Sweet Potato Brownies #RecipeMakeover

Jake gets such a kick out of being my sous chef that I let him pick my last project for #RecipeMakeover week.  He picked brownies. Challenge accepted.

These, admittedly, still aren’t the healthiest brownies ever – but they’re a solid step in the right direction. This recipe uses less sweeteners than most and sneaks in some sweet potato to boot. And while I didn’t plan it this way, they’re vegan, too.

I mashed my sweet potatoes with a fork so they were still a little lumpy going into the batter. Jake isn’t picky (and is thrilled with anything chocolate), so he didn’t mind at all, but if you’re catering to a finicky crowd, pureeing the sweet potatoes would be a better way to hide them!

SweetPotatoBrownies

Sweet Potato Brownies
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
Makes 1 9×9 ban

1/2 cup unrefined organic cane sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup almond butter
3/4 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the almond butter, sweet potato, syrup and vanilla until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until everything is moistened. Fold in chocolate.

Transfer to the prepared baking pan and smooth out evenly in the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top looks dry and puffed. Cool completely before removing from the pan.

Dust with additional cocoa powder, if desired.

Cranberry Honey Banana Bread #RecipeMakeover

Disclosure: I received products from Barlean’s free as part of #RecipeMakeover week. All opinions are my own.

While I’m pretty decent at whipping up a healthy dinner when need be, my baking projects are decidedly different.  Tackling a makeover of one of my most-frequently-baked items – banana bread – seemed like the perfect challenge.

CranberryHoneyBananaBread1

As I was working on this recipe, I turned to products from #RecipeMakeover sponsor, Barlean’s. Their Butter Flavored Coconut Oil can be subbed 1:1 for butter – so that was a great place to start. Roasting the bananas brought out some more natural sugars, and using Barlean’s Digestive Blend punched up the flavor while adding some good-for-you stuff to the bread (it’s a mix of ground flaxseed, chia seed, quinoa, unsweetened shredded coconut, and a pumpkin blend that is remeniscint of pumpkin spice!) My added sweetener here was a local cranberry honey (fun fact: New Jersey is the 3rd biggest cranberry producing state in the US!) – I Iiked the flavor it added, but if you don’t have this available any honey would be great in this recipe.

The result? A banana bread that was really good – and much better for you than my usual go-to loaf.

CranberryHoneyBananaBread2

Cranberry Honey Banana Bread
(a Kate’s Recipe Box original)
Makes 1 loaf

4 medium bananas
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Barlean’s Digestive Blend
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted Barlean’s Butter Flavored Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Cranberry Honey (or regular honey)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line  a baking sheet with foil. Prick the banana peels with a fork, place them on the baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, Barlean’s Digestive Blend, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, Barlean’s Butter Flavored Coconut Oil, and honey until well combined. Mash bananas and add to the wet ingredients – stir until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until the everything is just moistened.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Bunny Brownies #ChocolateBunnyPledge

Are you working on filling Easter baskets this week? We are. I’m so looking forward to stocking up on jellybeans, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate bunnies for my crew. You know what won’t be in our Easter baskets? Any live animals.

Each year after Easter, animal shelters and rescue groups get countless requests to take in baby chicks, ducks, and bunnies that were gifted in Easter baskets. It might seem like an adorable idea, but those animals aren’t toys – they’re a lot of work.

The Bunny Hutch is one of these groups and this year they’re asking people to take the #ChocolateBunnyPledge. Will you commit to making your Easter basket fillers candy instead of live animals? Sign the pledge here.

ChocolateBunnyBrownies

And if you’re looking for the easiest Easter dessert ever – featuring a chocolate bunny! – look no further. This is a standard brownie mix (or your favorite brownie recipe – I love this one.) Take it out of the oven during the last two minutes of baking and press a chocolate bunny and some Cadbury mini eggs into the brownies. Return to the oven for 2 more minutes to let everything meld together. Voila! Easy Chocolate Bunny Brownies.

No-Bake Oreo Pie

It’s been a while since we had something sweet around here. Would you like a slice of pie?

This was actually our pi day pie. Made in the middle of the Nor’easter. I knew we’d be stuck in the house, so I picked a pie that Jake could help with.

We all really enjoyed this and while a frozen pie wasn’t necessarily the best choice for a snowstorm, it’s going to be perfect for summer barbecues!

OreoPie

No-Bake Oreo Pie
(adapted from The First Year)
Serves 8

1 premade Oreo crust
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 Oreos chopped, divided
1 8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed, divided
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Stir in half the container of Cool Whip. Stir in 6 chopped Oreos. Spread mixture in the premade crust and freeze for 3 minutes.

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. In a microwave-safe container, microwave heavy cream until just starting to bubble. Pour over the chocolate chips and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk together until smooth.  Let cook to room temperature. Pour over the top of the pie and smooth out.

Spread remaining Cool Whip over the pie and then sprinkle remaining chopped Oreos over. Cover and return to the freezer for 1-2 hours. Remove a few minutes before serving.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Date for Valentine’s Day? I have the perfect one. This cheesecake.

But seriously, if you’re looking for a dessert for the holiday, this is a great option. It’s decadent and special, but easy enough that anyone could pull it off. Want to make it even easier? Swap out the ganache topping for the fruit topping of your choice – I think cherries would be especially marvelous!

TripleChocolateCheesecake

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
(from OMG Chocolate Desserts)
Serves 16

Crust:
24 Oreos, finely crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted

Cheesecake:
2 lbs. cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
4 eggs at room temperature
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Ganache topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar

Additional chocolate bar to make curls.

