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no-bake chocolate peanut butter bars with rice krispies

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Bars

In several posts I have talked about my grandma.  I have shared about her love of baking (and her grandchildrens’ love of her baking!)  I have shared one of her recipes.  I have also shared that these Peanut Butter Bars are my favorite of her recipes, which is a bold statement considering all of her ‘Grandma Goodies’ were superb!

Many years before she died, my grandma wrote out several of her recipes and gifted recipe boxes to my brother and to me.  I am so grateful she included the recipe for these bars.  As a child, little did I realize how quick and easy these are to make.   These delicious bars have a simple ingredient list and require no baking.  A reason to love them even more!

If you’re looking for a last minute treat to whip together for the Super Bowl, these couldn’t be any easier.  And your friends will love you!

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Bars
 
Easy, no-bake peanut butter bars made with Rice Krispies and topped with chocolate. This is one of my favorite recipes that my grandma used to make.
Yields: 16 bars
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter, chunky
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1½ cups Rice Krispies cereal (or other puffed rice cereal)
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, beat peanut butter and melted butter until fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar, beating until blended.
  3. By hand, stir in cereal.
  4. Put mixture in 8" or 9" square baking pan and use waxed paper to press mixture to fill out pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. Melt chocolate chips (in microwave or stovetop) and pour over peanut butter mixture. Spread until evenly covered. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Everybody needs a go-to recipe for a classic sugar cookie.  While these Chewy Sugar Cookies will never trump my grandma’s melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies, this is the ultimate chewy sugar cookie recipe.  The texture is chewy (obviously), the flavor is unbeatable, they have that perfect crackly top, and they’re easy to make.  Can’t beat that!  The key to making these chewy is to be sure to flatten to no bigger than 2-inch diameter and not to overbake.  Otherwise you may end up with a crispier sugar cookie, which frankly is really not a bad thing.  The flavor of these cookies is so incredible, they are good chewy or crispy.

Chewy Sugar Cookies
 
Yields: 24 cookies
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups sugar, plus ⅓ cup for rolling
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces (I used ⅓ less fat cream cheese)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I used skim)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place ⅓ cup sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside (this will be used for rolling).
  2. In a medium bowl, whick the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese. Pour butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps may remain). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until dough forms.
  4. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Using hands, roll dough into balls. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and place on prepared baking sheets, 12 balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with sugar remaining in shallow dish (discard any remaining sugar).
  5. Bake 1 tray at a time until edges are set and beginning to brown, about 11 to 13 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Source: The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2012

Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes with Pink Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting

It seems we save cupcakes for a special occasion – to celebrate a birthday, a holiday, an accomplishment, etc.  When I made these cupcakes, I didn’t have any particular occasion in mind.  I decided to make these Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes ‘just because.’  Just because it’s been a while since I last made cupcakes.  Just because there is always a reason to celebrate something.  Just because citrus is aplenty right now,…let’s try something new!

These cupcakes are really easy to make and a unique way to enjoy grapefruit.  The cake alone has a subtle citrus flavor – just enough grapefruit flavor without being overpowering.  When topped with the grapefruit cream cheese frosting, it becomes dangerouly good.  The cream cheese gives the right amount of tang to balance the grapefruit flavor and brings it all together into a sweet and delicious cupcake.

Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes were fun to make, fun to eat, and fun to share…all just because. 😉

Pink Grapefruit Cupcakes with Pink Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Yields: 12 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulates sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2% reduced-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons pink grapefruit zest (1 softball-sized grapefruit yielded approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • Frosting:
  • 4 ounces ⅓-less-fat cream cheese, chilled (block)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pink grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons pink grapefruit juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix until smooth.
  4. To the butter mixture, add half of flour mixture, and combine; repeat with remaining flour mixture. Add yogurt and vanilla, blending with a rubber spatula. Fold in zest, mixing until just combined.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (about ⅔ full). Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, place cream cheese in a medium bowl and baet on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, vanilla zest and juice, beating until smooth. Frost cupcakes as desired.
Notes
If not serving immediately, cupcakes/frosting should be refrigerated, otherwise, the frosting gets too soft. When serving, let cupcake sit out for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.

