Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

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It always seems like summer is completely filled to the brim with fun events and outings. Whether it’s a quick vacation or local festival, I have something planned nearly every weekend through the end of August. But as much fun as beer festivals, vacations Up North and constant dinners with friends are, the summer habit of eating out more often has left me feeling a little less than healthy. So to make up for our weekend fun, I’ve been trying to eat as healthfully as possible during the week days. I find it gives me a lot more energy, and stops the awful stomach-aches I often get from too many meals away from home. But even in a healthy diet, I think it’s important to leave room for dessert. And it just so happens that I found a recipe that is both nutritious and decadent at the same time. These chocolate banana muffins taste more like fudge brownies than your run of the mill banana bread, yet they are healthy enough to eat for breakfast. They contain no butter, oil, eggs or added sugar, and with the use of gluten free oats, can be made completely gluten free. But again…they taste like fudge brownies. In my book, you can’t get much better than that.

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

  • 1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 medium to large ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Place oats in a food processor and pulse until oats are ground up and resemble flour, set aside
  2. Place oat “flour”, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl
  3. In a large bowl, combine mashed bananas, vanilla extract and honey. Use an electric mixer to blend wet ingredients until just combined
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips
  5. Place paper muffin liners in a muffin pan and lightly spray with cooking spray. Pour batter into 12 prepared muffin cups and bake at 350 for 10 minutes

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Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies

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Recently my dad has had to make some changes to his diet. His doctor let him know that steak dinners should be a rare occurrence and those high cholesterol snack cakes he loves may have to fall by the wayside. So far he has been a very good sport with his sudden diet overhaul. He didn’t cringe when I threw away his potato chips and he hasn’t complained about swapping red meat for fish. But one of the items I’m sure he’s been missing is his beloved Bumpy Cake. There was a time in his life that he would polish off an entire bumpy cake each week. By the way, he somehow managed to never put on a single pound during “The Bumpy Cake Diet” which my mom and I found extremely annoying. But nowadays, despite his speedy metabolism, the bumpy cakes are no longer a diet staple. But, since I hate to see the man go without dessert completely, I went searching for a sweet substitute. Initially I bought him a box of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, but they turned out to be pretty dry and tasteless. So to the blogospehere I went. And I stumbled upon this recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies that is devoid of flour, butter, sugar and oil. The result was an incredibly soft cookie that tastes deceivingly decadent.  Chocolate cravings= satisfied. Now to somehow get him to eat kale….this might be a tough one.

Ingredients: Makes 18 cookies, from Ambitious Kitchen

  • 1 cup all natural creamy almond butter (or natural peanut butter, if desired)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar coarsely chopped
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, place almond butter, honey and egg and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy
  2. Add vanilla, baking soda and sea salt and beat until well incorporated
  3. Chop up dark chocolate into coarse pieces and stir into batter
  4. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto a greased cookies sheet
  5. Sprinkle each unbaked cookie with a touch of sea salt
  6. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Bridal Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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I’ve been to a few weddings in my life, but this weekend I get to attend the wedding of one of my oldest and closest friends. I met Kerri our freshman year of high school and she quickly became my first “new friend” of high school. Kerri is one of the sweetest people I know and I am so excited to help her celebrate her special day! But before the wedding, we got to celebrate the bride to be at her bachelorette party.

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We went out to dinner, actually wore high heals and dresses (a big deal for me and my girlfriends) and played some classic bachelorette party games.  And because I never go to parties empty handed, I offered to bring along some sweets. But there was one ingredient that I knew had to be part of any recipe that I brought to a party celebrating Kerri…and that would be chocolate. Back in high school we dubbed Kerri “The Chocolate Kid” due to her hilarious habit of ending our lunch hours with a chocolate covered face. Maybe it was the chocolate cookies they sold at our school store, or maybe it was something she brought along in her lunch…but no matter what she ate, it was pretty much a guarantee that Kerri would end up with chocolate all over her. Later on she even started a blog by our most favorite nickname. So in honor of our “Chocolate Kid” I made some double chocolate cupcakes and these bridal themed chocolate covered strawberries. They are always an impressive treat to bring along to bridal showers or bachelorette parties, yet they are still relatively easy to make. So in honor of our lovely bride to be, Kerri, here is the “recipe” for Bridal Chocolate Covered Strawberries. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 12 strawberries

  • 12 medium sized strawberries
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preparation:

  1. Rinse strawberries and pat dry so no excess moisture remains; set aside
  2. Place semi sweet chocolate chips in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds
  3. Stir in 1 teaspoon of canola oil and microwave for an additional 30 seconds
  4. Stir and microwave until semi sweet chocolate is completely melted and consistency is smooth and creamy; set aside
  5. In another small bowl, repeat melting process with the white chocolate chips, utilizing the remaining teaspoon of canola oil
  6. For the “brides”, dip strawberries into melted white chocolate, letting excess chocolate drip off. Immediately dip in shredded coconut and place on a cookie sheet
  7. Repeat process with remaining “brides” and place cookie sheet in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until chocolate sets
  8. For the “grooms” dip the front of each strawberry in the white chocolate, letting excess chocolate drip off. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes, or until chocolate has set

IMG_08949. Once white chocolate has dried, dip both sides into the semi sweet chocolate, forming a “vest shape”.

10. For the bowtie and buttons, dip a tooth pick into melted semi sweet chocolate and form dots for the buttons and a small bow for the bow tie

11. Place “grooms” on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until all chocolate is set

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Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

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I may have mentioned this before, but I am a huge sucker for seasonal items. During the fall, if anything is labeled “pumpkin flavored” I will buy it. Even though I know darn well that these “pumpkin” English muffins do NOT taste like pumpkin and are simply filled with orange food coloring …they will undoubtedly make their way into my grocery cart. And Christmas themed food? Forget about it. I won’t even think twice before I’ve purchased the “Gingerbread Pop-Tarts” that I probably won’t even like. But the one seasonal item that I know is worth it every single time is the seasonal Reese’s peanut butter cups. Why, you ask? Because these Christmas tree, Easter egg or Heart shaped Reese’s have twice the amount of peanut butter than their non seasonal cousins. And more peanut butter is always better in my book. So I thought it might be a good idea to create my own homemade peanut butter cups for the days that I’m craving a Peanut Butter Cup that is heavy on the peanut butter. And this recipe definitely delivers. And with 3 ingredients and a prep time of roughly 15 minutes it literally could not be easier. The only problem is that they disappear very quickly. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 10 mini peanut butter cups

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter

Preparation:

  1. Place chocolate chips and oil in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds
  2. Stir mixture and microwave for an additional 45 seconds or until smooth and creamy
  3. Drop melted chocolate by the teasponful into a mini cupcake pan lined with paper liners
  4. With a pastry brush, brush chocolate up the sides of each cup, and repeat with remaining cups
  5. Place pan in the freezer for 5 minutes, or until chocolate has hardened
  6. Place a teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each chocolate cup
  7. Cover with another teaspoon of melted chocolate
  8. Place pan in freezer for 2-3 minutes until chocolate has hardened
  9. Peel paper liners away from chocolate and serve

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