Naturally Sweet Banana Muffins (No Added Sugar)

It has happened, you guys. I baked something without sugar.  Don't worry, I haven't gone paleo or "healthy" on you or anything. It just sort of happened.

I found a recipe for no-sugar added banana muffins online, and I got curious about the concept, so I decided to try it. In my mind, it was less about making muffins without sugar and more about making little banana bread rolls that let the natural sweetness of the bananas shine through.

I love cake for breakfast, but I can't eat it all that often because my brain feels foggy mid-morning (sad but true). Don't get me wrong, I still love to do it as a treat on occasion (particularly the day after my birthday!).

This recipe, however, offers a good solution for when I need to use my brain but want something more interesting than plain toast.

Just for the record, I'm not even calling these dessert. I'm not in any way or form saying that you should substitute these for dessert. They're more like bread; I found them very pleasant for breakfast, particularly with a little bit of peanut butter on top. 

If you feel like making a nice little batch of these and enjoying them for breakfast all week long, join me! They're tasty and perfect for topping with all sorts of tasty stuff as you would toast. 

Banana muffins with no sugar added

Makes 12 muffins

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil) or melted butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (can just use cinnamon, too)
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or place muffin/cupcake liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.

Using clean hands, mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the oil/butter, egg, vanilla, and spice (I add the spice now because I feel like it infuses better this way). Give it a stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add them to the wet mixture and stir only until evenly moistened. It’s gonna be somewhat lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tin.

Bake in your preheated oven for 14-20 minutes (big range here because my oven runs very hot so it was on the low end), or until golden and a toothpick inserted inside comes out pretty clean. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Do you like banana baked goods? 

Aquafaba Lemon Meringue Pie

Guess what? There's no egg white on top of this lemon meringue pie. That's freaking chickpea water! (AKA "aquafaba", but I think you know which name I prefer). 

Image credit: Colin Erricson

Image credit: Colin Erricson

It's from the new book Aquafabulous! 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba by Rebecca Coleman © 2017.  The publisher, Robert Rose, was kind enough to share this recipe for excerpt. 

Believe it or not, this pie is totally vegan! No eggs were employed in the recipe at all. I find that kind of incredible, don't you? 

But I digress. Let's hear what the author has to say, then get to the recipe! 

"I love lemon curd. Although it’s normally made with butter and eggs, olive oil works very well here to replace the fat of the butter, and the curd is thickened with cornstarch instead of egg yolks. I challenge you to feed this to your omnivore friends and have them tell the difference."

Before you bake, assemble/do the following: 

•    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

•    Stand mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment

•    9-inch (23 cm) pie plate

•    Propane or butane torch (see Tips, at left)

Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour  (250 mL)
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt (2 mL)
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil  (60 mL)
  • 2 tbsp cold water (30 mL)

Lemon Curd

  • 1⁄3 cup water (75 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (75 mL)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch  (15 mL)
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar (90 mL)
  • Pinch salt 
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 90 mL (about 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil (60 mL)

Meringue

  • 1⁄3 cup aquafaba (75 mL)
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar (75 mL)
  • 1⁄4 tsp cream of tartar (1 mL)

1.    Crust: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and stir well. Add water and stir to combine. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more water until it sticks together and forms a cohesive ball. The mixture should not be very sticky on the outside.

2.    Roll mixture into a ball and place it in the center of a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Place another sheet of paper overtop. Using a rolling pin, roll out to desired thickness (and so that crust is big enough to fit your pie plate with a little left over). Remove top layer of paper and flip upside down into pie plate. Trim.

3.    Bake pastry crust in middle of preheated oven until lightly golden brown and a bit crispy around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

4.    Lemon Curd: In a small bowl, combine water, non-dairy milk and cornstarch. Whisk well to combine. Pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring well with a whisk, until it starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.

5.    Add sugar, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil. Continue to cook, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles, about 3 to 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger through it without it running back together. Transfer to a separate bowl, cover and let cool in the fridge.

6.    Meringue: In mixer bowl, combine aquafaba, sugar and cream of tartar. Set mixer speed to low and beat for 2 minutes. Turn speed up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Set to highest speed and beat mixture until fluffy and peaks form, about 4 to 6 minutes. It will have a similar texture to marshmallow fluff.

7.    Spread lemon curd in an even layer in pie shell. Top with meringue. With torch at full blast, holding it 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) from surface, toast top of meringue until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tips

You can make individual lemon meringue tarts by following the same process, substituting a 12-cup muffin pan for the pie plate.

The pie crust and lemon filling can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge, but the meringue should be made shortly before serving.

