Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

My Bear absolutely loves sweets. ¬†I’m currently still in the transition of going paleo and eating clean, however, one can indulge every now and then, right? ¬†Last Thanksgiving, we hosted both our families and I was stressing to figure out what to prepare. ¬†I have minimal baking experience. ¬†So I needed something easy and straightforward and most of all tasty! ¬†I stumbled upon this recipe and it was a hit. ¬†It’s one of my Bear’s fave fall recipes — and he loves cream cheese. ¬†It was a great compromise for flavor (cheese cake is appalling to me, but it’s my Bear’s fave) and texture. ¬†For all the new bakers out there, give this recipe a try (see link at the bottom: huge props to The Novice Chef¬†for this outstanding recipe!).


PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE SWIRL MUFFINS

yield: 18 MUFFINS

prep time: 12 MINUTES

cook time: 18 MINUTES

total time: 30 MINUTES

pumpkin-cream-cheese-swirl-muffins-1-sm

INGREDIENTS:

  • FOR THE MUFFINS
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (pure pumpkin puree)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • FOR THE FROSTING/SWIRL
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375¬įF. Place paper baking cups into muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar and brown sugar.
  4. Beat in eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture, until there are no lumps. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in sugar, egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  6. Top each muffin with about 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture and use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter. This will not look smooth, but it will bake up much prettier.
  7. Bake muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
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Mimi’s Chinese Chicken

This was one of my childhood favorites. If I wasn’t feeling well, I would drink the broth. I loved the tenderness of the chicken after being boiled. There was a ton of flavor! And I used to love pouring the sauce over rice as I really disliked the texture and blandness of white rice.  Thank you Mimi for teaching me one of my faves!

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 drumsticks (may be frozen or thawed)
  • 5 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • One Thai Chile or red pepper flakes
  • One small dab of honey or agave (very small)
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • One bag of Asian spice pouch (either brand found at the Asian market) — see pics below


DIRECTIONS:
1. In a 3 quart sauce pan, place drumsticks in water (just enough to cover the drumsticks). Cover pan and bring to boil (med-high heat). 

2. Once boiling, skim off fat before adding spices. 

3. Add all spices. Stir well to make sure all ingredients are mixed. Water should still be boiling at this point. Boil one minute longer after all ingredients mixed well. 


4. Decrease temperature to med-low for 30 minutes (if frozen or until chicken meat looks like it’s almost falling off the bone). Keep lid on (do not lift lid to check on meat). 

5. Turn off heat after 30 minutes. 

You may use liquid as broth. It’s great for soup, broth to drink, rice topper, seasoning of veggies, etc. 

THE FINAL PRODUCT

Patagonia – December 2016


Best options:
Company
Cost pp
W Trek
Added activities
All inclusive?
tent?
$3345-3500
yes
kayak iceberg
walk glaciers
$3500 for porter, $300 for regional flights; can add rafting or horseback riding in Chilean Lakes District; wine country
Tent vs. backcountry refugees
Buses in Chile
Easter Island

THE REAL ITINERARY

Air Canada: KMS54I
AC1886 SAN 11:30a ‚ÄĒ> Toronto 7:14P
AC92 Toronto 11:45p ‚ÄĒ> Santiago 12:45p on Dec 24

 
Arrive 12:45p to SCL
Gorgeous flight over the mountains and coast! Looks kinda like the flyover Santa Barbara where the mountains abut the ocean.
Annoying guy in immigration keeps turning and his backpack keeps hitting mine. I want to punch him! ¬†He’s invading my personal space.
Night in Santiago
José Victorino Lastarria 276, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
Fantastic lunch spot! In a great area to walk around. Delicious wine and food pairings.
 
Confirmation Number: 310507392 
Lovely modern hotel in the middle of Bellas Artes district. Easily walkable to/from. Metro stop close by.

6am flight to Puerto Natales –> 9:30a
Stay Puerto Natales for the day:

Hotel IF Patagonia

Calle Magallanes 73, XII Región Puerto Natales, CHILE
Email: reservas@hotelifpatagonia.com
Phone:¬†+5661 2410312,¬†Fax: —

They have a sauna – super hip and modern!!


Swoop partnered with Chile Nativo in Puerto Natales to organize W trek.