Adapted from Health

Grandma’s Peanut Blossoms

Peanut Blossoms are a holiday cookie staple around our house, as well as many others.  This popular peanut butter cookie topped with a Hershey’s Kiss is not only delicious, but it is such a cute addition to the cookie plate.  There are countless versions of this type of cookie, but today I have a special treat for you.  Today I am sharing with you this recipe from my grandma!  When she was alive, one of her favorite things to do was to make dozens of types of cookies, bars, candies, cakes, etc. for the holidays.  She put such care in the execution of each recipe she made.  It was impressive, to say the least.  She was always so excited and proud to show us the vast array of goodies she made for us each year.  So as I sit here right now, sharing one of my favorite Grandma recipes,…I know she would be excited and proud to share it with you as well.

Happy Holidays!

Grandma’s Peanut Blossoms
Yields 3 dozen cookies

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) light butter (or regular butter, per the original recipe)
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
granulated sugar, for rolling
36 chocolate Hershey’s Kisses candies, unwrapped

  1. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter until blended. 
  3. Gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar to peanut butter mixture – cream well.  Add unbeaten egg and vanilla – beat well. 
  4. Blend in dry ingredients gradually (Note: I do this step by hand using a wooden spoon) and mix thoroughly.  Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (Note: I typically chill overnight).
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Shape dough into balls using a rounded teaspoonful for each.  Roll balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet. 
  7. Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Top each cookie with a Hershey’s Kiss candy, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge.  Return to oven and bake 2 to 5 minutes longer until golden brown.  Move cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
chocolate mint crackle cookies {Alida's Kitchen}

Chocolate Mint Crackle Cookies

How fun are crackle cookies ~  they are delicious and so festive!  The powdered sugar looks like a lovely dusting of snow on top of the cookies, putting me in a holiday frame of mind.  Considering we have no snow on the ground, a little winter reminder is very welcome.  (We live in Minnesota, it’s winter, where is our snow???)  So this year, at least for now, we all can enjoy our snow vicariously through these crackle cookies.  I could definitely get used to the powdered sugar variety of snow…especially on top of chocolate cookies.  Even better…on top of mint chocolate cookies.  These Chocolate Mint Crackle Cookies are perfectly chewy without being cakey.  They are chocolate with a hint of mint.  They are classic holidays cookies at their finest.  This winter is looking better already!

Chocolate Mint Crackle Cookies
 
Yields: 24 cookies
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) light butter, melted
  • ¾ teaspoon pure mint extract
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (or using a double boiler), stirring frequently.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and cocoa.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and butter. Gradually whisk in melted chocolate and mint extract, until smooth. Fold in flour mixture until combined. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours to overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls, then roll in confectioners' sugar to coat. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing each 1 inch apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly firm in center.
  5. Let cool slightly on cookie sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December, 2011

pretzel hershey's kiss and m&ms

Pretzel Kiss Candies

Pretzel Kiss Candies are the ultimate salty sweet treat made using only three ingredients. Colors can be customized for holidays and events, making these a go-to for any party! Make a lot, because they disappear quickly!!
Pretzel Kiss Candies | alidaskitchen.com

Pretzel Kiss Candies are a fun and easy treat for the holidays. These candies have been circulating around the web for some time now, and with good reason. They are easy and SO good! You have the salty-sweet thing going on, plus they are a cute addition to your holiday treat plate.  Use your favorite M&Ms for the topper, choosing whatever goes with your celebration.  The white chocolate Hershey’s Hugs tend to melt faster and smoother than their milk chocolate counterparts, but they are both equally delicious.

Simple to make, Pretzel Kiss Candies are perfect for a last minute get together, or simply because they mood strikes you. Whatever the reason, Pretzel Kiss Candies are a must-make for the holidays!

