Strawberry Banana Cream Cheese Muffins

Spring is here and that means it’s time for all things light, bright and juicy! It’s funny how our tastes change with the seasons…I don’t know about you, but as soon as the weather gets warm, all I want is grilled shrimp, salads and fresh fruit! (not necessarily in that order or combination). Once these juicy red strawberries came into my life this weekend, I knew I had to do something fun with them.

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Baked goods are usually not something I crave when its warm out because they’re often heavy and required heating up the house. But since temps are still in the 60’s I thought I would try to make a lighter, spring version of a morning muffin.

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This recipe features fresh strawberries and one of my all time favorite foods; cheese. Cream cheese to be exact. “But how did you put cream cheese in a muffin?” you ask. Well, you just drop a dollop right in the center before baking. Easy peasy! The end result was a little more savory than sweet and would be perfect paired with eggs or smothered in creamy peanut butter.

Strawberry Banana Cream Cheese Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tsp
  • 1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 2 cups strawberries, diced
  • Cream cheese

Directions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Dice strawberries, sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl combine butter, egg, vanilla, mashed banana, maple syrup, sugar and yogurt. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix to thoroughly combine. Fold in strawberries. Spoon into muffin tins and drop a dollop of cream cheese in the center of each muffin. Bake for approximately 22 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins.

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The greatest part about this recipe is that its lightened up by using yogurt instead of oil, whole wheat flour and a small amount of sugar. Feel free to add more sugar if you prefer a sweet muffin or leave it out all together for a cleaner muffin. The banana and maple syrup offer natural sweetness and valuable nutrients.

How adorable would these muffins be for a Mother’s Day breakfast or a ladies brunch?! Pass the champagne please 🙂

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Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

I’m baaack! Turns out the Bahamas are beautiful, in case you were wondering 🙂 I’ll do a full recap of our trip and the amazing food that we had next week (I’m still sorting through photos). Until then, I’m bringing you some chocolaty goodness..

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Now that I’m officially off my pre-cruise diet, which consisted of clean(er) eating (aka no chocolate, bread, decadent food), I wanted to share one of my favorite dessert recipes! This recipe is quick, easy and completely flourless. Peanut butter cookies without flour? It can be done!

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These cookies feature two of my all-time favorite things; peanut butter and dark chocolate, mmmmmmm. Since the recipe does have a good amount of sugar in it, I wouldn’t recommend eating these allllll the time, but they’re a great treat!

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate M&Ms

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl mix together peanut butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and m&ms. Drop onto greased cookie sheet and press with fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

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I’m not going to lie this is usually my go-to when I need to bring something to a party or get-together. It’s just so easy and who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter? Need something to bring to your Easter celebrations next weekend? Swap classic m&ms for some Easter colored m&ms and you are good. to. go.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Happy Hump-day! Woowee. The last 24 hours have been quite a doosey. We had a major blizzard here with heavy snow, crazy winds and we even lost power for quite a while :(. Not fun at all. But do you know what is fun? Baking!

Especially when it’s with a friend. Today I have a special guest star on the blog who is sharing with us her recipe for Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal!

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Meet Erin. I promise, she’s not as crazy as this picture makes her seem. But she is sharing a crazy good recipe that is her go-to for a quick and easy breakfast. Erin works as a Spanish teacher so her mornings are early, busy and require a no-fuss breakfast. Anyone else in the same boat? So on Sundays Erin bakes up a big batch of this oatmeal and is ready to go with a delicious, hearty breakfast all week long.

This recipe is full of healthy ingredients that will keep you full for hours, like hearty old-fashioned oats, walnuts, peanut butter and banana. It is whole grain, contains no refined sugar and can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free oats. Maple syrup and banana offer all the sweetness you need, but we added an extra peanut butter drizzle on top for a special treat.

Erin says that some weeks when she’s feeling a little naughty she’ll throw in some chocolate chips instead of blueberries. Feel free to switch up the mix-ins as you please! You could do diced apples and pecans, cranberries and walnuts or banana chunks and peanut butter chips.

