I recently had to have a serious conversation with myself. I knew it was coming – I had been avoiding it for years, but, typical me, I put it off as long as I could. About five years ago I made a decision to start taking care of my emotional self – dealing with past hurts, anger issues, and the like. It’s been a long journey, one I’ll always be working through, but I found myself with good tools for approaching life in a healthy way. During all this darkest-night-of-the-soul business, however, I found myself eating more. A lot more. It was so comforting to turn to cookies and scones, cheesy pastas and chocolate coffee while working things out. I gave myself some grace, knowing it was how I needed to make it through, especially when everything else was so overwhelming. But a pattern had developed, a pattern that turned into a serious sugar addiction, and now I found myself looking in the mirror at a woman who didn’t have pants that fit her, with cupboards and a fridge stocked full of white flour, white sugar, dairy, and chocolate. So I stood there that day, gazing at my reflection, and realized two things. One, I liked myself more than I ever had; working on my emotional health had helped me [for the first time in my life] feel comfortable with how I looked and who I was becoming, and two, it was time to get healthy, for my family, and for me. So, Adam and I took a long look at how we approached food, and decided to change things up.
So we’re three weeks in, friends. We spent a week eating just fruits and vegetables to clear our systems, and every week we are adding something healthy back into our diet. Whole grains were first, followed by eggs and yogurt, honey, and now chicken and fish. We’ve cooked our meals at home, finding new ways to be creative with our food [this cookbook was a lifesaver when it came]. It’s been challenging, fun, and … peaceful. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this focused, and since my body’s felt this good.
These muffins were an experiment, and I was so happy with the results. I was tinkering with my favorite muffin recipe, not expecting anything amazing. So I was happily surprised when they tasted as good as they did! Whole wheat flour replaced white, maple syrup stood in for white sugar, and a little olive oil pulled everything together. They were a wonderful treat for us, and we ate them slowly; grateful, yet unattached.
Pumpkin Muffins with Cacao Nibs and Whole Wheat Flour
You can, of course, mix things up – if you’re wary about using all whole wheat flour in a muffin, you could substitute some white. I added just a bit of chocolate to these – the small amount added a nice sweetness every couple bites; just enough. This will make about 15 muffins.

2 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup milk or soy/almond milk
3/4 cup canola or olive oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup cacao nibs
2 ounces chocolate, chopped
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line a muffin tin, and part of another.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl. Whisk together, and make a well in the center. Combine oil, milk, pumpkin, vanilla, maple syrup, and egg. Whisk wet ingredients together and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients together until almost mixed [there will be a few dry streaks]. Add pecans, cacao nibs, and chocolate and finish mixing until just combined, being careful not to over mix. [Remember, lumpy is good!]
Scoop batter into prepared pans, filling the muffin cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until muffin edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out with the very tiniest bit of crumb, 16-20 minutes.
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20 Responses to pumpkin muffins with cacao nibs and whole wheat flour

  1. Dana says:

    We’ve all been there, but at least you came to a healthy conclusion to start listening to your body more. This is a constant struggle for me as I’ll eat wisely for a while and then get off track again. I always find my way back to a centered, happy place, though. I too love Sprouted Kitchen’s cookbook! Just got it in the mail last week and can’t wait to test some of the recipes out. It’s inspired me to take a more whole foods approach to eating again, which is something I’ve needed for a while now.

    Hugs!
    Dana

  2. Valeria says:

    Mental and emotional health should always come first, without forgetting that our body plays an important role in both. I wish you all the best for this journey toward a healthier you. These muffins are the proof you’re doing great!

  3. london bakes says:

    Oh yes, I can relate to this post. I know I’ve given myself a pass on eating healthily on the basis that I’m happy and that’s more important thank anything else and, while that’s true, I know I owe it to myself to feel as good physically as I do mentally. I love that these use some of my favourite ingredients and look so very delicious.

  4. Congratulations on the first steps in a new, healthier lifestyle! Everything you make on this blog always looks beautiful and nutritious but I do realise that sometimes too much butter and sugar can take it’s toll!

  5. to be honest, i’ve been there too, and it feels a million times better to have a treat that you know isn’t chock full of the bad stuff, but tastes like it is. i love olive oil in my cakes, as well as applesauce, ricotta and greek yogurt! beautiful recipe, i will definitely try it!

  6. The muffins look delicious as well as wholesome. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m always trying to find the balance of eating for pleasure and for health. The muffins seem to fit right in there. 🙂

  7. Laura says:

    Sarah! I wish I could bear-hug and high five you in person after reading this. You’re such an accomplished and talented lady… to read about your overcoming on all fronts is so inspiring. So great that you’re feeling healthy and good. The body knows, it always does.

    In sum: you = baddest ass woman. When do we get to meet, jeez?

    Also so jealous that you made whole grain muffins look gorgeous and ethereal somehow. I’ve aborted a few healthy muffin posts on account of looks. Skills, lady, skills.
    xoxo

  8. erin says:

    Sarah- what and awesome decision (and how great for how far you’ve come!) I think sometimes I stray away from my healthy eating and focusing on myself but then I get so run down (or read wonderful post like this) that help center me again!

  9. Oh, boy. Thank you for sharing this post. I think more of us have a sugar addiction than we realize- but it is fun to get creative and find different ways of making the not-so-great things I’ve always loved. This recipe does sound fantastic, and I can’t wait until I have the ingredients to make it 🙂

  10. Sacha says:

    I’ve so missed coming to this space in the past month or so of life craziness. I’m happy to be reading once again. It looks like this was a delicious–and very autumnal–experiment!

  11. This is awesome – thank you for sharing your struggles and triumphs! I love the line “we ate them slowly; grateful, yet unattached.” — wonderful motivation for mindful eating!

  12. I will always be so proud to know you. Sarah, you are an inspiring woman. Thank you for being a lovely model of grace and love.

  13. Kasey says:

    Good for you, friend, for taking the first difficult steps in the right direction! It’s definitely easy to let food calm our anxieties, and feel comforted by its sugary, white carb-y goodness. I’m all about moderation and I found that when I had to deal with some issues, finding balance was the best way to get healthy (as opposed to cutting out everything I loved!) Good luck to you! xo

  14. charlotte s says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. I can so relate. I’ve spent the past year turning to food for comfort. I’m just at the end of a 10-day lemonade cleanse, to try and reset the way I approach food. I’ll be trying to focus on whole foods again, and trying to feed my needs for comfort in other ways. Looking forward to your healthy creations- your posts are always a source of inspiration! xo

  16. Hi Sarah,
    Based on your delicious Pumpkin Muffins with Cacao Nibs and Whole Wheat Flour photos, we’d like to invite you to submit your food photos on a food photography site called http://www.foodporn.net so our readers can enjoy your creations.
    It is absolutely free and fun to make others hungry!
    Thanks 🙂

  17. Barbara says:

    I made these muffins yesterday. They are fabulous. Thank you.

  18. […] abundance of sweet potato led to these little beauties. Based on this pumpkin muffin recipe over on The Vanilla Bean blog these turned out really well (and proved very popular with my […]

  19. Allison says:

    These were so yummy, they were a great succes!!
    I modified quite a few of the ingredients to use what I had on hand :
    oatmeal and white flour instead of whole wheat / a handful of hazelnuts instead of pecans / plain sugar instead of maple syrup
    and omitted the cocoa nibs.
    Great recipe !! Warm, comforting, perfect on an autumn day with a cup of tea.

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