More easy pretzel treats:

Pretzel Kiss Candies | alidaskitchen.com

Pretzel Kiss Candies
 
Yields: varies
Ingredients
  • Square waffle-shaped pretzels
  • Hershey's Hugs or Kisses
  • M&Ms candy, any variety
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Set pretzels on lined cookie sheet. Place an unwrapped Hershey's Hug or Kiss on top of pretzel.
  3. Bake oven for 4-6 minutes until softened (note: Hugs will soften quicker than Kisses). Remove from oven and press an M&M candy into the center of each Hug/Kiss.
  4. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then place in refrigerator to harden for 15 minutes to overnight.

Pretzel Kiss Candies | alidaskitchen.com

coconut chocolate bars {Alida's Kitchen}

Coconut Chocolate Bars

These bars are three layers of coconut, chocolate and brown sugar bliss!  While the layering may make them seem involved, these bars could not be any quicker or easier to make.  First you start with a brown sugar crust – bake for 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle the chocolate over the crust, put back in the oven for a minute to soften the chocolate, and spread evenly.  Last you make the coconut topping, spread over the chocolate layer, and bake again (be careful not to over bake).  The result is an elegant and delicious bar cookie that is sure to delight and impress!

Coconut Chocolate Bars
 
Yields: 36 bars
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup (1 stick) light butter, cut into chunks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter and salt until crumbly. (While messy, I found using fingers works best). Pat into baking pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle chocolate pieces over crust and put back in oven for about 1 minute to soften chocolate. Spread chocolate evenly over crust.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and fold into sugar mixture. Fold in coconut. Spread evenly over chocolate layer. Bake 15-20 minutes (be careful not to over bake). Cool in pan and cut into 3x1-inch bars.

 

Source: back of C & H brown sugar bag

mint cookies 'n cream brownies {Alida's Kitchen}

Mint Cookies ‘n Cream Brownies

Chocolate and mint are a classic combination this time of year, and fortunately these brownies couldn’t be any easier to make.  Besides how could you not love chunks of cookies in a brownie!  The cookies I used for these brownies were Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (which are amazing, by the way).   I assume mint Oreo’s, or whatever your favorite brand, would work just great.   The cookies make these brownies so dangerously delicious, they will be a welcome addition to any holiday treat plate!

Mint Cookies ‘n Cream Brownies
 
Yields: 36 brownies
Ingredients
  • BROWNIE:
  • ½ cup light butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups chocolate syrup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 mint cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, quartered
  • Cooking spray
  • MINT CREAM:
  • ½ cup light butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons skim milk
  • ½ teaspoon mint extract
  • 3 mint cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, well-crushed
  • additional chopped cookies for topping, as desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in chocolate syrup until well blended.
  3. Fold in flour, mixing just until blended. Fold in chopped cookies.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.
  5. Once cooled, frost with Mint Cream (recipe below) and cut into squares.
  6. In a medium bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add mint extract and then gradually add milk, beating until desired consistency is achieved. Mix in crushed cookies.
  7. Spread over cooled brownies and top with additional chopped cookies, as desired.
Adapted from Taste of Home

White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Cookies

Well hello there. Look up, and please update your bookmarks!  That’s right.  Alida’s Kitchen has a new web address. I dropped the ‘blogspot’ from the URL, so it is now www.alidaskitchen.com. I purchased this domain many months ago and was waiting for the right time to pull the trigger. Since my physical kitchen has a new address (we moved!), it seems like a fitting time to make the switch.   I will do whatever I can to make sure this transition is seamless, and as always I welcome your comments and feedback.    

So enough about that, let’s get on with today’s recipe – White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Cookies.

Who doesn’t love the classic pairing of white chocolate and cranberry.  The sweetness of the white chocolate against the tartness of the cranberries is just delicious.  The coconut adds a little something extra special, and the oats give the cookies a chewy texture.  All together, we have a tasty combination that is a fun and festive addition to your cookie plates this holiday season!

