give you a good picture of what your budget could look like on this system.

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

  1. Realize that your paycheck is a real and tangible thing.
    So many of us keep our paychecks locked in our accounts and haven’t touched cash in ages. Magic-swipey cards (aka credit or debits cards) have their place and we do use a credit card on a regular basis, but we pay the card off every single month with no exception. Whenever you swipe your card, what do you see? $8.75 at Starbucks, $15.50 at Target, $85 at the grocery store – it’s all really just numbers you see on your smartphone screen when you log into your bank’s app. It is so easy to swipe away until your paycheck is dried up and gone.
    It makes you realize how much money you are spending when you have to fork over the dough yourself! To me, that is the most powerful way to impact your budget. I hate handing my cash over to the grocery store clerk or the cashier at Target even though I know groceries and personal care items are a necessity. Pulling cash out to pay for everyday things like groceries, pharmacy needs, eating out, clothes shopping, and entertainment helped to decrease our spending because we could see the cash leaving our pockets and were more aware of the actual costs of our activities.
  2. Keep the cash out of your wallet and keep it organized.
    While this may sound contradictory to having a cash envelope system, it helps keep you organized. We have a small accordion file that fits in my purse that I found at Wal-Mart for $1. I have each spot labeled with what each section of cash is for. This helps us not to confuse our grocery money with our eating out money or our shopping money with our pharmacy money. Knowing exactly how much you have left is key! Short of keeping all of your receipts, this is how we track how we are doing over the month. If you keep all that cash cram-jammed in your wallet, you’ll never know what money is allocated towards any certain category.
    Some envelope users also keep a ledger for each category of cash that they have. While it is a great idea, it just doesn’t work for us personally. I keep all the receipts I get from week to week inside the accordion folder under the tab dedicated to receipt keeping. This also helps me to remember to redeem any rebates on my smart phone (I have a whole separate post on this as well).
  3. Assess your current budget.
    If you do not look at your budget and spending habits on a biweekly or monthly basis, start now! If D and I can feel ourselves spending more than normal we will do weekly check-ups. Why look at your budget more than once a month? It is to make sure you don’t look at your bank account or credit card statement on the 30th and say “Oh s*!t.”. Using a combination of mostly cash and a little credit card like we do, it is easy to run your budget to zero in a hurry if you don’t check on it.
    We get paid on the 1st and the 15th. Those are the dates that we do our check-ups. It is also a time to pull out more cash for the second half of the month since it is not realistic for us to have bills coming out of our accounts and have a whole month’s worth of cash pulled out as well.
    Here is a screenshot of our current budget (some totals removed for privacy). D is a stickler for numbers so everything is calculated to the penny. This can be something that we elaborate on in the future. We mark what we are paying in cash and what will come out of accounts or be put onto our credit card for points. What you don’t see is what our savings totals and additions are. We calculate those into our budget as well.
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  4. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
    Budgeting in today’s world when things can change so quickly can be a challenge. Understanding to be flexible with how you spend your money will help. If something breaks and needs to be replaced (car, appliance, phone, etc) we have an emergency fund for that. If we think we can fit it into our budget, we adjust other categories as needed.
    You’ll see from the image above that we have an “Oops, I spent money” because we understand that we are going to go over by a few dollars here and there. It is also there as a buffer for an unforeseen expense. Every month, we add or take away categories because we understand that our needs will not be the same as the month before (oil changes, clothes, wedding gifts, etc).
    Having the ability to adapt your budget to what is happening in your life will save you time, money, and heartache. Paying cash for most expenses will help you feel that control.

 

Happy budgeting!

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System