Chocolate Banana Muffin Bars

Can you believe we are already 11 days away from the end of May, and about to enter Summer? I can’t stand how time is flying right now and that our son is two months old. I remember writing recipes in October, basking in the second trimester glory, anticipating what the end result will be, and boy was it a journey (interested in my story? Here’s the link to my blog post).

This recipe was sitting in my notes on my phone for a very long time, probably since September last year, when I wrote it down while I was contemplating what to do with overripe bananas, because regardless of a pandemic or not, I always have at least two bananas that are about to RIP. Scrolling through my recipes I stumbled upon it again and as the ingredients are pretty simple, I decided that it’s about time I make it and see how it turns out – the result is AMAZING. Even my husband said they were good, and he is my biggest critic when it comes to cooking and baking.

These muffin bars are gluten free and made with Thrive Market cassava flour, calls for just one cup of sugar (both coconut and cane), two ripe bananas, and one of my favorite chocolates from Hu Kitchen. What I love about this recipe is that the bars came out so fluffy with a perfectly golden bottom, each bite has a delicate flavor of banana, and the chocolate literally came oozing out. This recipe yields approximately 12 smaller bars, but that depends on how you slice it 🙂

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (you could sub almond or oat milk too)
  • Vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Cassava Flour
    • You can find my favorite cassava flour on Thrive Market –> hit the banner to the right and it’ll bring you there!
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • (I do recommend Hu Kitchen because they are a paleo-friendly and “back to human” style eatery located in NYC but you can find their products here. I LOVE their crackers too!

Preheat your oven to 375* and pre-grease a 9×9″ brownie or baking tin. Begin by adding the wet ingredients into a bowl (eggs, bananas, vanilla, sugars, and milk). Blend to combine. Then layer in the dry ingredients – I like to pour the flour in a bit at a time so that it doesn’t fly everywhere. Mix to combine until smooth, there will be some chunks because of the banana.

Add in the 1/2 cup of chocolate (I coat the chocolate with some flour so that it does not sink to the bottom) and fold in with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Pour into the tin and bake for 20-23 minutes. Let sit and spread on some almond butter, a dollop of whipped cream, or eat them all in one sitting with a cup of coffee and Bravo Below Deck marathon… no judgment. Stay safe friends!

French Onion Burgers

The weather is officially changing. Lawns are getting mowed, people are power-washing their homes, and opening up their pools. Yep, it’s almost summertime. That means lots of BBQ meals and dinners outside, except we have to socially distance and wear a mask. Honestly, after a few weeks it’ll feel more “normal,” even though everyday there’s more sadness with lives lost and more confirmed cases. Nevertheless, we persevere and continue to stay at home and cook – so I decided to make burgers!

Something about making burgers puts a smile on my face. Handcrafting the patties, choosing my own seasonings, and throwing them on a grill or a hot skillet gets me in the best mood – and I think we could all use some mood boosting recipes amirite? This burger has four seasonings to it and is donned with some classic caramelized onions and provolone cheese, sandwiched between a hearty potato bun. I had the last of them this afternoon for my lunch because they were THAT good. Also, a side of homemade fries and roasted squash isn’t too bad either. (working to perfect the fries so that’ll come sometime soon!)

Here’s what you’ll need for these burgers:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • Package of potato rolls
  • Arrowroot or cornstarch (to thicken onions as they caramelize)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Onion salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Adobo
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Take your ground beef out approximately 20-30 minutes before handling, you want any meat to be relatively room temperature before manipulating. Add to a bowl and add in the seasonings, remember to be generous here as you want the burgers to be juicy and flavorful. Form patties by grabbing a fitsfull of meat and gently pressing into a circle, you don’t need a perfectly shaped patty and you want them to be loose (not super compact). Place on a plate and set aside.

