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.





 
 
This is a great fresh jam to eat fresh. It also freezes well, so is a good freezer jam.  Since the berries are not cooked and there's not enough sugar to help preserve it, its fridge life is fairly short.  If you're keeping it in the fridge, try to use it within about a week.  If left too long, it will get moldy (you'll know if it does!)   But it's SO GOOD fresh!  My eight-year-old made a batch two nights ago; we ran out yesterday.  I made another batch this morning, and between spreading it on our pancakes at breakfast, and using it on warm bread this afternoon, it's gone again!

Pectin-free Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled (green parts pulled off)
2 Tbsp. honey (or to taste; use any sweetener you prefer)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds, OR 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

Mash the berries with a fork, or chop in a blender until they're the consistency you want.  Stir in the honey (or other sweetener) and the chia.
 After this sits for about half an hour, the chia (or flax) will gel as they absorb the extra liquid.  Keep refrigerated or frozen.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Come to think of it, a drop or two of orange essential oil would be really, really goo
 
 
We have a favorite salad... at a local place called Zupas.  I found a recipe online that a lady had tweaked a little, and I've tweaked it a little more!   The original salad uses strawberries where I used blackberries, but I used what I had: blueberries and blackberries were $.99/cup at NPS.

Sometimes DollarTree has frozen mango chunks, 12 ounces for a dollar. The trick is to visit the store within a week of when they get their monthly frozen shipment.

Mango Berry Salad
Salad:
8-10 cups greens (I used green leaf lettuce)
1-2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (or other slightly sour berry)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 fresh mango, cubed, or 1 cup frozen mango, diced and mostly thawed
1/3 cup cinnamon honey nuts
 
Combine in a large bowl in the order given.

Creamy Mango Dressing:
1/2 c.Greek yogurt* (plain or something mild like vanilla) 
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1 fresh mango, pitted and peeled, or 1 cup frozen mango, mostly thawed
1/4 tsp. salt

 Combine in a blender until smooth.  If too tart, sweeten with a little honey.  Makes about 1-1/4 cups. Drizzle  about 1/2 cup over salad; toss to coat.  Serve salad with additional dressing on the side, or save the rest for another day .

*for a dairy-free option, use coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut, which is sweetened)
 
 
These are delicious in a green salad with sour berries or salty cheese, or just by themselves.   
My grandmother has six beautiful pecan trees,  ones she and my grandpa planted when my dad was a little boy. When they visited recently, they brought a bagful of their shelled, fresh pecans for each of their adult grandchildren.   A treasure.  Pecans are my favorite nut; it might be because of the memories of the Christmastime harvest: my dad and uncles high in the pecan trees, shaking the branches while we grandchildren stuffed the fallen nuts into bags.  We'd sit around Grandma's big dining room table with some of those nuts and a nut cracker, talking, laughing, and eating those moist, mild nuts.  The bulk of the nuts, though, got hauled over to the local nut company, where they machine-shelled them for a fee.  A while later Grandma would pick up a now-shrunken bag of the best nuts in the world! 

I used pecans in this, but any nut may be used.

Cinnamon Honey Pecans
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. water
dash of salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. pecans (a good handful)

Put the honey, water, salt and cinnamon in a small nonstick frying pan.  Turn heat on to medium-high.  Stir until reasonably mixed.  Add pecans and stir until the nuts are coated.  Heat, stirring often, until nuts first become dry, then begin to smell a little toasty.  

This takes somewhere around 5 minutes but can be more or less, depending on how hot your burner gets and how cold the nuts were. (I keep mine in the freezer, so mine always take on the longer side to toast.)    If in doubt, take a nut out, blow on it a bit, and eat it.  If it has a little bit of crispness to it and tastes delicious, they're done!  Remove from heat.  Cool completely before adding to a green salad.

These are a perfect ingredient in Mango Berry Salad.

 
 
I've been neighbors with a few Brazilians; they have been warm, kind people who have a strong affinity for desserts made with cooked sweetened condensed milk, or 'dulce de leche'.  There's a plum-caramel filling for cakes, another cake filling made with crushed pineapple and the caramel, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  

One Christmas my Brazilian neighbor Celia brought over a plate of these creamy, sugar-coated dulce de leche balls.  When I next saw her, I asked for the recipe and what they were called.  She shrugged her shoulders, then said, "little bears, I guess".  This is a simplified version of hers, which contained strained egg yolks and 'crema media' (half-and-half), but the results are just as delicious.  Best of all, these are cooked and ready to shape within ten minutes of starting!