White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Cookies
Yields approximately 36 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons skim milk
2 large eggs
1/2 pound (2 sticks) light butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup sweetned flaked coconut
1 cup white chocolate chips

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vanilla, milk and eggs.  Set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, in a separate bowl, on medium speed, beat butter and both sugar until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add in milk mixture – beat well.  Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  4. Stir in the oats, cranberries, coconut and white chocolate chips. 
  5. Place dough in refrigerator until firm (at least 2 hours to overnight).
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
  7. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough, placing 3 inches apart.  Press with the bottom of a glass (covered with parchment or waxed paper) to flatten dough. 
  8. Bake until golden but still soft in the middle, 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and move to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Adapted from Martha Stewart

healthy skinny pumpkin pie without crust

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Crustless Pumpkin Pie is a delicious, pumpkin pie made a little healthier without the crust. This is always a favorite dessert and is a lighter, healthier alternative to a traditional pie.   A must-make for the holidays!

Usually by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I have made at least 6 pumpkin pies…and enjoyed them immensely, of course. Now, before you think I’m some crust-making machine, I must confess to you that my pumpkin pies are made without crust. This Crustless Pumpkin Pie is a recipe that I found years ago, and frankly it is pure genius. By eliminating the extra step of making crust and the excess fat and calories that come with the crust, you are left with a simple, delicious and “skinny” pumpkin pie!

This pie is so good and very easy to make.  In fact, this is so easy to make, the first time I made it I put everything (minus the topping) in a blender.  It turned out great!  These days, I don’t have a blender, and I’m a little more cautious when baking.

Made with pumpkin and skim milk, you are left with a healthier alternative to your traditional pumpkin pie.  It is no wonder that once pumpkin season hits, I have this pie in the fridge all the time.  I have tweaked the recipe over the years to what it is today, and Mike and I are in pie-heaven all fall/winter long.

healthy skinny pumpkin pie without crust

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
 
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients
Brown Sugar Topping
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon light butter, softened (I use Smart Balance light, from a tub)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pie
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk
  • 2 eggs (or 3 egg whites)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Prepare Brown Sugar Topping: mix oats, brown sugar, oats and cinnamon until combined. (I have found that, while messy, using my fingers to mix the topping works best). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs and sugar until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and spices. Add to pumpkin mixture and gently fold until incorporated.
  5. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pie plate. Sprinkle Brown Sugar Topping over the top. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, and then move to refrigerator for at least 4 hours to overnight.

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Pumpkin Gingerbread

Evidently it has unofficially become pumpkin week here at Alida’s Kitchen.  I had something else planned for today, but it just seemed fitting to close the week with a new favorite and continue the pumpkin theme.  It does not get more seasonally appropriate for fall/winter than pumpkin and gingerbread.  This Pumpkin Gingerbread is no exception.

I have not done a lot of baking with crystallized ginger, so it was fun to try something new.  It definitely enhanced the flavors in this gingerbread.  The original recipe did not call for cloves, but I like my gingerbread a little spicy.  I thought the cloves were perfect addition.  I love that this is made with whole wheat flour and not a lot of sugar.   Healthy, delicious and perfect for the season, this Pumpkin Gingerbread makes a delightful breakfast, brunch or even dessert.
Pumpkin Gingerbread
Yields 16 servings
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup pumpkin puree
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8″ square baking pan with cooking spray.  Set aside
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking powder in a medium bowl. Stir in crystalized ginger.
  3. Whisk eggs, egg white, oil, molasses and pumpkin in a large bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, folding gently until just combined.
  5. Pour mixture in prepared pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.    Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.  Serve topped with crystalized ginger, if desired.
Adapted from prevention.com

 

healthy chocolate peanut butter oat coconut bites

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls

 

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls are an addictive, no-bake snack, made from simple ingredients found in your pantry.  

It is no secret that I love peanut butter.  So you can imagine my excitement when I was selected to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with the National Peanut Board.  The task was to create a snack recipe using peanut butter and incorporating other ingredients found in most homes. Easy enough!

I wanted to make something healthy, convenient and easy.  I also wanted to make something with oats.  It was time to roll up my sleeves, grab ingredients from the pantry and experiment.

After adding a little here, a touch there,…voila! I finally got the results I was looking for, using simple wholesome ingredients found in my pantry.

This healthy snack could not be any easier to make. The recipe requires no baking; simply measure, mix, roll and chill. The mixture may seem a little dry at first, but as you continue to mix it comes together (or add a little more honey or peanut butter to moisten the mixture to a consistency that works for you). Rolling the balls in a coating as optional. It makes the balls a little less sticky on the fingers, and also is a fun way to vary the flavors, but it is not necessary.

