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Freezer Cooking Day #2: Pepper Steak and Healthified Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


I stuck the Pepper Steak in the crockpot to start cooking while I mixed up a batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

We're experimenting with replacing refined sugar at our house right now so I redid this recipe to see if I could tweak it enough to make it healthful but still delicious. I used fresh-ground whole wheat flour, farm-fresh eggs, and 1 1/2 cups sucanat in place of the sugar.

They ended up turning out quite delicious! They are a little heavier than usual and wee bit less moist than the original recipe, but they are still very good and the girls didn't seem to notice any difference. I'm pretty sure that they'll gladly eat just about anything so long as it has chocolate chips in it!

Now if I could just replace the oil, make my own pumpkin puree, use chocolate chips made without refined sugar, and replace the storebought milk with organic farm-fresh milk, these would be the most nutritional muffins you ever did eat. But it's all about making little changes and babysteps, right? So I'll just guilt-lessly feed my family these healthified Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins!

Next up: Turkey Meatballs and Farmhouse Chicken

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  • lunzy says:

    You could also use Organic Molasses. That’s my favorite thing to use. also, try to replace the oil with applesauce. Might work. If they are still too dry, you can try adding yogurt. HTH!

  • Jean says:

    You might already be aware of this, but in most recipes you can replace at least 1/2 of the oil with applesauce… I’ve tried it in several recipes with very good results! Just a thought! 🙂

  • KJ says:

    I replace oil with applesauce in almost all of my baking recipes. Might be worth a try with a small batch of something!

  • Noelle says:

    Those look and sound delicious.

  • Deja says:

    You can replace the oil with applesauce in most recipes. Seems like you might only need 1 cup worth in that recipe. Looks delish by the way.

  • Corissa says:

    I always use your recipe to make the muffins, but replace the oil with mashed banana and use all whole wheat flour, and cut the sugar in half. I know it changes them, but everyone in my family loves them!

  • Erin says:

    I always use Coconut Oil in place of Vegetable Oil. Either that or you can experiment with applesauce/sour cream/yogurt. 🙂

  • MIchele says:


    Have you ever tried making the light version of these pumpkin muffins? They are quite good and use applesauce in place of much of the oil. It’s the same recipe you use from Recipezaar, but the “light” version:

    We really like them.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I always subsitute equal volumes of applesauce for the oil in baked good recipes. More healthy and everyone always remarks how moist the goodies turn out!

  • Roxanne says:

    I’m not the best about using all homemade ingredients.

    However, I only use my own pumpkin puree. It’s truly easy. I just roast as many pumpkin wedges I can fit on sheets in my oven, let it cool, then peel off the skin. I run the flesh through a blender or food processor, and then freeze the pumpkin in the portions I need.

    Cans are always 2 cups. But many of my recipes call for 2/3 or 1 cup of puree. I can just grab the right amount of pumpkin and make the recipe. I honestly don’t save much money over sale priced pumpkin puree, but I really like having it portioned out how I need.

    If you roast the seeds too (which I never get around to), then making your own puree is really worthwhile.

  • Amie says:

    I used your recipe yesterday and replaced the oil with 1 cip of applesauce. Thye turned out sweet and moist. Next time, I’m thinking of trying it with some homemdae applesauce I have in the freezer.

  • Rita says:

    do you think i could substitute chocolate chips for raisins or craisins…my kids SHOCKINGLY doesnt like chocolate . Thank you,

  • Kelli S says:

    While I’ve used applesauce in some recipes, in cake-like things such as muffins or cupcakes, I’ve had better luck with ground almonds. I have a coffee grinder that I use just for grinding stuff like almonds, flax seeds, etc. I usually use the same amount of ground almonds as you would oil. I’ve found that it usually keeps the moisture a little better since you’re replacing one “fat” with another – it’s just much healthier!

