Practical Pinterest – Pumpkin Cupcakes

I’m here to present Practical Pinterest, Holiday Edition! I wanted to embrace the season so I used  a recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I found it from this pin which has 33 recipes for cupcakes, so I’m sure I will be revisiting this site over the next few months.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of nutmeg*
  • pinch of cloves*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin

*instead of using all of these spices separately, I had a pumpkin pie spice mix that I substituted in 1 healthy tsp.

Mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  In a separate bowl, mix sugar and eggs.  Add oil and mix at a medium speed for three minutes.  Add flour mixture and then add pumpkin. Mix at medium speed until well blended. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes

Pumpkin 1

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz room temperature cream cheese*
  • 1/2 stick room temperature butter*
  • 1/2 lb confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*I used 1/3 fat reduced cream cheese and light unsalted butter

Mix ingredients together and make sure everything is blended evenly.  I found that this made a lot of extra frosting because I usually only put on a small glaze rather than a whopping swirl.

Pumpkin 2

These cupcakes were AMAZING!  The flavor was so rich and they stayed really moist.  I brought them to Intern Thanksgiving (more on that later) and not to toot my own horn, but they were very well received.  I would whole heartily recommend this for thanksgiving or just any other time you want to embrace fall.

The nutrition information below reflects the full fat version of the frosting, but only 1/2 a portion of the frosting.

Cupcake Nutritional Information:  Calories:  200, Fat: 10g, Sodium 311mg, Carbohydrate: 26, Fiber 1g, Sugars:17.4g, Protein: 2.3g

Frosting Nutritional Information: Calories: 87, Fat: 2.2g, Sodium: 37mg, Carbohydrate: 16g, Sugars: 15, Protein: 1.3g

What is your favorite holiday treat?


The New School Lunch

This year began the new School Lunch program.  There were a lot of changes made and some confusion so I have outlined all of the new criteria.

School Lunch

Let’s begin with protein. The previous minimums were 1.5-2 oz per meal. Now, for K-8 the minimum is 1 oz and for grades 9-12 it is 2oz per meal. An addition to these standards was the inclusion of a weekly range. For K-5, there needs to be 8-10 oz weekly and 6-8 needs 9-10oz.Whole Grain

Next up is grains. Half of all grains served must be whole grains.  By 2014, all grains will have to be whole grains.


Now I will talk about milk. Flavored milk is still included in lunches, but high fat milk is not. Skim and 1% will be the only types offered.

Currently, there are no new sodium restrictions, but rather there are goals for the future. Targets have been set for 2014, 2017 and 2022 in order to gradually reduce sodium in these meals.

Fruits and Veggies are next. The fruit and vegetable requirement has increase from a range of ½- ¾ cups to 1 ¼ to 2 cups per day. In addition to the increase in servings, vegetables have another set of rules. Every week lunches must include at least one dark green vegetable, an orange or red vegetable, a serving of legumes like peas and beans as well as one starchy vegetable. This forces schools to serve a variety which will offer a greater range of nutrients as well as expose students to different options that they may incorporate into their overall diet.

Fruits and Veggies

Finally, we have calories. The previous minimum was 825 calories and the new range is 750-850 calories. Student groups, specifically athletes, have spoken out against these changes, saying that they do not have the energy to engage in their respective sports. But looking at the numbers, you can see that the change was not as drastic as it has been portrayed. It is understandable that athletes may be hungry for more before their practices, but keep in mind most students are not this active and are overweight or obese. Being heavier early in life predisposes kids to a lifetime of chronic disease and trouble with weight management. In regards to school lunches, we need to respond to the rule rather than the exception and make lunch healthy for as many students as possible.

Change can be difficult and this transition period may have some kinks to work out, but overall, the new school lunch will help improve the health of our students. Give it a chance to settle in and I think that everyone will be pleasantly surprised in the near future.


What feedback have you heard about the new school lunches?

The Skinny on Nuts

Nuts are commonly recommended as a healthy snack, and they do have a lot of great nutrients in them.  However, most people do not realize what a proper serving is and will just snack away.  Doing so could prevent weight loss attempts or lead to weight gain because even though these snacks are nutritious, they are calorie dense. Below is an image from the Fanatic Cook, showing you what one serving looks like and how many nuts are included:


Now compare this to what you normally snack on.  You may be overeating.  Check out the nutrients for some of these nuts for a SINGLE serving:

Almonds– Calories: 161, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 6g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 6g

Pecans – Calories: 193 , Fat: 20g , Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 3g

Brazil Nuts – Calories: 184, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 3g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Pine Nuts – Calories: 188, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Pistachios – Calories: 160, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 2, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 8g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 6g

Walnuts – Calories: 183, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Hazelnuts – Calories: 176, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat:1g , Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 5g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Cashews – Calories: 161, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 4mg, Carbohydrate: 9g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 4g

Macadamias – Calories: 201, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 1mg, Carbohydrate: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 2g

Peanuts: – Calories: 166, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 3mg, Carbohydrate: 7g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 0g, Protein: 5g

Most of these nuts are pretty similar in their composition.  They are high in calories, ranging from 160-201.  They are also high in fat (13g-21g) but low in saturated fat (1g-4g).  This means that the rest of the fat is unsaturated which has been shown to be beneficial in the diet.  There is also negligible sodium and a small amount carbohydrates(4g-9g), but a respectable amount of fiber (1g-3g) and protein (2g-6g).

