Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Growing up, banana muffins were always one of my favorite treats, but with the rate at which we went through bananas, we hardly ever had any that lasted until they were overripe. (They called me “Monkey” for a reason!) However, now my husband and I always seem to have plenty of overripe bananas on hand, so this Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Bread is our go-to recipe.

The bread features warm fall spices, rich dark chocolate, and a splash of rum for good measure. I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread, but use coconut oil and a flax egg to make it vegan. I also reduce the sugar, use whole wheat pastry flour, substitute rum for bourbon, and add a generous dose of chocolate for good measure.

I also just want to add a side note about freezing bananas. Previously frozen bananas work great in this recipe, but you’ll want them to get to room temperature first. The coconut oil with it’s high freezing point will start to solidify shortly after adding it to the bananas. However, if you aren’t concerned with making it a vegan recipe, you could always use melted butter and then it should be less of an issue.

I hope you give this recipe a try and I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below! Happy fall baking!

Makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 Tbs. ground flaxseed

3 Tbs. hot water

3 large, ripe, mashed bananas

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup white sugar

1 Tbs. molasses

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 Tbs. spiced rum (optional)

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk the flaxseed and hot water to make an “egg”. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the mashed banana and coconut oil.* Then add the sugar, molasses, vanilla, and rum (if using).

Add the spices followed by the baking soda and salt. Finally, add the flour and mix until just combined, being sure not to over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

*Note: Make sure the bananas aren’t cold if they were previously frozen. Coconut oil has high freezing point and will start to solidify if the other ingredients aren’t at room temperature.

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Couscous Salad with Kale and Blueberries

Even though it’s a week after Labor Day and the kids are back in school (myself included), there’ll still be plenty of nice weekends to cookout and have picnics. This couscous salad is light and fresh and is the perfect side dish to any meal. Not only that, but it’s super quick and easy for those rushed evenings you need something fast and preferably healthy. Go ahead and give it a try–I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Salad

1 cup Israeli pearl couscous, dry

6 cups chopped kale (thick stems removed)

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

4 oz queso fresco, crumbled

1 avocado, diced (optional)

Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 Tbs raw honey

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Let cool and place it in a large bowl. Combine with the kale, blueberries, chickpeas, cheese, and avocado (if using).

In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Enjoy!

Adapted from the Kristine’s Kitchen recipe: Kale Quinoa Salad with Blueberries

Milk and Honey™ Chocolate Cupcakes

Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m really excited to finally be posting this cupcake recipe. It’s one I actually made a while back in collaboration with Lauren and the Foreign and Milk and Honey™. Lauren (my sister) and her friend Julia (aka the foreign) are lifestyle bloggers who create a bunch of fun cocktails. One of their favorite products is Milk and Honey™ which is a cream liqueur made of date honey.

In these chocolate cupcakes, I use the Milk and Honey™ kind of like you would use Irish cream. I added some to the whipped cream filling and in the rich chocolate frosting for a little extra spike. Of course, you can always omit the alcohol to make these kid-friendly or if you just want a milder flavor.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup brewed Purity Coffee (must be hot)

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup melted butter

Filling

8 oz. heavy cream

1/4 cup Milk and Honey ™ cream liquer

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla

Frosting

Powdered sugar

Unsweetened cocoa

Butter

Milk and Honey ™

Cream or half and half

Directions

Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12 count muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Bloom the cocoa powder by dissolving it in the hot coffee. Let stand for 2-3 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add the vinegar, vanilla, melted butter, and coffee/cocoa mixture. Stir until combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

When the cupcakes are cool, use a cupcake corer (or a small spoon/knife) to remove the center of each cupcake. Set aside the cake that’s removed.

Filling

Using a hand or stand mixer, start by whipping the cream. As it starts to stiffen, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Once they are mixed in, add the Milk and Honey ™ cream liqueur and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Adjust the amount of liqueur per your preferences.

Scoop the whipped cream into a piping bag with a coupler attached. No tip is necessary. Pipe the whipped cream into the middle of the cupcakes and cover the top with the cake that was removed.

Frosting

Start by adding about 4 cups of powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer and add a few tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder about 1/3 cup of softened butter. For the liquid, you can use any combination of cream and Milk and Honey ™. (We opted for more liquer and less cream, but it all depends on how strong you like it!)

Whip the frosting until it is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Adjust the amount of cocoa to get the desired degree of chocolate flavor. If it’s too thick, add more liquid and if it’s too soft add more sugar. Finally, scoop the frosting into a piping bag equipped with Wilton tip 1M and swirl the frosting over each cupcake. Enjoy!

Sunshine Blogger Award

A while back, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award by Sa from Culture Shocks. Thank you so much for the nomination! I wish I could have gotten to this sooner. It really means a lot though and I always appreciate the support. Be sure to take a moment and check out her blog! Below are the rules for how the award works.

Rules

  1. Thank your nominator and provide a link to his/her blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
  3. Nominate other bloggers by commenting on one of their posts and providing a link to their blog.
  4. Write the nominees 11 new questions.
  5. Write the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award.

