Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

Hi everyone! It has been a while since my last post as we have been super busy. We went on a vacation to Austin (more on that later), and we also spent a few glorious days at home with family before returning to Tennessee.

We came back to our house and it was almost immediately Halloween. We do not usually get a lot of trick or treaters but I asked John to buy a small bag of candy anyways. He then proceeded to come home with what I can only describe to be an industrial-sized bag of candy. We then had 3 trick or treaters at our house. Needless to say, we have a TON of leftover Halloween candy. I was trying to brain storm what to do with it all, because I cannot should not eat all of this candy. I then decided to combine two of my favorite things, brownies and candy! These brownies are super dark chocolatey and not too sweet in order to offset the super sweet Halloween candy. Also, if you’re caught up on Stranger things, I will tell you that I used 3 musketeers so these brownies are Dart-approved.

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

Servings: 16-20


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Various chocolate Halloween candies, cut into 1/2 or 1/3. All of the candies I used were mini rather than fun-sized. (I used 6 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups, 6 mini Snickers, 6 mini Milky Ways, 6 mini 3 Musketeers, 6 mini Twix, topped with m&m’s)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degeees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
  • Heat butter in microwave until entirely melted (45-60 seconds). Stir in sugar and beat for a few seconds until combined. Add in vanilla, eggs, and salt and stir to incorporate.
  • Add cocoa and flour and stir well but do not overmix.
  • Fold in candy of choice. Pour into baking pan. Top with more candies if desired.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let set for at least 20-30 min before serving.

Simple Apple and Almond Tart

I convinced the hubs to go apple picking recently. We headed out to the Jones Orchard with an apple picker and a bucket and got to work. Well, first we got lost at the orchard. We ended up driving around the country grass trails, through the pear and peach trees that were withering away until next year’s harvest. It was a day full of happy accidents – first we stumbled upon a seemingly never-ending cotton field, and then we were immersed in a forest of majestic fruit trees. We spent the morning trying to find the best and biggest apples, which of course were at the very top or middle of the trees. And after managing to knock them down, they would fall on the ground, forcing us to play a fun game of “Wait, which one was it?” amongst the many apples on the ground.

apple picking jones orchard tennesseeapple picking jones orchard tennesseeIMG_6274

I had never used store bought puff pastry before this recipe, to be honest. I always think that if something is going to be good that it has to be home made. I have made puff pastry more times than I can count and I am just not great at it, now matter how hard I try. I can’t ever get the layers to be crunchy and perfect, exactly like a store bought croissant. After using frozen puff pastry, I don’t think I’ll ever try making it myself again. It was so delicious and flaky and so EASY! I also absolutely love almond paste croissants and tarts, so I wanted to try making the almond paste filling. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how the almond, apple, honey combination was going to taste. Spoiler alert: it was even better than I expected.

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Simple Apple and Almond Tart


  • 2 sheets (1 box) of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
  • 3-4 apples of choice
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 1 egg beaten and halved (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 4 ounces almond paste
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Coarse sugar
  • Slivered almonds and honey, if desired


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Core apples and cut into thin slices, and toss into a bowl. Add brown sugar, dash of salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice and toss to combine. Set aside
  • Set pastry on a large working surface and dust lightly with flour. Pinch the two ends together of the two sheets and roll lightly with a rolling pin to combine. Roll the entire large sheet of pastry lightly, flattening out the creases. Fold up the ends all around and press with a fork.
  • My pastry was getting a little soft at this point so I put it in the fridge for a few minutes while making the almond paste mixture. Beat an egg into a small bowl or ramekin and set aside. In mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the almond paste, sugar, and flour. Add in half of the beaten egg (save the rest for your egg wash) and the other egg (for a total of 1 1/2 eggs). Add in softened butter and vanilla and beat until there are no lumps.
  • Take pastry out of refrigerator. Add 1 teaspoon of milk to your half egg mixture to form an egg wash. Brush a thin over the entire pastry. Spread almond mixture over center of pastry (staying inside of folded edges).
  • Arrange apples on center of pastry, overlapping the edges. Sprinkle with course sugar and slivered almonds (if using).
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Top with honey (if desired) and enjoy!
  • simple apple almond tart apple picking jones orchard tennessee puff pastry

