What’s better than pumpkin bread? Protein pumpkin bread made with Kodiak Cakes!  Each slice of pumpkin bread is just slightly over 100 calories and yields 9 grams of protein!

protein pumpkin bread kodiak cakes

A few weeks ago I shared my pumpkin turkey meatloaf, today it’s pumpkin bread (or loaf to stick with my theme).  Both super easy, flavorful, and packed with protein.

 What’s with all the protein you ask? well sometimes I just like to have options for reaching my protein goals other than the usual (though most days it’s not a problem) and it makes a great on-the-go snack.  I still love a traditional pumpkin bread but I like to play around and have alternatives too! (I’ll be talking more about protein in an upcoming Health & Fitness post).

Anyways, you might be sensing a roll with this loaf theme, but I’m outta loaf recipes at this point.

protein pumpkin bread

Anyways, what gives this pumpkin bread a good amount of protein is a scoop of protein powder and the addition of Kodiak Cakes mix in place of standard all purpose flour.  They have several different kinds of mixes, but I use the Power Cakes version that has more protein than their standard pancake/waffle mix.  Our local Costco carries a BIG box, but it can also be found at Target.

I used a sample pack of Quest Vanilla protein powder which is rated high to bake with and always gives great flavor, but you can use whatever vanilla powder you like.  No need to buy a big tub of protein powder either! You can grab sample packs at most health/vitamin stores.  I recommend using one that doesn’t include greens or something like Jay Robb brand that offers an egg white protein powder (which is awesome as a shake!) because your results will not be the same! Stick to a standard vanilla whey…

kodiak cakes pumpkin bread

I received this recipe from a friend on Facebook who graciously allowed me to share it.  I made only a slight change to her original recipe swapping 2/3c baking stevia for 2 TB maple syrup.

This bread is very dense and also meets my other standards:

Pumpkin bread must have a good balance of spices, but not overpowering. This does!

Pumpkin bread must be able to be sliced thick, yet yield good macros. This does! 

Each slice yields 117 calories, 9.1p, 17.7c, and only 1.4 grams of fat leaving room for some butta, if that’s your thing.  Or, try it with some whipped greek cream cheese and a dusting of pumpkin spice…heavenly.  

healthy pumpkin bread

 And just for fun…here’s what really goes on behind the scenes:

Bosco is always at my feet. If you look at the top of his back you’ll see some crumbs that I swooshed off the table before snapping a photo of the pumpkin bread…I didn’t realize until later they all landed on him.  This is why I vacuum daily- dog and crumbs.

food photography pull back

and my hubby brought me home some Tim Hortons coffee just in time to enjoy a slice…or two…

pumpkin bread

Tired of pumpkin yet? Yea, me neither.

Protein Pumpkin Bread with Kodiak Cakes


  • 1 15oz. can pure pumpkin
  • 2 2/3 cup Kodiak Cakes-Power Cakes pancake and waffle mix
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cashew milk (or any milk)
  • 3 TB unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 TB pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (I use the carton kind)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used a sample pack of Quest vanilla which is great for baking)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray and set aside
  3. Combine all wet ingredients-pumpkin, milk, applesauce, maple syrup and eggs- in a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Mix all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and gently stir to combine all ingredients.
  5. Batter will be thick.
  6. Spread into loaf pan and bake 50-65 minutes (toothpick should come out fairly clean as the bread will dry out a bit once cooled) Cover with foil during last 15 minutes if the top starts to brown too much.
  7. Best within 2-3 days or slice it and keep in the freezer to heat up/toast when ready
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Baked Goods

I like to believe this notion of “clean eating” started off with good intentions.  At least it did in my case when describing previous recipes I’ve posted here on the OSH blog (though I believe I’ve gone back and corrected most).

At the surface clean eating was trying to imply what our diets should be focused on: lots of whole foods from as close to nature as possible- fruits, veggies, protein (animal or plant based), whole grains, nuts, seeds, and good oils.

But there’s a few problems with this phrase I’ll address:


There is no clear way to define what “clean eating” is.

Recently I’ve read a lot of science-based articles that exclaim food is neither good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, clean or unclean. 

It took me a while to truly wrap my head around this line of thinking, but as one article noted  It’s impossible to judge a food in isolation without seeing the big picture from the rest of the diet.   Now that makes perfect sense.

