Gluten Free Avocado Brownies

Avocados are one of my favorite foods. Not only are they filling, but they taste good on any dish. I often put them in egg salad, on my morning eggs, or I cut one in half, slather some hot sauce on it and enjoy.

But avocados in brownies?! Hear me out.

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First of all, if you don’t already know, avocados are super healthy. The fat in avocados is the healthy kind (monounsaturated fatty acid, the same stuff you find in olive oil), they are loaded with fiber and they have been known to reduce cholesterol and relieve symptoms of arthritis.

Because avocados are a fat, they are fantastic substitutes for unhealthy fats (Crisco, I’m looking at you!) when baking. A few years ago, I made this “Chocolate” Mousse using avocado and it was super creamy and divine. Since I’ve recently started going gluten-free, I wanted a dessert that was on the healthier side, but still satisfied my sweet tooth.

Enter: Avocado Brownies.

A few tips when using this recipe:

  • It recommends using foil inside a baking pan. This is because the brownies are very fudgy and would likely stick to the pan. However, if you spray the pan, I think they would be fine. If I made this again, I’d try it without the foil.
  • LET THEM COOL! This is the hardest part. The brownies continue cooking once you pull them out of the oven, so it’s essential that you allow them to cool.
  • Store them in the fridge. Due to the texture, if you leave them on the counter like regular brownies, they will mold within a few days. You wouldn’t leave a sliced avocado on the counter, would you?

Gluten-Free Avocado Brownies (I used this recipe)

  • 1 Large Avocado (the one I used was pretty big in size, so if you have tiny ones, use two)
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. coconut sugar (If you don’t have coconut sugar, here are some substitutes) *You can also use 2 tsp. of light brown sugar for every 3 tsp. of coconut sugar in the recipe. Do not use dark brown sugar, as it has more of a molasses taste and will alter the outcome of the recipe.
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • chocolate chips (add as much or as little as you want!)

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8×8″ baking pan with foil (or not…read the notes above regarding my thoughts on this). Spray pan (or foil) with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, mash the avocado. If your avocado is difficult to mash, then it’s not ripe enough. It should mash very easily.
  • Add the melted butter, coconut sugar, egg, water and vanilla. You can either stir or use an electric mixer on low to combine everything.
  • Stir in cocoa powder. I didn’t use the mixer on this one since cocoa powder is so fine.
  • Stir in salt and gluten-free flour until just combined, then add the chocolate chips.
  • Spread the batter in the pan and smooth out until evenly combined. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the tops has just set (forget about using the “toothpick” method here…it won’t work!)
  • Let cool for about an hour and enjoy!
  • Don’t forget to store in the fridge for maximum freshness!

Let me know if you try this recipe…I’d love to hear how they turned out for you!

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Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

If you don’t have a bread machine, then I seriously urge you to ask Santa for one! Thanks to my mom, I can now make Eleven hundred billion types of bread!

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls became a family tradition once bread machines debuted. So, sometime in the 90’s, our family became accustomed to devouring freshly-baked bread items on the regular. One of my favorites were her cinnamon rolls, which she reserved for special occasions, specifically, Christmas morning.

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Mom probably got tired of my sister, dad and myself sneak-eating all of her Christmas cookies (it was mostly dad, I swear), and she most likely figured that a batch of cinnamon rolls made fresh on the morning of the best day of the year was a simple solution to her empty cookie tins in the freezer.

Given the fact that I’m now the proud owner of a bread machine, I had to give these rolls a go.

I will be straight-up with you and say that I FORGOT TO ADD WATER on my first attempt. I thought the dough looked rather dry…

Luckily, I am not a quitter, so I tried again. The results were rather tasty. I hope my colleagues have room for more sweets because these bad boys are coming to work with me tomorrow.

See below for mom’s recipe (and don’t forget the water!)

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Posted in Breads, Holidays, Rolls, Sweet Bread, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bistec Encebollado (Steak and Onions)

I recently did inventory on my cookbook collection and found a little (seriously, this thing is like novel-sized) cookbook that my husband’s parents gave to us. It’s called A Taste of Puerto Rico and is amazing. I knew I had hit a grand slam when my husband spotted the manzanilla olives, immediately opened the jar and began tossing them back like a 21-year-old swigs back shots of soco and lime.

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Bistec Encebollado, otherwise known as Puerto Rican Steak and Onions, is relatively easy to make and uses a cost-effective cut of beef, London Broil. I’m usually not a fan of the old LB, but in this case you cut it into fine strips and it cooks up nice and tender.  Serve this dish with rice and you’ll be hankering for leftovers at lunch the next day!

