The Great Pumpkin Roll

Charlie Brown: “Oh brother. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn’t true?”

Linus: “When YOU stop believing in that fat guy in a red suit and the white beard who goes, ‘Ho, ho, ho!'”

Like so many Americans, I love that movie. I’ve been conditioned to value faith, self-reliance, and the ability to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps.

Some of won’t give up on believing we will eventually be redeemed by a holy squash. For me, I never gave up on my dream of mastering a most delicious cake roll recipe.

On my “Philosophies & Such” page of this blog, I write about slowing down to appreciate the time it takes to make a perfect dessert, and the patience it requires, too. Myself being notoriously impatient–an activator strength according to my Strengths Finder test–I often grapple with the idea of slowing down, but:

“…I realize, too, that this [hurrying] doesn’t always work, and more often than not, I realize this when I’ve hurried too much, and the cake roll I’ve attempted for the 3rd time has crumbled into a blob of mashed bread. It’s times like these when I’m reminded to slow down and focus on what I’m doing. Then the food comes out better and I’m reminded of the more delicious things life has to offer when I take my time.”

I have happy news to report: I HAVE FINALLY MASTERED THE CAKE ROLL!

And I did it my way 🙂

With a pumpkin-cream cheese spin I imagined unexpectedly one cold Thursday evening. The classic combination warmed me right up.

I’m going to post the regular cake jelly roll recipe below, but to modify for a pumpkin roll version, make the following swaps

5 T water instead of 1/3 cup+1T+1t

3 T pumpkin instead of oil or applesauce

Plus, you’ll want to add in a heaping dash of pumpkin pie spice as well as a dash or two of ground cloves and ground nutmeg if you like.

And to make my healthified cream cheese frosting spread, check out this recipe.


Makes one huge cake roll (big enough to serve two)


  • 1/2 cup ww pastry flour, or white or spelt (70g) (For a gf version, use this: gluten-free option.)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 100g water or other liquid (That’s 1/3 cup plus 1 T plus 1 tsp)
  • 2 packets stevia or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce or oil
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract


Combine all dry ingredients; then blend in wet (including applesauce), but be sure not to overmix.

Spread onto a greased pan.

Cook for 3-4 minutes in a NON-preheated oven at 420F and remove only once the edges are beginning to firm. (You might need to cook it longer, depending on your oven.) Let cool ten minutes for a few minutes, then spread on cream cheese frosting and sprinkle extra cinnamon if you like.

Cut off all four edges so it forms a rectangle (if you used the circle pan). Spread on jam, or whatever else you wish.

Roll carefully, using a spoon or spatula to help ease the roll over without tearing.

Return to oven and bake another 7-8 minutes.

Once a nice golden color has risen in the dough and it’s somewhat springy, it’s finished. Remove and slice into small pinwheel rounds.

And as always, it’s always better eaten warm.

And with chocolate chips 😉

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Raw Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Are you on the “raw” bandwagon?

Personally, I do not. But I still find raw food recipes intriguing (and tasty).

I stumbled across this no-bake pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe from Snack Girl. Made a few adaptations and downsized a bit, of course, so it would be a perfect fall dessert for anyone going “raw,” or anyone who just loves pumpkin cookies.


3 T oats

Bake it! Because chocolate is always more aromatic when warmed…

.5 t stevia (or honey, but if you use honey reduce the applesauce to 1 t)

dash of pumpkin pie spice and a very scant pinch of salt

3 t pumpkin

2 t applesauce

splash of vanilla

optional mix-ins: dark-chocolate chips, raisins, chopped dates, coconut shreds


Mix together the first three dry ingredients, and then mix in the remaining wet ingredients. Form into small balls by using the palm of your hands.

If you’d prefer a warm cookie. Simply bake at 350 degrees for about 6-7 minutes.

Applesauce Spice Muffins

Love apples? 

Me, too. But I didn’t have any handy one morning. In keeping with my personality, I turned to cake.

This recipe is pretty good. Normally I think applesauce is a less-than-ideal alternative to healthier oils because it seems to produce a gummier cookie or cake. But I guess the heaping 2 T of applesauce in this recipe leave no room for lack of moisture.