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls are a healthy and delicious snack, or even a quick breakfast on-the-go, featuring one of my favorite foods of all time…peanut butter!

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls
 
Yields: 16-18 balls
Ingredients
  • 1 cup peanut butter, natural is preferred (chunky or creamy)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
  • cocoa powder, wheat germ, powdered sugar, chopped peanuts, (optional) – for coating
Instructions
  1. Heat peanut butter and honey in the microwave until easily mixed, about 15-20 seconds. Stir until blended.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flaxseed and coconut (if using) until combined.
  3. Add peanut butter mixture to oat mixture and stir until incorporated. (Mixture may seem a little dry at first…just keep mixing).
  4. Form a rounded tablespoonful of the combined mixture into a ball and place on a plate. Repeat until all mixture is used. Now, if you do not want to coat the balls, skip to step 6.
  5. Roll each ball in whatever coating suits your preference. Cocoa powder, powdered sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon sugar and chopped peanuts are some ideas.

Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with 2 jars of Planters peanut butter, from the National Peanut Board, for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Ghirardelli, I was given the opportunity to sample several of Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolates, including Midnight Reverie, which is 86% cacao.   I thought, what better way to highlight this deliciously dark chocolate than to make it into mousse! 
I love the elegance of chocolate mousse, but have a hard time eating or serving it due to the amount of cream or half and half, etc. it typically contains.  As a healthier alternative, I have had my eye on a recipe for Chocolate Ricotta Mousse for quite a while. 

 

 
We enjoyed Chocolate Ricotta Mousse, but found that it is very important to approach this mousse as “mousse.” It is made with ricotta cheese, so accordingly expect the texture to be a little grainy (like ricotta).  In return, you get a delicious, light, chocolaty dessert that is higher in protein and lower in calories and fat than its traditional counterpart.

The original recipe calls for cocoa powder, which I substituted for an equivalent amount of Ghirardelli’s Midnight Reverie chocolate. Since this chocolate already contains some sugar, I reduced the amount of sugar in the mousse by half. The result was a perfect balance of sweetness. 

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse
Yields 6 servings
15 oz low fat ricotta cheese (room temperature)
1 ounce dark chocolate (melted and cooled), such as Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie 
OR  3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Coarse salt
Cocoa powder, for serving (optional)
Whipped topping, for serving (optional)
  1. In a food processor, process ricotta and chocolate until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  2. Place egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium heat proof bowl set over simmering water.  Whisk constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm (about 3 minutes).  Remove from heat and beat mixture (using an electric mixer) on high until stiff glossy peaks form (about 5 minutes).
  3. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg mixture into ricotta mixture until combined. 
  4. Divide mousse among 6 glasses or bowls.  Refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).  Serve dusted with cocoa powder or with a dollop of whipped topping, if desired.
Adapted from Everyday Food
Disclaimer: While this is not my formal write up of my experience with Ghirardelli chocolate, I feel obligated to disclose the following: “As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with Ghirardelli chocolate for free. The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.” I will be sharing a full write up of my experience later this week.

Brown Sugar Brownies

Back in college, I had a recipe for Brown Sugar Brownies.  They were honestly the best brownies I’ve ever had (aside from my grandmother’s of course). I still remember them, but that was ages ago, and sadly my dear recipe is long gone.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of baking and ran out of brown sugar.  Mike went on an emergency brown sugar run for me.  When he set the bag down on the counter, it happened to be recipe-side up (hmm…do you think that was intentional?).  What did I see?  Brown Sugar Brownies!

Quick and easy to prepare, this recipe makes a delicious brownie that is more fudgy than cakey.  In fact, they are light and airy and almost melt in your mouth.  Now, I used dark chocolate that I received from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Ghiardelli.  This would be delicious using unsweetened per the original recipe, but I was pleasantly susprised at the results with what I used.  I also used light butter, which has half the fat and calories of regular butter.  I like using light butter when I can, because if it works why not, right? 