Thick and containing chunks of coconut meat, pure creamed coconut can be found in your grocery store near the canned coconut milks or where beverage mixes are shelved. It comes in a sealed plastic pouch, often inside a cardboard box. The Grace brand is often the easiest to find.

Payday Cookie Bars

Listen, I my 12 year old self feels uncool saying this. BUT...my favorite candy bar is the Payday bar.

Happily, my 35 year old self feels a lot better about proudly declaring my Payday love with the world. But at 12, in a world where the biggest candy bar debate was Snickers v. Milky Way, I always felt like I should stay silent, preferring a non-chocolate containing candy bar like I did. 

Doubly happy: as an adult I have my own kitchen to make my own Payday-inspired concoctions. These cookie bars are made with a melange of caramel, marshmallow, peanut butter, and salty peanuts, which rest atop a shortbread-like base. They are wonderful. They are sweet, salty, gooey, and ridiculously satisfying. They are like a dream never realized by my 12 year old self, but that tastes perfect in my mid-30s. 

If you love Payday bars like I do, give these babies a try. You won't regret it! They're pretty darned easy to make.

Of course, if you're not a Payday fan, please leave this site and never come back. 

Payday Cookie Bars

Makes one 9x9-inch pan (you decide how many servings)

For the crust

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • pinch salt 

To top

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used chunky but smooth would actually probably work better) 
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows 
  • 1 bag (11 ounces) caramel squares, unwrapped
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, divided
  • more salt, to top 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously (and I mean DO NOT BE SHY) grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan.

Make the crust. Cream the butter until nice and smooth; add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until fluffy. Add the flour and salt; mix until it comes together into a cohesive dough. Press into the bottom of that well greased pan.

Make the topping. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, and caramel candies. The mixture will first look monstrous.

Heat it over low-medium heat. It will continue to look awful for a while, but then will gradually melt into this.

Once melty, add in about half of the peanuts. 

Remove from heat, and spread evenly atop the cookie base. Scatter the remaining peanuts on top. Sprinkle with a little more salt on top if desired. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until it's looking bubbly and "set" on the edges and the bottom looks slightly browned (there's no egg though so no need to be insane about it).

Remove and let cool before slicing. I found that slicing is kind of difficult unless they are at the perfect temperature, which is slightly cool but not cold. Be sure to wash the knife between slices to keep things from getting mega messy. 

What was your favorite candy bar as a kid? How bout now?

Rainbow Unicorn Pizza

Did you know that pizza is the only savory food that officially appears on the unicorn food pyramid?

Honestly, this fact alone speaks to the magical nature of pizza. But unlike humans, unicorns are not content to simply enjoy plain ol' yellow/beige pizza. They kick things up six notches by incorporating all of the colors of the rainbow.

Since you might have trouble lassoing a rainbow on your own, this recipe employs food coloring to tint the cheese. It still tastes like regular pizza, but it looks like a unicorn farted on it. Lucky you! 

 

RAINBOW UNICORN PIZZA 

Makes 1 pizza

  • 1 portion pizza dough, uncooked (your favorite recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons alfredo or white sauce
  • 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • Food coloring in as many colors as you want
  • Edible glitter and/or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

Divide the cheese into as many equal portions as you want colors on your pizza.

Put each portion of cheese into a plastic bag. In each respective bag, squeeze a few drops of the food coloring color you want to tint it. Just an FYI: don't go too dark with the purple, because it can appear blackened once baked (as you can see in some of the photos). Still tasty though! 

Shake each bag vigorously to coat the cheese in your chosen color.

Spread/stretch your pizza dough to about 12 inches. Place it on a lightly oiled baking tray.

Spread the white sauce on top of the dough, leaving a perimeter around the edges for crust.

Scatter the cheese into strips across the surface of the pizza. While it might seem fun to scatter it all willy nilly, keeping the colors somewhat divided in their own sectors will make for the prettiest outcome.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is browned to your liking; usually no more than 7-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven; if desired, add sprinkles. Slice into 8 wedges using a pizza cutter. Serve warm. Taste the rainbowwwww! 

Would you eat rainbow pizza? 

Chocolate-Dipped Brownie Mounds

Chocolate dipped brownie mounds! Doesn't that sound like a beautiful thing indeed?

Image credit: Colin Erricson

Image credit: Colin Erricson

The fact is, these little cookie-confections are as delicious as they look. And if you live in a small household like I do, the fact that the recipe yield is fairly small is a Good Thing, because you'll have enough to enjoy but not so many that they'll go stale in your kitchen.

This handy little recipe is courtesy of the new book 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes. It's a great little book will all sorts of small-yield recipes, from cookies and cakes to no-bake treats as well. It's a worthwhile volume! 