Answers

  • What are your plans for the the summer? I’m casually working three jobs, applying to veterinary school, competing at horse shows, and getting married in 55 days! Enough to keep me busy to say the least.
  • What place in the world would you want to visit? Italy, Iceland, and Banff National Park to name a few. Even though travelling is super stressful for me, there’s a ton of places I want to go!
  • Which book had an impact on your life? The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein makes me really wonder if my dog can understand everything I tell her.
  • If you were an animal, what animal would you be? My go-to answer for this question is always a horse because they’re my favorite and I kind of eat like a horse (i.e. apples, carrots, watermelon, bananas, kiwi etc). But if you ask my fiancé , I think he’d tell you I’m much more of a koala 🙂
Jenna Suzanne Photography
  • What is your favorite memory from your childhood? Oh man, I could go on for a long time on these! But when we were little, my mom would take bike trips to Vermont in the summer and our dad would stay home with us. My mom would get us disposable cameras and bury them in the yard for us to find with a scavenger hunt. Then we could take pictures of our fishing adventures and shenanigans while she was gone.
  • What is your creative style? If you’re curious, here’s a quiz! For me, creativity is a release.
  • What have you done to pursue your dreams lately? How about today? Lately, I’ve been working on my application to veterinary school and all my jobs are animal related, so I’m getting a lot of experience that way.
  • When you think of your home, what immediately comes to mind? Home? If I’m wrapped up in Daniel’s arms, I’m there 🙂
Jenna Suzanne Photography
  • Describe the greatest adventure of your life? After graduating high school, Lauren and I traveled solo to Costa Rica to stay with family friends. It was really fun to experience a culture that is so drastically different from Wisconsin. If you haven’t been there already, I highly recommend! You can read more about our adventure here!
  • When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? A few weeks ago, I had to learn to drive the ATV at work. That’s scary stuff. But I did it anyway because A) I was told to and B) the comfort zone is not a place for growth!

Nominees

Questions

  1. Who or what inspired you to start blogging?
  2. What is a stereotype that you break?
  3. What is a recipe you’ve always wanted to try?
  4. What is something you love about your hometown?
  5. What is something you wish more people in society understood?
  6. When was a time that your determination really paid off?
  7. Describe the best prank you’ve ever pulled. (Or one that’s been pulled on you!)
  8. Tell about a favorite family tradition.
  9. What is one skill you think everyone should know how to do?
  10. What is your favorite type of music? Why does it appeal to you?
  11. What is something you want to learn to do?

Thanks again for the nomination and I can’t wait to read all the responses to these questions! Happy blogging! 🙂

–Rachel Alexandra

Fresh Strawberry Pie

May. School was finally out! I woke up early to the fresh summer breeze rustling through my curtains as the sun tried to peek through. Birds sang in the woods nearby. Summer was not a time for sleeping in. I went outside for my morning chores, feeding the dog, chickens, and pony. On my way back inside to enjoy my breakfast on the back porch, I made sure to peek in the strawberry beds. The blossoms were gradually forming into berries–it wouldn’t be long!

By the end of May, the first ripe strawberry would appear. Of course Lauren and I would argue over who got the first one…or we’d have to cut it in half. But as we got into June, berries were in full swing and we couldn’t seem to keep up with them! My mom bustled around the kitchen making jam, muffins, mascarpone pie, and strawberry rhubarb coffeecake. We’d pile them on pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or just eat them straight out of the patch. But you couldn’t call it June in our house without a fresh strawberry pie!

Note: this pie is best enjoyed on the back porch during thunderstorms on a cool summer night.

An essential part of this recipe is using a pie crust from scratch. I’m still perfecting my technique and don’t really have a recipe because I learned from my grandma who goes by guess! But I hope to master the art of pie crusts soon and share the recipe when I have it!

Ingredients

Pie

1 9-inch homemade pie crust, baked

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (local and organic is best)

1/3 cup raw honey

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tbs cornstarch

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp butter

Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Pie

Take half of the strawberries and cut off the stems. Then arrange the berries on the baked pie crust, hull side down.

In a saucepan, put the rest of the strawberries, honey, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Cook on medium/low until combined and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Allow the sauce to cool before pouring over the strawberries and pie crust. Chill before serving with homemade whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks begin to form. Slowly add the vanilla and sugar and continue whipping until it reaches desired consistency. Scoop a generous dollop on a slice of pie and enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

Today I want to share a new salmon recipe that’s perfect for this time of year when asparagus is in season! This is also a great option for Friday night if you’re craving fish, but want a heart-healthy option instead of beer-battered fish fry. It’s a very simple recipe, super quick, but loaded with flavor! If you want to work ahead and get even more flavor, you could try marinating the salmon with the lemon and garlic beforehand.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Asparagus

1 bunch fresh asparagus

1 clove garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Salmon

2 large wild caught salmon fillets (or four small ones)

2 cloves garlic

1 small lemon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice asparagus into 4 inch spears and arrange on a baking sheet. Mince one clove of garlic and sprinkle on the asparagus. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, rotating the pieces every 15 minutes. Cooking time varies based on the size of asparagus.

While the asparagus is roasting, prepare the salmon. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (if not non-stick) and lightly grease with olive oil. Mince two cloves of garlic and zest the lemon. Place salmon fillets in the pan skin down. Sprinkle with garlic and lemon zest. Then squeeze the lemon juice on the salmon and add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The fillets should be opaque and flaky when done. Enjoy!