11am Рmeet at Eberhard #230 office for group orientation. 

Day 1:

Starting from Puerto Natales at 12 PM or from Cerro Castillo at 1PM, we drive all the way to¬†Torres del Paine National Park. We will¬†drive through open pampas and huge ranches¬†(estancias), and chances are we will be able to observe one of the most typical animals in this area, the nandu, (rare South American ostrich). We will follow an unpaved road heading to Refugio Las Torres to spend our first night. Upon entering the park we will have¬†excellent photographic and bird-watching opportunities¬†as we drive alongside¬†lagoons frequented by Chilean flamencos and black-necked swans. Today’s hike is on a gentle trail following the border of the park and offers opportunities to see¬†guanacos (Llama family)¬†andthe Andean Condor.

2 hours private transfer to Torres del Paine

Hike duration: 3 hours 

Accommodation: Refugio Las Torres

Meals: Dinner 
It was freakin windy!!! Omg. Hard to stay upright!

Day 2:

We will start our first day¬†trekking to the base of the Towers, following the Ascencio River to enter the Ascencio Valley. Our walk will be uphill for one hour before stopping to observe the first glimpses of the valley surrounded by¬†unbelievable beech forests (Nothofagus family), glaciers and waterfalls.¬†We’ll continue through the valley for another hour and a half before ascending a huge terminal moraine to a lookout (900m), excellent for picture taking. At this point, we will be surrounded by three giant granite towers (2850m) and a lagoon with slurry waters due to erosion produced by glaciers. This amazing view will be accompanied by lunch to add to the enjoyment. After being awed by the towers we’ll start our descent, following the same path back to the hut.

Hike duration: 7-8 hours 18 km

Accommodation: Refugio las Torres

Meals: Breakfast, Boxed Lunch, Dinner 

Day 3:

We will start early morning to enjoy, weather permitting, a magnificent dawn filled with orange-pink colors. As we leave the campground we will arrive at Inge lagoon. Chances are, on this path, we may see the flight of an Andean condor or eagles hunting hares or small rodents. We follow a well-marked trail ascending (around 200m) from the base of Almirante Nieto Mountain (2750m), crossing the Bader River to arrive at Refugio Los Cuernos where we will stay overnight.

Hike duration: 5 hours 11km (500m difference of level)

Accommodation: Refugio los Cuernos

Meals: Breakfast, boxed lunch, dinner

(You can upgrade to private cabins with two beds and sharing bathrooms in between the cabins only and a free Hot tub access for USD $80 per single occupancy or USD $40 per double occupancy)

Day 4:

We will start our day with a 2-hour walk going to an undulating path until reaching the French River for our first glimpses of the hanging glacier. Then we will ascend (300m,) for one hour through a surreal Japanese garden landscape, crossing beech forests, to reach the French Valley viewpoint gifting us with a magnificent view of both mountains and lakes. We will lunch here with good possibilities of seeing avalanches from the hanging glacier or simply observe the west side of the Cuernos (2600m), Espada (2400m) and Fortaleza (2800m). Our way back will be the same until we reach the entrance of the valley where we will continue on a different path around the South-West side of Paine Grande, the highest peak in the Park, through native forests of Chilean fire bush and evergreen beech (Nothofagus Bethuloides), up to the shore of the Pehoe Lake.

Hike duration: 7 hours 18 km

Accommodation: Refugio Paine Grande

Meals: Breakfast, boxed lunch, dinner 

Day 5:

We will begin early in the morning with our hike to the Grey Glacier. Initially ascending 200mts up a winding narrow path leading us to Laguna Negra, a place where we will observe the first glimpses of the South Patagonia Ice Field with its many unclimbed mountains. We will advance through forests and rivers, with possible sightings of spectacle and flying steamer ducks, up to the glacier viewpoint. We will have lunch at this place to and hopefully catch sight of ice calving from the huge glacier wall. Right after lunch we start an exciting adventure by boat. We will navigate for a while in front of the glacier in the hope of seeing icebergs calve. Our return journey offers views of Paine Grande with its impressive ice mushrooms and we sail through icebergs of different tones of blue. Then we will take a transfer back to Puerto Natales.