  • Martha says:

    Ha, I was just going to say “this seems like a prime opportunity to replace oil with applesauce” but I see some helpful folks already beat me to it! 🙂

  • michelle says:

    My cousin make this recipe after I made it b.c I told her how great it was and she replaced the oil w/ applesauce and said they were great!!!!

  • Heather Marie says:

    we also have completely moved away from refined sugar and I have found that using pure maple syrup in place of sugar is great. It adds moisture, so I use less of other wet ingredients, too. We also use EV Coconut Oil bought in bulk in place of vegetable oils. That oil can be used to care for skin, too!

    I am enjoying (and being inspired by) your posts.


  • You could try Coconut Oil instead of vegetable oil. Its not hydrogenated and healthier for you than the others.

  • Pamela says:

    I was thinking of commenting on adding applesauce…I see that lots of others thought the same thing. Also, adding a bit more pumpkin (1/2 c. more) is a good substitute for oil and eggs. So, I’m going to try that with this recipe. Love pumpkin muffins!! Happy baking day!

  • still*learning says:

    I’ve always made the pumpkin muffins with whole wheat and used honey in place of the sugar. I figure if there are chocolate chips in a recipe, it will be sweet enough. As for oil, I use coconut oil. It is a healthier oil. I get buy with buying a gallon once a year. I use it in all of our baking and olive oil for our cooking.

  • Jessica says:

    Focus on the baby steps and be satisfied with what you can accomplish with what is available for you right now. We have a garden, cow, and chickens so I can easily (well let’s say easier then some) use pumpkin puree from my pumpkins, fresh milk from our cow, and eggs from our chickens. On the flip side though, my husband can’t stand carob chips and I can’t afford alternative sugar options at this point. We can strive for a healthy diet but we also can all to easily get consumed and depressed when we haven’t achieved “perfection”.

    On a side note, I buy wheat in bulk from You do have to order 5,000 pounds so I have slowly organized larger and larger orders about once a year and then I sell the excess wheat on Craig’s list. Usually, I gain more contacts each time from selling on craig’slist to add to the next year’s order. The wheat I have to sell on craiglist I then usually add on a premium (but still less then the local health food stores) that has actually paid for my entire order of wheat. Anyway… Wheat Montana sells a very good quality whole wheat pastry wheat that makes wonderfully light quick breads. My family loves the pumpkin muffins made with this.

  • Jiya Sarma says:

    Applesauce as an oil replacement has already been mentioned, or you could use yogurt instead. Plain yogurt works well in most recipes, but you can use vanilla too or a complementary flavor (like raspberry yogurt in chocolate cake for a hint of raspberry flavor).

  • Susanne says:

    I used 1C of olive oil and 1/2C of vanilla yogurt. They were absolutely delicious!

  • Mrs. K says:

    We have been trying to replace refined sugar here as well. Upon the advice of a friend I replace white sugar with an equal amount of honey and brown sugar with an equal amount of maple syrup. In some recipes you may have to lower the added liquids but I find generally you do not.

  • Swap Savers says:

    There is a great deal for the FoodSaver right now to freeze all your food!

  • Sarah G says:

    Looks good! I agree with other readers about adding applesauce. I add at least a 1/4 c all natural applesauce to all of my recipes when using wheat flours. It helps with the heaviness and definitely with the moistness. Sometimes I use the applesauce instead of some of the oil or butter, but I will also just add it in and have great results.

    You are doing a great job for your family by making small changes at a time. Over time you won’t even notice that you made the changes to the foods as it will be come the new norm. Every little step counts and you have to do what you, when you can and not worry about the rest of it. You are doing great in my opinion to be doing so much with three little ones and homeschooling. Blessings!

  • Emily says:

    If I replaced the sugar with honey, would I use equal or lesser amounts of honey?

    Elizabeth, when you replace the applesauce for oil (equal amounts) do the muffins/bread stick to the pans very badly?

