Raspberry Coconut Almond Muffins

My family and muffins get along pretty well, I must admit. They're substantial enough to serve as breakfast, yet small enough to pass off as an evening snack. They're portable and adorable. They're individually baked, so portion control is not something to worry about. They're essentially perfect. But homemade, wholesome, healthier, made-with-natural-ingredients muffins are what I'm talking about. Not those butter-laden, sugary, heavy muffins you'd buy at Starbucks.

These delicious muffins get their moistness from the almond flour, eggs, a mere two tablespoons of coconut oil, greek yogurt and honey. Such wonderful ingredients! The coconut adds a lovely tropical flavor and aroma as well as some great texture!

They're very similar to these blueberry muffins. They get a soft creamy texture from the almond flour based batter, a burst of tartness from the raspberries, crunch from the sprinkled almonds and coconut and great undertones from the dessicated coconut in the batter. In short: they're great!

They're simple to throw together and will more than satisfy any sugar cravings!

Makes 6-7 hearty-sized muffins
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
4-5 tbsp dessicated coconut
1/2 cup washed, dried and chopped raspberries tossed in 1 tbsp flour
sliced almonds, for sprinkling
shreds of coconut, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a muffin tray with 6-7 muffin liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (almond flour to salt).

In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy, then add in the coconut oil, greek yogurt, honey and vanilla and mix again.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined.

Mix in the dessicated coconut, making sure not to overmix. Gently fold in the chopped raspberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray and top each muffin with a few sliced almonds and a light sprinkling of coconut.  Bake the muffins for 17-20 minutes until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.



Twisting It Up with Carrot Banana Bread

Banana bread is good. It's real good. It's comfort food at it's finest. It's the kinda thing that makes your house smell all homely and wonderful when it's baking. Think about that warm cinnamon and banana aroma just spreading throughout your home...Mmmm.

And then there's carrot cake. It's a classic. Moist, rich cake topped with indulgent cream cheese frosting. The kind of thing you wish you could convince yourself is healthy because it has carrots, but you know it wouldn't be right. Because healthy would mean you could eat it for breakfast, and let me assure you, carrot cake is not something you should be eating for breakfast often!

Sorry to spoil the fun. I'm all for the "cake for breakfast" deal, but the traditional carrot cake just doesn't cut it. Anyways, I'm sidetracking. Close your eyes. Now just imagine for a moment if you could combine banana bread with carrot cake. Wouldn't that be amazing? Now imagine if you could eat that creation for breakfast. Wouldn't that be even better? Now open your eyes. You're looking at the carrot banana bread combination that tastes like those two classic combined and that's (genuinely!) healthy enough for breakfast!

One bite and you'll be sold. It tastes indulgent enough to satisfy any sugar cravings, light enough not to make you feel guilty, and yummy enough that you seriously won't believe it's "healthified".

If you want to give this cake a slightly more dessert-y feel, a low fat cream cheese frosting and some chopped nuts would do just the trick. I, however, omitted the frosting and went for a drizzle of glaze instead. It adds that punch of extra sweetness, ups the cake's presentation, yet doesn't add too much to the cake itself.

I added chopped raisins to the batter, but dried pineapple, chopped nuts or even shredded coconut would work as well. Not adding anything is a great option too!

Also, be sure to grate your carrot in the largest holes because that way, you'll be able to see all those nice shreds of carrot when you slice into the loaf. Else, finely grated carrot would just be meshed into the batter such that it may lend a slightly orange tinge to the loaf but you won't necessarily be able to see it. One more thing to note: I didn't completely mush my bananas. I mashed them but left a few small chunks. When baked, the chunks become gooey and soft and are just so delicious to bite into! If you haven't already noticed, I'm a big fan of texture!

For the cake:
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup baby oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup chopped raisins or other add-ins (I used black raisins because I didn't have any golden on hand, but both work just as well)

For the glaze:
(sorry, I didn't measure quantities!)
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 175 C. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add in the oats and stir to combine.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg and whisk in the mashed banana, sugar and vanilla until well mixed and creamy. Mix in coconut oil and milk. Then fold in the grated carrots.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined. You don't want to overmix otherwise you'll have a tough and gummy cake... and no one wants that! Gently fold in the chopped raisins.

Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (a few crumbs clinging on are ok!).

Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, mix together powdered sugar and milk until it forms a glaze consistency. Apologies for the lack of explanation here! Drizzle the glaze on top of the completely cooled loaf.

Cut into slices and serve. Enjoy!


PB&J Crumble Bars: A Classic Reinvented!