Boo-ternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (Vegan)

Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite fall comfort meals. I make it several times once the weather starts getting cold outside every year. The only problem is that my husband is not a big fan of butternut squash. He doesn’t like the hint of sweet of butternut squash or sweet potatoes. I have tried multiple different recipes, including adding a little more heat to the recipe to cut the sweetness, but he still isn’t a fan. I finally realized that I just had to create a recipe I thought he might like. He happens to love Thai food, including coconut curry. This vegan butternut squash soup has a hint of curry flavoring without being too overpowering, and it goes perfectly with the butternut squash. I also happen to love a good grilled cheese sandwich and roasted red pepper soup in the fall, so I threw in some roasted red pepper to also cut the butternut squash sweetness. The result is phenomenal.

Vegan butternut squash and roasted red pepper soup

Vegan Boo-ternut Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup


  • 1 butternut squash, halved longways
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 shallot (or 1/2 yellow onion), chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk* (or half and half, see below)


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease.
  • Scoop out the seeds of the butternut squash. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place face down on the greased cookie sheet and bake for ~45 minutes total until tender (take out after 30 minutes and add red pepper as described below).
  • Cut a red bell pepper into 1-2 inch pieces. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add to butternut squash pan once the butternut squash has cooked for ~30 minutes, so that you roast the red bell pepper for around 15 minutes.
  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium in a large pot. Add shallot and garlic and cook until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add roasted bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and curry powder. Stir for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Scoop butternut squash out of the butternut squash skin and add to the pot, bringing to a boil again. Boil for 10-15 minutes or until liquid has somewhat reduced.
  • Add salt and pepper. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend until there are no lumps. Transfer back to the pan and add the coconut milk.
  • Bring to a boil and cook on medium-low until soup is reduced to preferred consistency, 5-10 minutes.
  • *Edit: I suggested adding a cup of coconut milk, but I love coconut and prefer a creamier soup, so I added the whole can. You may just have to cook it for 5-10 minutes longer after adding the extra coconut milk to reduce the soup so it is thicker. If you don’t like coconut and aren’t vegan, you could substitute half and half instead.vegan boo-ternut squash soup butternut squash bisque.jpg

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Cheesecake Topping

You cannot go wrong with pumpkin pie + cheesecake. I like pumpkin anything, including pumpkin cheesecake, but every pumpkin cheesecake I’ve tasted just doesn’t have the full pumpkin flavor of pumpkin pie. The flavor, while tasty in its own right, seems to be diluted by all of the cream cheese. These super easy bars solve that problem. You get the savory pumpkin pie flavor combined with actual cheeeecake baked on top. You can even swirl the cheesecake into the top layer of the pumpkin bar layer for another delicious variation.

Pumpkin pie cheesecake bars

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Cheesecake Topping

Makes a 9 x 13 inch pan


For the bars

  • 15 ounce can of pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Morena sugar (or another 1/4 cup brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 1 block of cream cheese (I used Greek yogurt cream cheese), softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
  • Combine canned pumpkin, sugars, egg, and butter in a large bowl. Add in salt and vanilla and stir.
  • Add spices, flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix batter together. Batter may be slightly lumpy.
  • Pour into prepared pan and spread as evenly as possible.
  • With a whisk attachment, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add in egg and vanilla and combine. Spread in a thin layer over pumpkin mixture. Swirl lightly with a knife if desired.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheesecake is set.
  • Cool for at least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator or overnight before cutting into squares and serving.
  • pumpkin pie bars with cheesecake topping