*Note: If you’re not a huge fan of olives, reduce the amount to 1/2 cup.

Puerto Rican Steak and Onions

*Adapted From: A Taste of Puerto Rico
  • 2 lbs. beef top round, sliced thin (London Broil works great)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 c. white vinegar
  • 1 c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 c. manzanilla olives
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups Spanish yellow onions, sliced

Pound the meat to tenderize it. Add salt and pepper and cut into thin strips. Set aside.

Combine the vinegar and 3/4 c. of olive oil. Add the olives and garlic and set aside.

Oil-vinegar mixture

Oil-vinegar mixture

Add the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil to a non-stick skillet on med-high heat. Sauté the onions and peppers slightly, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Turn heat to high (and open windows if your smoke alarm is the sensitive type) and add the beef, searing on both sides. Return pepper and onion to the skillet with the meat and pour the oil-and-vinegar mixture over the meat. Cook on medium to low heat, partially covered for about 20 minutes or until the meat is tender. Server over rice.

 

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Merry Minty!

Perhaps one of my favorite things about Christmas is that there are many minty treats to be had. I love any food item that is mint. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be a food item. If it’s mint, I’ll buy it.

I have always adored Andes Mints, so I thought, why not make cookies with them?

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I searched a long time for the perfect recipe and I definitely think, with a few tweaks here and there, I found it. Now, here’s hoping I don’t eat these all myself (quite possible!)

Merry Mint Cookies

Adapted From: Chocolate With Grace
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 egg

Mix the butter until fluffy, then add in the sugars. Once beaten, add the vanilla, peppermint and egg and beat until smooth.

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. mint chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. holiday chocolate chips
  • Andes Mints, unwrapped

Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the wet ingredients until blended. Add in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and bake for 9-11 minutes. As soon as you take them out of the oven, place an Andes mint on top. Let it melt, about 1-2 minutes, then spread with knife to get that chocolate swirl effect. You should have about 2 dozen cookies, in total (unless you eat a good portion of them immediately after they come out of the oven!)

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Monster Cookies, Holiday Style

When I was younger, my mom made the most delicious cookies ever and they were special because they included everything a kid likes: peanut butter, m&m’s, chocolate chips…need I say more?!

I purchased mini m&m’s from the best candy/popcorn/goodies store in Philly – Nuts-to-you. Seriously, they have everything a baker needs. And some things you don’t, but you buy anyway.

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I decided to make these festive by adding red and green chocolate chips. They make a bunch, but luckily, all of my co-workers are completely stressed out because we have 1.5 weeks of teaching left, so I’m sure they’ll disappear soon after I place them in the teachers’ lounge.

Monster Cookies

Recipe adapted from: Recipe Girl
  • 1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter

Mix the above ingredients until creamy. Then add the following:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Once blended, add the following:

  • 4 1/2 c.  quick cooking oats (give or take)
  • 1 c. holiday chocolate chips (red and green variety)
  • 1 c. mini m&m’s (plus more for topping)

Mix everything together, then dollop onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Place a few m&m’s (or a lot) on top for aesthetic purposes (and for all those choc-o-holics). Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.

Enjoy!

Posted in Cookies, Holidays | 2 Comments

Double Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Today I actually relaxed by wasting away on the couch watching “Gilmore Girls” (I’ve never seen all the seasons. I know, I know.) and I realized a few things:

1.) Lorelai is now younger than I am. She wasn’t in 2000.

2.) Rory has the hair I imagine mine would look like if I was ever patient enough to grow it out.

3.) I want Luke’s job so I can cook/bake/drink coffee all day and mainly be super snarky and get away with it.

4.) Tomorrow is Monday.

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Upon my realization of number four, I poured myself a healthy glass of fine boxed wine and browsed Pinterest. Drinking wine plus pinning ridiculously difficult (but pretty) home decorating ideas makes me happy. So does baking. Which leads me to this post.

I wanted to channel my inner Aunt Pam and bake a bunch of delicious cookies, freeze them, then give them out like candy to unsuspecting guests. Whenever I visit her, I leave with a plethora of baked goods that she magically pulls out of her freezer like she’s the David Copperfield of cookies.

Being that it’s fall and my husband recently bought me six pairs of stretchy, fleece tights as an early birthday gift, it’s okay to over-indulge on baked goods. And cheese (but I’ll leave the cheese-making to cheesemongers).

If you enjoy sweet and salty at the same time, then these cookies are a must.

Double Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

(Recipe Adapted From: Chocolate, Chocolate and More)

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Mix the above ingredients together and set aside.

