Pineapple M&M Cake

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This Pineapple M&M Cake is inspired by a cake I saw at an Iron Skillet restaurant at a truck stop in California. It was so pretty with colorful mini M&Ms on top and plenty of sweet pineapple filling between layers of yellow cake. I had a single, luscious bite and instantly had a very strong urge to dash to the buffet and haul the entire cake over to our table. Good manners kept me from doing it, but it was a close call!

Here’s a recipe to try at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (to increase the pineapple flavor, sub 1/4 cup pineapple juice for part of the milk)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple filling
  • 1 can whipped white frosting (or your favorite homemade frosting)
  • 1 bag mini M&Ms

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour two round nine-inch cake pans.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  • When well incorporated, add the baking powder, and then the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating the two.
  • On medium speed, beat the batter for about 2 minutes, until thick and creamy.
  • Split the batter evenly between the two cake cake pans.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Set aside cakes to cool.
  • Spread about 1/2 a cup of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake, to about a 1/2 inch from the edge. Then top with the same amount of pineapple filling.
  • Carefully place the top layer on, and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle the top with mini M&Ms.

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Bittersweet Flourless Brownies

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I found this recipe over at My Whole Food Life. You could almost call these Fruit & Veggie Brownies because they’re made with black beans and unsweetened applesauce instead of flour and oil.  Somehow, though, I don’t think that would sound too appealing.  And it’d be shame to turn people off these goodies because they’re delicious.  Moist and fudgy.  So nice that they’re gluten-free and healthy for you!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bag (2 cups) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Blend the beans and the chocolate chips in a food processor.
  • Blend in the remaining ingredients until a smooth batter forms.
  • Spritz an 8×8 baking pan with non-stick buttery spray.
  • Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 mninutes.
  • Cut into squares and serve.
  • Store leftover brownies in the fridge.

Gluten-free low-sugar almond butter bars

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We just feel better when we avoid gluten and sugar, but that doesn’t mean our sweet-toothiness has left the building.

I adapted these nutty, chocolaty treats from Paleo Girl’s Kitchen.  The only change I made was using SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend instead of the organic coconut sugar.  I’m in my 11th year of maintaining my 100-pound weight loss, and calories are still important to me.

These bars warm up and get soft very quickly.  I recommend chilling them in the fridge overnight, and be sure to keep them in the fridge between bites, rather than leaving them on the counter.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend
  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter

Directions:

  • In a medium bowl, stir together the almond butter, coconut oil, almond flour and SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend until it is completely combined.
  • Press the mixture evenly into a square baking dish.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, mix chocolate chips and the 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
  • Melt in the microwave for 10-20 second-intervals, stirring and repeating until the chips are completely melted.
  • Pour the melted chocolate over the almond butter base and spread it into a thin layer.
  • Cut into bars and serve chilled.

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The cherry on top

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Cherry Hill Park has a lot going for it.  It’s the closest RV park to D.C.  It’s got free Wi-Fi that’s pretty fast and reasonably reliable.  There’re pools and a hot tub.  There’s a nature trail and a dog run.  The list goes on and on.  But the best thing, by far, is the on-site café that’s open til 9 p.m. every night and serves Broken Brownie Sundaes. 

This dessert is the ultimate in sweet tooth satisfaction.  It’s serious.  A giant brownie – double chocolate or chocolate peanut butter – is buried beneath an avalanche of ice cream that is drenched with chocolate syrup and wet or dry nuts.  The sprinkles and cherry bring the bowl to the brink of collapse, but it holds together long enough for you to get the monstrosity home.  Where, I discovered, the leftovers freeze beautifully for the next day.  Thank heavens for that because this thing could feed a small country for a week.  There’s just no way to rationalize eating the whole dish in one sitting, although it’s been done.  I’m not saying by us, mind you.  But, I’ve heard tell it’s been done.  By someone.  Someone other than us.  Someone who believes in ice cream for dinner. 

Life is short.  Eat the cherry on top.  And the stuff underneath the cherry, too.

 

Carmelized Bananas (primal/paleo/wheat belly)

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Since I started following a primal/almost paleo diet about a month ago, I haven’t really craved sweet things per se.  I have, however, craved dessert – some sort of ending to my meal that can’t always be achieved with a cup of tea.  These bananas deliver and provide some nutrition to boot.

Bananas have plenty of natural sugar so there’s no need to add any.  Just let the heat do its carmelizing thing and bring out all their sweet goodness. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to enhance the flavor even more.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Melt Smart Balance or butter in a small fry pan.
  • Add banana slices and cook to desired doneness.  I like mine with some crispy bits, so I let them cook a while.  If you prefer them without that, cook them for a shorter amount of time.  Either way, keep an eye on them because they can burn quickly.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg and serve.

Macaroon Bars (primal/paleo)

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These bars are great for satisfying what remains of your sweet tooth when you’re following a primal/paleo lifestyle.

There’s debate about Truvia’s place in this lifestyle; it’s not something Grok would have encountered in the wild. However, I like to use it in moderate amounts because it’s made with erythritol and stevia, both natural, non-caloric sweeteners, and because I still have to watch my calories.  Raw honey, while tasty, can add up, but feel free to use it if you’d prefer.  If you do that, you may be able to cut down on the number of egg whites needed to bind everything together.  You can also use vanilla extract instead of the almond.  It will all taste good!

Be sure to let the bars cool completely before slicing.  These are delicate culinary creatures that can crumble easily if you try to work with them too soon.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup Truvia Spoonable
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 8.8-ounce package reduced-fat, unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup cocoa nibs, optional

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Eating cocoa nibs can help you to get all of the health benefits of dark chocolate without all of the drawbacks of consuming the sugar contained in many chocolate products. Cocoa nibs also reportedly can boost your mood.

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  • Whisk together egg whites, Truvia, almond extract and salt in a medium bowl until glossy and Truvia is mostly dissolved.
  • Fold in the coconut, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  • Fold in cocoa nibs.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.

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Sweetheart Cupcakes

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Conversation hearts are a staple of Valentine’s Day, but they’re also great for other celebrations, like a birthday or a “thanks for your hard work” office party.  The brilliant folks at Brach’s know that we love customizing, so they came up with “Create Your Own” Large Conversation Hearts.  Now, we can spell out someone’s name or share whatever message we want on all kinds of baked goods!

I learned about these nifty hearts through the Hoosier Homemade blog and was inspired to bake a batch of cupcakes for my staff for Valentine’s Day this year, to let them know how much I appreciate their efforts.

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Hoosier Homemade has a great recipe for making boxed cake mix taste like you created it from scratch.  I used those “secret ingredients” in these treats and got rave reviews.  To keep it simple and easy, I used prepared strawberry frosting.

Since I’m now following a primal/paleo eating plan, I’m proud to say that I did not eat any of these cupcakes.  I love baking for people and seeing the delighted smiles on their faces when they see a tray of goodies. I didn’t want to have to give that up just because I’m not eating that way anymore.  I’m glad I don’t have to!

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