Tracy Tries: 2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

Cooking time: 25 minutes
Dishes Dirtied: 5
Verdict: YUM!

While the rest of the Interwebs celebrates #MeatlessMonday, our family welcomes the new week with Muffin Monday. And what better way to celebrate it being nearly 100 degrees in September than by having some yummy fall pumpkin goodness?

We were actually planning on having these yummy blueberry muffins tonight, but we didn’t have enough flour. Have you ever thought “I should check to see if we have X in the kitchen” and then gone to the kitchen and totally forgotten to look for X? Yeah, that happened. And even during the meticulous menu planning that I attempt to do each week before grocery shopping I didn’t manage to check on flour. 

Lucky for us, I happened to have the ingredients for these super easy pumpkin muffins on hand. So we still got to celebrate #MuffinMonday – just with different muffins. 

I’m pretty sure this recipe came from the days when low-fat diets were popular. Back then we had a cookbook called “Butter Busters” and it was all fat-free/low fat recipes. No worries about sugar or calories, folks, because only fat is bad. Have you ever had fat free cheese? I have and it’s not something I really want to have again. 

This recipe isn’t from that book – I’ve long since ditched that book and moved on to using real food instead of synthetic, fat-free pseudo-food. But it follows the concept of replacing the fats with something healthy – like pumpkin purée!

So, what’s this recipe anyway? Two ingredients: pumpkin purée and spice cake mix. Don’t yell at me about the spice cake mix – I know it has additives like colors and unwanted junk, but sometimes ya just gotta make a sacrifice in the name of time and ease. This is my go-to recipe when I need easy muffins. 

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

When I first started making these, I thought it had to be mixed by hand like you do with regular muffins. I always had to add lots of milk to make it wet enough to mix and even then I’d wind up with lumps of dry cake mix in the batter. Recently, it dawned on me that I was using cake mix. CAKE. MIX. Perhaps I should mix it like a cake? You know, with a mixer – that machine that mixes things for you? 


I tried out the mixer and I couldn’t believe how long I’ve been doing it wrong. 

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

This is what my island normally looks like when I cook. This is reality blogging at its finest!

You might still need a bit of milk to make it mix well, but just a splash will do. 

These deliciously moist and cake-y muffins are sure to disappear quickly so make sure you save one for yourself before serving to your family and friends!


2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins by gooberface

pasta and sausage by gooberface

Tracy tries: Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli

pasta and sausage by gooberface

Ingredients assembled and ready to go

Total Prep & Cook Time: 1 hr
Dishes Dirtied: 12 (15 if you include the garlic bread we had on the side)
Verdict: Try again with tweaks

I’m a big fan of Taco Tuesday, but lately I think we’ve been in a recipe rut. As in, not just Taco Tuesday, but also Taco Thursday, Taco Friday, Taco Saturday…well, you get the idea. While I’m working on the weekly menu and grocery list on Sunday morning, I ask the kids what they want for dinners for the week. And I usually get tacos as a suggestion. I’m all about the tacos and have a crockpot chicken tacos recipe I want to try out someday, but the way we typically eat our tacos (in a flour tortilla with cheese, sour cream and refried beans), we don’t typically get in a lot of fruits or veggies. So I’m always on the lookout for a simple, easy-to-make weeknight meal that includes a veggie that kids can actually handle eating.

When I saw a recipe for Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli in my weekly email from Once Upon a Chef, I felt the need to give it a try.  5-star reviews and a 25-minute cooking time? Yes! Let’s do this!

The original recipe calls for orecchiette pasta, which is all fine and good except when you are on a budget and can only find one choice for orecchiete and it isn’t the one that is on sale. So tofette was my choice because, well…it looked a lot like the orecchiette in size and shape. And it was on sale. I’m all about saving some money these days.