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9″ springform pan.

Combine the finely crushed Oreos and melted butter and press mixture into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes then cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

Melt 10 oz. of bittersweet chocolate and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Mix in the cocoa powder until well combined. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Pour the filling over the top of the cooled crust and smooth out.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the center is set and the top looks dry. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, run a thin knife around the pan to loosen the sides of the cheesecake, then refrigerate, uncovered until completely cooled – at least 8 hours.

Once completely cooled, stir together the cream, 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate and sugar together in a medium saucepan. When it is completely melted and smooth, remove to cool. Pour over cheesecake. Top with chocolate curls.

Cranberry Apple Crisp

Yes, January is almost over. And yes, I’m just now sorting through my Christmas pictures. Apparently this is life with two kids.

To be fair, all of the good family pictures and such were on my phone. I really need to get better at my camera!

I did find this, though. A quick shot of a delicious dessert – so I just had to share. If you’re someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts, this is for you. The tart cranberries and apples offset the sugar in this nicely.

I recommend serving it warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heavenly!

CranberryAppleCrisp

Cranberry Apple Crisp
(from The Blonde Cook)
Serves 6-8

For the filling:
3 cups cored, chopped and peeled granny smith apples
2 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour

For the crisp:
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 11×7 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour for the filling. Stir in the cranberries and apples and mix, gently, until evenly combined. Pour into prepared baking dish.

In another bowl, stir together all topping ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over fruit mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes, until edges are bubbly and fruit is tender.

Opa’s Gingerbread #FBLCookieExchange

My most vivid memories of my grandfather revolve around what he was baking for us. He was German and worked in a bakery and made the most beautiful, delicious treats. After he retired to Florida, he’d send up big boxes of Christmas cookies every year. BIG boxes. Like, 20 lbs. of Christmas cookies. These gingerbread cookies were always my favorite.

I shared these with a few of my fellow food bloggers during an early cookie swap last month, I figured that if they routinely survived the trip from Florida to New Jersey, they’d be the perfect cookie to mail.

OpaGingerbread

Opa’s Gingerbread
(a family recipe)
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

16 oz. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
6 1/4 oz. light brown sugar
6 oz. butter
5 1/2 oz. unsweetened molasses
1 egg

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg until well combined. Mix in the spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out and cutting into shapes.

Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes.

Caramel Nut Chex Mix

improvchallenge

The latest round of the Improv Cooking Challenge was Nuts and Caramel – so perfect as we’re going into the holiday season! I decided on a fun dish that could be either an appetizer or dessert – perfect for a holiday potluck or to make and give to friends and family.

CaramelNutChexMix

This snack mix is a super easy thing to make, even when you’re pressed for time. I added red and green M&Ms to make it festive for a holiday, but you could switch up the colors for any special occasion!

You can see the other Nuts and Caramel dishes bloggers cooked up here:

Caramel Nut Chex Mix
(from Butter With a Side of Bread)

3/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 box corn Chex
2 cups salted mixed nuts
2 cups M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Combine the corn syrup, brown sugar and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 1 minute intervals until the butter is melted. Whisk to combine.

In a roasting pan, combine the Chex and mixed nuts. Pour the sugar mixture over and stir to coat.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and stir as it cools – don’t let it just sit, it’ll become one big block! When cool, stir in M&Ms.

Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Coconut Oil Brownies #Choctoberfest

For Choctoberfest, I also received some products to try from Barlean’s. These were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

CoconutOilBrownies

One of the products they sent was Butter Flavored Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in baking, and butter flavored coconut oil is especially fantastic. Using it is a fantastic way to whip up dairy-free baked goods, like these brownies.

They’re chewy and fudgy and exactly what you want out of a brownie.

CoconutOilBrownies2

Coconut Oil Brownies
(from Pinch of Yum)
Makes 1 9×9″ pan

3/4 cup butter flavored coconut oil
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a double boiler, melt the coconut oil and chocolate together. Once totally melted and combined, remove from heat and whisk in the brown sugar. Whisk in the eggs, until the batter thickens. Stir in the salt and flour until just combined.

Pour into a 9×9″ baking pan and bake for 25 minutes. There may be some oil remaining on the top or sides – it will be absorbed as the brownies cool. Let cool overnight before slicing.

Dark Chocolate Halloween Bark #Choctoberfest

One of the things I love about these blogging events is that they tend to push me out of my comfort zone. When I signed up for a Choctoberfest, I was imaging lots of chocolate goodies. Making my own chocolate, though? It never crossed my mind. But when Caveman Coffee Co sent a package of Cacao Butter that was exactly what I found myself doing. I did receive the product free to try, but all opinions are my own.

HalloweenBark

The process of making chocolate was actually surprisingly easy. I opted for a dark chocolate version – my favorite! – and dressed it up a bit for Halloween. ‘Tis the season and all.

I loved everything about this – especially that I could control the sweetness. I see a lot of DIY chocolate bark in my future!

HalloweenBark2

Dark Chocolate Halloween Bark
(adapted from Minimalist Baker)
Makes 1 pan

1 cup cacao butter, divided
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
Candy corn, optional
Sprinkles, optional

Line a baking pan with parchment an set aside.

In a double boiler over medium heat, melt 1 cup cacao butter. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup until thoroughly combined. Once completely combined, whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla. Taste and add more syrup if needed. Pour onto prepared baking pan.

Add candy corn and sprinkles between ghosts. Refrigerate until set – at least an hour and a half. Once completely cooled and set, break into pieces.