Chocolate “Pudding”

I found this post on Pinterest for a Chocolate Pudding made with only avocado, bananas and cocoa. What??? I realized pretty quickly that I already had everything I needed on hand to make this. So, why not try it out? I whipped it up in less than 5 minutes, added a drizzle of honey just to help it out a little, and then whipped it in the mixer just to fluff it up and really get all the chunks out.

I handed the chilled cups to my 3 kids (9, 5, & 2) after dinner a few hours later. Only one of my three took a bite and looked at me suspiciously. The others devoured it. And the one who asked me what was in it still ate it when I divulged my secret to¬†him. I was really sold when the child of mine who is the least likely to try¬†new things asked me the next night if there was any more “pudding” to eat.

All I’m saying is, what have you got to lose?¬†

Not. A. Thing.

It’s seriously good.

Sneaky Chocolate Pudding:

  • 2 bananas (I used some “just right” bright yellow/no spot fruit because I didn’t want the banana flavor to overpower the taste)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons Hersheys special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional-try it both ways!)

Ugly Muffins (Spiced Banana Muffins)

Banana bread can be so tricky (in my opinion). There are a million recipes out there and it seldom fails that I forget what recipe I liked best (or least) the last time I made it.

spiced banana muffins (with pumpkin and coriander)

Spiced Banana Muffins with Pumpkin and Coriander (and a cinnamon sugar topping!)

But this recipe….oh my lanta is it a winner! I know these “look” ugly but, they taste out of this world! I made these muffins and they were gone in 3 days flat. I had very little guilt about them too as the ingredients are healthy and the sugar fairly low. (Though I’m going to experiment and lower it even more!)

The recipe is from the thriftyhippie blog by the way! Here is the basic recipe.

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Dark¬†Brown Sugar*¬†
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 3 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

*denotes my change in the recipe

Heat oven to 350.  

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, sugar, allspice and nutmeg.  

In a separate bowl, beat together the bananas, vanilla, milk, egg and coconut oil until well incorporated.  

Add the dry to the wet and mix until it just comes together, try not to over mix the batter.  

Fill your lined muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter (1/4 cup).  Top with a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking to add a delicious crunch to the top of the muffins.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.

My family ate these warm out of the oven with some fresh salted butter (which immediately melted) and we all swooned over how delicious all the flavors were together! Enjoy these tasty babies!

I wanted to try a little switch up on these muffins just for fun, so here is the “Less Sugar Pumpkin and Coriander” version!

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 2 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1/2 Cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Same gig as above and remember to top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar!

Rethinking What, How and Why We Eat…

One day, while perusing my library account for my next read, this book popped up as newly available and recommended to me. I was pretty intrigued from the start because I just adore French culture. I’ve always been attracted to all things French; from a desire to speak their beautiful language, to the serene¬†country of France, their renowned chefs throughout the region and all that is in between. But this book also touched on a sensitivity and concern I have for my family:¬†Buy it here http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062103296/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1S8W4XXT525HJEAB4ED2&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

You see as many North American moms, I see some poor eating trends/habits in my children. I started a long journey roughly 7 years ago, towards eating more healthy and especially towards cooking in a more healthy way just for myself. My main motivation was my own appearance in the beginning. But my love for food and cooking seemed in contrast to my new found goals. I grew up in a Hamburger-Helper, Condensed Soup Casserole based family. I was an overweight preteen and struggled off and on with my weight throughout my life. So, I basically had to re-learn how to shop, eat and especially how to cook. I wanted my food to taste good and I wanted to be able to eat what I wanted, so I had to rethink and redo what I had always known and seen done.

As a result, my¬†family¬†and I had a lot of food battles specifically¬†over their passion for processed, sweet and fatty foods. While I educated myself more and more on the importance of healthy food and good choices, how the things I eat (and don’t eat) affect my mind and my body, I felt powerless to get my children (and my husband) to understand and be convinced enough to join me in my journey. I was passionate about my goals but extremely frustrated with getting my family¬†to make better choices because they WANTED to, not just because they were FORCED to.

