healthier chocolate muffins

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Today I woke up with a craving for chocolate.  I know, shocking.  But instead of grabbing a cupcake from the refrigerator (there are ALWAYS cupcakes in the fridge), I decided to make some muffins.  I wanted it to be healthy-ish, but I also didn’t want something too dense or packed with oats or wheat germ.  A few simple substitutions later, and I was left with a one bowl, no butter, no granulated sugar recipe that was quick and delicious.  The muffins were moist and soft, with a crispy muffin top, just like it’s supposed to be.  I added some mini chocolate chips because there’s nothing better than a warm muffin and those melted pieces of chocolate in each bite, but you can certainly leave them out to make them even healthier.

I’m now writing this post outside on my deck on a beautiful sunny morning, on the unofficial start of the summer.  I’ve got my dog laying down next to me, a warm muffin to my left, and a small cup of iced coffee to my right.  What more could you want?!

Healthier Chocolate Muffins
(Makes 6 jumbo muffins)

1/2 cup maple syrup
3/8 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup vanilla (or plain) yogurt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3/8 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp espresso (or strongly brewed) coffee
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (plus more to top each muffin)

Preheat over to 375F.  Line a standard jumbo muffin pan with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, coconut oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, egg, milk, and coffee.  Once combined, add the baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Whisk until combined.  Add the flour and whisk until combined again.  With a spatula, fold in mini chocolate chips.

Fill each muffin liner almost to the top, a little more than 2/3 full.  You want the muffins to rise enough so that they develop that “muffin top” shape.  Top each muffin with a few (or ten if you’re like me) mini chocolate chips.  Bake for 20-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

– bake on,
Sharon

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chocolate chip waffles

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I’m embarrassed to say this, but the first purchase I made when I moved out of my mom’s house and into my own apartment was a waffle iron.  About 5 years have passed since that day, and I still love pulling out my waffle iron every weekend and making waffles.  Over the years, I’ve developed my go-to recipe.  It is a simple recipe that calls for one bowl (easy clean up), simple ingredients that you’ll without a doubt always have in your kitchen, and only a few minutes of work.  And it leads to super fluffy waffles that are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

I usually make these with chocolate chips, because… well… chocolate.  But this recipe can easily be made without the chocolate if all you want are some plain jane waffles.  Nothing wrong with that!

Chocolate Chip Waffles
(Makes about 4 8-inch round waffles)

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your waffle iron.  I set my Oster waffle iron to the max setting.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.  Slowly whisk in the flour, baking powder, and melted butter.  Whisk until just combined – small lumps are okay!  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Add about 2/3 cup into the center of the waffle iron – make sure you are grabbing chocolate chips, too!  They tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl.  The batter will spread throughout the waffle iron, but you can use a small spoon to quickly make sure that the batter is spread evenly throughout the iron.  Close the lid and cook for about 5 to 5 1/2 minutes, or until the waffle is golden brown.  Remove with a fork and repeat until all the batter has been used.

Serve immediately with chocolate sauce, maple syrup, or whipped cream!

– breakfast on,
Sharon

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trio of fruit smoothies

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For the past year or so, I’ve grown to love fruit smoothies.  I don’t go overboard with the ingredients either.  The way I see it, if I have a way to get fruit, juice, and yogurt in my belly before 10am, that’s 100% A-okay.  I have these smoothies pretty regularly for breakfast, and I also love to have them as a post-workout “snack”.

I also love making smoothies because it’s pretty impossible to mess it up.  Pretty much any and all combinations work.  Whatever juice, fruit, or yogurt I have in the house, I can throw it in the blender and (somehow) it always comes out delicious.  Today I’m sharing three (yes, three!) different smoothies.  But again, use these recipes as just a base – feel free to include, or leave out, whatever fruit you’d like!

Pink Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt (I typically use vanilla, strawberry or blueberry yogurt)
3-4 large strawberries
1 banana
1/2 apple, peeled and seeds removed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Yellow Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup green grapes
1 cup honeydew chunks
1 cup cantaloupe chunks
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Green Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup coconut water
1 cup green grapes
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups spinach, lightly packed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

smoothie on,
Sharon

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easy no-bake granola bars

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It’s a new year!  That means it’s time to start those resolutions to work out more and eat healthier.  I like to think that I exercise enough times a week and eat healthy, but it’s never a bad idea to have a little check-in with yourself!  Unfortunately, breakfast is where I’ve always cut corners.  I know, I know – the most important meal of the day, and I have a habit of messing it all up.  Usually I’ll just have a small serving of cereal or yogurt, but sometimes, I skip it all together.  Oops.

These granola bars are the perfect fix.  Not only are they incredibly easy to make, they’re also the perfect grab and go meal for those busy mornings.  Make them, eat them, love them, repeat!

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars
(Makes 18 bars)
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups quick oats
1 3/4 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup sliced pecans
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.  Lightly butter the baking pan.