Maple Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Crunchy Oat Topping

If it’s fall, you can pretty much bet that there is a pumpkin-flavored baked good in my house. I eat so much pumpkin in a 3 month period, that by Christmas, I’ve burnt myself out completely until the next fall. I’ve made a lot of pumpkin muffin recipes: pumpkin chocolate chip, pumpkin streusel, vegan pumpkin, pumpkin pie muffins, etc. I have to say I’m a big fan of the pumpkin streusel, because that sweet crumb topping can make pretty much anything taste better. But then an hour later, I’m on crash from the sugar and I regret eating them. These muffins have a streusel-inspired topping that gives the impression of the streusel topping without the flour and loads of butter and sugar. Also, replacing much of the oil with applesauce lightens up this recipe even more! Recipe can be doubled if you have a bigger crowd.

Healthy maple pumpkin spice muffins with crunchy Oat ToppingHealthy maple pumpkin spice muffins with crunchy Oat Topping

Maple Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Crunchy Oat Topping

Servings: 4

Healthy maple pumpkin spice muffins with crunchy Oat ToppingHealthy maple pumpkin spice muffins with crunchy Oat Topping


For the muffins:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Agave maple syrup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup All purpose flour (or another 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or butter
  • if using coconut oil, add dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a Muffin tin and set aside.
  • Mix together pumpkin and applesauce. Add melted coconut oil and combine. Whisk in maple syrup, egg, vanilla, and milk.
  • Add in flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix to combine, but do not over-mix.
  • Use a cupcake scoop to divide the batter evenly between eight muffin cups.
  • Combine melted butter or coconut oil, salt (if using), brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of unbaked cupcakes.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until muffin springs back to touch. Wait 4-5 minutes until slightly cooled to remove from pan.
  • maple pumpkin spice muffins with crunchy oat topping

Banana Pancakes – Two Ways

It’s the weekend. Which means it’s time for banana pancakes. I love banana anything: banana bread, banana muffins, banana pudding, and especially banana pancakes. The nice thing about pancakes is that you can add whatever toppings you like depending on your taste buds. I make these with pecans and a dash of cinnamon for my pancake-hating husband, and he will gobble them down. Personally, I much prefer chocolate chips in my pancakes.


Banana Pancakes – Two Ways

Servings: 2-3


  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Morena sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Chocolate chips or pecans


  • Heat a griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add in 1-2 teaspoons of butter until pan is mostly coated.
  • Mash banana with a fork or potato masher. Add in melted butter and stir to combine. Whisk in egg, milk of choice, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Fold in flour and baking powder.
  • Drop batter onto heated greased pan. After 20-30 seconds once batter has settled, add pecans or chocolate chips. Once you see small bubbles forming and one side of the pancake has started to brown, flip with a spatula.
  • I usually cook the chocolate chip pancakes first, then stir a dash of cinnamon into the remaining batter before cooking the pecan pancakes. Enjoy!
  • banana pancakes

Healthier Vegan Texas Sheet Cake

Every time we went to visit my grandma’s house in Fort Smith, no matter the circumstance, there were always two specific desserts: pumpkin pie and Texas sheet cake. Pumpkin pie was and still is one of my favorite desserts, so I always ate a lot of that and never really ate much of the sheet cake. As I got a little older, I branched out from my regular pumpkin pie and learned to love this delicious easy cake. My grandma would only put pecans on half the cake to cater to those who did and did not like the pecans on top.

Vegan Texas sheet cakeVegan Texas sheet cake

Now that I live much farther away from Texas, I have realized that most people have never heard of a Texas sheet cake. It’s a single layer chocolate cake baked in a cookie sheet and spread with milk chocolate icing, and may or may not have pecans on top. Baking a cake in a sheet pan is also much easier to make and transport than a traditional cake. My grandma always put cinnamon in the recipe, creating a spiced chocolate dessert that is the epitome of fall. I’ve looked at a lot of recipes for sheet cake, which may call for > 1 stick of butter, sour cream, and cups of sugar. This recipe has a secret ingredient that makes this a healthy alternative to traditional recipes, without losing any of the indulgence!