Ositos
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
unsweetened cocoa powder
about 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling


Pour the sweetened condensed milk in an ungreased, very large microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the top with plastic wrap  to help avoid boilovers: this boils much higher than you would expect!, Microwave it for 2 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave for 2 more minutes.  Stir, scraping sides down.  Repeat in 2-minute intervals for a total of either 6 or 8 minutes, stirring every two minutes.  It should thicken and darken some. To see if it has cooked enough, drop a little in a cupful of icy water, then pull out after about five seconds.  However hard it gets is how hard it will be when completely cool.  It needs to be able to hold its shape.  Put the sugar in a cereal bowl and set aside.

With buttered hands, pinch off a bit and roll in a ball, about 3/4" across.To get the brown side, drop into unsweetened cocoa powder, then pick it up and drop it  into the sugar.  After you have a few in there, roll or toss to coat, then set on another dish.

Makes 30-36 balls, about 3/4" each.
 
 
Do you have wheat stored, but haven't been able or willing to spend $250 on a grain mill?  Have you wondered if there's a way to make bread with it anyhow?  THERE IS!    This bread is moist, tender, with a good crumb and impressive natural gluten strength.   The overnight soak is the magic trick here:  as the mash sits, enzymes break down proteins and allow gluten to begin forming  on its own, enzymes break down starches into sugars for flavor and to feed the yeast you add the next day, and the soaking lets the little hard bits of wheat soften up, leaving no trace of grittiness or graininess. You will not need to add dough enhancer, Vitamin C, vinegar, vital wheat gluten, or any thing else to get great !

If you use the 2 1/2 c of wheat kernels, the bread ends up about 2/3 whole wheat;  if you use a high-speed blender (like BlendTec or Vitamix) , you can use 3 cups and end up with bread that is 85% whole wheat.


Blender Wheat Bread

2 1/3 cups (17 oz) wheat kernels (65% )  OR 3 cups- 22oz , if using a Vitamix 
2 1/2  cups water

Combine in blender; mix on high speed for two minutes.  If it seems too hard on your motor, add 2 Tbsp. water.  Let the mash soak, covered and at room temperature, 8 hours or overnight.   After soaking, add:

2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour (11 oz) 
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. honey
4 ½ tsp. yeast (1 ½ Tbsp. or 2 envelopes)
1/4 c. hottest tap water (no hotter than 130 F)

Knead for five minutes, dough should be just thick enough to clean the bowl's sides.  Add flour if needed, but the dough should be tacky and very soft.  It’s had enough kneading  when it passes the windowpane test. (See slide show.)  Cover and let rest 20 minutes.  Coat two 8x4 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour ½ cup water on the oven floor (avoid the heating element!).  Turn the oven on 350 degrees for ONE MINUTE to warm it, then turn heat off.  Divide dough in half.  With wet hands, shape each loaf and place in a pan.  Place pans in the warmed oven.  When the top of the loaf has risen about ½” above the edge of the pan (around 30-40 minutes later), remove from oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  When oven is hot and dough has risen to about ¾” above the rim, bake loaves for 20-25 minutes, until the sides are browned. Remove from pans; cool on a rack at least 20 minutes before slicing.

   If using a high -speed blender, use 3 cups of wheat kernels in the mash. When adding flour the next day, use 1 1/2 cups flour instead of the 2 1/2 cups. 

FAQ’s:

How long can a soaker sit?  It’s best right around 8-12 hours up to 24 hrs.  If you need to have it go longer, refrigerate it from the beginning to slow down enzyme activity.

How high does the ideal proof go? (3/4”)  Does the poke test work? Yes if you use a wet finger or have let it rise uncovered.

How smooth can I get the puree in a blender, and does it matter much? It doesn’t need to be super smooth with this method; soaking eliminates any hard bits.

How long does it take to rise without a warm oven? Depends on your kitchen temperature, but around 1 hour.

Is the 20 minute autolyze necessary for flavor or texture? It’s OK without it, but rises better and tastes a little nicer (sweeter) with it.

How many minutes does it need to rise in the oven?   About 30-40.

How long does it really take to bake at 400? This depends on whether your loaves are identical in size, where any hot spots are in your oven, and how accurate its thermometer is.    My evenly-sized loaves took 21 min.