Slice your onions and add to a pan with melted butter. Let them sweat and become aeromatic, stirring and letting the butter marinade into them. They will begin to soften and turn brown around 5 minutes, lower the flame and add arrowroot or cornstarch (arrowroot is a substitute from cornstarch and is less of an allergy than corn, plus it’s considered a healthier alternative and less processed). Continue to cook the onions on a low flame until they become super soft, holding their shape but are a golden brown. Turn off flame and set aside.

Use a non-stick skillet or even a cast iron (I was lazy and didn’t feel like taking mine out) and heat on medium high heat. Spray the pan with some cooking spray and add the burgers (I did three at a time). Cook for 3-4 minutes or your desired doneness. Flip and add the provolone to melt, another 3 minutes. Layer onto the buns and add some onions on top and voila, French Onion burger. Not so bad right? Get that grill going and crack open a White Claw – or a regular beer – and enjoy!

Balsamic Penne Caprese with Spinach

Stay at home week 9. We officially have a two month old (on Sunday the 17th) and I cannot believe how time flies in a matter of a snap. I kind of wish time would go quicker so I can have family and friends over again, be close enough to hug again, enjoy a brunch cocktail at a restaurant again, but all in good time. This time spent at home with Rowen is something that not many new moms experience so I am eternally grateful to have this special bond with him, and more time with my husband too. Having more time at home also allows me to be in my kitchen more which I will never complain about.

I’m going to officially call this week pasta week, because I’ve made pasta twice already, including the dish I’m sharing on the blog today: penne pasta with tomato and mozzarella (caprese) tossed in a homemade balsamic sauce/glaze with sautĂ©ed spinach. As most recipes do, this one came to me in the shower. Don’t judge me. I think a lot in the shower and I had a vision for a lighter, vegetable-based, with a touch of sweetness pasta dinner that would be good with a variety of mix-ins. Caprese, which is simply tomato and mozzarella, is delicious on its own, so to throw it together with penne pasta, a homemade balsamic glaze, and add in some spinach, what’s not to love?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pkg penne pasta ( I did NOT make this recipe gluten free but I imagine any gluten free pasta would do, Banza in particular or Jovial – found on Thrive Market – link to the site on the banner on the right!)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pint fresh mozzarella balls “ciliegine” style (size of a cherry tomato)
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil (to sautĂ© the spinach)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Oregano
  • Dried Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the pasta:

  • SautĂ© the spinach on the stove with the butter and set aside (the spinach will wilt and become half the portion you put in).
  • Take out the mozzarella balls from its container and put into a separate bowl to let them dry. Rinse and quarter the grape tomatoes – set aside as well.
  • Prepare your pasta as described by the package and drain. Pour pasta into a large serving bowl.

For the balsamic:

  • Pour the cup of balsamic into a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  • Add in the coconut or brown sugar and maple syrup.
  • Whisk together and bring to a boil, stir for 3-4 minutes until it becomes a little thicker.
  • Turn off heat or set to a very low flame, be careful not to burn.

Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach in with the pasta and mix. Pour the balsamic sauce/glaze all over and mix together. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried basil, and oregano. Serve with a side of garlic bread, a glass of Montepulciano, and a new show on Netflix and you’ve got yourself a great evening. NOMaste 🙂

Sausage and Peppers

Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Donuts and coffee. Okay, the donuts and coffee doesn’t necessarily fit the analogy, but I can always go for a donut when I have coffee it sort of counts. Classic pairings are sometimes even more delicious than getting ultra creative and trying hard in the kitchen. During today’s current reality (I REFUSE to say new normal, because nothing about this is normal, it’s our current reality and if things shift afterwards – hopefully they do – it will be our new reality), it’s damn near impossible to order groceries on whatever site you use, grab a delivery slot, and get everything you hoped for. Sometimes, we have make do with what we have, and that’s what sausage and peppers was for me.