In your stand mixer, mix the following until thoroughly blended:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Once mixed, slowly add the flour mixture. Then, add some crushed up pretzels. I put a few handfuls in a ziploc baggy and took a meat mallet to it. Whatever gets the job done, right?

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I then added a shit-ton of dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Really, there’s no such thing as too many here.

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Next, I chilled the dough for about 30 minutes, or the length of time it took us to eat dinner.

I baked them for about 8-10 minutes. They make about 3-4 dozen, depending on how big/small you like your cookies. I tend to make various sizes for variety and so I don’t feel guilty when I think, “Well, I had six cookies. But they were small.”

Now, back to my “Gilmore Girls” marathon…

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Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I’m not one to eat whole bananas. I prefer them sliced in my cereal or yogurt or blended (otherwise known as a banana whip) topped with chocolate sauce. So it’s not unusual to find over-ripe bananas around the house.

What is unusual is the fact that my dislike of singular bananas is now sort of a joke with my students. The other day, a banana magically appeared on my desk. When I inquired about this to a student, she said another student left it on my desk after snack time. Clearly, I’m not the only one with a distaste for whole bananas because a few days later, another banana made its way onto my desk.

Naturally, this week’s lesson plan includes foods Ms. B. enjoys, in hopes that students take the hint…

Since I happened to be in possession of several very ripe bananas, I wanted to make banana bread. But not just your average run-of-the-mill plain old boring banana bread. After much searching, I finally found the recipe I needed: Double Chocolate Banana Bread.

If you enjoy chocolate as much as I do, then this recipe is a must.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread (recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes)

  • 2.5 very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 c. melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease a 5×9 bread loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the bananas and blend in a food processor. This should yield you 1.5 cups of banana mush. Place banana puree (technical term for mush) into a mixing bowl and add the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk away until blended and smooth like a baby’s bottom.

Stir in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, allspice, baking soda and cocoa.

Add everything together. Stir in chocolate chips and spread in baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top of the loaf cracks and a toothpick comes out clean (Baking times vary – the original recipe called for 60 minutes of baking time, which would have left my loaf very charred. Check your loaf frequently!)

Let cool (or not, if you live in my house) and enjoy with a tall glass of…well, whatever you enjoy dessert with. My preference is a glass of Malbec, but milk would probably also taste delicious.

Here are some pictures from my snazzy iPhone that don’t do the bread justice at all.

Wet ingredients. Make sure the butter is completely melted. Clearly, I'm impatient.

Wet ingredients. Make sure the butter is completely melted. Clearly, I’m impatient.

Before going into the oven.

Before going into the oven.

I forgot to take a "finished product" picture, so here's some of the bread ready to travel on a Greyhound bus and some delicious Green Line coffee.

I forgot to take a “finished product” picture, so here’s some of the bread ready to travel on a Greyhound bus and some delicious Green Line coffee.

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Zucchini Brownies Instead of Pie

One of my best friends recently celebrated a birthday, which coincidentally coincided with book club. While she had high hopes for a pie, I realized well into the work week that a homemade and store-bought pie were out of the question.

I happened to have in my possession quite a few zucchinis thanks to a failed zucchini chips recipe (short story – I went to bed and forgot they were in the oven). So, I text my friend asking if she was a fan of zucchini brownies (she was). Thus, her birthday dessert was in motion.

I added some chocolate chunk chips to the batter (Trader Joe’s version) because more chocolate = better. They came out more cake-like than brownie-like, but none-the-less, they were still super tasty. Many people inquired if they were healthy because they contained zucchini – not-so-much. But if it makes people feel better, then yes, they are super healthy 😉 In my opinion, dessert is not supposed to be healthy. That’s why it’s called dessert. Indulge every once in awhile. It’s fine. (Really, it is.)

Extra Fudgy Zucchini Brownies

Adapted From: Chef In Training)
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2-2 c. finely shredded zucchini (I used my food processor for this)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan with butter or butter spray. Mix oil, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl. Beat in egg. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and mix until blended. Add zucchini and blend. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake 25-20 minutes or until done.

For the frosting…

The frosting makes the brownies, in my opinion. It’s super sugary, but oh-so-good.

  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. half-and-half (or milk – I used half-and-half because we don’t drink regular milk)
  • 6 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter, half-and-half and cocoa in a microwave safe bowl. When melted, add powdered sugar and vanilla and stir until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies.

*No picture exists because I literally made these, went to bed, then they travelled in my school bag all day to my friend’s house. At that point, a the brownies looked rather defeated (but still delicious)!