Ask me five years ago and peanut butter and jelly (I call this jam, but for now let's just go with PB&J) sounded to me like the oddest combination ever. Yes, lots of my friends carried PB&Js to school or raved about the classic childhood sandwich, but I just couldn't get myself to fathom the concept.

Then, one day, I took a leap of faith. Crunchy peanut butter layered with raspberry jam and sandwiched between two slices of whole grain bread. It. Was. Bliss. Things haven't changed since then. I love any good PB&J (this means good peanut butter, delicious jam, and good bread), but my favorite would have to be crunchy peanut butter and raspberry jam. Sure, creamy peanut butter and blueberry, strawberry, grape etc. jams work, but crunchy and raspberry comes out on top.

Ok, I sidetracked a bit, and now it's time to get back to these bars. They're exactly like your favorite lunchbox sandwich, but revamped. It'd be safe to call these breakfast, a snack or even a healthy(ish) dessert!

They have a wonderful crumbly peanut butter oat base, topped with a thin layer of blueberry jam and some fresh blueberries (this combo gets all gooey and delicious when it's baked!) and topped with a sprinkling of more of that peanut butter crumble. You may be wondering why I went with blueberry and not raspberry given my flavor preference, and it's because the texture and way blueberries react to being baked work much better than raspberries. And although I hate to cheat on my beloved raspberry jam and peanut butter combo, this is just as delicious! You could, however, easily switch it up with any other fruit flavors ranging from strawberry, to raspberry, to grape to apricot. Keep in mind that I can't vouch for how well the fresh fruits of those varieties will work given the different moisture contents. 

For the base and crumble top:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup peanut butter, melted

For the filling:
1/3 cup fruit spread
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp peanut butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a square baking pan with baking paper and set aside.

Combine oats, flour, sugar, oil and peanut butter for the base/crumble in a bowl until large chunks form. Press 2/3 of the crumble mixture into the pan and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Set the other 1/3 aside for the topping. 

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Mix together the fruit spread and fresh blueberries. 

Once the 10 minutes is up, pull the base out of the oven. Spread the blueberry filling over the base evenly. Drizzle/swirl the peanut butter over the blueberry filling. Crumble remaining oat mixture over the PB&J filling, pressing down lightly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top. The inside filling will be oozing and bubbling! Cool completely before cutting into squares. I stored these in the fridge due to the moist filling, but if you think the environment is cool and dry enough, there's no need to refrigerate! As a matter of taste, I preferred them chilled and my parents liked them slightly warmed up, so it's really up to you. 

Cut into small squares if you want these to last long, but big ones if you really want to enjoy them! Perfect with a glass of cold milk.



One-Bowl Wholesome Carrot Apple Muffins

Carrots, apples, bananas. Then add other heart-healthy ingredients to bind them all together. Sound like the perfect breakfast muffin? It is! These one-bowl (yup!) wholesome carrot apple muffins are the epitome of delicious and healthy combined.

Perfect for an on-the-go breakfast or quick mid-day snack, these muffins pack a hearty punch! Not only does the sweetness come from natural and yummy ingredients, but all the fresh fruit replaces most of the added fat in this recipe, making sure to keep these muffins moist. The natural fruit flavors shine through just beautifully!

I made these muffins with just chopped almonds sprinkled on top for extra crunch and nutrition, but walnuts or any other nut, to be honest, would work just as well. I can't stand walnuts in my brownies, but love them in other banana-y/carrot-y baked goods. Unfortunately, my sister is allergic to walnuts so I always stay away from them. Raisins would also be a delicious, burst-of-sweetness addition to these great muffins.

My dad is a major fan of carrot baked goods, and this one was no exception. He doesn't have a crazy sweet tooth like us three girls, so if I get his approval on a recipe, I know it's just sweet enough. And why would you want more? You don't need to be eating a heavy, rich muffin for breakfast or anytime in the day. And that's why these do just the trick!

All they require is one bowl and some simple ingredients. What's holding you back?

Makes 8 large muffins
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 large banana, mashed
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 sweet apple, finely grated
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup baby oats
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup plain flour
chopped walnuts (optional)
chopped almonds (optional)
raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175 C. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg, coconut oil, mashed banana and agave together. Add sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, grated apple and whisk again to combine. Add milk and stir. Add grated carrot and stir again. 

Sift in flour, add in oats and almond flour and mix well until just combined. At this point, add in optional chopped nuts or raisins, if using, and mix.

Divide the batter among the muffin tins, filling them all the way to the top. Top each muffin with a sprinkling of chopped nuts.

Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is slightly darker than golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out essentially clean. 

Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.