Here's a recipe excerpt from the book. It's courtesy of 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes by Jill Snider © 2017 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Chocolate-Dipped Brownie Mounds

Bite-size brownies dipped in chocolate are easy to make from a roll of chocolate refrigerator cookie dough.

Makes about 12 cookies

  • Preparation: 25 minutes
  • Chilling: 21⁄2 hours
  • Baking: 14 minutes
  • Freezing: excellent

TipP Sift cocoa powder before using, to remove any lumps that have formed during storage.

You'll need: a baking sheet, greased or lined with parchment paper

Cookies

  • 1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour    (75 mL)
  • 4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted    (20 mL)
  • 1⁄8 tsp baking powder (0.5 mL)
  • 1⁄8 tsp baking soda (0.5 mL)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened  (30 mL)
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar (45 mL)
  • 1  egg yolk

Chocolate Dip

  • 11⁄2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (45 g)
  • 1⁄4 tsp vegetable oil (1 mL)

1.    Cookies: In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2.    In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together butter, sugar and egg yolk, until creamy. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Shape dough into a 12-inch (30 cm) cylinder. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

3.    When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

4.    Using a sharp knife, cut roll into 3⁄4-inch (2 cm) slices. Place slices cut side down on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.

5.    Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 14 minutes or until set around the edges but still soft in the center. Let cool for 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

6.     Chocolate Dip: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chopped chocolate and oil. Microwave on Medium for about 1 minute, stirring halfway through, until melted and smooth. Dip one side of each cookie into melted chocolate, covering half the cookie. Set on a wire rack placed over a sheet of waxed paper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set the chocolate.

Tip

There is no need for an electric mixer when making small batches of cookies. You can get the butter-sugar mixture to a light, creamy consistency by beating it with a wooden spoon.

White Chocolate Pecan Caramel Cups

I've been working on some big projects lately, friends.

One is a book entitled Baking With Steel, which I wrote with Andris Lagsdin of Baking Steel. It was my first time as a co-writer and it was a really interesting experience. It will come out this holiday season.

The other one I'm super excited about but I can't reveal quite just yet. 

And through it all, I've maintained a kind of ridiculous writing schedule (22 blog posts per month for one client; 8 blog posts per month for another client; 10-12 blog posts per month for this site) and done an illustration per day for the Verlo Mattress blog. I was also teaching yoga, but I've taken a hiatus (enough is enough!). 

A friend asked me recently, "how do you stay inspired?". I said something stupid in return, like "I take a lot of long walks". But upon further thought, really, what keeps me happy and inspired is SWEETS. 

These candy cups are super simple, and barely even require a recipe. Basically, it's "pour some melted white chocolate in a cupcake liner, spoon some caramel on top, let that set, then pour some more melted white chocolate on top". But of course, I have outlined more specifics in the recipe below. 

For me, confections like this are comfort, and they remind me of the stuff my mom would buy for us as treats while growing up, at Jean Louise Homemade Candies in Spring Lake, NJ. (it's still there, btw). 

These ones are fancied up a little bit with the addition of pecans and sea salt, but you can totally omit and just make white chocolate cups, too. 

Make a batch of these and give yourself one as a treat when you feel overwhelmed. That's what I do, and it's truly a sweet treat and kind break! 

White chocolate pecan caramel cups

Makes 6

For the filling  / topping 

  • about 6 tablespoons prepared caramel sauce, either homemade or store bought, (thick is good), chilled slightly
  • about 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • a sprinkling of coarse sea salt 

For the coating 

  • 2 bars (3.5 ounces each) good quality white chocolate chocolate, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter  

Place 6 cupcake liners in a cupcake tin. Set to the side. 

Make the coating. In a double boiler, or in the microwave, melt the chopped white chocolate and butter together. Once mostly melted, remove from heat and stir; any residual bits should melt as you stir. 

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the white chocolate mixture into each of the cupcake liners. Using either a spoon or a pastry brush, spread the chocolate along the bottom of the liners and about halfway up the sides. Place the tin in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, so that the chocolate can slightly “set” before you proceed.  

Once the chocolate has set slightly (it doesn’t need to be completely firm, just not wet), remove the tin from the refrigerator. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the caramel mixture into each cup. I didn't measure exactly, so it might be a little more or less, but just spoon a good amount in that doesn't exceed the level of the chocolate sides in height.  

Divide the remaining melted white chocolate among the cups, pouring it on top of the caramel mixture and gently (so as not to expose the caramel beneath the chocolate) spread to ensure that the chocolate covers the entire top of each cup. 

Place the tin back in the refrigerator briefly so that they can set. 

Once set completely, serve at room temperature. I didn't temper my chocolate (ANNOYING, sorry, but I said it) but I find that white chocolate doesn't quite "bloom" in the same way as dark or milk.