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

A group of my sixth grade girls were a bit jealous last week when another sixth grade teacher brought her kids an array of baked goods. I tried to blame my husband for my lack of delicacies, but my students weren’t buying it. Being the pre-teens that they are, they had a few choice words about the situation:

“He must be fat if he eats all of that.”

“Why does he eat all the cookies? We are more important!”

“I’m never marrying a guy who eats my food.”

So I vowed I’d make a special treat, just for my children from another mother (who sometimes accidentally refer to me as “mom.”)

Honestly, with all of the food allergies out there today, I’m always a bit hesitant to make anything from scratch and serve it to students. I think at some point, this was frowned upon, but when schools and organizations frequently hold bake sales, I can’t say I see a huge difference.

After a huge debate over what I should bake, most of my girls agreed on double chocolate chip cookies. Because you really can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Being that they will be devouring these on a Monday morning, I decided it would be best if I made cookies the “old-fashioned” way – with shortening. My mom was a huge fan of the Crisco. I think she used to buy it in tubs and I’m sure if you ask anyone from the Midwest who bakes, it’s probably their fat of choice when it comes to cookies. I had to give these girls my best, fatty effort because while I am my own worst critic, middle schoolers are even worse.

I searched a few recipes and found one that, after reading the comments, I altered quite a bit. Will they be approved by my children (husband included)? Stay tuned to find out…

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from: All Recipes
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. Crisco
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extractIMG_4398

Mix the above ingredients until creamy. In a separate bowl, mix together the following:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly. Add in 1/2 c. white chocolate chips and a 1/2 c. milk chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 min.

Kid in a candy shop...

Look who had to get in a taste…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop cookies onto baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Hide them from husband.

Straight out the oven

Straight out the oven

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Saturday Supper

If you haven’t heard (and even if you have), Pope Francis is visiting Philly. This means many Philadelphians were given a “Popecation,” or in other words, days off from work while the city teems with secret service, disturbingly high fences that beg to be climbed, and millions of visitors from all over the World. While some braved the crowds, others got the heck out of dodge. And then there are those, who, like myself, stayed within a 5 block radius of the house and caught up on household chores, schoolwork, and drank a few boxes of wine.

Since I am finally caught up on sleep, can use the restroom at my leisure and am able to drink my coffee in its entirely before it gets cold (teachers, you get all of this, don’t you?!) I’ve had an abundance of energy and time to bring life back to this blog and to endure my passion of being in the kitchen.

Being that it’s sort-of fall-like weather in Philly, I’ve been feeling mighty nostalgic. Growing up in rural Ohio, fall was my favorite time of year. It meant cross-country meets on the weekends, Sunday drives that would end in apple picking and the entire house smelling like a bakery. Mom was always making something that smelled delicious and those smells would entice my teenage self away from the confines of my bedroom to the kitchen, where I would linger in hopes of taste-testing whatever it is that actually got me to turn off my Metallica CD and venture out of my hole.

So in honor of the Pope and the beginning of the best time of year, I decided to fill the house with all of the smells of my childhood to the best of  my ability. I began with a hearty beef stew, which is exactly what I crave when the weather turns cool. While I don’t have a favorite beef stew recipe, I typically enjoy it more when it’s cooked in the oven versus the slow cooker. I almost always use a different recipe every time I make beef stew and this one did not disappoint. The highlight of this stew – the mash. I have come to adore leeks – they don’t have a dominant taste, but they smell so delicious when cooked. Mashed potatoes are always a hit, but this variation is certainly a keeper – just look at all the green!  This stew is definitely a winner and one I’m filing away and making again in the near future.

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Supper is not complete without dessert and while I’m not a fan of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte), I adore pretty much everything else pumpkin. I purchased a huge can of pumpkin puree and used only 6 Tbsp. to make the chewiest pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. So I guess that means I have more baking to do?!

If you’re in a hurry for something sweet, I don’t recommend this recipe as the dough must be chilled and the cookies need to cool completely before being inhaled. However, if you’re a chewy cookie fan like I am, you can table your impatience for a bit.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from: Sally’s Baking Addiction)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. light or dark packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cloves
  • dash of all-spice (I added probably 1 tsp. accidentally – I have a heavy hand, apparently)
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips (more or less, depending on how much of a choc-o-holic you are)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars together with a whisk. Add in the vanilla and the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking power, baking soda and spices. Add the wet mixture to the dry and then fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have patience.

Spoon the dough into balls, flatten slightly and bake for 8-10 minutes. I had to flatten mine a bit when I took them out of the oven. Let cool and then enjoy with a huge glass of milk. Or wine. Preferably wine.

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Posted in Cookies, Main Courses, Supper | 1 Comment