Now for the best part.  If I told you these brownies were under 115 calories each, would you believe it?  I hardly believed it myself!  I did the calculation a few days after making them (and after I had already eaten a few bars).  I was eating half a brownie each time because I expected they would come in a lot higher.   I did the calculation once, checked it again.  It’s true.  These babies clock in around 112!

Brown Sugar Brownies
Yields 16 brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) light butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces unsweetened OR dark chocolate (such as Ghirardelli Twilight Delight), melted, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
powdered sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined.
  3. Beat in eggs, adding one at at time. 
  4. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla.
  5. Gently fold in flour, until combined.
  6. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Cut into squares, and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Adapted from back of sugar bag (recipe found here here)

Disclaimer: While this is not my formal write up of my experience with Ghirardelli chocolate, I feel obligated to disclose the following:  “As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I was provided with Ghirardelli chocolate for free.  The details of my experience are exclusively my opinion, and I was not otherwise influenced or compensated.”  I will be sharing a full write up of my experience later this week. 

Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies

The baby was asleep. The husband was out to dinner. What’s a girl to do? Make Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies, of course!

I haven’t made cookies in ages, and these just happen to be one of Mike’s favorites. Actually, after one bite, they quickly become everybody’s favorite. These cookies are soft, chewy, and chocolaty with a hint of malted milk flavor.

The dough is quite sticky, but becomes much more managable after chilling it in the refrigerator. It is also key to either line your cookie sheet, or spray it with cooking spray. Otherwise the cookies have a tendency to stick. 

Despite the minor challenges presesented by a sticky dough, these cookies are worth every effort. They are delicious and the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk!

Triple Chocolate Malted Cookies
Yields approximately 30 cookies

1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons chocolate malted milk powder
5 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, malted milk powder, butter, syrup, vanilla and egg; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring (or beating at low speed) until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Chill dough for 30 minutes to overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  [Cookies will appear puffy when first taken out of the oven]  Cool on pan for 2 minutes or until firm.  Remove cookies and cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

A couple weeks ago, I enjoyed another Happy Magazine Day with the arrival of Cooking Light’s September, 2011 issue.  When I saw ‘Light Brownies’ featured on the cover, I was intrigued.  When I saw Peanut Butter Cup Blondies, I could not race to the store fast enough to pick up peanut butter cups!

These bars are easy to make and bake up into something amazing.  From the original recipe, I substituted half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.  I also used skim milk, since that’s what I had on hand and generally prefer.  I used chunky peanut butter, and the little peanut chunks throughout the bars were awesome.  Last, I used milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet, but either would be great.  Dark or white chocolate chips would also be a delicious way to mix it up.

Chewy, peanut buttery, peanut butter cuppy, and oh so good, these bars are simply dreamy.  I adjusted the serving size from 20 to 16.  They are substantial enough to feel like you’re getting a big treat, yet they still come in under 200 calories per bar.  Not bad!

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies
 
Yields: 16 to 20 bars
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ⅓ cup natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 (0.75-ounce) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt (if using).
  3. In a separate medium bowl, stir to combine the peanut butter, butter, milk, vanilla and eggs.
  4. Add peanut butter mixture to dry ingredients, and gently stir until combined. Fold in chocolate chips until combined (do not over mix).
  5. Pour batter in prepared baking dish. Arrange peanut butter cups over batter.
  6. Bake for 19 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 192 ~ Carbs: 26g ~ Fiber: >1 ~ Fat: 8.6g ~ Protein: 3.4g

Adapted from Cooking Light

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes {Alida's Kitchen}

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes are perfect for chocolate lovers and picky eaters, and a delicious way to use up some of that zucchini taking over your garden!
I was asked to make cupcakes for a very special birthday party.  Mike’s grandmother turned 90!  How cool is that!  She is an amazing lady, who loves chocolate.  This request came shortly after I made Zucchini, Banana and Flaxseed Muffins, and I had zucchini on the brain.  Then it hit me – Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes.  Perfect!