Reading this book was tremendously encouraging to me as I continue on my journey with a new focus on bringing my family along with me. I have seen so much improvement in both my husband and my children! In fact, my husband has been a wonderful team player in his own efforts to change his palate. But even more so, I have found encouragement for the long-haul. This book gave me even more¬†evidence and statistics proving that if we stick with the path, the end result will be exactly what we desire-true change. I’ve been inspired to make nutrition a conversation that is open, fun and even whimsical!

The step-by-step explanations of how this North American mom instituted the new norms in her family, the authenticity and honesty with which she shares her stories of how her children responded (both the good and the bad!) and the helpful recipes and tips she gives throughout the book, gave me so much new-found enthusiasm. It reminded me to stick with it and to make the table a place of family bonding and connection time.

My husband and I are¬†not advocates of attachment parenting. In fact, our family parenting style is very different from most of our peers. We feel that our children are a blessing and we love them deeply, however we do not allow them to have control of our home. This book does talk a LOT about the vast differences in Americans love for their children to have CHOICE and how the French have a much different perspective on the matter. I say that only because the suggestions this author made were very easy for our family to pick up because we were already doing many of them to begin with. (By the way, this is the same author of the popular book, “Bringing Up Bebe”, which explains a lot.)

While I haven’t been asked to review this book, I’ve loved it so much I couldn’t not recommend it! It has helped and encouraged me in my journey to encourage my family to embrace and love food with high quality nutrition. This book has gone from a book I borrowed from the library to one that is on my bookshelf permanently. If you are frustrated with food battles in your home and ready to have your cultural norms challenged, I hope you’ll get this book and read the WHOLE thing before you dismiss it. ¬†“A t√°ble!” might be your kids’ new favorite phrase before long!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (No flour, no butter)

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies without butter or flour!

This is not my recipe, but I highly recommend you check it out. ¬†It’s from a blog called, Ambitious Kitchen I found on Pinterest. These cookies are a great lighter version of a traditional Chocolate Chip cookie. While they are not exactly the same thing as a traditional chocolate chip cookie, they are the perfect portion and treat for someone watching what they eat.

Notice, I did not say they are healthy. But in moderation, they are a great substitute. I use a 1″ melon baller to portion these cookies out and I usually get around 30 cookies (as opposed to her 16-20). I’m guessing that puts them a little less than 100 calories a piece (according to MyFitnessPal). I do use natural peanut butter and don’t have any problems with it. I’m wondering if it is because the PB is already cold? ¬†She also says you can try other butters, but I haven’t yet!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In small bowl mix together the oats and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl beat peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, then gently fold in chocolate chips.

Roll cookies into 2 inch dough balls and place onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart, then BARELY flatten the top of the cookie with your hand. The dough should be pretty sticky so if you find this method annoying, simply use a cookie scoop to drop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. The cookies may not be as round in shape and perhaps a bit thicker, but that’s okay, they will still be delicious.

Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Makes 16-20 cookies.

 Notes
You can use less sugar or less chocolate chips to save calories ‚ÄĒ I have tried using 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and they turned out great!
Feel free to substitute almond butter or another nut butter in replace of peanut butter.

Crepes!

My friend Danielle and I both love to cook. She was mentioning to me one day when we were chatting that she loves to make crepes for her and her husband . I always thought that was a challenging endeavor, but she assured me it was way easy. So, I tried it out! She was totally right! This was a fun and easy recipe. I especially love that you can go savory or sweet with crepes. Try them this Saturday (hint, make them Friday night and let them refrigerate overnight to be ready the next morning) for a fun breakfast treat.

Julia Child’s Crepes (we think)

3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3 egg yokes
1tbsp sugar
3tbsp liquer (opt-or a yummy extract like coconut, orange, almond, rum is yummy too!)
1 1/2 C Flour
5 TBSP melted butter

Blend in blender for 30 seconds. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Use a regular non-stick skillet starting with 1/4 measuring cup.  Use one hand to pour in the batter while making circular motions with the other hand. You basically just want to pour it in the middle and then swirl it around so that the the batter goes around in the pan and is very thin. Personally, I love to use my Pampered Chef large frosting spreader for the job. It works perfectly!