Hike duration: 4 hours 12 km

Boat trip duration: 2 hours

Transfer duration: 2 hours

Meals: Breakfast, boxed lunch 

Please note: Trip can start/end in El Calafate, Argentina. Arrival El Calafate around 2pm on Day 6. Please enquire for further details.
 
Done with trip around 6pm.
 
Massage/spa at Mandala Andino
301, 6160000, Manuel Bulnes, Puerto Natales, Natales, Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, Chile
7p – Deep body or detox massage (Christy), Thai massage (Kris)
Find bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas: BusSur
SALIDA LLEGADA SERVICIOS PRECIO
Puerto Natales
30.12.2016, 21:00
Terminal Rodoviario Puerto Natales
Punta Arenas
31.12.2016, 00:15
Terminal Bus-Sur Punta Arenas
HOTEL ILAIA
Telefono / Telephone:¬†+56 61 2723100, Direcci√≥n / Address: Ignacio Carrera Pinto #351, Punta Arenas – Patagonia ‚Äď Chile.
E-mail: reservas@ilaiapatagoni

a.com

|   www.ilaiapatagonia.com


Fly out of Punta Arenas to Santiago: Sky NK5V6
Punta Arenas – Santiago de Chile
FLIGHT DATE CLASS CONNECTIONS DEPARTURE TIME ARRIVAL TIME
SKY 004 31/12/2016 L 10:10 13:30
Must get rental car to drive from Santiago to Valparaiso: https://goo.gl/maps/ivFNiMfuBBp (1 hr and tolls)
 
Airport transfer from Santiago to bus terminal. Then another bus to Valparaiso. We found our our air bnb hostess can arrange for a driver for us to do Casablanca valley wineries!  
 
Uber to plaza de sotomayor
Ascensor el peral 
 
 
AirBNB
 
Check In

Sat, Dec 31

3PM – 9PM

Check Out

Mon, Jan 02

Flexible check out time

Address

Javiera Carrera 340 1604

Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso

Chile

Get directionsView listing


 
 
Sun, Jan 1, 2016
Valparaiso

Mon, Jan 2, 2016
Morning in Concepcion and alegre
3:30p cooking class at Cafe Melbourne

Tues, Jan 3, 2016

Casablanca Valley (bt Santiago and valpo)
  • Fruity chards
  • Sauv blancs
  • Pinots
Rte 68
Emiliana (biodynamic), vina indomita (carmenere), vina veramonte (cab, chards);
Casas del bosque, Bodegas Re, Loma Larga, Matetic. 
 

?Mendoza (8 hrs away) — too far w border check
 
Maipo Valley (south of Santiago, 1.5 hrs)
Cab, merlot, carmenere, Syrah
  • Town of Pirque as central locale
Vina aquitania (santiago’s most interesting; high quality, small production), vina almaviva (partnership w baron philippe de Rothschild and concha y torro; sophisticated sis of concha y toro), vina Santa Rita (premium casa real cab );
Haras de Pirque, Perez Cruz, De Martino. Vina cousi√Īo Macul,¬†
Stay @ Hotel Casa Pando
Cabello 421 (6 blocks north of Plaza de Armas)

Wed, Jan 4, 2016
Colchagua Valley
Use Santa Cruz as departure point
10:30a Lapostolle (sig red Clos de Apalta); 12pm Montes
2p Viu manent
Stay @ Hotel Casa Pando
Cabello 421 (6 blocks north of Plaza de Armas)

Thurs, Jan 5, 2016
Pichilemu
Bus: Terminal Santa Cruz
Hotel: Ruka Lobos
Rsv: 1373.041.090
Punta de Lobos
3220000 Pichilemu

Maule Valley (export wine)
Feb 2010 earthquake
Town of Talca as base camp
Via wines (sustainable, sauv Blanc, Syrah), vina gillmore (cab franc)

Fri, Jan 6, 2016
Back to Santiago
21:00 Borago Santiago, Chile: http://www.borago.cl
Nueva Costanera 3467, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana, Chile
 
Renaissance Santiago Hotel
Avenida Presidente Kennedy 4700, Vitacura . Santiago 7630454 Chile 
Reservation Confirmation: 84481467
For MS Christy Cosper
MARRIOTT REWARDS MEMBER
CHECK-IN DATE
Friday, January 6, 2017
CHECK-IN TIME
03:00 PM
CHECK-OUT DATE
Sunday, January 8, 2017
CHECK-OUT TIME
12:00 PM