And the natural applesauce sweetness mixes so well with the spices. It’s not the most flavorful muffin I’ve had, but it’s subtle and sweet. Just what I needed on that particular morning. I ate it plain–well, I sprinkled a little more spice on top pre-baking)–but I imagine it would be a delicious compliment to your morning coffee. Or it could be a great standalone treat if you wanted to slice it up and serve with fresh cut apple slices. You could also have a lot of fun with mix-ins. Think chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, a dab of peanut butter or a dab of vegan cream cheese spread.

Makes one very big muffin


1.5 t stevia
2 T applesauce
1 t vegan butter, softened
pinch of egg (or make a flax egg)
3 T +1 t spelt or whole-wheat flour
pinch of ground cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground nutmeg
dash of vanilla 
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin slot with a paper liner or lightly grease. Set aside.
-Prepare the batter by quickly mixing wet ingredients (egg, butter, and applesauce). Then gently fold in all dry ingredients and spices ’til well blended.
-Pour into paper liner or other prepared baking dish. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. You’ll know the muffin is ready once you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Let cool slightly, but I recommend eating them while they’re still warm, spicy, and aromatic.

Gingerbread Brownie

English is a living, breathing language. This claim enables me to make up words. No, my words are not made up at random. They are always purposeful and more descriptive of a state or condition than any other currently existing words.

Today’s word is a verb in past tense: “Cookied Out.” As in, I have had so many cookies lately that I am effectively cookied out.

If you find yourself in this state of mind, know that you are not alone. I too find myself cookied out sometimes. In July, I find this inconceivable. As the holiday season gradually encroaches, I quickly remember. December is still a ways away. It’s too early to experience this condition already.

But I never lose my sweet tooth. Oh, no. I just seek a new sweet instead.

I’m not yet brownied out, and this delicious treat (inspired by a similar recipe from Healthful Pursuit) is fixing my dessert conundrum quite well.

Try it! If you like the strong sweetness of blackstrap molasses, you’re sure to love it.


4 T whole wheat flour

1 T cocoa powder

dash of cinnamon, ginger, and baking powder

1 T stevia

1 T blackstrap molasses

flax egg (1/2 t flax +1/2 water, mixed)

2 T nondairy milk

optional: Pumpkin spice Hershey’s kiss to melt and swirl around on top


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a ramekin. Set aside.

-In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients; then blend in wet.

-Transfer to ramekin and bake for about 12-14 minutes. Or microwave on high for a minute and a half.

-Let cool slightly.

I recommend serving warm. And if you’d like to have an easy pumpkin-spice icing like the one I had, just nab that kind of Hershey’s kiss, unwrap, and rub in a circle until the entire kiss has melted and a frosting forms.

Broccoli-Corn Calzones

When you live in Iowa–the crux of America’s heartland (competing maybe with Kansas)–you have no choice but to love sweet corn. If you were to speak ill of sweet corn publicly in this state, Iowans might forget the Midwestern friendliness they’re known for and shoot you a dirty look.

My “Grilled Corn Without the Grill” Recipe

Once I was looking through an Amana Colonies gift shop and happened across a little framed print featuring corn, an outline of the state of Iowa, and printed text that read: “Nothing’s sweeter than Iowa.” That pretty much sums up how people feel about this state and the deliciously sweet corn they grow.

The point is, I’ve eaten a lot of sweet corn since being in this state, but with this I’m perfectly okay. In fact, I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe featuring corn that I can whittle away to a single-serving size.

So when I found a recipe for Broccoli-Corn Calzones on Eating Well‘s website, I was intrigued. When one thinks of a calzone, sweet corn and broccoli don’t exactly come to mind.

This recipe is certainly worth while. The corn and broccoli mixed in a light cheese and herb mixture taste heavenly between a crispy crust. 

The original recipe made 6 servings, 6 calzones.

But these are probably pretty low in calories and too good to stop at one. So the recipe I’ve adapted makes two.

So nice you should eat twice.


  • 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup fresh sweet corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1.5 T part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • pinch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper
  • 6.5 ounces prepared whole-wheat pizza dough (see note below for the single-serving recipe I used)
  • cooking spray


-Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or pizza stone. Set aside.

-Combine all ingredients, except pizza dough, in a small bowl. Mix ’til all ingredients are evenly distributed.

-Divide pizza dough into two parts. Roll out into circles.

-Divide filling mix into two parts, place each part to one side of each pizza dough circle. Leave at least 1/2 an inch space between the filling and the outer edge of the crust. Brush edges lightly with water and fold over gently. You can use a fork to press the edges together if you like.