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium bananas, 1 mashed with fork and 1 sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup blueberries

Peanut Butter Drizzle:

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Mash one of the bananas with a fork and add to oats mixture. Add in egg, milk, vanilla, maple syrup and peanut butter and mix to thoroughly combine. Mix in walnuts and blueberries and pour into 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 26-28 minutes. Remove from oven and top with sliced bananas. To prepare drizzle, mix together maple syrup and peanut butter with a fork in a measure cup. Slowly drizzle over baked oatmeal. Enjoy!

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Who doesn’t want to wake up to this?! When you’re ready for breakfast I suggest microwaving a piece and topping with your favorite nut butter, drizzling with maple syrup or you could serve it cold with some vanilla yogurt on top. Heck, with a dollop of cookie butter this could even be a desert! Mmm…cookie butter…

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Everyone owes Erin a big thank you for bringing this delicious recipe into our lives. And I owe Erin a big thank you for helping me make it! She comes in handy quite a bit…anyone recognize her from this post? She was one of my beautiful bridesmaids!

Well I hope the next half of the week is better than the first half. Excuse me while I go hug a lamp…electricity is awesome!

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Anyone else stress out about using all their produce every week? Sometimes it’s a real struggle to remember what you need to use and what’s about to rot! The horror of wasting produce haunts me. Using up our veggies was the motivation for this dinner tonight. The result = so friggin’ delicious.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Thursday is my favorite night of the workweek because I’ve gotten through teaching my dance classes, it’s almost Friday and I can finally just come straight home after work (and the gym) to my husband and my puppy. It’s a fantastic feeling.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Usually on Thursday nights the hubbs and I like to make dinner together. (Or he makes it for me. Fun fact- he’s actually a super good cook).

pulled pork stuffed peppers

At the beginning of the week we made a huge-jass batch of pulled pork and now really needed to use it up. Conveniently we also had a zucchini, some mushrooms and 2 bell peppers that were about to go to waste. So duh, we stuffed them!

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We used our leftover pulled pork for the protein, but you could easily cook up some chicken breasts and shred them instead. Or go meatless with this recipe, honestly it was hearty enough that you could definitely do that.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fajita seasoning
  • 1.5 cups pulled pork (or shredded chicken breast)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tops off of peppers and take out seeds. Place onto baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Dice zucchini and mushrooms and saute in pan with olive oil and garlic on medium heat. When veggies are soft add in pulled pork and sprinkle with seasoning. Cook until pork is heated through. Remove peppers from the oven and spoon pork and veggie mixture into peppers. Tops with cheese and place back into oven for about 10 more minutes. Remove when cheese is fully melted and enjoy with your favorite sides.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We also had some roasted sweet potatoes and a super-ripe avocado waiting to be enjoyed so we added those on as sides to our stuffed peppers. Perfection.

I loved this dinner because it was so full of veggies, but I was delightfully full after eating it. The combination of complex carbs (sweet potatoes), hearty veggies and good fats (avocado) made it ultra-satisfying.

Plus lets be honest, everything is better covered in melted cheese.

Don’t you agree?

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

If you are freaked out by the title of this recipe, you are not alone. The thought of having chickpeas or any kind of beans in my cookies was repulsive to me, until I tried these babies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies are gluten free, grain-less, chock-full of protein, fiber, antioxidants AND they are so tasty, you won’t miss your Mrs. Fields for a second.

Now the main ingredient of these cookies is in fact chickpeas, but I promise you, they are completely unnoticeable. Chickpeas are actually almost tasteless and are super good for you, so why not just try it out? That’s what I did and I was pleasantly surprised.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

The next ingredient is walnut butter, but you can use any nut butter of your choice. I sometimes get sick of everything being peanut butter tasting, so I used this Crazy Go Nuts Oatmeal Cookie Walnut Butter and it really helped give the cookies that classic cookie taste.

Instead of sugar this recipe uses maple syrup, which has more nutritional benefits than regular sugar and is less refined. It provides manganese, zinc and can even help your immune system. The flour is replaced by coconut flour, which you only need a small amount of because it is so incredibly absorbent.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup walnut butter (or peanut or almond butter)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into medium bowl and add chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

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These cookies are best enjoyed with a tall glass of milk and your favorite rom-com. Dunking is recommended. Or bring them to work for a post-lunch chocolate fix that won’t leave you feeling yucky 🙂

Whatever you do with them, just let people taste them before telling them what’s in it. Because in the case of chickpeas in baked goods, tasting is believing.