The recipe also calls for sweet italian sausage. I’m a bit of a additive snob and the options for italian sausage at my grocery store all had high fructose corn syrup and MSG and other things that I try to avoid. So I chose this Johnsonville All Natural Mild Italian Sausage. I thought that if I needed to I could just add sugar in some form to sweeten the sausage. I did a bit of research after I got home to figure out what sort of sweetening I needed to do and discovered that sweet Italian sausage doesn’t necessarily have sugar in it. Huh. One of those weird misnomers in the food world. So I stuck with the mild sausage as is.

browning sausage by gooberface

And then I had a hard time finding Pecorino Romano in the grocery store. But I’ll admit that I was freezing to death in the store and not really feeling like looking too hard. I get that certain sections of the grocery store will be cold because the items stored there need to be cold. But when the whole store is so cold that you need to pack a jacket for shopping (even in summer) it’s just too much.

Anyhoo, no Pecorino Romano so I opted for this 3-cheese blend of Romano, Parmesan and Asiago.

And I’m too lazy to mince my own garlic. So I go with the minced garlic in a jar.

Everything else was by the book – I SWEAR! No other subs!

Cook time for the recipe is 25 minutes, which may be the case if you’re familiar with the recipe or just really awesome with managing your time. I’m not  either of those, so it was closer to 1 hour. I’ll admit – I was held up by the pasta and that was my fault. I didn’t start the water early enough and that held me up.


Both kids ate it and The Boy even said that the broccoli didn’t taste bad in it. WIN!! We’ll definitely try it again with a few tweaks.

TWEAK #1: The recipe calls for a LOT of added fats. 5 tablespoons of oil, plus 3 tablespoons of butter. On top of all the fat in that pork sausage. It was pretty greasy when the meal came together and I think I only used 4 tablespoons of oil. Next time I’ll cut back on the oil a bit – and maybe on the butter as well.

TWEAK #2: The sausage seems to carry all the flavor of the dish. The pasta part needs a bit more oomph. I added a bit of garlic powder at the end because the pasta was a bit plain. That helped a bit. I think I’ll crank up the garlic and red pepper flakes a bit.

TWEAK #3: Maybe we’ll actually try to get the Pecorino Romano or some Parmigiano Reggiano (the other suggested cheese in the recipe).

Anything that gets these kids eating their veggies is worth trying more than once to get it right. And the recipe is simple enough that once I get it figured out it should be pretty close to the 25 minutes for getting it made, which makes this busy working momma happy.

photo by gooberface

Dirty dishes – Not too many, but they still don’t wash themselves. *sigh*



Tracy Tries: Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins by gooberface

Blueberry muffins by gooberface

On our recent family vacation, the kids fell in love with blueberry muffins. But not the delicious bakery fresh muffins you would imagine someone blogging about. No sirree! You see, these muffins that they raved about were part of the continental breakfast at the Fairfield Inn in Amarillo. You know – the kind of muffins that probably came from some corporate food service vendor and were made a few weeks ago in some factory on the other side of the country. 

I certainly couldn’t have these sweet angels hooked on muffins laden with preservatives and artificial flavorings, so I decided it was time to try out some blueberry muffin recipes. 

I found a couple of recipes that I thought looked tasty and had great reviews. My plan was to make a batch of each at the same time and conduct a taste testing. On the day of the great bake off I looked over both recipes one more time before I started to gather the ingredients. And I noticed some similarities. They used the same amount of flour. And sugar. And oil. And eggs. And milk. What the heck? I had somehow managed to pick out what was essentially the exact same recipe from two different websites. The only difference was that one added vanilla extract and the other added a crumb topping

So instead of making them both, I just made one. I opted for the one without the crumb topping because I’m a lazy bum and wanted to get done faster. And it made them healthier to not have all that extra butter and sugar. 

In the end, I think that was a good decision as they were plenty sweet without the added topping. They had delightfully crunchy tops and were chock full of blueberry goodness. 

I used more blueberries than the recipe called for and was a bit worried that The Girl wouldn’t eat them since they were REALLY blueberry-y. But after eating her initial two muffins she asked for a third. From this picky eater, that’s a clear WIN!

In case you’re interested in the recipe, head on over to Inspired Taste.



