Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You know what I love? Cookies. You know what I love even more? Delicious cookies that are healthy too, like these yummy banana chocolate chip cookies. They only have 6 ingredients: bananas, oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. Yep, that’s right – no flour, butter, or sugar. I suppose one could argue that chocolate chips aren’t really healthy, but we don’t know any of those people, right?

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are super easy to make too; just throw all of the ingredients into one bowl, mix it up, and bake for 15 minutes. If you’re wondering, yes, they do taste like bananas. I’m not a huge fan of bananas myself, but I really like these cookies. They remind me of chocolate chip banana bread. My oldest daughter doesn’t like bananas very much either, but even she devoured these cookies (I may have neglected to tell her that bananas were one of the main ingredients).

The sugar in the bananas make the cookies plenty sweet, so no need to worry about that. In fact, I would recommend that you use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips in this recipe; the bitterness will complement the sweet cookies nicely. As you can see from my photo, I didn’t skimp on the chocolate chips. You can probably reduce the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup, if you want a less chocolately cookie.

I used ripe, but not overripe bananas (yellow, not brown). For those with peanut allergies, you can either omit the peanut butter, or substitute a different nut/seed butter. If you do omit the peanut butter, increase the amount of salt a bit.

2 bananas, mashed
1 cup uncooked oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat, or parchment paper.

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, and stir well to combine. If you used large bananas, you may need to add a bit more oats. The mixture should be sticky and wet, but not runny.

Plop rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet. (Note: I experimented with flattening a few of my “plops” before baking, but the taste and texture was the same.) Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy!

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Heart Brownies

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Hello, my friends! I wanted to share these cute heart-shaped brownies that I made for my sweeties for Valentine’s Day. They are super-easy to make, but still look cute and taste yummy. All you do is bake your favorite boxed brownie mix, cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter, and then decorate to your heart’s content.

These would be great for themed birthdays, bake sales, and holidays — just change the shape: shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, pumpkins for Halloween, trees for Christmas, etc. I topped my brownies with white chocolate, caramel sauce, and sprinkles, but you can choose your own favorite toppings. My daughters love pink, so I made two brownies with extra white chocolate and pink sprinkles just for them.

1 box brownie mix
White chocolate
Caramel sauce
Colored sprinkles

Bake the brownies, per the package instructions. (Note: this works best with thicker, cake-like brownies, so I added an extra egg, and reduced the water, as suggested on the back of my brownie box. I also replaced the oil with applesauce, just to make them a bit more healthy.) Allow the brownies to cool completely (to save time, you can bake the brownies a day in advance).

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, and set them aside on a plate or piece of waxed paper.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, following the package instructions, until melted. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted white chocolate over the brownie shape. Then drizzle the caramel sauce over the white chocolate (you may need to microwave your caramel sauce for a few seconds first).

Let stand, until the white chocolate hardens, and then enjoy all of your hard(ish) work!

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Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes

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Oh my, I think I found my new favorite dessert! This combines three of my favorite dessert flavors into one: chocolate cake pops, mint ice cream, and fresh whipped cream. I served these to my guests after Easter dinner and received rave reviews.   This dessert is very quick and easy to put together, if you already have some cake balls (cake mixed with frosting, then rolled into balls) on hand, but in case you don’t, I’ve included the instructions for creating the cake balls below. Feel free to experiment with different cake and ice cream flavors too! This recipe makes 12 ice cream cupcakes.

Chocolate cake, cooked and cooled (make this a day ahead, if possible)
Chocolate frosting (click here for my favorite recipe)
4 ounces chocolate (I used almond bark, but any chocolate that melts well will work)
1-2 cartons of mint chocolate chip ice cream (I used about 1 1/2 cartons)
1 cup heavy cream
Powdered sugar to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
12 cupcake liners
Fresh mint leaves (optional)

To prepare the cake balls, break the cake up with your hands until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in enough frosting to make the cake stick together, without being too sticky (usually about 1 cup, but it depends on how much cake you have). Use your hands to roll the cake mixture into 12 balls, each about 2 inches in diameter. Place the cake balls in the refrigerator until you are ready to prepare the cupcakes. (Note: roll any remaining cake mixture into balls and store them in the freezer. They will keep for several months.)