Sat, Jan 7, 2016
Santiago during day
Air Canada: KMS54I
AC93 SCL 9:10P¬†‚ÄĒ> Toronto 5:40am (Jan 8)
 
Renaissance Santiago Hotel
Reservation Confirmation: 84481467

Sun, Jan 8, 2016
AC1887 Toronto 8:20am¬†‚ÄĒ> San Diego 10:34am

Best convenient meals that work for me

Everyone seems to be busy these days.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a student, professional, stay-at-home… everyone is running around in the rat race of life.  When I lived in Boston, I would have a delivery service called PeaPod deliver my groceries typically on my postcall day bc I knew that’s when I’d be home.  But today, delivery services have improved!  I’ll go through each of my favorites:




GOBBLE

For the person or couple or family who likes the idea of cooking and/or cooking together, Gobble makes it super easy to whip together a delicious meal that takes all the menu planning, grocery shopping, portion controlling out of it.  It’s my go-to date night meal.


————————————-

FRESHLY

Freshly is a more Paleo focused meal that offers single serving portions of breakfast, lunch, or dinner that is super quick and convenient!  Some of the best parts about this delivery service: high quality protein, no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners, always gluten free, low-glycemic carbohydrates, and nutrient-rich veggies.  Need I say more?


————————————-

FRESH AND FIT

Fresh and Fit meals are more a local delivery food service that is super convenient and served in single serving containers.  It’s all natural and organic, seasonal, and comes from local, sustainable farms.  It’s more veggie intensive and they taste delicious!


————————————-

DAILY HARVEST

Daily Harvest is a wonderful way to blend up healthy stuff that’s super convenient and perfect for that sweet tooth craving!  Usually I’ll whip one of these up in the morning — either with water or coconut water or almond milk.  The directions are on each cup.  Oftentimes I’ll add my own protein powder, chia seeds, flax seed, etc. to boost my nutrition.  These shakes taste delicious — almost like a decadent milkshake (but one that’s actually healthy and good for you!).  So go ahead and have one for dessert!

‚ÄĒ——————————-

*** UPDATE March 2017 ***

SUN BASKET

This is now our go-to meal planner for the week! We love the nutritious aspect of this quick throw together meal delivery kit. It’s faster to prep than Blue Apron, but slightly longer to make than Gobble. The sunbasket ingredients are organic and as expected have a longer shelf life in the fridge. The recipes are super delicious and diverse. I prefer a paleo delivery kit and this one delivers!! 

Restaurants tackled on the World’s Top 50 restaurants

World’s Top 50 resties — 2014

It took me about 5 years to build up this list.  The amount of work and attention to detail that these restaurants perform is incredible.  In the same trip, I ate at Geranium and Noma.  At the time, Geranium was #50 and Noma was #1.  The two were almost indistinguishable.  2 fave restaurant in the US: Per Se and Alinea.  Bravo to the chefs and staff.  My culinary journey was nothing short of a blessing.

The 2016 World’s Best Restaurants list and with my updated dining list from 2015-2016:

  • (6) Mirazur
  • (7) Mugaritz
  • (10) Asador Extebarri
  • (12) Quintonil
  • (16) Azurmendi
  • (17) Piazza Duomo
  • (21) Arzak
  • (25) Pujol
  • (31) Nihonryori RyuGin
  • (46) Combal Zero

Beaver falls

Friday, April 17

There was an incredible amount of wind and rain overnight. It was extremely gusty and felt like the tent would be lifted up off the ground. My biggest fear through the night was whether a tree would fall on the tent or a flash flood that would wipe out the campsite.  Then came the rain. A full on downpour for about two hours. Good to know that my tent can definitely handle a good windy downpour. 
Woke up around 8am and enjoyed another delicious freeze-dried meal: Mountain House scrambled eggs with red and green bell peppers, potatoes and sausage.  This was delicious!! I have been supremely impressed with these meals! After breakfast, we moved the tent to a drier spot and headed out for the three mile hike to Beaver falls. The descent down to the base of Mooney falls was steep!  Plenty of caution signs to travel at your own risk. 
  
There are chains along the way to help climb down as well as wooden ladders appropriately placed. 
   

     

As you travel along the path, you will come across several river crossings that will require traversing. 
  