Vegan Texas sheet cakeVegan Texas sheet cake

Healthier Vegan Texas Sheet Cake

Servings: makes a half cookie sheet (recipe can be doubled for a full cookie sheet)


For the cake:

Cake base recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Cake with a Secret Ingredient

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 packets of stevia or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

For the icing:

  • additional 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter if not vegan)
  • additional 1/8 teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon if using coconut oil)
  • additional 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • additional 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • additional 3-4 tablespoons milk of choice
  • additional splash vanilla extract
  • pecans (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a half cookie sheet and set aside
  • Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, cocoa powder, and flax. Combine and set aside
  • In a separate bowl, melt coconut oil. Stir in pumpkin, sugar, and stevia to combine. Add milk and vanilla to combine. Add in flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Spread onto cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool
  • For the icing: melt additional butter or coconut oil. Add salt, cinnamon, and vanilla and stir. Pour in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and 3 tablespoons milk. Stir until combined and icing is shiny, adding additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing looks shiny as it does in the picture above. It should not be as thick as buttercream, but not as thin as a glaze. Spread over cooled cake and top with chopped pecans if desired.

healthy vegan texas sheet cake cinnamon chococlate spice cake


Pumpkin Spice Cake Cookies

I have to admit, I did not make these cookies taste exactly like pumpkin spice bread on purpose. It was a happy accident. I was experimenting with ingredients and meant to make a more dense, sugar cookie-like pumpkin cookie. Instead, I ended up with a super fluffy, cake-like pumpkin cookie – still delicious – but not what I intended to do. I brought them to work and thought that maybe I had in fact, hit a stroke of genius. Who wants to bring a big cake or loaf of bread to work, and have to cut it, and then find a small plate, napkin, and fork for your co-workers to eat it with? Not me! Why not just serve something equally delicious in cookie form. So that is what I have for you today. You can thank me later.

Pumpkin Spice Cake Cookies

Servings: 18


  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup Morena sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silicone baking bat and set aside.
  • In a standing mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add canned pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and mix to incorporate.
  • Add flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
  • Using a cookie scoop, scoop onto prepared pan.
  • Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Coat a fork with sugar and press perpendicular patterns on top
  • Bake for around 10 minutes or until just browning around the edges.

pumpkin spice cake cookies

Vegan Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Who else loves overnight oats? They are so simple to make and you can constantly change up the ingredients so you don’t get tired of the same thing. It’s becoming my favorite time of the year: Pumpkin Season! So I hope you are prepared for basically pumpkin everything recipes for the next few months. I have even made pumpkin chili before – it was delicious!


Vegan Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Servings: 5


  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (I used agave maple syrup)
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk of choice – I used coconut milk


  • Combine pumpkin, chia, brown sugar and maple syrup. If you only have brown sugar or maple syrup, then I would suggest using either 1/4 cup brown sugar or 1/3 cup maple syrup depending on desired sweetness level.
  • Mix in spices, salt, oats, and vanilla and stir. Add milk and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!

vegan pumpkin overnight oats with pecans maple syrup

Sunshine Smoothie Bowl

It’s been almost 8 weeks since I started my blog. It has been so fulfilling for me to share all of my ideas and culinary creations with you! So much of my inspiration comes from the amazing images that my camera is able to create.  I never realized how much I would love my camera. I wish I had bought an amazing camera years ago! I spent months and months researching, trying to pick the best one, and I am so happy with the one I bought! This smoothie bowl is inspired by the beautiful sunflower field that was my first post on my blog.


Sunshine Smoothie Bowl

Servings: 1


  • 1/2 apple of choice
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 small container of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon blue spirulina
  • Mango, almonds, etc for topping


Blend ingredients together and top with toppings if desired. Enjoy!


sunshine smoothie bowl mango almonds chia blueberry