  • Jennifer says:

    When I’m baking muffins and quick breads, I substitute applesauce for oil (1 for 1) – I think things turn out more moist with the applesauce. And if you wanted to be doubly ambitious, you could also substitute ground flax for the eggs (1 tbsp flax seed ground plus 3 tbsp water is equal to 1 egg). Very healthy, a slight nutty flavor which is delicious in muffins, and also helps with the moisture issue.

  • Missy says:

    You could try adding 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed to this recipe- 1 muffin with chia seed has more magnesium than 10 heads of broccoli and the calcium of 2 cups of milk. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As far as the oil goes- try 1/4 cup olive oil(for more omega-3 fatty acids) and 1 cup pure maple syrup instead. I also use dark chocolate chips for the anti-oxidants. Love your blog!

  • Denise C. says:

    I’ve replaced oil with applesauce many times, and have never noticed a bad difference. The GOOD difference has been having moister muffins, cakes and breads!

  • Jennifer says:

    First of all those look and sound wondeful. You are doing a great job and I can’t wait to see more updates!

    Now, Rita, as for replacing the chocolate chips with dried fruit (craisins or raisins)… Yes, you can replace them with dried fruit, however, the fruit may soak up some moisture so you may need to add a little more applesauce/oil/mashed banana/yogurt/whatever you are going to use. I’d say a tablespoon or two per batch will do ya just fine. 🙂

  • Heather says:

    You can use squash in place of pumpkin. My mother-in-law introduced me to this by sharing the bountiful squash from her garden. She cooks the squash and freezes it to use all year round. I can’t tell the difference between pumpkin and squash anymore.

  • Risha says:

    I use applesauce instead of oil when I make Lindsey’s (of Passionate Homemaking) recipe for pumpkin crumb muffins. They are so yummy and moist! I use applesauce quite frequently instead of oil, but I recently found that you cannot replace the oil in brownies (from a box) with applesauce!

  • Douglas says:

    Yes! I saw some else suggested coconut oil in place of veg. oil! It works very well. I do it all the time!!! I can’t tell the difference!

  • Natalie says:

    Just like some of the other commentors, I always replace the oil with applesauce and haven’t come across any issues. I made Oat Blueberry muffins last night replacing 1 1/2 c oil with applesauce and they were delicious. It’s worth a try! 🙂

  • Honey says:

    I like baking with date sugar and have also used rapidura. And I love muffins with yogurt (I sub kefir) because they are so moist! I definitely want to try the coconut oil (but can’t afford to right now). It’s pretty expensive-even in bulk. I am in a season where, with cooking, I need quantity over quality. Sounds bad, but I have 5 kids that eat like horses!

  • Theresa G says:

    YUM! I need to make those right now after seeing the pic. I’ve been meaning to try them. Well I think I’m off to bake…

  • Janice says:

    Another benefit to using applesauce instead of oil (which I always do…I only use oil in baking if making brownies for my husband) – I have really bad acid-reflux, and the oil in baked goods always makes it worse. I never have a problem when I use applesauce or yogurt instead.

  • Rachel says:

    I like to use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil. Check out for info on the health benefits!

    It isn’t hard to set up a wholesale account with them, which allows you to get oil for about half price! I paid $110 for a 5 gallon bucket of expeller pressed last time I ordered. That was with a six bucket minimum though, so I order for friends too. Five gallons lasts me a year or so. I do bake alot, and use it for frying as well.

    Also, if you have a grain mill. I love using half & half wheat/rice flour for muffins. The rice flour is very white (even using brown rice) and helps to reduce the whole wheat flavor. I like that in a muffin that is supposed to taste like blueberries or pumpkin or what-have-you.