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Only 18 more days until Spring! Soon we will be shedding our sweaters, busting out the florals and bearing our legs….oh wait. I’m not ready!!! Anyone else feeling like they need to start prepping for bikini season NOW?

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Here’s some fun news – the hubbs and I just booked a cruise! In just a few weeks we’ll be sailing into some Bahama sunshine. Thank god. So with all this talk of springtime weather and fitting into shorts I thought I would share one of my favorite veggie-loaded, low carb dinner recipes.

pesto chicken zoodles

In this recipe I use Trader Joe’s pesto, but you could use any kind. For the chicken sausage I recommend using Al Fresco Chicken Sausage, which is gluten free, all natural and super delish. This time I went with spinach & feta flavor, which worked perfectly.

pesto chicken zoodles

The only catch for this recipe is that you do need to have some soft of spiralizer. I have the “made for tv” version, aka the Vegetti, which works perfectly fine. No need for expensive equipment. Also, are they serious with that name??

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 5 button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken sausage
  • 1 Tbsp pesto

Directions: Spiralize zucchini into thin noodles and slices mushrooms. In a large saute pan on medium heat cook mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in zucchini spirals and cook for about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat chicken sausage in microwave and slice into discs. Add chicken sausage to pan along with pesto and mix completely to combine.

pesto chicken zoodles

My Pesto Chicken Zoodles recipe (aka zucchini noodles for all the newbs out there) is super quick, easy and totally satisfying. You may or may not feel like you are kickin’ back in a big ‘ol booth at Olive Garden scarfing down pesto primavera and breadsticks. It’s really pretty much the same thing, but with less guilt and self-loathing 🙂

Enjoy!

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Do you know what America’s favorite comfort food is? That’s right, it’s pizza! Anyone else on the same page? I’m not ashamed to say that I regularly daydream about biting into a warm, cheesy slice of pepperoni pizza. They said you should follow your dreams, but if I followed every one of those dreams I would be 800 pounds.

The solution: zucchini crust pizza!

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This recipe is great because it’s low carb and gives you all your veggie needs for the day and then some. Also, let’s be real for a second, everything is better smothered in cheese, especially your veggies.

zucchini crust pizza

I’m using a mozzarella and cheddar cheese blend, but feel free to mix and match your cheeses as you please. I’m also using uncured pepperoni for this recipe. If you’re going to indulge in processed meats, do so responsibly. Friends don’t let friends eat nitrates.

My favorite brand is Hormel Natural Choice Uncured Pepperoni Slices because they don’t have any nasty cancer-causing chemicals and they are super delicious.

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • Pepperoni slices

Directions: In a medium bowl combine grated zucchini with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a nonstick baking pan with nonstick spray and drizzle with olive oil. After the 15 minutes, drain as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. Mix zucchini with parmesan cheese, flour, egg, pepper and oregano. Pour the zucchini batter in the center of the baking page and spread over the surface. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the crust and top with marinara sauce, cheese and pepperoni slices. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice and serve warm.

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I don’t know about you guys, but Friday could not have come any sooner. Now I’m off to a weekend full of sleep, relaxation, dog walks and movies. There will probably be some good eats in there as well of course.

What are you up to this weekend?

Microwave Baked Apples

Happy Tuesday! Wow, I have been SO busy lately. Work is crazy, dance is ramping up for a big show in March and I have some exciting news to share. I will now be guest blogging for Stay, Work, Play! SWP is an organization focused on promoting how awesome it is to stay, work and play in our great state of New Hampshire. I will be representing the Seacoast region and you can find my articles on their blog every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month! Check out my first article, 7 Ways to Embrace Winter on the Seacoast, right now!

microwave baked apples

So since I am so busy this week, I wanted to share with you guys a recipe that is literally the easiest and quickest thing ever. You actually just use the microwave and there are only 4 ingredients involved and one bowl. I kinda wish all recipes were like that! To make this recipe even healthier you could swap the real butter for Earth Balance spread and swap the brown sugar with Truvia. I’m a sucker for real butter, just ask my mom (I ate sticks of butter as a kid) so I like to keep it real.

microwave baked apples

Microwave Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp butter

Directions: Peel and slice apples and place in small microwave safe bowl. Mix in cinnamon, brown sugar and butter and microwave for 2 minutes. Mix again and top with your favorite frozen yogurt or ice cream.