-Transfer to baking dish. Spray lightly with cooking oil or brush on oil. Bake for about 8 minutes, then flip the calzones. Bake for 7 more minutes or until golden brown on each side.

Serve warm.


To make an easy pizza dough:

-Combine 1/4 yeast packet with 1 t stevia. Mix up a bit; then pour in 1/4 cup HOT water (110 degrees or more). Let sit ’til it gets fluffy–about 10 minutes.

-Then blend in dry ingredients: 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour, 3 T spelt flour, pinch of salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 t healthy oil (olive, canola, etc.). Blend evenly, but don’t overmix. Add more water if dough starts to try out.

-Let the dough sit for 20 minutes, if you have more time, longer (set mine out all afternoon). It should rise up a bit, getting elastic in texture. Press down and knead on slightly floured surface once you’re ready to use. To bake for a different recipe, bake at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Easy Fried Rice

Ever since I eliminated preservatives from my diet, I’ve been missing an old, favorite. Many a Friday night, homemade fried rice was my go-to comfort food. The problem is that the seasoning packets I used to use were chalked full of preservatives–more than I care to think about, even now.

But a few weeks ago, I noticed a new post on Iowa Girl Eats’ Facebook page, called “Take Out, Fake Out: Easy Chicken Fried Rice.”

I investigated, and most of the ingredients were pretty acceptable by my standards.

Naturally, I’ve adjusted a bit and figured out how to create one healthful, heaping serving for one.

Did it taste the same though? Actually, yes! I was shocked at how good fried rice could taste, sans all the salt and preservatives.

The final verdict: I see more fried rice in my Friday night future (probably very soon).


2-3 oz. chicken tenders, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup cooked rice

1/4 cup frozen vegtables (I used carrots, peas, radishes)

optional: a small handful of sliced cabbage

1/2 t crushed garlic

dash of onion salt

1-2 t ginger (depending on how much you like)

1 T low-sodium soy sauce

1 egg


-In a small or medium skillet, cook chicken pieces in crushed garlic, salt, and part of ginger.

-Once the grease from the chicken begins to collect in the skillet, add in vegetables, cooking for another 3-5 minutes. But if you’re going to add cabbage, save for the end.

-When chicken and vegetables are almost cooked, push to sides, making a hole in the center of the skillet. Crack egg and let fry for a few minutes in the middle.

-Once egg is almost cooked, add in rice. Mix in remaining ginger and soy sauce. Turn until rice is sticky and well-coated in chicken-vegetable mixture.

Apple-Cinnamon Haystacks

I love fall! Don’t you?

I also love this single-serving recipe, one I’ve adapted from the wonderfully creative culinaire, Healthful Pursuit.


I could go on and on about its delicious flavor and warm spice aroma. But I do that all the time. AND this time is a little different…

I love this recipe because I’ve found two ways to make it.

Option 1: Bake into cookie-like balls if you want a soft crunch. (Yes, I realize that’s an oxymoron, but for this recipe it applies.)

Option 2: Microwave or bake for a few minutes in the oven, then spread over a crisp apple slice–sort of like a warm spread.

You choose your apple-icious adventure. I promise to you that both are excellent.

Makes about 3 balls or one large serving of spread.


2 T steel-cut oats

pinch of cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ground cloves

1 t stevia

1 T peanut butter (or sunflower or other nut butter)

1 T applesauce

dash of vanilla

2 T chopped apple


-To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish. Set aside.

-Mix all dry; then mix in wet. Form into balls and transfer to prepared dish.

-For cookies, bake about 10-12 minutes. For a spicy spread, bake for only 6-7 minutes.

Roasted Acorn Squash


If you buy a squash and use half of it, what do you do with the rest?

Look up another recipe?

Double the recipe to make more of it?

Throw it away? (I hope not!)

What I’ve learned is that my single-serving recipes aren’t enough to support the use of an entire squash–oftentimes not even half. And squash doesn’t reheat particularly well.

But what I’ve also learned is that you can roast (basically oven bake) just about any quash and it will be delicious.

Cut in thin slices and pair with a great dip for a twist on fries.

Or chop into bigger chunks and roast for the perfect addition to any soup or broiled meat.

For my leftover acorn squash this time, I simply sliced it into thin strips and dipped in my all-time favorite condiment: Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup. Yum!