In a large pot, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey.  Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Lower the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extra and salt.  Add the oats, rice cereal, pecans, and wheat germ to the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use a spatula to even everything out.  Pour the chocolate chips over the entire mixtures and press down with a spatula so that they stay put.

Refrigerate the pan for 2 hours.  Remove the aluminum foil and uncut bars from the pan and set on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut the granola bars into 18 equal rectangles.  Store in an airtight container.

– resolution on,
Sharon

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Açaí Bowl with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, chocolate chips, and granola

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I never jumped on the açaí bandwagon.  Sure it’s healthy, exotic and has a lot of antioxidants, but so do a lot of other things.  But, about 6 months ago, I had my first açaí bowl and wow, I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe how tasty it was.  And, like other recipes I’ve mentioned before…I thought, they call this breakfast?? Sign me up because to me, this tastes like dessert.  I’ve had a few bowls since, but decided that this was simple enough that I could make it at home.

The only thing I needed to tackle was this açaí berry thing.  After some (okay, alot) of looking and digging, I honed in on what to buy and how to make these bowls.  I found that regular grocery stores had no açaí berry selection (aside from juice), trader joe’s was no help (for once!), and my best bet was whole foods.  The frozen foods section had a few different options – what you want the açaí fruit frozen packs that are supposed to be used in smoothies.  I’ve used the unsweetened packs before, and given the honey and sweet fruits, I personally prefer those.

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Açaí Bowl with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, chocolate chips, and granola
(makes 2 bowls)

2 single serving frozen açaí berry pouches, ~7 ounces
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 banana, thinly sliced
5 strawberries, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup granola
2 tbs honey
2 tbs coconut flakes

In a blender, mix together the açaí berry and the coconut milk until a smooth consistency is reached.  Place in freezer for approximately 10 minutes.  Scoop the açaí berry mixture into a bowl.  Place strawberries, blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips and granola into the bowl and drizzle with honey and coconut flakes.

Açaí on,
– Shirley

Good morning muffins

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I am not a morning person. at. all.  When I have the option to, whether I’m working or not, I’ll be in bed until at least 8 or 9.  Too bad that most mornings I can’t have this luxury, and I am up before 5.  I always have been good about eating breakfast (you mean some people turn down the opportunity to eat?!?! I just don’t get that).   The last thing I want to do at 5 in the morning is try to figure out what to make for breakfast – so, these muffins are great and perfect to eat in the car if I am running late.

The first time I tasted a good morning muffin was at whole foods.  I thought it was so yummy that I immediately found some recipes online as inspiration and played around with ingredients.  Truthfully, I still adjust some of the ingredients and add-ons based on what I have at home – apple sauce, fruit butters, butternut squash all make these muffins taste so so good.

And by the way, if you have a kitchenaid mixer at home, USE IT.  I didn’t use it to make these muffins until recently, and wow.  I regretted not using it every time.  Not only did it make a huge difference in the prep time and eliminating the frustration of mixing a thousand ingredients together, but the muffins came out fluffier and tastier.

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Good morning Muffins
(makes 8 large muffins)

1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fruit butter, apple sauce, or other fruit “mash”
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place muffin cups into a muffin tin.  Mix together all the dry ingredients (flour through salt) until well mixed and uniform.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together and continue to add wet ingredients (vegetable oil, fruit butter, and vanilla extract) to the eggs.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, gather together the add ins, and fold into the dough mixture.  Place approximately 1/2 – 3/4 cup mixture into each muffin cup and top with some coconut flakes or sliced nuts.  Place into oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  A toothpick placed into a muffin should come back clean when the muffins are ready.  Enjoy!

Breakfast on,
– shirley

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graham cracker chocolate chip muffins

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K and I just started watching Breaking Bad.  We’re a little late to the game – I know.  We’re about four episodes in, and so far so good.  It is definitely a bit more intense than the last series we just finished watching – Weeds.  So with my blood pressure up, and the football game in the background, I figured it was time to bake and relax.  Enter these graham cracker chocolate chip muffins.

These muffins are perfect because they’re very versatile.  I make them cupcake-sized, because it’s just the right portion size for breakfast, dessert, or a snack.  The base is your typical chocolate chip muffins, but the graham crackers in the batter, as well as crumble, is just that crunchy extra kick that you need to take this up a notch.  A great dish to make if you are looking for something simple, but unique, to make for your friends and family!

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)
Adapted from How Sweet Eats

For the muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup graham crackers, crushed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

For the crumb topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup graham crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line the cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, sugar, and salt, until blended.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the large bowl, and mix until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips and mix with a large spoon, not a hand or stand mixer.

Pour the batter into the cupcake lines, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

Next, prepare the crumb topping.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and crushed graham crackers.  Add the melted butter and mix until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Top each muffin with a heaping teaspoon of the topping.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

bake on,
Sharon

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