Bring either some old shoes you don’t mind getting wet, water shoes, or your bare feet. Today, the highest level of river to pass was roughly knee deep on a 5’7″ gal. The water was chilly, but extremely refreshing. It took about two hours to reach Beaver falls from the campground. 
   

   

Once at Beaver falls, go for a dip or explore the area. It’s one of the most scenic landscapes I have seen in the desert. Several guys were jumping off the falls. We opted to climb up the right side of the falls and wander around the upper pools. 
We had some lunch on a rock overlooking Beaver falls. These Epic bars made of organic meats and seasonings were like a thick jerky but fancier. The first one we tried the other day was a buffalo and bacon one. That was our fave. Today, we had the turkey, cranberry and almond. We also had the lamb, mint, and chutney. Both were ok, but not as good as the buffalo bacon one. 
After an hour exploring the area, we headed back towards the campground. There was a neat little offshoot to the right off the trail. Like a little slot canyon with a pretty dry/sparse area of water. The boulders were massive. We got back on the trail and enjoyed the impressive volume of water flowing at Mooney falls before climbing up the chains/ladder scramble. Note: tons of centipedes on that lil part. 
Made it back to camp around 3p and started another freeze-dried meal. This one was Mountain House beef stroganoff.  Let me just say… This was a delicious take on classic comfort food.  So far, I’m really enjoying these freeze-dried meals! I may have to go hiking more often to just eat these meals!
Minor blister on the left pinky toe from the water shoes. But there was plenty of dirt that could’ve been trapped to cause it. These Keen water shoes held up for the 6 mile trip (3 mi out and back to Beaver falls). 
Decided to share another small freeze-dried meal since we started smelling the yumminess that was coming from our campsite neighbors. This one was AlpineAire Spicy sausage and pasta. The flavor was just as it was described. If I had a spicy sausage pizza craving, this would hit the spot (minus the tomato sauce). Matter of fact, this pouch would’ve been super delicious with tomato sauce!

Trek to Havasupai Falls

Thurs, April 16

After staying in Canyon Lodge (super stay!!) on Rte 66, we made the long drive from Seligman, AZ to the trailhead (Hualapai) for Havasupai Falls on a long straight road.  It took roughly 1-1.5 hours.  Organized our gear for a backcountry hike with a two night overnight in the campground. 
Made the 8 mile trek to Supai village. The trail has gravel, sand, and larger rocks throughout. They have mules/horses that you can reserve ahead of time to haul your gear down to the campground. We did not do that… We hauled our own gear; just part of the experience. 
  
We checked in at the office and they had openings (basically we took a chance without a reservation bc they were full online about a month ago). Got our tags and bands and headed the two miles toward Havasupai falls. On our way out of the village, we saw a helipad where they take visitors from the village back to the trailhead start for $85pp. Also, if we were out of luck with getting a campground permit, we would’ve had to hike back out to where we started (not fun since I had a 25-30lb pack on).  
   

 

On the way out of the village, you will come across a beautiful fall…Supai falls!  It is stunning and deserves a bit of time and pictures!  We got back on the beach sandy trail towards the campground. Right before reaching the campground, you will see a massive waterfall with a beautiful canyon backdrop – Havasupai falls. After basking in its sheer awesome strength and beauty, we headed further toward the campground and staked out a site and setup camp.  The bathrooms were extremely clean. It was a toilet seat base that dropped waste into a hole deep in the floor. For breakdown of bacteria, they had wood chips to place after every toilet use and it really reduced bathroom stench (in fact, no stench at all!). 
The freeze dried dinner of the day was a delicious Thai curry. It completely blew my mind! How could something packaged like that taste so darn good? Honestly, it could rival some Thai places I’ve experienced in town.  Let it be known that it was also my first taste of a freeze dried meal. I couldn’t be happier… Especially after the hangriness kicked in from a really small lunch (half a clif bar and some pork jerky) for a 10 mile hike. After our bellies were full, we took a short walk toward Mooney falls (another gorgeous waterfall)!  
After the falls, we went and checked out the fry bread which is exactly what it is — fried dough. Got the Indian taco which is basically a tostada on fry bread. It was pretty good!
Now the bellies are full and the body is tired. Time to quiet the mind. This place is incredibly relaxing!