Tracy Tries: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies

Tonight’s culinary creation was Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies, from DamnDelicious. I thought it would make a nice and easy healthy meal that could cook away while we played in the pool. 


PREP TIME: 30 minutes

Prep was a little more time consuming than I anticipated.while the recipe called for bone-in chicken thighs, I opted for boneless. Im not a fan of digging bones out of chicken, so boneless seemed to be the right choice for me. 

And let’s talk for a moment about these boneless thighs. Or about packaged fresh chicken in general. I’m so over picking up a beautiful package of chicken, opening it up and discovering that the chicken has been nicely folded so that the consumer can’t see how awful the cut looks on the other side. There was so much trimming involved, that I spent a good 10-15 minutes trimming the fat, veins and bones out of the thighs. Ugh. Between that and scrubbing and cutting potatoes, along with measuring the ingredients for the sauce, it was a good 30 minutes of prep. 

I cooked it in my crockpot on high for about 4 hours. The carrots were still a bit crunchy and the chicken was starting to get dry. I was having too much fun in the pool to come in and add the green beans at the right time, so I nuked them a bit and then put them in for about 10-15 minutes. They were also a bit crunchier than I typically, like, but to be honest I don’t really like green beans all that much. 


Hubs really liked the chicken, as did The Boy. The Girl didn’t like any of it. I thought it was pretty good, but the amount of soy sauce in the recipe made it a bit too salty for my liking, even with using reduced sodium soy sauce. 

I honestly can’t think of any alterations I could make to this recipe to make it work for our family. I love the idea of a nice and easy crockpot meal for those days we are in the pool for hours, but this one just doesn’t have the right flavor profile for us. 

Back to the drawing board! I’m sure there is a great recipe out there for us! I just have to keep looking. 


nighttime craziness

If I can’t have my glass of red wine at bedtime, I’m a very grumpy momma. Why? Well, right now as I’m typing this I have one kid in the shower singing “America the Beautiful” (and I’m sure she’s not getting clean) and another kid asking me which Lego piece looks best on his creation, and hubs is busy doing who-knows-what on his iPad. And I’m typing a blog post. And no one is trying really hard to get the kids in bed.

And when is bedtime in our house? 8:00pm.

When do we usually get the kids in bed? After 8:00pm. WAY after 8:00pm.

Maybe we should just stop the rouse and change the bedtime to 9:00pm. Then we’d feel a bit better about getting the kids to bed late. But then again, we’d feel bad about having such a late bedtime for our kids.


Maybe another sip of wine will help me!

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paperwork problems

So I didn’t really do all of the things I planned on doing while I was on medical leave, but that’s OK because I’m still on medical leave!  Woohoo!

Wait – if I’m on medical leave and I work where I happen to work, then I have to use up all of my sick time and vacation time before I really and truly go on medical leave. I don’t want to do that! I want to go back to work and save my vacation and sick time for another time when I really need it!

Essentially, I’m on a medical vacation. Not just that – a vacation forced upon me by paperwork. For all the time that I’ve worked in higher ed, I’ve enjoyed many of the perks: more holidays, lax dress code, no threat of layoffs, etc. But now I’m discovering the dark side of higher ed: Human Resources. This is where we see government bureaucracy at its best. Where a phrase such as “light duty” on a return to work note from a doctor spurs a mess of paperwork and hassle because HR doesn’t understand what “light duty” is and thinks that it means I must not be able to perform my actual job. Because my surgeon knows what my job actually entails, right?

Honestly, this has me so upset and frustrated that I had to yell and beat my hands on my desk for a bit today. My buddy Marty took that as a sign that I needed some doggie love and came over to gently put his paws on my lap and make me pet him. What a thoughtful boy! If only I could earn a living as a doggie hugger…




what you do when you’re on medical leave

After spending most of the past year either in pain with sciatica or in fear of sciatica pain, I decided that it was time to find out the cause of the sciatica and see if that could be treated. Seriously, there’s only so long that I could stand the shame of hurting myself by doing simple things.

