Warm, chocolatey, just sweet enough, high fiber, and with little pockets of gooey melted chocolate chips!   My sister-in-law posted a similar recipe on Facebook.  It sounded delicious and had very little added sugar.  The original recipe called for applesauce instead of oil, but I'm a fan using healthy fats alongside carbohydrates so that my kids and I aren't hungry again an hour after breakfast!  It helps you process the fiber in these, too.

Chocolate Fudge Banana Muffins - makes 12
(can be gluten-free and dairy-free)

3 medium bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 c. oil or melted butter (I like coconut oil in these)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. oat flour (or you can use all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
chocolate chips, optional (1/4- 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  
Whisk together eggs and brown sugar.  Mix in the oil, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients and add to the wet.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide between the muffin cups; bake about 17-23 minutes, or until the top of a muffin springs back lightly when gently pressed.
 
 
These are fun.  We made them as a little homeschool science project.  EVERYONE in the family thought these were awesome, and we had enough to give a couple to some of my son's friends who are fascinated with rocks.  My next-door-neighbor, the Webelos Scout leader, pointed to a pile of broken rocks on her sidewalk.  "This,"  she said, "was what we did so the boys could feel like they might find a geode- we gave them hammers and rocks from our yard.  We should have made these instead!"

They'd love them too.

These would make some amazing and unusual Easter eggs, too:  make a bunch the same size and wrap two halves together to form a ball.

Edible Geodes
Crystal-growing solution (Rock candy syrup)
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Mix the two, heat on high in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Add several drops food color if you want, along with ½ tsp. flavoring (optional). Let cool a bit while you make the rock shells.

Rock Shell (Marshmallow Fondant)
8 ounces marshmallows
2-4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ c. coconut oil or shortening

Mix marshmallows with 2 Tb. water in a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir.  Microwave 30 seconds more, stir. Repeat until it’s melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and mix with a spoon and then with your hands.  Spread 1 Tbsp. coconut oil on clean counter, knead the fondant on top adding more coconut oil when needed.   When smooth and stiff, take half of it and set aside.  Take other half and knead in ¼ c. cocoa powder to make fondant brown.  Roll out ¼“ thick.  Roll out the white half to the same size and stack them on top of each other.    Line a few bowls with aluminum foil, sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cut a piece of the two-layer fondant to fit, and line a bowl with it, with the brown side touching the foil.  Repeat until you run out.   Trim off any fondant that is beyond the lip of the bowl, using scissors.  Set aside.

Pour the sugar syrup into the fondant-lined bowls.  Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least a day (or 2-3 days for bigger crystals).  When ready, break the surface and pour off the syrup. Turn the geodes upside down to drain for an hour.  They’re ready! 

 
 
This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
Bonus- this fudge can be made dairy-free and still have that creamy, melt-in-your mouth text ure!

This week in Joyschool I taught the kids about the process of making chocolate.  I had a library book that had pictures of each step, from cacao tree to wrapped chocolate bars, and I brought hands-on things, as well.  They got to see, smell, and taste bits of roasted cocoa beans (didn't like them!- it's like eating unsweetened chocolate but crunchier.), see and smell cocoa powder, see, smell, and have cocoa butter rubbed into their skin, we melted and molded chocolates (cute little Easter shapes).... and then made this baggie fudge.  If you're making it yourself or have careful children, a single bag is fine, but for this group that includes a few 3-year-old boys, I double-bagged it. :)  This could be a fun Family Home Evening activity AND treat. 
Our batch was made using the coconut oil and coconut cream, since 3 of the kids can't have dairy.

I had brought walnuts in the shell to use in the fudge, but the kids had so much fun cracking the nuts first and eating the bits inside that they were all gone before the fudge was ready.  It's good fudge either way!

Baggie Fudge
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened or melted
1/2 c.  cocoa powder
1/3 c. coconut cream, OR 1/4 c. water and  1/2 c.  nonfat dry milk powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups unsifted)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Put the ingredients in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  Put this bag inside another bag if  it seems like a good idea.  Squish, knead, or pound the bag until everything is well mixed.  (Giving the kids 30 -second turns seemed to work the best- and gave them practice counting.)  

Once it's mixed, squish the mixture into a rectangular shape near the top, making the rectangle about an inch narrower on each side than the bag.  Put the bag on a cutting board or similar surface.  Cut down one side of the bag and across the bottom with scissors. Cut fudge into squares, or use small cookie cutters to make cute shapes.  Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

If fudge is a little too soft, let it chill in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up.



