Fab Find: Wholesome Cravings Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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I generally avoid pre-packaged gluten-free items.  They may not have gluten, but they’ve usually got a lot of other gunk I don’t want.  Even if they have good ingredients, they often taste bad.  Wholesome Cravings avoids both those problems.  The ingredients are great, and the muffins taste wonderful!  Mike is not a Greek yogurt kinda guy.  Having healthy, delicious breakfast options for him is critical, and if it’s easy for me to make, that seals the deal.

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I found the mixes – Banana Chocolate, Pumpkin Spice and Decadent Chocolate Chip – at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill while we were staying in Stowe, Vermont.  I was jazzed when I read the ingredients.  There is nothing funky!  Even better, the mixes call for mashed fresh banana or pumpkin puree instead of oil, and you can choose your own sweetener!  How nice to be able to use the sweetener you like best: Splenda, Truvia, stevia, maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar.  Plus, these muffins are dairy-free AND packed with protein, so you’re really starting your day off right when you eat these yummies for breakfast.

I stocked up when we were in Vermont, but I’m glad to know I can also order the mixes online.  I’ll have to try the Apple Ginger next!

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Nutella Rocky Road Brownies

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I was inspired to make these for a ladies’ bible study that I attended while visiting my mum in New Hampshire. The rich, extra chocolaty brownies, accompanied by cups of strong, black tea, were the perfect way to counteract the bleak, wintry New England weather and invigorate the morning’s spiritual discussion.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of your favorite brownie mix, with additional ingredients as called for on the package
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spritz a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick buttery spray.
  • Prepare the brownie mix according to the package’s instructions.
  • Mix in Nutella, stirring until thoroughly blended.
  • Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.
  • Bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle marshmallows on top.
  • Bake 5-10 minutes more, until marshmallows turn golden brown.
  • Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Romantic Breakfast

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My husband’s birthday happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, so the opportunities for a using a heart motif are endless.  I saw this idea on Hoosier Homemade and was drawn to its simplicity and charm.  I found the heart-accented champagne flute at Walmart. For less than a buck each, it was more than worth it to snap up two of them.

No need to limit this breakfast idea to birthdays or Valentine’s Day. A heart theme can convey love at any time to anyone.

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Take two rolls from a tube of refrigerated cinnamon rolls and form them into a rustic heart shape. One tube will make four hearts.
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You can either tint the cream cheese glaze that comes with the tube, or you can buy another glaze. In this case, I used some red sparkly glaze along with the cream cheese drizzle.

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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Outrageously Easy Monkey Bread

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This delicious monkey bread is a breeze to prepare.  I baked it on Christmas morning, for the family to munch on before opening presents. It set a warm and sweet tone for the special day.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough (or your own favorite pizza dough recipe)

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Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium size zip-top bag, combine sugar and apple pie spice.
  • Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces.
  • Put a few at a time into the zip-top bag and shake to coat with spiced sugar.
  • Repeat until all the pieces are coated.
  • Spritz a bundt pan with non-stick buttery spray and arrange the dough pieces in it.
  • Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar.
  • Pour the butter mixture on top of the dough.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Let cool for a few minutes and carefully turn out onto a serving tray.

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Gingerbread Cake Bites

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Sometimes you find the niftiest things in the most unexpected places.  I made these merry mini men from a cake pop kit I found at the CVS while I was picking up a prescription.

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The kit was remarkably comprehensive with gingerbread cake mix, vanilla frosting mix, cinnamon melting wafers, confetti sprinkles, a gingerbread man cutter, cake pop sticks and a piping bag for the frosting.  The only ingredients I needed to add were butter, an egg, some powdered sugar and water.

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First, I mixed the cake ingredients.  While it was baking, I whipped up the frosting.  After the cake had cooled, I crumbled the cake and mixed in half the frosting until the dough could be shaped into balls.  Then, I rolled it out between two sheets of freezer paper and chilled it.  (Parchment can also be used.)  After chilling to firm up the dough, I used the cutter to form tiny gingerbread men before popping them in the freezer again for 20 minutes.

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The directions advise rolling the cake mixture to 3/4 of an inch thick.  I didn’t do that, so my men were too thin to hold a cake pop stick.  No worries; I decided to make cake bites, instead of pops.

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Once the cinnamon wafers were melted, I slid each little guy onto a fork and dipped ’em one at a time into the coating, tapping off the excess.  I piped frosting on to hold the confetti buttons and then tucked the whole batch back into the freezer for a final chilling.

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The kit certainly made this an easy treat to make for the party I brought them to.  The directions were spot on, and the flavor was great.  They’d be simple enough to make on your own, though.  All you’d need is your favorite gingerbread cake recipe, your favorite frosting recipe, a small gingerbread cookie cutter, some cinnamon or chocolate melts and candy accents for decorating.

Secret Ingredient Strawberry Pie

Take your fruit pie to the next level by adding something unexpected: crystallized ginger.  Just a couple of pieces, finely diced and tossed with the berries, enhances the flavors of the fruit and the crust, adding depth and sophistication.

If you’re like me and Mike, you may not able to let it cool enough to allow the filling to firm up.  That’s okay.  It’s delicious whether you’re using a spoon or a fork!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box packaged pie crust (should contain two crusts)
  • 1 can raspberry pastry & cake filling
  • 1 16-ounce bag of frozen strawberries (or use a 24-ounce bag of fruit and skip the raspberry filling)
  • 1/2 cup of Truvia (or 1 cup of sugar)
  • 1 to 2 ounces of cornstarch
  • 2 pieces of crystallized ginger, finely diced

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Press one unbaked pie crust into the bottom of a pie pan.
  • Spread raspberry filling over the crust.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together Truvia and cornstarch and set aside.
  • Remove the berries from the freezer and toss them, along with the pieces of ginger, with the Truvia mixture to coat them completely.
  • Cut second pie crust into strips.
  • Pour the berries over the raspberry filling.
  • Weave lattice strips over the top of the berry mixture.
  • Chill for 20 minutes or until ready to bake.
  • Bake the pie centered on the lowest rack of the preheated oven for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.
  • Drop the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and continue baking until the top is golden brown the the filling is bubbling up through the lattices.
  • If parts of the crust begin to look too dark, cover these spots with patches of foil to protect them from burning.
  • Cool pie for 30 minutes before serving.  Or, dig into the warm, gooey goodness immediately.  It tastes phemonenal either way!