Category Archives: Baking

Healthy Secret-Ingredient Brownies

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There are two desserts out there that I almost never tire of and could always find room for: soft, chewy, traditional chocolate chip cookies, and fudge brownies. I don’t often allow myself to eat these sweets, but when I do I find that they always hit the spot.

I started bookmarking and reading a lot of recipes for healthy brownies over the past year. Some recipes make small substitutions, like swapping out oil for applesauce or using honey in place of sugar. Some recipes use seemingly odd ingredients like avocado or black beans. Today, I bring you a healthy, chocolatey, moist brownie that doesn’t include any avocado, no bananas, no applesauce, no dates, and absolutely no beans of any kind.

So what is the secret ingredient? you may be wondering. It is… (drumroll)…

Prunes!

Okay, before you turn your nose up in disgust and stop reading, hear me out for a minute. Prunes have a reputation for being a food only old ladies or babies eat because of their high fiber content, and a lot of people assume they’re foul-tasting and not something they’d enjoy. To me, a prune tastes like a cross between a raisin and a dried cherry and I think a lot of people would actually like them if they tried them out. And if people can stick things like black beans or avocados in their dessert recipes, surely we can handle a dried fruit in a brownie recipe.

Recently I was thinking to myself that prunes would go well with chocolate, like a chocolate covered raisin, or how chocolate Larabars use pureed dates with cocoa powder that end up tasting similar to fudge brownies. I found this recipe for Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork and the ingredient list was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

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This brownie recipe includes pureed prunes instead of oil, less than a half cup of your favorite natural sweetener, ground oats instead of white flour, and only 1 (optional!) tablespoon or butter or coconut oil in the whole recipe. They are moist, chewy, super chocolatey, and have more of a cake texture. I almost considered calling it cake instead of brownies, but at the same time they’re so flavorful that they don’t need icing or frosting. I have always considered myself to be a fudge brownie kind of person, but these brownies are just darn good.

Here’s where the recipe gets a little weirder. You can certainly puree the prunes yourself with a bit of water or even juice, but to get the best texture for these brownies, it’s recommended to use baby food prunes. I can hear your stomach churning and your skepticism growing, but think about it: baby food prunes are really just prunes that have been professionally pureed and any skin or tough parts are strained out. They have a silky texture and will blend right into your brownies without anyone noticing. The brownies do have a slightly fruity flavor, but I find that it goes well with the recipe. They were even approved by my picky-eater roommate Kathleen, and Dan, who prefers traditional recipes without weird ingredients.

So as you browse the baby food aisle at your grocery store, without children of your own or children who are grown, you may wonder what you’re doing with your life, as I did. But just trust me. These brownies are good.

Healthy Secret-Ingredient Brownies
adapted slightly from Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork

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Ingredients:
makes 16 2-inch brownies

  • 3/4 cup oats, measured and then ground into flour (any type of flour will work here)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cococa powder (I used half dark chocolate/dutch and half regular)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetener of your choice (sugar in the raw, coconut sugar, or regular ol’ white sugar)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pureed prunes (2 5-oz containers of baby food works perfectly)
  • 1 egg, whisked (or 1 Tbsp ground chia or flax seeds for vegan)
  • 1.5 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate

*If using stevia or other concentrated sweetener, be sure to follow baking directions on the package as a little goes a long way.

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Ingredients for the brownies…

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Plus common baking ingredients…

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And the secret ingredient!

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You can use prunes with apples if you feel better about it.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบF and spray an 8×8″ baking dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients: oat flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients: pureed prunes, egg, honey, vanilla extract, oil/butter, and whisk. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate.
  4. Pour into your greased baking dish and bake for 17 – 18 minutes (18 was perfect for mine), or until a toothpick inserted into brownies comes out clean. Let cool before serving, and enjoy with a glass of milk or ice cream!

Note: Because these brownies are so moist and slightly sticky, they may require extra care when slicing them. Chilling them before cutting will make for neater brownies, but I was too anxious to do so, which is why my brownies are rather messy looking.

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๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Breakfast Muffins

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Hello! If you are reading this, it means I’m still alive.