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This Microwave Baked Apples recipe is great when you need something sweet, hearty and satisfying on a cold winter evening. I like to top it with some vanilla frozen yogurt and enjoy with a good book or some Netflix binging. Speaking of being too busy, I have been meaning to crack this book, Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham for about 3 months now, which I think is hilarious given the title.

Question: What are you reading/watching right now?

 

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

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Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day of celebrating love, I want to talk about something that I love very, very much. This special something can always make me smile, cheers me up when I’m down and is oh-so sweet! It’s rich, intense and always satisfying. You’ve probably guessed it by now, it’s CHOCOLATE.

double dark chocolate brownies

Chocolate is kind of a bad boy. It’s like that guy in high school that broke all the rules, but was secretly super smart, but didn’t want to tell anyone because it would ruin his coolness.

What I’m saying is that chocolate is secretly good for you (in moderation). It’s often exiled from any diet because of its high sugar and fat content, but dark  chocolate can actually provide many health benefits because of it’s high antioxidant content.

double dark chocolate brownies

Studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day can actually help reduce stress, blood pressure, risk of stroke and help with weight loss! Plus we all know it’s a great aphrodisiac…

Check out this Women’s Health article for even more benefits of eating chocolate.

double dark chocolate brownies

Right in time for Valentine’s Day I have the perfect chocolate recipe for you to share (or not) with your special someone.

These Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies are oozing with chocolate flavor. I lightened up the recipe a bit by using yogurt instead of oil and oat flour instead of white flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill whole grain oat flour. You could food process your own oats, but I like that Bob has already done it for me 🙂

The omega-3 and antioxidant content is high because of the walnuts and dark chocolate. I like to use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and chocolate chips, but you could use whatever you like best. So in one brownie recipe you’ve got fiber (oat flour), calcium (yogurt), omega-3’s and antioxidants. Man, you’ve already scored 😉

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine yogurt, sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a medium bowl mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Combine dry ingredients with wet and mix until fully blended. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy.

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These brownies are definitely on the dessert menu for my Valentine’s Day celebrations. And hey, if you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day I fully support diving into these with a pint of vanilla froyo by your side. That WILL be a good time. No bad boys needed. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Do you love cheese?! Do you love warm, ooey gooey comfort food? If so, then this casserole is for you. This dish resulted from my craving for something warm and hearty. Right now life is pretty cold, everywhere I go. So when hot showers and hot cocoa just don’t cut it anymore, I turn to comfort food.

sweet potato chicken casserole

Oftentimes comfort food leaves you feeling heavy and sleepy, so I wanted to make something that would leave me feeling energized and ready to go. Instead of using pasta or rice as the base, I chose to use sweet potato, which offers lots of great nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamic C, potassium and B vitamins.

sweet potatoes

This dish is gluten free, full is healthy veggies and could be easily made vegan by omitting the chicken sausage and subbing the butter and cheese with alternatives like Earth Balance or Daiya Cheese.

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Speaking of chicken sausage, let’s talk about it for a second. It’s one of my favorite go-to’s when I’m in a pinch for a quick, healthy meal. I love to stock up on Trader Joe’s or Al Fresco chicken sausage and freeze it. Then I’ll microwave it for an easy protein solution. Just make sure your chicken sausage is all natural and nitrate free. You don’t want any of those nasty chemicals in your beautiful casserole. I’ll be talking more about chicken sausage in my next post, 6 Healthy Food Swaps For Quick Dinners. So stay tuned for that!

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Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 chicken sausages

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potato, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, slice mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage into bite size pieces. In a medium pot melt butter and mix in flour, salt and pepper. Add in half and half and then melt in half of the cheddar cheese. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage and mix in cheese mixture until everything is fully coated. Pour into baking dish, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

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This dish kinda reminds me of mac & cheese, minus the mac. It gives you that same comforting feeling, but without the guilt!  I don’t know about you, but for me, mac and cheese is always great going down, but pretty uncomfortable after.

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

The last thing I want to say about this recipe is that it’s so friggin’ easy. If you’re like me and have a husband who thinks he’s the only one that can cook a good meal, bring this out when you want to beat him at his own game. Super easy, but impressively delicious. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite comfort food?