  • Amy says:

    Making your own pumpkin puree is soooo easy and cheap! I just finished mine for the next year. I had two large pumpkins from Halloween and I just broke them into pieces, put them on cookie sheets and baked for 1.5 hrs until tender. After they cooled, I peeled them and I ran them through my Kitchenaid meat grinder attachment – but I think a food processor would do the same thing – I just don’t have one! I measured out 1 c portions into bags and freeze. I got about 40 c of pumpkin from these two pumpkins – which I got for $2.50 each the week before Halloween. Double duty – pumpkins to carve and LOTS of pumpkin for the whole year. In fact we’re barely finishing off last year’s pumpkin. I know they say that the smaller pumpkins are better for baking pies, but in muffins, breads, etc, we never notice the difference. And I love the “real” pumpkin in pies – it’s what we did when I was growing up and it’s all good memories!

  • Caroline says:

    I love substituting the whole grains – can’t wait to try that. If you’re using vegetable oil, why would you worry about fat? Our bodies need it. Fats were given a lot of unjust bad publicity in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We now know that trans fats are the only fats that should be eliminated from our diets, and I don’t think the recipe called for shortening.

    Fat is the basic building block our bodies use for brain and neurological development – critical if you’re cooking for young children with growing brains. When I was diagnosed with high cholesterol in my 20’s, my doctor advised me to eliminate trans fats and incorporate as much vegetable fat (HDL fat) as possible into my diet. Vegetable fats actually remove saturated fat from your bloodstream – it’s consumption of manmade trans fats that interupts this process and causes LDL cholesterol to increase. Having high levels of HDL cholesterol actually puts one at negative risk for heart disease. I was able to drop my LDL cholesterol 40 points in six months by eating real butter instead of margarine and eliminating trans fats. Within two years, it was down 80 points. Twelve years later, I cook with heavy cream, butter and we eat red meat (I also use a lot of olive oil), and my overall cholesterol is still in the 160’s despite having levels in the 240’s in my mid twenties.

    I understand that people have different body compositions, but when I’ve consulted with nutritionists and doctors regarding diet issues (mostly how to work around food allergies), I’ve been consistently told that young children need a good amount of fat in their diet.

  • Sarah says:

    Crystal, I’m not exactly sure where you live, but look for an amish community near you. Often they sell their milk for less than 3 bucks per gallon. Also in getting the raw milk, you can make your own butter, whipping cream, and so much more…

  • Tiffany says:

    we don’t use the oil- the pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin is our oil substitute- you just use it instead of applesauce or oil…just made soem pumpkin bread today 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’ve never noticed too much sticking to pans when subst. applesauce, but i always spray the pan with non-stick spray.

  • Apple sauce works great in place of oil. I use apple sauce in place of oil when I make banana bread, it tastes really good and keeps it very moist. I am picking about substituting though….I wouldn’t do it in something like brownies, might comprimise the taste. Worth a try though if you really want to eliminate the oil.

  • Sara says:

    I substitute applesauce for oil in a ratio of 1:1 in muffins. In the fall while apples are cheap I make my own applesauce by just boiling peeled and cored apples until they are soft enough to mash. Then I freeze the applesauce to use for baking throughout the year. This is cheaper than buying applesauce. Also, there is a kitchen gadget that will allow me to boil the apples whole and just press them to squeeze out the sauce and discard the skins and cores. I plan to buy it this fall because it will be a HUGE timesaver!

  • Stephanie says:

    I made these muffins using whole wheat flour and replaced the oil with applesauce and they tasted great!

  • Bethany DiLullo says:

    I use unsweetened applesauce as well instead of oil except for cookies .. nobody has ever tasted the difference. I use a 1:1 ratio — not sure that that is the right way to do it but I’ve had no complaints ! Good job

  • Angie Newell says:

    I tried this recipe this week and it was awesome! Only problem was I didn’t have enough choc. chips. I substituted 1/2 caramel chips and they were heavenly. They make it a little more dessert like than muffin like.

  • This idea may sound weird to most people- but because I try to eat little to no refined sugar (I use some agave syrup) I don’t miss the sweetened chocolate. When I put “chocolate chips” in anything I just grind a few cubes of baking chocolate in a little hand nut grinder- it makes the pieces tiny- and add that to my baked goods. I think it tastes good and my family doesn’t even notice the difference since the cookie or muffin it is in is already sweet.