To assemble the cupcakes, line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners, and have the 12 cake balls ready.

Melt the 4 ounces of chocolate in the microwave, following the package instructions. Spoon about a tablespoon of the melted chocolate into the bottom of one of the muffin cups, and spread the chocolate slightly up the sides of the cupcake liner. Flatten one of the cake balls slightly with your fingers and then place it on top of the melted chocolate. Press the cake ball down with your fingers and mold it to the shape of the muffin cup. Repeat for the other 11 cupcakes.

Top each cake with a generous scoop of ice cream and place the cupcakes in the freezer until ready to serve (you can make them the day before).

Just before serving, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla together in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.

Remove the cupcakes from the freezer and pull off the cupcake liners. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a fresh mint, if desired. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Banana Bread with Walnuts

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It has been cold and wet this week so I have been in a bit of a baking frenzy. I started the week with this amazing chocolate banana bread. The chocolate adds some decadence to this moist bread and changes simple breakfast bread into a sweet treat.

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 overripe bananas
3/4 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or use all unbleached flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, then stir into the butter mixture.

In a medium bowl, add the unbleached flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Use a whisk to stir the dry ingredients together until well combined.

Gradually mix the flour mixture into the banana mixture. Mix in the milk, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Almond Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These chocolate chip cookies get an extra dose of bliss with the addition of almonds and coconut. The almonds add a nice crunch and the coconut gives the cookies a nice chewy texture. I love the flavor of chocolate, almonds, and coconut together too . . . kind of like an Almond Joy in a cookie!

2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar (I use organic sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the butter, white and brown sugars, and the vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixture until the butter looks lighter in color and has fluffy texture. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Using a big wooden spoon, gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in the coconut, chocolate chips, and almonds.

Use a tablespoon to drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, making sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie. (Note: I baked some of my cookies on a light-colored baking sheet, and some on a dark-coated baking sheet covered with foil. The cookies on the dark-coating baking sheet had a higher-rise and were more golden brown in color than those on the light-colored baking sheet. I think this recipe is more suited to a dark-coated baking sheet. Just food for thought!)

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving cookies to a wire rack to cool completely (or at least until your family discovers them!).

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Valentine’s Day Cake Pops

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Thanks to everyone who voted for their favorite treat in my Valentine’s poll! We had a tie between cake pops and chocolate (both delicious!). Cake pops are becoming a popular dessert, which isn’t surprising since they are fun to make (and even more fun to eat!).

Here are the heart-shaped cake pops that I made for my sweeties yesterday.

I was lucky enough to have a lot of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting left over from my daughter’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, so I simply mixed the cake and frosting together, rolled the cake into balls, and then put it in the fridge for a few hours. After the cake was thoroughly chilled, I formed the balls into heart shapes and then froze them.

Yesterday morning, I took the cake “hearts” out of the freezer and let them thaw a bit before dipping them in white chocolate and decorating them with colored sprinkles.

I’m still trying to find a good dipping chocolate that will create a smooth finish (and still taste good). This time I used a bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips, with about a third of a bag of Wilton’s white chocolate candy melts, and about a tablespoon of shortening (which helps to thin out the chocolate), and it worked fairly well. I’ll keep experimenting and let you know if I find the perfect method (gives me an excuse to make more cake pops).



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Chocolate Bark

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Of all of the goodies that I make during the holidays, this is probably the most popular. Lucky for me, it’s also the easiest to make! For Christmas, I make Peppermint Bark by topping the chocolate with crushed candy canes, but you can enjoy this recipe year-round by simply changing the topping. One of my favorite variations is Almond Bark, which uses toasted almonds instead of candy canes. Choose high-quality chocolate for the best results.

1 bag dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is my favorite)
1 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed candy canes, chopped toasted almonds, or other topping

Line a medium baking sheet with waxed paper (a broiler pan works well).