Nuts are not bad for you.  All of these nutrients can contribute to a healthful life.  However, there are additional pitfalls in addition to portion size.  Of of this nutrition information is for dry roasted varieties.  Things get a little dicey when you get into the more commercial side of things.  Look at this information to navigate your menu decisions

Honey Roasted Peanuts

I expected these to be loaded with a bunch of sugar and extra fat, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  This variety adds 110mg of sodium and 4 grams of sugar.  People generally try to reduce these nutrients in their diet, but at these quantities, they are not a diet buster.

Salted Nuts

Purchasing salted nuts can add between 100-200mg of sodium per serving to your snack. The recommendation for the general population is to keep sodium under 1,500mg per day. If you generally consume a low salt diet, these may be able to fit in nicely. However, if you are watching your salt intake, steer clear of these.

Oil Roasted

This is another area where I was happy to be wrong. Oil roasting does not seem to add much fat. In some cases, there was an increase of 1-2 grams, so be aware. In general though, oil roasted can be just as healthful as dry roasted.

Nut Butters

Nut butters come in a range of flavors including all the nuts listed above except for pine and brazil nuts.  Some of the more popular ones are almond butter, cashew butter, and of course, peanut butter.  A serving is typically 2 tablespoons and are generally slightly higher in calories and fat, while lower in fiber and protein than a single serving of their respective whole nut.

Nut Bars

Nut bars from companies like Planters, Nature Valley, and Clif can be higher in calories, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates and lower in fiber.  Read labels on these to make sure that you are getting the best nutrition.  These bars are single serving, but they are usually mixed with chocolate or other treats to make them more appealing.

After looking at all of this information, the two most important things that you can do are:

1) Read the label and compare when making a purchase

2) Watch your portion size.  Eating a couple of handfuls of nuts can add 300 calories and 40g of fat to your day.  When choosing nuts, be mindful of the amount and avoid having an open dish to snack on.  Grabbing them mindlessly while at a bar or friends house can be an easy way to sabotage your weight.

Nuts can be a great tool to keep you full, but they can be dangerous too, so think before you eat, and then enjoy!

How do you enjoy nuts?

Practical Pinterest – Tomato, Basil, Cheddar Soup

Time for another edition of Practical Pinterest!  I decided to try my hand at a slightly more complicated recipe and made soup for the first time ever.  The past few days have been an Indian Summer for sure, but it is still November, so soup is a very tempting dish.  I decided to try a vegetarian soup because I thought it would be a lot easier than adding meat, and that was a good choice.  One thing that I did not think through was the fact that I was planning about blogging this recipe, so I didn’t take any pictures until the final stages.  Here is the photo from Pinterest that originally attracted me to this recipe:

Tomato Basil SoupThis was from Bethany at More Fruit Please, so thanks Bethany!  Here is how I made it:

Tomato, Basil, and Cheddar Soup

Makes 6 servings

2 28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup basil, chopped, loosely packed
2 tsp of oregano
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Over medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pot. Add the chopped onion and allow to cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Add in chopped garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Pour in the two cans of tomatoes (juice and all) and the vegetable stock. Stir in the basil, oregano, sugar, and salt and pepper. Place the lid back onto the pot and allow to simmer ten minutes. At the end, stir in the Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese until well blended. Use either an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup if you prefer a smooth texture. Garnish with chopped basil and grated cheddar cheese if desired.

IMG_0620 Viola!  After simmering everything together, I chose to purée the mixture because I don’t like large chunks of tomato in anything.


I used a Cuisinart to blend everything.  This recipe made a lot of servings so I had to blend in batches.  After blending, it wasn’t entirely smooth with some visible white specks in it from the yogurt.  I couldn’t get it to completely mix, but I’m not sure why, next time i might try adding it it more slowly and stir more thoroughly.IMG_0630Originally, I didn’t add any salt or pepper, but I did need a bit so I added it to my bowl.  Overall very delicious, a nice warm meal for a cold day.  This would be great for a group dinner or to have over the course of a week.

Nutritional Facts: Calories: 167, Fat: 9.2g, Saturated Fat: 4.4g, Sodium: 460mg, Potassium: 547mg, Carbohydrate: 14.1g, Fiber: 2.7g, Protein: 9.3g, Vitamin A: 32%, Vitamin C: 66%

Preparing Pomegranates

People talk consistently about getting more servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet.  It’s a great idea with science supporting it.  To promote this idea, educators often introduce exotic fruits or non-typical vegetables to get people talking.  The problem with this is that these foods often require very particular preparation that can be intimating and a barrier to people trying that food.  I was the same way with pomegranates.  I had heard so much about how good they were for you, but also how expensive it was to buy just the juice, so I set out to get one myself.  I went looking and found instructions and now I want to share them with you!

First, you will need a bowl full of water, a sharp knife, a cutting board and a strainer.

Take your pomegranate and cut into it about a centimeter deep all the way around.  Don’t cut all the way through, because it will slice open some of the pods.  Once you have made the cut, start twisting each side back and forth until they separate.

Take the two sides and place them into the bowl of water.  Let them soak for a few minutes, then take in hands and us your thumb to pop the seeds out into the water.  The seeds will sink to the bottom while the skin and inner membrane will float to the top.

Keep doing that until all seeds are out.  This will take a way, maybe about 10-15 minutes.  You can skim the remains off of the top and then pour everything into the strainer.  Viola!  Now you have between 1-2 cups of seeds, depending on the size of your fruit.