 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
I have the HARDEST time finding bouillon that doesn't contain MSG.  Here's a solution:  no MSG, no fillers, no preservatives.  Only what you choose to put in it.

This recipe was adapted from Traci's Transformational Health Principles by Traci J. Sellers

Vegetable Broth Powder     (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Nutritional Yeast (to make your own, see here)
1/4 cup RealSalt (or Himalayan salt; something with those trace minerals)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (see how to make your own, here)
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano, optional
1 tsp. dried lemon peel, optional
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. ground thyme 

 Put everything except parsley in a blender or food processor, in the order given.  Blend until
 powdered.  Add parsley, pulse just enough to chop it a little bit (you're aiming for small bits).  Store in an airtight container indefinitely.  

To use, add a heaping 1/2 tsp. per cup of water, or 1 Tbsp. of powder  for every quart of water.

 
 
We discovered roasting vegetables about three years ago.  Now when I buy broccoli or cauliflower, they are almost always served roasted.  Even my kids who  "don't prefer"  (the PC term at our table) broccoli, like it roasted. 

 Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken    - serves 6-8
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups cooked chicken 

Preheat oven to 475, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position about 20 minutes.  Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt.  Roast about 20 minutes, stirring once about after about 15 minutes.  Cauliflower is done when parts of it turn a deep golden brown.  Stir in the chicken .

 We ate this with rice and chicken gravy (see below) on the side; conveniently enough, it also takes about the same amount of time to cook.  If you start the rice first, then cut up the cauliflower, the rice should be done about the same time if you're using regular white rice and cooking on a stove top.

Since I didn't have any leftover chicken,  I put 1 lb of chicken in my pressure cooker along with two medium-small onions (or use one med-large) and about 1/2 tsp. salt.  My pressure cooker does not lose water when it cooks, so I didn't add any.  (If your pressure cooker does, please add water!  Probably 1/2 cup, as the chicken and onions release moisture as they cook.)  It was done after 15 minutes of high pressure. 

Clear Chicken Gravy
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup juices from cooking the chicken and onion

(microwave instructions)  
In a  1-cup glass measuring cup, stir together the water and cornstarch until smooth.  Stir in a little of the cooking juices, then stir in enough that you have 1 cup total.  Microwave for 1 minute; stir.  If it hasn't thickened yet, microwave another minute and stir again.  Add salt if needed.  (Mine didn't need it.)

 
 
photo: Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever run across a recipe calling for nutritional yeast and you didn't have any?  Maybe didn't even have access to some?  Or maybe you attempted to make a batch of bread and the yeast wasn't working anymore?

Too bad I didn't know, a month ago, what I'm about to tell you.  I threw away an entire pound package of baking yeast (Saccharoymyces cerevisiaebecause it wasn't raising my dough.  Sad.

First of all, what IS nutritional yeast?  It's deactivated yeast, frequently the strain used is   Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Totally dead yeast.  Usually it is cultured in something sweet for a few days, then heated to deactivate it.  It adds a nutty, savory, almost meat-y depth of flavor to recipes. (The term is 'umami'). It also contains B vitamins and is a complete protein. 

I've been studying a new (to me) breadmaking book  (more on that later!), and in it,  the author, Peter Reinhart, gives instructions for making your own nutritional yeast:

 Put 1/4 c. active dry yeast in a hot skillet.  Toast over med-hi heat until it turns a medium shade of brown. 

That's it.

Now, was my dysfunctional pound of yeast ready to be used as nutritional yeast without toasting?  No.  It was only  partly dead.  Or maybe 'mostly dead', to quote a favorite movie.  But it needs to be totally dead  before you consume it.   Besides that, toasting brings out flavor.

Ways to use nutritional yeast:
  • as a topping on popcorn
  • sprinkle on top of things in place of cheese
  • mix into mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs in place of cheese
  • add to soups or white sauces to improve flavor (the flavor acts similar to adding bouillon or broth)
  • use in this recipe for dairy-free buttery spread
  • sprinkle on top of homemade crackers or breadsticks before baking
  • make your own vegetable broth recipe, on this post.  Tastes like chicken.  :)


 
 
Curry is becoming known as a  bit of a superfood.  The spice blend's famous color is from one of its ingredients, turmeric.  Turmeric is now known to reduce inflammation- brain, systemic, and joints.  Here's a great way to use up some leftovers in a flavorful, healthy way!
Curry has an affinity for sweet, so it mixes perfectly with sweet potatoes or yams.