In all seriousness, though, this long dark winter has really put a damper on my blogging. The past few weekends I’ve planned out recipes, cooked and photographed them, only to have the clouds come out and take away any good lighting that my basement apartment gets. I’m so glad the days are starting to get longer and daylight saving time is next Sunday!

The next few weekends also may be a bit busy for me, as my dad and Robin’s wedding is coming up in two weeks, as well as Naomi’s 2nd birthday! Throw in Jill’s birthday and a trip to Mohegan Sun with Dan and March is looking like a pretty busy month. Which is a good thing because March usually seems like such a long and dreary month filled with waiting for the bad weather to pass and for spring to arrive.

These muffins were inspired by a different type of muffin I made recently. Last week I baked up these Skinny Peanut Butter Banana Muffins and they were soo good. I found they made the perfect mid-morning snack, or even a light dessert. As much as I loved those sweet muffins, I was thinking I’d like to have a more savory muffin that I could eat as my breakfast and wouldn’t leave me feeling weak and shaky like sugary breakfasts often do.

So I searched around for savory breakfast muffins and found just the recipe I was looking for: Cottage Cheese and Egg Muffins with Ham and Cheddar. I wanted a muffin that had a high egg-to-flour ratio, some savory flavors like bacon or ham, and that were healthy enough to eat for breakfast on weekdays. I love that this recipe includes cottage cheese because it’s a great way to add protein and to keep the muffins moist.

I stayed fairly true to the base of the recipe, but made a few adjustments to suit my taste. I actually swapped out the cottage cheese for ricotta because that’s what I had and I prefer the texture, and I know ricotta is often used in pancake recipes. I used turkey bacon instead of ham, and regular all-purpose flour because I didn’t have almond meal (though I think cornmeal would also be a great substitution!). I added some red bell peppers for flavor and texture, and also bumped up the scallions and spices a bit.

These muffins are perfect for breakfast on the go, and are filled with protein to keep you satisfied for hours. The texture is like quiche meets muffin, and the flavors are fun but also mellow enough to eat every morning. You can definitely play around with the ingredients and get creative – broccoli and cheese would be delicious, or even spinach and feta! You can bake up a batch on the weekend and heat them up for breakfast during the week – so easy! I definitely see this recipe becoming a regular in my diet.

Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Breakfast Muffins
adapted from Cottage Cheese and Egg Muffins with Ham and Cheddar on Kalyn’s Kitchen

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Ingredients:
makes 1 dozen muffins (or in my case, 11.)

  • 6 slices of turkey bacon (Canadian bacon or ham would be great too)
  • 2/3 cup + 1/4 cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose – or almond or cornmeal)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (I used 1/4 and thought they could have used more)
  • seasoning of your choice (I used about 1/4 tsp each of smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup ricotta or cottage cheese (I used part-skim)
  • 1 Tbsp milk or water (the original recipe calls for 3 T of water, but I decreased it because of the extra moisture from the bell peppers. If you’re not using a fresh vegetable, use the original amount of 3.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
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Your ingredients (forgot to picture the bell pepper, naturally.)

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Your wonderful spices

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ยฐF and lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Cook your turkey bacon just until it’s almost crispy (you don’t want it too crispy for these muffins), about 5 minutes. While the bacon is cooking, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning in a large bowl.
  3. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese, and milk/water to the bowl and whisk again. Crumble the cooked bacon (make sure you let it cool a bit) into the bowl, and add in the peppers, scallions, and both cheeses. Stir together until well incorporated and spoon into your greased muffin tin, topping each off with a sprinkle of cheese if desired.
  4. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins turn golden and a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean. Let sit for a few minutes before serving, and serve with a glass of milk. (or ketchup and hot sauce if you’re like me!) Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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Begin by frizzling up your bacon.

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In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning together. Stir in ricotta, egg, and milk or water.

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Add in all of the fun stuff (bacon, cheese, scallions, and peppers) and stir again

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Your batter will be thick and slightly lumpy, but have no fear.

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Spoon the batter into your greased muffin tin, about 3/4 of the way full, and sprinkle with a bit of cheese on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 16 – 18 minutes.

