Guilt-Free Banana Chocolate Fudge Muffins

2014-01-15 20.14.07Happy hump day, readers! Today I decided I needed a little pick-me-up to get me through the rest of this busy week. Chocolate usually does the trick, but I wanted something that I could eat a couple of without instantly feeling the need to make a dash to the gym (which, much to my dismay, isn’t always possible thanks to this lovely — make that disgusting — weather Chicago has been experiencing lately).

2014-01-15 21.20.39You all know how much I love “healthifying” recipes by replacing oil and butter with unsweetened applesauce; these yummy, fudgy chocolate muffins accomplish not only that, but they allowed me to utilize some bananas that I had on hand that were slightly past my preferred stage of ripeness. Guilt-free and nutritionally delicious, eat one for breakfast, dessert or even a mid-day snack!

No-Guilt Banana Chocolate Fudge Muffins

adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 3 large, very ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping

2014-01-15 19.55.03Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with baking cups. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas until there are no more big lumps. Stir in the sugar, egg, and applesauce with a whisk. Fold the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder into the wet ingredients. Lightly mix to combine (in order to obtain nice fluffy muffins, it is important NOT to overmix). Fold in chocolate chips. Don’t worry if the batter is slightly chunky.

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups, filling all the way to the top. Bake for 17-19 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

2014-01-15 20.14.25Once the muffins are out of the oven, top with a few more chocolate chips, if desired. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Muffins stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Namas-tasty!

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Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

2013-12-23 14.29.39I realize, of course, that this is embarrassingly after-the-fact (for which I am very sorry and hope you forgive me, readers), but I wanted to share with you the recipe for some awesome Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds that I made as gifts for friends and family over the holiday season. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good spiced almond any ol’ time of year??

I, for one, think that “fancied up” nuts should be enjoyed year-round. Not only are they a great healthy snack that, when consumed wisely, help prevent obesity; additionally, nuts including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios have been proven to help protect your body against the damaging physical effects of stress, maintain cholesterol levels, and improve heart and brain health. Now that is one powerful fruit!

For these reasons (and also because they simply are delicious!), I usually keep some sort of nuts around for snacking, and I decided to use these crunchy little buddies when it came time to make my holiday gifts. Because they contain a lot of (heart-healthy) monosaturated fats and natural flavor, raw nuts are really easy to dress up with some simple spices and seasonings (besides the counterproductive yucky salt) to make extra delicious. Plus, I got to use my crock pot!! Talk about a win-win situation 🙂

2013-12-23 08.43.23(Crock Pot) Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

adapted from Polka Dotted Elephants

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg white
  • 6 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup water
In a large bowl mix together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. In another large bowl beat egg white and vanilla by hand or with an electric  mixer until mixture is frothy. Add the almonds and coat thoroughly. Once your almonds are thoroughly coated with the egg mixture, pour the sugar mixture over the almonds and stir to coat.
Prepare crock pot by spaying it with cooking spray. Turn the crock pot on to low and add almonds to pot. Cook for 4-5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent burning.
2013-12-23 14.28.59In the last hour, add 1/4 cup water to the almonds and stir. Continue to stir every 20 minutes until done. Spread the almonds out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Once they begin to cool the cinnamon sugar glaze will harden. Wait several hours before packaging.
Namas-tasty!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

2013-11-26 23.12.59I mentioned in my last post that I really get a kick out of making treats for friends and family around the holiday season. These little gift-wrapped packages were part of my contribution to the three (I repeat, THREE) Thanksgiving meals I enjoyed with loved ones this year. I included some yummy gingerdoodle cookies, stacked alongside these white chocolate cranberry blondies. I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and got some great feedback on the goodies!

The blondies have just enough spice and color to make them the perfect addition to any holiday meal or get-together. The texture of the bars is fantastic, with plenty of dried cranberries and white chocolate mixed in, and I personally love the thick cream cheese frosting slathered on top. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

2013-11-26 23.13.42Preheat oven to 350°. In a microwaveable bowl, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar. Transfer to a large bowl; cool to room temperature. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in cranberries and chopped chocolate (batter will be thick).

Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and orange peel if desired until blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator to preserve moisture.

Namas-tasty!

Holiday Gingerdoodles

2013-12-04 10.26.06One of the most enjoyable parts of the holidays for me is gift-giving. I like to think of myself as a little elf distributing packages of holiday cheer 😉 Just kidding. But I really do love spreading joy and love this time of year.

Since baking is my happy place (and also more personal – and less expensive – than more other gifts), I usually like to make festive treats, wrap them up in sweet little packages, and deliver them to friends and family in the area. (I had planned on sending these out to loved ones in other states, as well, until I got to the post office and realized how much it was going to cost to ship all the packages… YIKES! It’s the thought that counts, right?!)

2013-11-26 23.12.42These were my Thanksgiving  gifts this year. Last week I baked up some goodies, downloaded these cute (and free!) printable gift tags from She Wears Many Hats, and dug out my rolls of raffia (perfect for a harvest theme), to assemble little gift bags.

I got some really great feedback on these “gingerdoodles.” I admit, I even tried a few myself. They are pretty awesome! Definitely more festive and flavorful than your typical boring snickerdoodle cookie, these soft, gooey treats are filled with that wholesome molasses flavor. Try making the for a holiday crowd, or just for yourself!