When I was in college, I lived in the cheapest off-campus apartment around.  There were several foreign students in the complex, and one day we had a potluck dinner together.  
One of the first foods on the table was an amazingly yellow... something.  So I asked what it was.  "Curry," she responded, "It's a food from Korea.". 
Further down the table was another bowl of yellow food.  I asked about it.  "Chicken Curry," she explained, "The Jamaicans invented it."  
Another friend walked up with a now-familiar color.  I asked. 
"Curry.  It's from Africa."

It was good.  All three were.  Good enough I could see why everybody claimed it was from their own native country.

Since my roommate was the Jamaican, that's whose recipe I got, though I had to watch her make it and estimate the amounts at the time.  This recipe is based on hers, though she used bone-in chicken thighs, less onion but added a couple green onions,  potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, and serve it not only over rice, but also with thick, chewy 'Jamaican Dumplings'.  The recipe is flexible.

Curry.  From America.

Sweet Potato Curry with Turkey- makes about 6 cups

2 Tbsp. oil
1-2 Tbsp. curry
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1 c. cooked turkey, cubed (can use chicken instead)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
water

*I used raw sweet potatoes, but feel free to use cooked ones- you can even get away with using leftover Thanksgiving baked sweet potatoes as long as they're not too saccharine; reduce cooking time accordingly.

Heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering-hot.  Add the curry powder- amount depends on how strong you like it.  (I like it strong.)  Stir, and let it heat for about a minute to 'bloom' the flavor.  It's done when it starts to smell delicious and a little toasty. DON'T burn it.  (Nasty, bitter flavor!...)  Reduce heat to medium, add onion; cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally.  
Stir in turkey, then add sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the food is nearly covered.  Put a lid on the pan and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove lid, increase heat and gently boil until liquid is reduced by about half.  

Serve hot by itself or over rice.

Optional:sprinkle with any of the following:
chopped peanuts
green peas
mandarin orange segments
shredded coconut
diced apple
dollop of sour cream or unsweetened yogurt
chopped hardboiled eggs
bits of dried fruit

 
 
See the bottom of this post for photos on making the heart-swirl pattern.

A friend of mine has to avoid dairy, wheat, and oats- and we were going to be together at a potluck lunch on Thursday.  The pumpkin cheesecake last week (for a different group) was such a hit I decided to adapt it so she could enjoy it too.  But with a bit of chocolate.  Like pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies.

I wanted it to be relatively inexpensive- no quart of coconut yogurt! -that stuff's pricey. Coconut milk and coconut cream, sure.  I have that on hand.  
No recipes using those appeared to be online anywhere, though I found the chocolate-version crust here.  There were some cashew-puree based ones- but not only did I not have time to soak nuts, but wanted this to be a recipe even the nut-allergic could use. So I started with my tried-and-true 'normal' recipe, and adapted. And I was willing to buy one 6-oz cup of coconut yogurt to put in the (optional) topping. 
You won't taste the apple cider vinegar, but it adds both the tartness and savoriness you'd get from cream cheese. If you have 2 (14-oz) cans coconut milk and a 19-oz can of coconut cream, that will be exactly enough for the filling, the topping, and the ganache.

If you want to use honey in the filling instead of sugar, use just 1 cup honey plus 1 Tbsp.  Since this also adds about 1/4 cup of water, add about a tablespoon additional pumpkin powder OR a tablespoon oat or coconut flour so the cheesecake won't be too soft.

Gluten free, dairy free Pumpkin Cheesecake
Crust:
1 c. fine-shred coconut, toasted
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 ½ Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ Tbsp. cocoa powder 

Stir together and press firmly onto the bottom of a 9” springform pan.  Set aside.  
For a fall-spice crust instead of chocolate, omit cocoa powder, and instead use                 ½ tsp. cinnamon + ¼ tsp. cloves + ½ tsp. ginger

Filling:
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4  tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (slightly heaped 1/3 c.) pumpkin powder
2 (14-oz) cans coconut milk
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. coconut cream

Mix all together, in order.  Don’t overmix or whip air into it, or it may crack while baking.  Bake at 350 F for  75-90 minutes in a water bath, until center jiggles like Jello and internal temperature is 145-150 F.  Cool in oven or on counter, then chill, covered, in fridge 4 hours or more.

Rum-flavor Topping:
1 cup coconut cream, well chilled
½ cup coconut yogurt
½ cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. rum extract

Whip cream until just beginning to thicken; add all else and whip.  Spread over chilled cheesecake.

Chocolate Ganache drizzle:
¼ c. (1 ½ oz) dairy-free chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. coconut cream or coconut milk

Heat gently to melt chocolate chips; whisk until smooth.  Drizzle on cheesecake.