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Your muffins will look something like this when they’re finished

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๐Ÿ™‚

Vanilla Bean Pecan Granola

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Hello folks!
Hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season filled with lots of good food. While I wanted to post a seasonal, wintery recipe today, I also was on a mission to make delicious granola. I realized I haven’t posted a granola recipe in a long time so that became today’s post.

Recently at work, I discovered my cafeteria’s granola is actually pretty tasty. Some days I’ll either bring yogurt from home or get some in the cafeteria for a mid-morning snack, along with a heaping scoop of granola. But then I remembered, my own granola is pretty damn good and free, since I have all the ingredients on hand. I wanted to make something a little different this time around, so I incorporated some new ingredients.

Growing up, I was always a chocolate person. I loved chocolate everything and would eat chocolate in some form or another just about every day. Then I slowed started moving away from my chocolate addiction and some time over the past few years, I’ve become crazy over vanilla. I still enjoy a bowl of rich chocolate ice cream (or especially these peppermint chocolate truffles), but when it comes to my everyday vices such as coffee or granola bars, I prefer vanilla.

I always put plenty of vanilla extract in any of my baked goods, and recently picked up some vanilla bean paste from Homegoods. It’s really more like of a goo, though I suppose “vanilla bean goo” doesn’t sound quite as appealing. It has a nice rich vanilla flavor, with vanilla bean seeds in it. The other addition to this granola was pecans. Pecans are probably my favorite type of nut, and I love that they serve them at the breakfast and salad bar at work. I also added raisins this time, which I haven’t done before, but I love the chewiness of them in contrast to the crunchy granola.

Vanilla Bean Pecan Granola
makes about 2 1/2 cups

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or canola, or butter)
  • 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract (or from a fresh vanilla bean if you’re feeling adventurous!)
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
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Your ingredients

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The “secret” ingredient – Vanilla Bean Paste! This can be found at Homegoods, Marshall’s, and probably specialty baking stores such as Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300ยบF and lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt coconut oil in the microwave (mine took about 1 minutes and 30 seconds total to melt). Stir in honey and vanilla bean paste/extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and stir. Add to bowl with wet ingredients and stir again, making sure all the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated in oil. Fold in pecans, raisins, and coconut and stir once more, just until combined.
  4. Spread uncooked granola on your baking sheet and bake for a total of 30 minutes, stirring at 10 minute increments. Stirring is important, or else your granola will cook unevenly and possibly burn in some spots.
  5. Once it’s done cooking, I like to push it all to one side of the baking sheet in a big pile to encourage clumping. Let it cool for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving. Store in an air-tight container (mason jars work perfectly!)
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Prep your ingredients

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Mix it all up!

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Spread on a lightly greased baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

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The finished product!

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๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. I got a new camera lens for Christmas! These photos were taken with the new toy. I’m not sure if I like it as much as my old lens that broke last year, but I’m still getting used to it so we’ll see!

{Healthier} Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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How has fall been treating everyone? I’ve been generally enjoying fall so far. Last weekend I went to my sister’s Halloween party with my brother and sister-in-law, which was a bunch of fun. I’ve been whipping up lots of fall recipes, eating lots of pumpkin and apple foods, and even enjoying the occasionally hot coffee (though I will always be an iced coffee girl at heart). The weather here in Massachusetts has been unpredictable as usual – we’re still having 60 degree days mixed in with chilly 30 degree ones. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with that comes my birthday (which is two days before Turkey Day this year). I always love this time of year because in addition,ย  my cousin and grandmother also have birthdays in the same week so it means lots of family time and lots of eating.

This cookie recipe was inspired by one I found on Pinterest a while back. They’re called Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies and are a lightened up, less sweet version of your typical oatmeal cookies. I loved the idea and found myself with leftover pumpkin puree, so today my mission was to make these cookies.

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These Healthier Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies are filled with pumpkin flavor, hearty oats, dried fruit, and lightly sweetened with honey and sugar in the raw. I stayed pretty true to the base of the recipe, but I did use some butter in addition to coconut oil for a more traditional cookie texture, added shredded coconut, and I replaced the applesauce with an egg to keep the cookies together. They taste like a cross between a muffin and an oatmeal cookie, and they’re not overly sweet. They could be eaten as a breakfast treat, or after a meal with some milk or coffee. Mmm!