Instead what we do is clump everything that’s not “healthy” into an “unhealthy” (and vice versa) category casting judgement we derive from our own definitions. Different foods have different pros and cons depending on the individual and circumstances.  Period. 

I’m not going to split hairs over proper terminology.  I’m totally guilty of using the phrases “healthy and unhealthy” when describing food because it seems universally recognized.  So, what is most recognized in regards to eating healthy:

1. Eat Mostly Whole, Minimally Processed, Nutrient Dense, Satiating Foods

2. Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

3. Eat Enough Quality Protein

4. Eat a Variety of Animal Products

5. Eat within Your Calorie and Macronutrient Needs

This is not terribly complex if you peel back all the marketing and hype streaming daily across social media.  Focus on the 5 key points above and enjoy whatever else you like that fits within your goals.  


This phrase has taken on a misguided meaning in regards to how it can change our body composition (chasing after the overrated 6 pack for example).  There are COUNTLESS articles and books, even food blogs now, dedicated to preaching that “clean eating” is the only way to reach your fitness goals.

Eat to Perform posted an article What Food Freedom Means to Me in response to a Whole30 instagram post. I recommend you read the whole thing (it’s short and amusing), but here’s a highlight:

Food Freedom is about eating real food, paying some attention to the amounts and portions, and having choices. That way, if you are gaining fat, you have some idea why. If you are losing muscle, you also have some idea why. If you are just reliant on a food list with no information to back it up, that’s not freedom, that’s confusing as hell.

Instead this is what most are doing….spinning their wheels, trying to find a “clean eating solution.” Shakes, elimination diets (unless for food intolerances/allergy issues), pills, detoxes, etc. are not optimal for weightloss because they teach you nothing about how to maintain your weight or eat for your goals in a healthy sustainable and lifestyle way.

diet wheel

Most will experience weight loss after adopting one of the above mentioned methods from being in a calorie deficit but it’s not sustainable and the cycle continues.  And that weight loss was most likely fat and muscle which is not ideal either!


Orthorexia nervosa- An obsession with dietary perfection, a phrase coined by Dr. Bratman.  Perhaps you’ve never put your diet on a pedestal but someone around you has, making your choices appear less than acceptable.  This food shaming mentality is different from finding something gross based on personal taste. It refers to a pathological fixation on eating strictly clean and unprocessed and feeling guilty or ashamed for straying off course.

If someone strives to consume 0% of calories from any food that’s been processed or refined from its original state, then that’s perfectly fine – as long as this is the person’s genuine preference, and not a painful battle of will. (Well said Mr. Aragon!)

Talk about an enormous amount of will power and determination not to mention STRESS for the majority of the population.  I believe we all want to focus more on nutrient dense foods vs. focusing on the higher sugar and fat content items. But creating an environment of restriction is not ideal and sets many up for failure.

There’s no doubt that what you eat can have a massive impact on your health, performance, and body composition. However, there’s no evidence you can’t achieve all of these things while still enjoying any food you like.


We must know ourselves first and establish what our goals are. By learning how to listen to our own bodies, we will have better long-term success. Unfortunately, most don’t know where to begin so they turn to guides and shakes and lists of approved foods for a quick-fix not understanding the implications (see problem #2).

The point is to gain a general awareness of your overall calorie consumption and appreciation of macronutrients.

If you feel like your nutrition’s off track, you’re not reaching your goals, or you’re just clueless where to begin…

Start with food journaling to get a big picture of your overall intake.  Are you consuming a balanced diet of protein, fats and carbs? Do your portion sizes meet your goals and activity levels?  How can you start getting more strategic about your overall calorie intake?  What will benefit your performance or body composition? What foods become a disappointing calorie bomb after just a few bites that perhaps is consumed too often?

I’ll leave you with this nugget of awesomeness from an interview with Alan Aragon:

Practically speaking, do your best to dominate your carb choices with whole and minimally refined foods, while keeping the low-fiber/refined flour foods and added sugars to a minimum. Keep your fat intake dominated with intrinsic fats (pre-existent within whole foods) rather than added fats. Of course there are exceptions such as olive oil, but that’s the general rule.

Foods on their own cannot be good or bad. What matters is their relative contribution to the diet. If you dominate your diet with crap, then you have a crappy diet… Diet quality matters, and it always has. However, a healthy diet can indeed contain the crap, but obviously it must comprise the minority of intake in order to preserve the overall quality of the diet.


Still clueless, shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help or point you in the right direction.