-Almost any squash you can think of

-favorite oil or cooking spray to coat the squash (lightly)

-favorite seasonings


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees for thinly-sliced squash or 425 for thickly-sliced squash. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

-Again, slice or chop your squash as you like. Cover very lightly with oil or cooking spray, and then toss in seasonings of your choice.

-Spread on cookie sheet, making sure know pieces are overlapping, if possible. Bake for about 15-20 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

Pumpkin Protein Bar

October tastes like pumpkin! As I trained for my first half marathon, I was inhaling protein and carbs to keep my body fueled. Hence why I love this yummy fall protein bar. Really, it’s more like a dessert or a … Continue reading

What My First Half Marathon Taught Me

This morning I did something my younger self would have never believed. I ran my first half marathon. I ran fast and hard at a 7:55/ mile pace, finishing at 1:43:36, 15th overall in my division.

Standing by the 8:00/ mile line-up sign because I was shooting for that pace, ideally. Finished just slightly better at 7:55/ mile.

My younger self hated running. I was “one of those” who would scowl at the good runners in gym class and make a joke about eating a donut. I can’t stand these types, but I can relate. I feel frustrated with them not because they can’t appreciate and celebrate the talents of others, but because in criticizing others they redirect positive thinking and effort away from themselves developing themselves.

Back to the race, I can honestly say without exaggeration that I loved almost every second of it. Running, for me, is almost meditative. It gives me time alone. And when I’m freed from people and distracting technologies, I can focus on myself, reflect on where I’m at and where I want to go.

You’ll notice thought that I wrote “almost every second.” Allow me to explain…

It’s unrealistic to pretend like I didn’t feel winded sometimes or tingly from lack of oxygen. But then I’d slow down and catch my breath. Sometimes in the race, and in training, I’d get frustrated when other runners tried to pass me. But running has taught me to be mindful of why I feel that way and to recognize that it’s not productive. So most of the time I let go. Just relax and return to focusing on my pace. But sometimes my sassier side comes out, and I don’t mind getting a little competitive. The other seconds not enjoyed were usually had at the beginning of training runs on dark, 40-degree mornings, especially ones with sharp pellets of rain. But these seconds were fleeting. When reminded that these extreme conditions could only make me a better runner–and that race day probably wouldn’t be this bad (and if it was I’d be ready for it!)–I began to appreciate them more and more. So my point is this: the seconds when you think you’re not enjoying yourself are the ones you learn to enjoy the most (later).

Medals make for a nice shiny touch, but who really cares about ribbon and brass after finishing a long distance? Finishing is the best reward.

More time spent training was loved than not, and that’s what I really want to talk about. Here we go:

1. I love a challenge. My 20s are bringing this out more and more as I edge closer to middle age and farther from youth.

2. Sunscreen is important. 4 months of training has taken a bit of a toll on my skin.

3. I love people, but I need time alone everyday. Running gives me this.

4. I need words and rhythms. Running in silence is nice for a little while, but to truly make sense of my thoughts, I need the ideas captured in song lyrics. I find one that fits with my mood; then analyze why that is.

5. Although I could probably name many more, my fifth and favorite is this: Graduate school is an awful lot like running. It’s enriching. It’s enlightening. It’s sharp rain pellets hitting you in the face sometimes. But I love both because I want to be better. I’ve never been okay with settling for anything. I imagine that won’t change any time soon.

A new friend met via my former neighbor and fellow racer, Joe, holds up a “Motivational Sign” for Joe, now being recycled for me.

Considering all this, the question I keep going back to is: Will I try for a marathon next year? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to. Desperately! But like anything, if I’m going to do it, I want to do it well. This time next year, I hope to be settled in a Ph.D. program. I imagine that will take more of my time and energy than I realize. But I’ve surprised myself before. So for now, I’ll keep it in mind and re-evaluate later.

The point I want to end on is this. The scathing little thing I was 10 years ago always wanted to be a good runner, and now she is. I think this is what I love about running most. I changed myself for the better, and it seems that this newly found passion is helping others do the same. I’ve seen the people around me become healthier eaters and a little more physically active–a few of whom have even taken up running and shared with me how good it feels to run a 5K, to surprise themselves with the strength they have. I want this to continue. At the end of the day, it’s great if I can be a better version of my “yesterday self,” but I love it so much more when I can bring about this change in others. That’s why I’m a teacher. That’s what helps me thrive. That’s what I run for.