Add the dark chocolate chips to a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave per the package directions (usually 50% power for 1 minute, stir, then 50% power for 30 seconds, stir and continue microwaving in 30 second intervals until the chocolate chips are just melted). Be careful not to scorch the chocolate. Pour the melted dark chocolate onto the baking sheet, and use a rubber spatula to smooth the chocolate into a thin layer. (Note: it should be thinner than the chocolate bark in my photo – I experimented with thicker bark, but it didn’t turn out well.) Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set for at least 10 minutes.

Once the dark chocolate has set, melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, using the same method as the dark chocolate chips. Pour the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate, using a rubber spatula to smooth it into a thin layer. Using a toothpick, gently swirl the white chocolate into the top layer of the dark chocolate (this will make sure the two chocolates stick together when they harden). Work quickly, because the white chocolate will set much faster over the cold dark chocolate.

Immediately sprinkle the topping over the white chocolate, and press the topping down lightly with your hands to ensure that the topping will adhere to the chocolate. Return the baking sheet to the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden, about 1 hour.

Once the chocolate is firm, use your hands or a large chef’s knife to break the chocolate into pieces. Store in a covered container, in the refrigerator, until serving.

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Peppermint Cake Balls

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Chances are, you have already heard of cake balls (or cake pops), but I’m admittedly out of touch with pop-culture and I just recently heard about them from a friend. They are really easy to make and the decoration possibilities are endless (just Google “cake pops” and you’ll see what I mean). Basically you combine crumbled cake, with frosting and roll it into balls. Then you dip the cake balls into chocolate and decorate to your heart’s content. To make this even easier, you can use boxed cake mix and canned frosting, and you can experiment with different cake and frosting flavors too. To save time, prepare the cake and the balls ahead of time (see recipe for more details).

Cooked and cooled cake (see recipe below)
Prepared frosting (see recipe below)
2 packages of white chocolate bark or Candy Melts (sold in craft stores, like Michaels)
1 cup crushed candy canes (approximately)
Mini cupcake liners (if desired)

Break the cake into large chunks and place them in a large bowl. Using your hands, crumble the cake until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in 1-2 cups of frosting, until you reach the desired consistency. The mixture should hold its shape when pressed in your hands, but shouldn’t be sticky.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Take a small portion of the cake mixture and roll into a ball. The smaller the balls, the easier they are to coat with chocolate – somewhere in between the diameter of a quarter and a golf ball is a good size. Place the balls on the wax paper, and put them in the refrigerator (or freezer) for at least two hours, or overnight (Note: I find that chocolate cakes/frostings develop a richer flavor as they age, so make this a day in advance, if you can).

Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt 1/2 of a bag of white chocolate bark/candy in the microwave per the package instructions. The chocolate will harden quickly, so it’s best to work in small batches. I found that melting the chocolate in a glass measuring cup worked well.

Working quickly, insert a toothpick about 1/3 of the way into one of the cake balls. Dunk the cake ball into the chocolate and use a spoon to ensure that the cake ball is completely coated. Turn the cake ball on its side, resting the toothpick on the side of the measuring cup (or whatever you melted your chocolate in) to let the excess chocolate drip off. Place the cake ball on the waxed paper and use a second toothpick to hold the cake ball while you wiggle the first toothpick out (Note: if some of the chocolate comes off while you are doing this, just patch it up with more of the melted chocolate). Immediately sprinkle the top with crushed candy canes. Repeat for the remaining cake balls.

Put the completed cake balls in the refrigerator to harden, and then place individual cake balls into mini cupcake liners, if desired.

Yellow Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9×13 inch baking pan.

Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture 2 tablespoons at a time; mix until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely (you may even want to bake the cake the day before).

Chocolate Frosting
This recipe will make more frosting than you need for the cake balls. You can store it in the fridge for your next batch of cake balls, or use it for something else.

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)
1 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (probably less)

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla (watch out – the powdered sugar and cocoa can make a mess). Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

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