Me (calling in to work): “I won’t be at work today – I hurt my back.”

Coworker: “Oh no! What did you do?”

Me: “Um… You know, I’m not really sure. I folded some laundry yesterday. If I accidentally turned and reached for something to fold, that could have caused some serious back problems. Or maybe it was from picking up the dog toy on the floor. I also mixed muffin batter and I swept the floors. Honestly, it could have been ANYTHING!”

I insisted on seeing an orthopedic surgeon – or at least an orthopedic surgeon’s physician’s assistant. After an x-ray confirmed arthritis (like every other 40-something person probably has), I asked “That’s it? Just arthritis and live with it? It can’t be something else? Is there something else we can do about this?” The PA offered up an MRI and even though I’m petrified of tight spaces I signed up for the MRI anyway.

So one scary MRI later, I was greeted with the news that I was the owner of a pretty awesome herniated disc in my back.

And so I opted for a microdiscectomy to get that bad boy out of my back and off my spinal nerve.

The surgery was a few days ago and I’m still on meds to keep the pain at bay, so no work for me.

What to do when you don’t have to go to work?

  • Sleep.
  • Crochet a stuffed creeper for your kids.
  • Binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.
  • Resurrect the blog you quit writing a couple of years ago.

Aren’t you glad I had back surgery?


on aging

On NBC Nightly News tonight, there was a lovely interview of President Bush (#41) by his granddaughter, Jenna. He’s turning 88, and was reflecting on aging and it really got me to thinking about my thoughts on aging recently.

Today, G was doing what the kids love to do – climbing on her momma and trying to hang onto my feet and let me drag her around. And maybe if I were more physically fit it would be okay. And maybe also if she didn’t weigh half my weight it wouldn’t be so bad. But really – my body just isn’t cut out for it anymore.

Back when it was okay for the kids to crawl all over me...

Aging has kinda slapped me in the face this year: I had my 40th birthday and since then decided that vanity wins over avoiding unnecessary chemicals and I’ve now invested in some anti-aging products. I’m still going au naturel with the haircolor and hoping that I’ve inherited at least one good gene from my parents and just like my dad, I’ll go a long time before going grey.

My babies aren’t babies any more: S can now get my feet off the ground when he tries to pick me up (and I’m not even helping him like I used to!) and when he stands next to me the top of his head comes up to my nose. It’s probably been a couple of years since I’ve read him a bedtime story and now G can read her own books too (though she likes for me to read them to her while she takes a bath and get ready for bed).

But worse than seeing the wrinkles on me and thinking about the “human development” video that S will be watching in 4th grade next year, is seeing my parents age. This year I’ve visited them in the hospital more times than I care to think about. I’ve seen their health go down and up and back down again. I know (as I’ve known for a long time) that there will be a time when they won’t be around anymore, but I just don’t want that to happen for a long, long time. As I think about what time we have left – both with my parents and also with my kids while they are still KIDS – I have to wonder if I’m getting the most out of it? Are we spending quality time together? Are we doing enough to just enjoy being with each other? Are we too attached to the craziness of modern life to slow down and do things as a family while we are still together as a family?

I have lots of happy memories with my family and I’m hoping that my kids have them as well. I know that they have more proof of those moments in their lives just due to the ease of modern technology (how expensive would it be to take the bajillion pictures I normally take of my kids if I were using film?), but are the moments they have quality moments? Will they tell their kids stories about their childhoods? And if so, what will they tell them?

Sometimes you gotta get some paint on the camera and take a really bad self-portrait to capture the memories.

So, here are my resolutions I hope to keep in the future in order to make the most of our memory-making moments:

  • take more pictures…of everything!
  • be in some pictures with my kids – one day they will all be taller than me so I need more evidence that I was once 2nd tallest in the family
  • get away from the computer, iphone, TV, whatever other gadget and spend time just doing stuff with the kids
  • spend time with my parents and Hubs’ parents and start collecting their stories
  • Enjoy Life!