I knew this birthday crowd would appreciate the use of zucchini in these delectable goodies, though you would never guess that’s the secret ingredient simply by taste.  (Score if you’re serving a picky eater!)  The zucchini creates a moist cake, makes it slightly healthier, and is the perfect complement to this delicious chocolate cupcake!

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
 
These are a delicious way to use up some of that zucchini taking over your garden. Perfect for chocolate lovers and picky eaters. You would never guess there's zucchini in there!
Yields: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (squeeze out excess moisture)
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dutch processed cocoa, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Frosting:
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ⅔ cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, butter and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined (do not over mix).
  5. Spoon batter into muffin pans, filling them until about ¾ full. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in pan and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cooled, frost with chocolate frosting and decorate as desired. Store cupcakes at room temperature in an air tight container.
  7. FROSTING: Melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa powder, whisking until smooth.
  8. Stir in vanilla and alternately add powdered sugar and milk, using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) to beat to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed.

Adapted from  Two Peas and Their Pod

Lime Tart

While I’m a peanut butter and chocolate lover by trade, I would happily eat this Lime Tart for dessert every night. Truth be told, Mike and I may have enjoyed this tart for 4 nights in a row.  I am still dreaming about it.  It is refreshing, the perfect balance of tangy and sweet, creamy and just plain good! 

Bonus – it’s very easy to make! The crust can be quickly mixed together and the filling can be made while the crust bakes.  Next pour the filling in the crust (warm or cool), bake again and then chill.  The hardest part is the wait!   

Another bonus – this Lime Tart is done light! I used fat free sweetened condensed milk, and I used light butter.  As a result, fat and calories were reduced by approximately 45% and 12% respectively, when compared to their full far counterparts.  Even with these adjustments, this tart definitely tastes like an indulgence!

Since this dessert uses 4 egg yolks, naturally you will have 4 egg whites leftover. Stay tuned later this week, as I have an incredible and healthy veggie-filled use for those egg whites!

Lime Tart
Yields 8 servings

1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted light butter, melted
1 can (14 ounces) fat free sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 5 limes)
4 large egg yolks
Pinch salt
Grated lime zest, for garnish (optional) 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Add butter and mix until combined.  Transfer  mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a  removable bottom.  Pat into bottom and up sides.  Place on baking sheet, and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly colored (about 10 minutes). 
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine condensed milk, lime juice, egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar – whisk until smooth. 
  4. Pour lime mixture into crust (warm or cool is fine).  Return to oven,  on baking sheet.  Bake until filling is set around edge but slightly loose in center (20 to 25 minutes).  
  5. Cool completely at room temperature; then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Garnish with zest, if desired, and serve. 

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/8 of tart)
 Calories = 321 ~ Fat = 7.4g ~ Carbohydrates = 58.3g ~ Protein = 6.2g

Adapted from Everyday Food

Banana Split Cupcakes

 
For my husband’s birthday, I asked what he wanted for his treat.  He said ‘whatever you want to make for the blog.’  Aww shucks…  Well I was not about to choose his birthday treat.  So after some pressing (and dropping subtle hints that we had nice overripe bananas to use) he asked for Banana Split Cupcakes.  I was very excited about his choice because they are fun to make and just so gosh darn cute!

These are a family favorite, and we just happened to be visiting both of our families for a birthday celebration.  When my mom saw them, she exclaimed ‘Are those Banana Split Cupcakes?  Oh my!  Those are my favorite!’  I’m sure Mike knew that…scoring points with the mother-in-law again.

These cupcakes are truly easy.  The cake is quick to whip together, and using the chocolate square makes for a simple surprise filling inside the banana cake.  With the smooth frosting, decorating is a cinch, and they look just like a mini sundae.  You could certainly add any other sundae-inspired toppings you like (i.e. sprinkles, nuts, etc.) or stick with the classic chocolate drizzle topped with a cherry. 