    Another tip for nutrition bumping is use “almond flour or meal” for part of the flour. You can buy it or grind it yourself.

    And I would not worry about replacing all of the oil, health wise. Some fat is actually good for you and helps balance out the carbs in your body. If the recipe calls for a lot of oil and you still want to reduce it some- try taking it down an 1/8 or 1/4 cup at a time and see how much it affects the recipe.

  • 2boysmom says:

    You might want to upping your wet ingredients if you aren’t using sugar. Sugar is often considered a “wet ingredient” especially in baking.

  • Shiela says:

    Hey everyone!
    I am new to the baking realm. My hubby is buying me a grain grinder and some wheat berries for Christmas.
    I’d like to know what wheat berries to get and if there is anything else I will need to hit the ground running once the time comes. We’re looking forward to making our own breads, pizza crust, tortillas, pita pockets, muffins and pancakes and waffles. Sooo, could anyone recommend the things I need to get started? What wheat has worked best for you? Feel free to email me:
    Thanks all!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve started replacing vegetable oil with coconut oil as well (or organic/natural applesauce). I am eliminating vegetable oils (such as corn, canola, etc not olive) from my family’s diet…they are highly processed with lots of chemicals (and are toxic when heated), and aren’t as healthy as once thought. Here’s some good (but lengthy) reading on the topic:

  • Melissa says:

    I was intimidated at the thought of making my own pumpkin puree–until this year. It was so easy and it turned out great in some pumpkin cookies. My dad is a farmer and I always hated to see those extra pumpkins go to waste. Thank you for inspiring me with your cooking posts!

  • stephanie says:

    I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this or if you are already doing this, but when you replace the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour you don’t want to do it cup for cup. IThat may be why your muffins turned out dry. Whole wheat flour weighs more than white flour and really flour is best when added by weight. So when I sub whole wheat for white I always use less whole wheat – like take about 2 tablespoons out of each cup of wheat flour. Does that make sense? For example, my favorite recipe for rolls calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour. I do it with whole wheat flour and only use 3 cups. Comes out perfect. If I use more than that they are dry.

  • Julie says:

    I made these yesterday and made these changes: of the flour called for I used white whole wheat flour for 2/3 of it and reg. flour for the remaining 1/3, cut the sugar in half and used 3/4 cup of plain (whole fat) yogurt and 1/2 cup oil. I also used Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips and threw some freshly ground flax seeds in as well. They were really great! Perfectly moist and light. I’ll be making these again soon. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laura says:

    I get lighter whole wheat results with pastry wheat – it mills up nice and light. You can also use some applesauce to replace part of the oil – usually half, and that will cut the fat and increase the fiber a bit without sacrificing taste and texture too much.

    I always cut the amount of chocolate chips, and no one notices. Also, if you use the mini chips, the flavor is more spread out! 🙂

  • elaine says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Caroline about fats being good for us. Coconut oil is a wonderful fat and I have been substituting it for almost all the oils in my baking. I look for ways to incorporate coconut into my diet (and I don’t even really like it – but you don’t taste the difference in baked goods).
    Heavenly Homemaker has a great recipe for making your own healthy chocolate chips.
    These sound yummy – can’t wait to try them.

  • jennie says:

    This may sound really strange but you can substitute beans for oil or butter in baked goods recipes. You just pick a cooked bean that has about the same color as what you’re baking so the color doesn’t look strange in your recipe and mash them up before putting in. I seriously do this a lot and my family can’t tell the difference. It makes things a lot fluffier and has the added fiber benefit. You do need to make sure you grease your pans well though because you are taking the butter or oil out. The substitution ratio is the same.

  • kriswithmany says:

    In our pumpkin bread, I add more pumpkin in place of some of the oil. In a banana bread recipe I have, it just has lots of banana – and no oil. Both work great for me.

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