Hello fall. let the pumpkin recipes begin!

In celebration of the cooler weather and crisp blue skies that graced Charleston about a week ago, I jumped right into the seasonal-inspired baking.

Pumpkin is great for baking as it keeps everything moist without all the added fat! These muffins are spiced up, touched with maple, and then swirled with slightly sweet + cinnamony neufchatel cheese. Think of them as pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting that are healthy enough to eat for breakfast :]

spiced pumpkin & cream muffins, adapted from here

for cream cheese filling:

4 oz neufchatel cream cheese (1/3 less fat), at room temp

3 T powdered sugar

1 T agave

½ t pumpkin pie spice

½ t cinnamon

milk as needed

for muffins:

2 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour

1 t baking soda

½ t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

½ t ground ginger

¼ t ground cloves

1/8 t ground nutmeg

½ cup brown sugar [I loosely packed this, but feel free to add more]

2 T maple syrup [original recipe called for molasses but I didn’t have any]

¼ cup canola oil [or use applesauce in place of some or all of it for a lower fat muffin]

2 large eggs, OR 6 T egg whites, lightly whisked

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 t vanilla extract, [plus some maple if you have it!]

¾ cup buttermilk [I made my own with vinegar and soymilk]

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin or a mini muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper cups. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, pie spice, cinnamon and agave until well mixed. You don’t want the mixture to be too thick, so add some milk if necessary. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together  sugar, maple/molasses, oil, and eggs until combined. Whisk in the pumpkin, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients into wet and stir just until fully moistened.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup a little over 2/3 full. Spoon about 1 heaping tsp of the cream cheese mixture into the center of each cup. Swirl the two together gently with a skewer. *Alternatively, you can fill cups halfway with batter, add a tsp of cream cheese, swirl, add more batter, another tsp of cream cheese, and swirl again for a layered muffin. Sprinkle tops with some cinnamon if you’re crazy in love with the spice like I am. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean (the cream cheese may cling on to the toothpick, but the batter should not.) Let the muffins cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Then I decided—why not have double the pumpkin fun and make a pumpkin spice latte?!

Say goodbye to Starbucks (I actually haven’t tried their oh-so-popular latte), because this is one seriously easy drink to make! Just follow the recipe from thekitchn. I halved the recipe for one serving and used Organic Zero in place of the sugar, which is all natural erythritol made from fermented sugar cane. This latte was super comforting and definitely put me in the fall mood :]

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