Banana Split Cupcakes
Yields 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 chocolate bars, such as Hershey’s Special Dark*, separated, broken into squares

FROSTING:
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

12 maraschino cherries with stems

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. 
  2. In another bowl, combine the banana, butter, buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients; stir just until combined.
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each paper-lined muffin cup.  Top with one candy bar square.  Divide remaining batter amongst the muffin cups (approximately two-thirds full).
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. In a bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and milk.  The frosting will be smooth – if too stiff, add more milk, if too runny, add more sugar.  Frost the cupcakes.
  6. In a microwave, melt the remaining chocolate candy and drizzle over frosting.  Top each cupcake with a cherry.

Tip:  In order to get the cherry to stick, it helps to drizzle a little extra chocolate in the center of the cupcake prior to topping with the cherry. 

*Note: I have used both dark and milk chocolate in this recipe, and either one is delicious.

Adapted from Taste of Home: Cupcakes and Muffins

This post is linked to Sweet as Sugar Cookies: Sweets for a Saturday, Screaming Sardine: Cupcake Party, A Well-Seasoned Life’s Sweet Indulgences Sunday

Fresh Strawberry Pie ~ Lightened up!

Let’s just get this out in the open.  Yes, I am doing another strawberry recipe.  And yes, I am doing another strawberry recipe with yogurt.  Every year around the Fourth of July, I look forward to making this healthy version of a strawberry pie.  It just so happens to coincide my Strawberry Yogurt Muffins post from Wednesday.  I promise you a break from strawberry and yogurt recipes in the coming weeks.  In fact, there are even some indulgent recipes on the horizon!

There are 3 parts to making this pie.  The first step is making yogurt cheese, which is draining plain yogurt through cheesecloth.  This step needs to be done a day in advance, as the yogurt needs at least 16 hours to drain.

Part 2 is making the crust.  This crust is a simple stir and roll crust which uses oil instead of shortening.  It is nice and thin, and serves as the perfect vehicle for the rest of the pie. 

The last step involves mixing the yogurt cheese with sugar, vanilla and chopped strawberries; then pouring that mixture in the crust and topping/decorating with strawberry halves.  It is all very easy.

Now I do not want to mislead you into believing this pie is a replica of its sugary, fat-laden counterpart because it is not. It is, however, delicious, light and healthy!  It’s a wonderful summer dessert!

 Happy pre-Fourth of July and have a great weekend!

Fresh Strawberry Pie ~ Lightened up!
Yields 8 servings

16 oz plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (adjust amount to taste and the sweetness of your berries)
1 cup diced strawberries
approximately 1/2-1 pound strawberries, halved (the amount depends on the size of your berries)
1 tablespoon strawberry preserves (optional) – amount many vary depending on size of strawberries
1 Stir ‘n Roll Pie Crust (recipe below)

  1. Make yogurt cheese:  Arrange wire strainer lined with double thickness cheesecloth (or coffee filters) over bowl.  Spoon yogurt into lined strainer; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until liquid has drained from yogurt and yogurt is very thick (16-24 hours).  Discard liquid.
  2. Combine yogurt cheese, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and diced strawberries.
  3. Pour yogurt mixture in cool pie crust, spreading evenly.  Top with strawberry halves.
  4. Optional (see note below):  Microwave strawberry preserves for 5-10 seconds, just to melt it.  Then with a spoon or silicone pastry brush, brush the strawberries with preserves. 
  5. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until serving.

Note:  If you do not plan on serving this immediately, I highly recommend using the preserves in order to seal and preserve the appearance of the berries.  It gives them a little shine as well, which can be nice.

Stir ‘n Roll Pie Crust
Yields 1 9″ pie crust

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons cold skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour and salt; stir in oil and milk just until blended. Form dough into a smooth ball.
  3. Dampen counter top.  Place 12 x 15 inch sheet of waxed paper on dampened counter.  Place pastry on paper; cover with another sheet of waxed paper.  Roll dough into a 12 inch circle, turning dough and paper over once to roll evenly.
  4. Peel off top paper.  Lift dough and paper, and place dough-side down in pie plate, fitting dough to the plate.  Carefully peel off the remaining paper. 
  5. Trim edge so it fits evenly with the pie plate.  Prick dough with fork, and press edges with tines of fork. 
  6. Bake until golden brown (12 to15 minutes).  Remove to wire rack to cool.

Adapted from The Best of Byerly’s Cookbook