As I told G tonight when she broke into tears because she had left her book downstairs, “you can choose to be happy or sad – it’s up to you to decide when it’s not worth being sad about something.” (okay, quotes aren’t really necessary because I’m paraphrasing myself, but no one reads this anyway so I’m sure the punctuation police will let it slide). So I’m going to work harder on enjoying life. Weird that I have to resolve to do that. Shouldn’t we all be enjoying life more?

Sometimes, the best things in life really are free. And for a kid, a puddle is one of the best things!


knowledge is power

You would think that having a diagnosis of a disorder that you already suspected your child had wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but you would be oh-so-wrong for thinking that. I’ve known that something was up with The Boy – that he was different from all the other kids – for quite some time. And yet, having that piece of paper with the word “Asperger’s” on it has made a world of difference to me in the way I interact with him. Post-diagnosis, I seem to have more patience; I take it all less personally – it’s not him being a turkey on purpose – it’s his brain thinking differently from the rest of us. And sometimes, it’s a wonderful thing when he thinks differently. And sometimes, not so much.

Today, The Boy came home talking about wanting to take a picture of a styrofoam airplane and putting the picture on a t-shirt. He remembered that he had a plain white t-shirt and wanted to get an image of the red, white and blue plane onto the shirt. And he wanted to paint red swirls on the shirt. And he wanted to wear it tomorrow. And we had an appointment to go to this evening so only had about an hour of free time after we got home from school. And I haven’t had the time to mess with Photoshop and become a whiz with it yet.

I kept putting off telling him that it just wasn’t going to happen, but also giving hints that his project was quite time-consuming and I didn’t know if we’d have the time. When he brought it up at bedtime, I mentioned that if he had thought of this project over the weekend, we would have had plenty of time to get it done. “But I didn’t know until today that we’re supposed to wear red, white and blue tomorrow!”

Fortunately, my boy is a thinker and becoming a bit of a problem-solver as well. And he started thinking of this as a problem to be solved. I mentioned that he could wear a red shirt with the blue pants that I had just bought him today. His counteroffer: wearing his white shirt and the blue pants and a pair of red shorts over the pants. In my head, I’m thinking of the social implications of such an outfit for a third-grader, and trying to figure out how to keep him from wearing that outfit without telling him why. So I mention how uncomfortable it might be since his red shorts are getting a bit small and might be rather tight on him in multiple layers like that. I countered with the option of wearing his blue pants, white long sleeve shirt and red shirt over the white one. He was getting there but not quite sold on it.

Then, I dug through his closet and found that he has a blue short sleeve t-shirt that says “America” on it. AND he has a plain red long sleeve t-shirt. I show him the America shirt with the red shirt behind it, he inspects it and determines that there might just be enough white in the America shirt for it to be acceptable. And we have a plan!!

So, what does this tell me? It tells me that if the principal of the school announces that kids should wear red, white and blue the next day to celebrate Veteran’s Day, then my son is going to want every single one of those colors on his person that day. That is – he will want to wear them should he choose to participate at all. Because, after all, he is still a 3rd grader and subject to decide that he is too old to care about stuff like that from time to time. I just never know when he’s going to decide to care and when he’s going to just blow it off. But knowing him like I do, I can work with whatever he decides to do and hopefully feel pretty proud of my momma skills at the end of the day.


Why my kid is different

I really wish I had a 24/7 recording of my kids so I can keep up with all this stuff. Because there are so many things said that I’d love to have recorded to look back at later.

The Boy had some developmental tests run which included various questions to get at his intelligence, analytical ability, etc. The evaluator noted several things that Sam said that surprised her. The one that I can remember:

Evaluator: “I’m right in front of you, but you can’t see me. This is because I am….”
Sam: “Microscopic!”

Me and just about everyone else I know would have said “Invisible,” but my boy thinks differently and comes up with a totally different answer that is completely correct.

And one day he’s going to think differently enough to invent something or find a better way of doing something or some other amazing thing that will have a positive impact on the world. That’s my boy!