I’m a purist when it comes to certain foods, and sausage is one of them. I’m not a huuuge turkey or chicken sausage fan, I just feel like the flavor in pork sausage tastes better, and it’s higher fat for a reason! Trader Joe’s makes an awesome pork and beef uncured sausage link pack that I am dying to grab again, when I am brave enough to venture to stores. I had a pack in the freezer and decided “THIS is a good time to take these out and make lunch with them.” I had also ordered several bell peppers from the previous week’s grocery delivery, so AHA!… let’s make sausage and peppers. I’d like to take a moment to settle a debate here too: I despise green peppers. There is no room for them at the table: they smell and taste like dirt and are super bitter. I prefer orange and yellow bell peppers and usually have them on hand.

Here’s what you’ll need for this super simple and tasty dish:

  • 1 pkg sausage (I’ll allow turkey or chicken substitutes here), sliced into small rounds
  • 2 medium peppers, julienned (sliced thin)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Your favorite spicy seasoning – I use a fajita mix or cajun mix, I would also use New Bae seasoning from Primal Palate, found here!

Start by heating a large sauté pan with the olive oil. Throw in the peppers and let them cook down until they begin to sweat and slightly brown, this will be around 5-7 minutes. Throw in the sliced sausage and sprinkle in your seasoning. Cook until the sides of the sausage are browned and the peppers are soft.

This dish is perfect on its own, over orzo pasta, paired with rice, or can be tossed with other roasted veggies. I will also say this stays well in the fridge so it’s a perfect stay-at-home meal prep for lunches. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Banana Bread

I admit this was not supposed to be a banana bread. I had every intention of making my almond butter collagen muffins (linked here!) and instead decided on pouring the entire batter into a loaf pan and praying it came out edible. If you know me, you know I’ve struggled with a banana bread recipe, and I can get quite stubborn when trying to figure out the measurements. For this recipe though, I did actually swap out a few ingredients, add in some, and eliminate collagen altogether. Thankfully, this time around it came out damn near perfect, and tastes SO good that it’s already gone. I’ll blame my insatiable hunger from breastfeeding on that.

Now that I’m not completely novice to baking, and from chatting with some close girlfriends who love to bake, I have come to the conclusion that not everything needs (or should) be substituted with healthier ingredients. Sometimes, recipes require specific measurements of particular ingredients and I find that swapping more than maybe one or two (possibly three if you have done it before – which in this case gluten free, all purpose flour) can alter the authenticity of the recipe, thus resulting in poor taste and texture. For this banana bread, I nixed the collagen, swapped whole milk for almond milk, used an all-purpose gluten free flour, and added chocolate chips. I truly think that this banana bread worked so well because it has minimal swaps, I’ve used the flour before (Bob’s Red Mill all purpose GF flour is amazing!), and almond milk is not too hard of a swap anyway. I will be making this again in a few days as my bananas go bad – or I just “happen to forget about them.” The texture in this bread is spongey, with a soft and chewy mouthfeel, the perfect hint of banana and almond butter, and the right amount of sweetness from the coconut sugar and banana.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 large ripe banana (I mean LARGE)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp (or really large spoonfuls) of almond butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 1/4 cup GF all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • *note: toss the chocolate chips in some flour before adding to batter so that they do not fall to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375* and grease a loaf pan with oil spray or butter. Whisk together the banana, almond milk, sugar, eggs, extract, almond butter, and avocado oil in a medium sized bowl until everything is JUST combined, try not to over mix. In a separate bowl or in a measuring cup, add the flour, soda, powder, and salt and whisk together. Add a bit of flour into the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Continue to pour the flour into the wet mixture as you mix little by little. Once all the flour is mixed in, add the chocolate chips and fold using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Pour into the loaf pan.

Top the mixture Bake for 40-45 minutes, testing the inside of the bread with a knife; if it comes out clean then it is done! The result is a decadent, tasty, perfectly baked gluten and dairy-free banana bread you can hoard all to yourself, just like I did! NOMaste and stay safe!