Referenced Links:

*Complete Human Performance– “Started by Alex Viada and Kelly Bruno in 2012 with one goal in mind –– to cut through the misinformation about training and nutrition and to create simple, customized, and highly-effective training plans to help athletes of all levels reach their full potential. They have a combined 38 years of strength and endurance training and are both experienced having both competed in Ironmans, ultramarathons and powerlifting.”

*Alan Aragon “is a nutrition researcher and educator with over 20 years of success in the field. He is known as one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry’s movement towards evidence-based information.”


Everyone has their favorite kitchen items they can’t live without.  These are just a few of mine!  Plus don’t miss our favorite cherry smoothie recipes.



favorite kitchen tools one strange herd

A. Blendtec Classic 575 model.  It’s a smoothie making magician!  It has a preprogrammed smoothie button, among others, that does all the work for you and no tamper needed.

Before making my purchase I watched several youtube videos and ultimately decided based on what I needed a blender to do, the Blendtec series was the best bang for my buck.  I purchased mine at Costco last year and have nothing but success.

Here’s a video from the girls over at Simple Green Smoothies of the Blendtec and Vitamix in Action that further persuaded me.

CONS: loud when chopping frozen items, but to be expected!


B. Ninja 3 in 1 cooking system.  I previously mentioned how much I adore this crockpot in my Pasta e Fagioli post. It’s truly more than a crockpot!  You can sear and saute right in the pan before setting it up for slow cooking.  The warming feature can be used at anytime vs. previous slow cookers I’ve owned that only utilize that feature after the time is up.

The ninja system has saved me many times to keep dinner warm or let it finish cooking on the stovetop low setting while I dash out to the door to pick up or drop off kids.

CONS: the sides of the pot get hot (the black sides that stick out just under the lid) and I’ve mistakenly grabbed them when going to stir something.  Once the unit is off they cool down quickly for lifting the pot to rinse out.  Also you need to use plastic or wooden utensils to not scratch the non-stick surface.  Upside is it’s a breeze to clean…downside is no shredding with forks and you’ll probably need to purchase a plastic ladel for soups.


C. 6.5″ Santoku Knife by OXO. A good knife makes all the difference in preparing food.  And by good I don’t mean ridiculously expensive.  Home Goods had this knife in stock for only $14.99 last month!  Rarely do I use another knife in my kitchen! In fact it gets immediately washed and put away because I use it *everyday* for everything. From slicing apples,chopping veggies, mincing garlic and herbs, slicing through cooked or raw meat or tough spaghetti squash…its my workhorse.

CONS: none.


D. Meat Chopper/Crusher. Hands down a life changing tool in my kitchen.  You can find these almost anywhere kitchen tools are sold nowadays, I purchased mine 6 years ago from Pampered Chef.  When making any dish that requires ground beef/turkey, like my #1 homemade sloppy joes, it easily chops up the meat vs. chasing it around the skillet with a wooden spoon.  Just do yourself a favor and get one, you’ll see the immediate difference and wonder how you survived without one.

CONS: none. just check to make sure it’s safe to use in non-stick cookware and the edges don’t seem overly sharp.


E. Oster 2-Tier Electric Food Steamer.  Unfortunately my particular model is no longer available but there are several competitors models out.  Oster still makes a double steamer version but it’s just slightly smaller and with overall different dimensions.  It comes in handy when you want to make rice or an abundance of steamed vegetables but not be a slave to the stove.

CONS: Due to the output of steam you must have a space on your counter not directly under a cabinet.  Storage can be a bit tricky if you’re low on space for larger appliances.


F. Pampered Chef Small Micro Cooker When you don’t need the big food steamer mentioned above, this one is super handy for microwave use.  I use it weekly for heating up various frozen vegetables, warming soups, or leftovers.  The handle twist-locks into place and the lid has tiny holes that allow you to drain it before removing the lid.  They also have a larger version, but this size is perfect and stores easily among my other pots.

CONS: none.



Favorite Cherry Smoothies


    Sunrise Cherry Smoothie
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla cashew milk
  • 1 packet Carnation Breakfast Essentials vanilla powder or protein powder
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • Cherry Lime Smoothie
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 1/4c fresh or frozen pineapple
  • juice from 1/2 a lime


  1. For either recipe and any blender, load blender with liquid first and frozen items on top. Hit smoothie button on Blendtec and let it do it's magic. 45 seconds later...cheers!
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Pasta e Fagioli is an easy Italian soup known for the combination of pasta and beans.  In fact, Pasta e Fagioli literally means “pasta with beans.” My version is more reminiscent of a stew making it the perfect fall/winter comfort dish.

easy pasta fagioli

Let’s talk crockpots a moment shall we?

My Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking system is a life-changer!  It’s more than the average crockpot because it also has a stovetop setting.  Helloooo. This is a phenomenal feature!! Not only can I use the 6qt. wide base to saute my veggies like for a big pot of Pasta e Fagioli stew, I have the option to also switch it to slow cooker or simply… warm.  This is far superior to some crockpots that only switch to warm after the specified cooking time.

To start this pasta and beans stew, you’ll need 3-4 large carrots and celery stalks diced up.

pasta e fagioli soup

While the veggies are busy sautéing, I start a separate skillet of some sweet italian turkey sausage and diced onions.  I prefer to cook my onions with the sausage out of habit from making spaghetti, but you can certainly add them to the pot of carrots and celery.

My local grocery used to carry thee best turkey italian sausage that was lean and full of amazing flavor.  Sadly they discontinued it (along with my favorite cheesesteak beef).  Use whatever brand or style you prefer…even spicy if you don’t live with wimps. cough cough.

italian sausage soup

Now comes the best part of making this soup…start dumping all the ingredients in.

Here’s my twist that makes this Pasta e Fagioli stew a notch better than the average version…spaghetti sauce. 

I’ve been making this soup for several years now using various cans of stewed tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, organic tomato sauce, you name it….I’ve tried it.  Marinara Sauce or Traditional Spaghetti sauce is where it’s at!  I think I learned this from another recipe of Pioneer Woman (whom I met back in 2014 and have a signed cookbook, ahem).  There’s just something about a jar of spaghetti sauce that you can’t replicate in this soup…

pasta e fagioli soup

Did you notice in the picture at the beginning of the post, the jar of Trader Joe’s Marinara sauce was missing a little?  That’s because a few days prior to making Pasta e Fagioli we had my Pub-Style Hoagie Burgers.  The soup had to sacrifice 1/2 cup or so of sauce but it was a sacrifice that saved money but didn’t rob flavor …that’s recipe poetry right there. 


After the soup has simmered for a while and the veggies are nice and tender add 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni. A more traditional type of pasta to use in this soup would be ditalini.  But here’s a little secret…northern beans kinda hide among the elbow macaroni making it easier to scoop into the minions bowls, if ya catch my non-bean-eating-picky-kid-kinda-drift.  

easy pasta and beans soup

Soup in a handled bowl is the ultimate comfort in your lap kinda meal.  And those garlic breadsticks make the perfect dunking device for what little broth remains in my version of Pasta e Fagioli.

By the way it’s pronounced Pasta-EH-FAH-DJOH-LEE .  Ya gotta put a little love in the “DJ” to sound legit.  Or just call it Italian soup….my family rarely knows a dish by it’s real name anyhow.

easy italian soup

Recipe serves 8-10 and is approximately 350 calories, 23g protein- 40.6g carbs-10g fat (based on my ingredients).  Now that’s a soup that will leave you feeling full and warm on those….dare I say it….cold winter nights.

Easy Pasta e Fagioli Stew +
Ninja 3 in 1 Crockpot Product Review


  • *recipe adapted from Damn Delicious
  • 16 oz. elbow macaroni
  • 16-20oz. italian turkey sausage, casing removed (use whatever style you prefer, we like sweet italian)
  • 1 jar traditional spaghetti or marinara sauce
  • 1 carton beef stock (*1 cup reserved for leftovers, see note)
  • 1 15oz. can italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15oz. can northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper taste
  • parmesan cheese (optional for topping)


  1. Start by sautéing carrots and celery in large stockpot or if you're lucky enough a Ninja 3 in 1 crockpot. While veggies are sauteing add sausage and onions to separate skillet and cook until no longer pink. Drain and dump sausage into pot with veggies.
  2. Add minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Dump all remaining ingredients into pot, except pasta.
  4. Allow soup to simmer 20 minutes then add 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni and allow to simmer another 10-15 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
  5. Serve with breadsticks, grilled cheese or opt for a copycat Olive Garden salad...delish!
  6. *The leftover soup will become slightly thicker so I like to keep the remaining 1 cup broth to add when reheating. Feel free to add it all if you want more broth to begin with.
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