 This is the spreader I use to flip my crepes!

I’m whipping these up for tomorrow; can’t wait to dive in!

Red, White and Blue Baked Oatmeal

I found this recipe today for a Blueberry Baked Oatmeal and I had to try it! But the thought of adding coconut came to my mind, and then I thought why not add raspberries too? It turned out so incredibly flavorful. Imagine eating a mixed berry cobbler for breakfast and that is what it tastes like!

Red, White and Blue Baked Oatmeal:
3 Cups oats (I used whole grain rolled oats)
1 Cup brown sugar-packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 & 1/2 Cups Vanilla Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup butter, melted
1/3 Cup fresh blueberries (or blackberries)
1/3 Cup fresh raspberries (or strawberries)
1/3 Cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2-3 drops of Coconut Creme extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 9×9 with a non-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In another bowl, place butter and melt in the microwave (around 1 minute). Add the Vanilla Coconut Milk, eggs, and Coconut Creme extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, then gently fold in fruit.

4. Pour mixture into pan and distribute evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes and enjoy warm!

red, white and blue baked oatmeal

Bolognese Sauce

I just finished reading the book, “Dinner: A Love Story” over the long Memorial Day weekend (that link is to her blog). It was a fun read and a creative perspective on how your cooking style changes as your family dynamics change. That book coupled with my other recent read, Bread and Wine had my mind fresh on how much I love to cook, but how little I write about what I am cooking these days! I’m still cooking dinner every night in my kitchen even if it’s showing up so much less around here lately.

Today I was reminded of the book because I had a lot of time on my hands (hence this post!). This is a rare thing to have happen! The weather is stormy and hot, the kids are a bit bored, the baby is asleep and dinner is still several hours away. My FIL and niece will be in town tonight also, and I’m not sure if they’ll be joining us for dinner or not. I’d need something that either makes great leftovers or will feed a crowd. All those circumstances married up in my head and gave me the idea to try making a bolognese sauce…from SCRATCH! I made sure I had everything on hand and whaddyaknow? I did! This recipe didn’t hale from either book by the way. Even though…I’m pretty sure there is a recipe in there for something along these lines. Here is where this recipe is from originally. I tweaked it just a scooch.

It took me about 45 minutes to one hour to assemble the ingredients and do all the steps. As I said, I had a lot of time on my hands. This is one of those dishes I think shouldn’t be rushed. And now, we wait! 3 hours to be exact. ¬†I plan to pair this with some fresh-baked bread and salad by the way. Oh and Rigatoni for the vehicle of the sauce. (P.S. I’m kicking myself as I type this because I realize I left out the prosciutto! I even have some! I might saute some prosciutto and mushrooms and toss those in what is already simmering…)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 package sweet italian ground turkey links (casings removed)
3 ounces prosciutto, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced (I used 2 small)
5-6 white button mushrooms, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
1 cup milk
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf

Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
salted butter

Here are my abbreviated directions:

1. In a LARGE pot (it’s a lot of sauce!) with a few swoops of EVOO, saute sausages (and prosciutto!) over medium-high heat and crumble into small pieces. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add onions and 1 tablespoon of real, salted butter. Lower the heat after about 1-2 minutes and just leave the onions alone! Let them caramelize by cooking low and slow. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside (I just plopped them on top the meat).

3. Add to pan carrots, celery and mushrooms and a bit more butter. Saute until tender.

4. Add to pan the crushed garlic and the tomato paste. Incorporate well into the veggies and allow to cook 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir well! Add back in the meat, onions, and prosciutto. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup milk and stir well.  Allow to cook 1-2 minutes. Add beef broth and can of diced tomatoes (and pray it all fits in your pan). Stir well!

5. Add 1 bay leaf, nutmeg, and some Kosher salt. I used some Brittany Gray salt my sister gave me for my birthday (1/2 tsp).

6. Let this simmer for 3 hours! We’ll see what the verdict is soon.

**After 3 hours of simmering, it seemed like something was missing. So here’s what I added just by taste:

-a splash of balsamic vinegar
-1 tablespoon of sugar
-3 squeezes of dijon mustard

And now it’s AMAZING!

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