Holiday Gingerdoodles

Adapted from Lauren’s Latest

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, vanilla and molasses. Whip 1-2 minutes or until it turns a light brown color. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are just combined.

2013-11-25 10.59.08Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and coat in granulated sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until outside looks cooked but inside is still soft and gooey. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Namas-tasty!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

DSC02212Since you guys seemed to really enjoy my last post of my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (made even healthier!), I thought I’d continue the baking  trend and share with you this unbelievably tasty cupcake recipe, again made with applesauce instead of oil.

This past week was the last in the most recent term of my Master’s degree program, and thus it was my final week of student teaching. I had an awesome experience in my classroom of 14 super cool fourth graders, and I  wanted to give the lead teacher a gift for putting up with all of my annoying questions about lesson planning, classroom management and organization. I like to believe that baked goods add a really personal touch to any gift, so of course I settled on this pumpkin-inspired fall dessert. Another of my great Pinterest finds, I can honestly say I was a bit glad that I had to give away half of these bad boys, otherwise I would have eaten them all in one sitting! The cupcakes themselves are incredibly moist but dense at the same time, and the frosting is truly decadent. I have yet to get a review from her, but I give these two thumbs up!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Dolce Delicious

Cupcakes:

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup homemade applesauce
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat free milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Frosting:

  • 1 (8 oz.) package reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

DSC02214Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, add butter, applesauce, sugars, and eggs and beat over medium speed until combined. Add in pumpkin and continuing beating until thoroughly incorporated. In a liquid measuring cup, combine milk and lemon juice and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Slowly, over medium speed, add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the milk mixture, beating well after each addition. Line cupcakes trays with paper liners. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 24 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

DSC02216To make frosting, combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat over medium speed until ingredients begin to combine, slowly increase speed and continue beating until a frosting is formed. Once cupcakes cool completely, frost as desired and enjoy!

Namas-tasty!

 

Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds

2013-10-06 12.39.132013-10-16 14.37.39

One of my (many) favorite things about fall, besides the apples, of course, is pumpkins! Pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie; I am beyond excited when Starbucks rolls out their pumpkin-flavored menu on October 1st.

I also love pumpkin carving. I didn’t partake in the activity often as a child, but I have a few fond memories from my elementary school days of carving out silly/spooky faces and displaying them proudly while modeling my Halloween costume (I’m pretty sure I was a witch for 10 straight years). This year, on our apple-picking adventure, I came across the perfect pumpkin and decided to bring back a little piece of my childhood. Of course, my pattern of choice was sports-related: a Denver Bronco! I had a great time scooping out the pumpkin goop, poking a pattern into the thick pumpkin rind and chiseling out the design (although, as it turned out, it was quite intricate for my minimal level of expertise).

DSC02154Once I had an awesome pumpkin to decorate my apartment, I decided I was going to resurrect another fall tradition and roast the leftover pumpkin seeds! From what I can remember, my mom used to spread the seeds out on a baking sheet, season them with a savory blend, and throw them in the oven to bake. This year, however, I decided I wanted my pumpkin seeds sweet; so I picked out this recipe for caramelized pumpkin seeds that you can cook up fast right on the stove! They were a delicious fall treat, just like candy; I’ll definitely be adding these bad boys to the fall favorite repertoire!

DSC02156Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds

Adapted from Cooking with My Kid

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds (cleaned and patted dry)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • cooking spray

DSC02159Place pumpkin seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Toast them in the pan, constantly stirring so that they roast evenly and don’t stick to the pan. When they start to pop and peel, take one out and taste it (make sure it’s cool enough first). If it’s crunchy it’s done. Turn the heat down to low and spray the seeds with cooking spray. Spoon sugar into pan and stir seeds as the sugar melts and sticks to them. Add the cinnamon and continue to stir until all seeds are coated. Turn heat off and sprinkle with salt. Let cool and serve!

Namas-tasty!

So Good Apple Pie

I don’t like to brag (OK that’s not true, but who doesn’t like to brag occasionally?!), but I make THE BEST apple pie. Trust me, I have the feedback to prove it. So, now that I’m in my seasonal apple frenzy, I would like to share my tried and true apple pie recipe with you, readers. I hope you try it out for an upcoming holiday dinner or celebration! Don’t be afraid to leave comments of gratitude when your guests’ compliments start flowing 😉

2013-10-12 12.07.34So Good Apple Pie

  • Pastry for 9-in double pie crust (store-bought or homemade, if you need directions click here)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups tart apples (about 8 medium, or 6 large), peeled and thinly sliced (I like to use Cortland if picked fresh from an orchard; Granny Smith also work just fine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. In large bowl, mix sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in apples until well mixed. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over filling.

Roll out the other pastry onto a counter and cut into 8 strips, approximately 1-1.5 inches thick. Assemble the strips into a lattice- alternating over and under. Press the two edges together and onto rim of pie plate to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning. Sprinkle crust with granulated sugar crystals, if desired, for a fancy touch.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the crust, removing foil for last 8-10 minutes of baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm, if desired, with fresh vanilla ice cream!

Namas-tasty!