{Healthier} Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies on Eat.Drink.Love.

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Ingredients:
makes about 20 cookies

  • 3/4 cup flour (whole wheat or white)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sweetener of choice (honey, agave nectar, or brown sugar work well)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins (I used a bit of all three!)
  • turbinado sugar (a.k.a. sugar in the raw) or white sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ยบF. Whisk together flour, spices, salt, baking powder, oats, and shredded coconut in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a larger mixing bowl, stir melted coconut oil/butter and your sweetener together until combined. Stir in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract.
  3. Add your dry ingredients to your wet and stir just until combined. Gently fold in dried fruit.
  4. Roll your dough into roughly 1-inch balls, and flatten slightly using the palms of your hands. Place the cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet and sprinkle each cookie with the sugar. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until cookies are somewhat firm. Let cool slightly before enjoying ๐Ÿ™‚

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S’mores Cookies

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Did you know that yesterday, August 10th, was National S’mores Day? Neither did I, but coincidentally I had planned to post this recipe for S’mores Cookies. I’m a day late but that’s still pretty good for just learning about this wonderful holiday yesterday.

It’s been a while since I posted a dessert recipe, and this is one that’s been floating around in my head for a while. A few months ago, I found these Marshmallow Bits at Target and so the idea for s’mores cookies was born. Everybody loves s’mores, and I thought it’d be fun to enjoy it in cookie form. (Side note, if you plan to buy these Marshmallow Bits, I recommend checking your local Target or grocery store first – I got mine for $1.50 rather than almost $8 as shown on Amazon.)

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These cookies also include crushed up Hershey’s chocolate and Biscoff spread. I included Biscoff in the recipe because to me, it tastes like ground up cinnamon graham crackers. Some other s’mores cookies or bar recipes include chunks of graham crackers but I wanted mine to have a chewier texture. These cookies have all the delicious flavor of s’mores, but in a neater and more convenient cookie form.

S’mores Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp butter (about 3/4 of a stick) at room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp Biscoff Spread or Cookie Butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Hershey’s Chocolate bars (1.55 oz each), crushed or chopped into little pieces or 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup Marshmallow Bits or mini marshmallows
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Ingredients for the s’mores aspect of the cookies, plus the other ingredients listed. (I used about 2/3 of that bar, roughly equal to 2 normal sized Hershey bars, in addition to some mini chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  2. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine butter and Biscoff Spread. Pop in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, or until Biscoff is softened and can be easily mixed with the butter. Cream both sugars with the butter until fluffy, and then stir in whisked egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Combine dry ingredients with wet and stir just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate and Marshmallow Bits. If using mini marshmallows, you may want to add them to each cookie dough ball individually – see note at bottom.*
  4. Chill the cookie dough for at least 2 or up to 24 hours. (This step isn’t 100% necessary but is strongly recommended for thick, fluffy cookies.) Once dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350ยบF and roll into 1-inch balls (roughly 1 Tbsp each). Place on lightly greased cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes, or until puffy and beginning to turn golden around the edges. I like my cookies very chewy so I keep the time on the 13 minute mark. Let cool and enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

*If using mini marshmallows, it’s recommended to keep them off of the bottom or sides of the cookie dough ball because they may stick to the pan and burn. You can either smoosh the marshmallows into the top of the cookie dough balls, or stir them into the cookie dough mix and form the balls in a way that the marshmallows aren’t exposed to the bottom or side. If using Marshmallow Bits, you don’t need to worry about this step!

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Mix up your dough.

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Form into 1-inch balls

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Bake at 300ยบ for 13 – 15 minutes, or until puffy.

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:)

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I also wanted to mention that I start my new job tomorrow, so my posts may be a bit sporadic over the next few weeks as I figure out how blogging will fit into my new schedule. I am nervous but also really excited! So bear with me as I settle into my schedule and I’ll be back with new recipes as soon as I can ๐Ÿ™‚