Skinny Chocolate Chia Muffins

The other day, I had a wild craving for a chocolate muffin. This may sound mundane but in our house it's an anomaly. Cravings are a rare occurrence, as my poor husband can vouch for whenever we try to pick a place to eat and my response is indifference. If the food is reasonably healthy and there is a form of vegetable on the menu, I'm good! Dessert can be a spoonful of peanut butter! 

A craving for a muffin though? Okay tummy, you're weird.

Naturally, a plain old chocolate muffin wouldn't suffice. Having worked at a chain coffee shop serving baked goods, I know muffins are essentially cupcakes in disguise. Don't let the absence of frosting fool you! It's a cupcake waiting to pounce. Run!

That's why a recipe for Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins from Sally's Baking Addiction caught my eye. What makes it skinny? It goes easy on the sugar/oil and substitutes with honey, yogurt, and apple sauce. Sounds like a great way to start the day! All right muffin, you have my attention. 

As I started collecting ingredients, my mind began to wander and I couldn't resist the urge to tamper. The end result was a few changes to up the health properties while maintaining the delicious factor. All the chocolate you love is here! It's food with benefits!

In this version, the all-purpose flour is substituted with oat flour.  Oats are great for digestion and help to keep you full longer. Instead of granulated sugar, I used coconut palm sugar and reduced the amount by 25 grams. Nothing wild, just trying to find the line between sweet and bland. In the same vein, the amount of honey was reduced by half. Honey is great for your but it still is a sweetener. Make sure you use the real stuff too, nothing super processed or else all those benefits are extracted. You know those honey packets found at restaurants and coffee shops? Beware and read labels; those can be sweetened corn syrup to cut costs. Wow, I hope that didn't come off too nutrition conspiracy theorist!

Additionally, these muffins have a dash of omegas with two tablespoons of chia seeds. Honestly, if the texture doesn't bother your senses, you can easily add another tablespoon or sprinkle them on top right before baking. The more, the merrier!

Now in terms of the "double chocolate chip" aspect- the darker, the more health benefits. I am fiend for chocolates that are at least 70% cocoa but the hubby loves semi-sweet. My solution for this was to use half semi-sweet chips for him, and half carob chips for me! Carob chips can be wickedly bitter the first time you try them so fair warning! The advantage is that unlike chocolate, carob is naturally sweet, low in fat, high in fiber, and has calcium.

I said a little prayer and popped them in the oven, expecting flat, dense, hockey pucks.

Amazingly enough, these suckahs are good! They don't taste super healthy and have all the chocolatey goodness you could ask for! I love the soft and moist texture which only gets better if you store them in an air-tight container. I've made these three times now and use it as a bribe with one of the IT guys in the office to hook me up! Thanks Sally's Baking Addiction for a solid recipe!

The hubby likes to eat these with a slathering of peanut butter on top and a crown of bananas slices. It makes for one heck of a breakfast plate. In this post, I tried to go for a more "elegant" angle and use a peanut butter glaze. It's totally optional!

PS. Did you notice our guest kitty in today's post? More to come about Slade, the Daredevil foster kitten! 

Skinny Chocolate Chia Muffins

3/4 cup (133g) unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (75g) coconut sugar
2 tablespoons (45g) honey
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large egg (or 2 large egg whites)
3/4 cup (183g) yogurt (Greek or regular)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (62g) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (62g) oat flour
1/2 cup (42g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (90g) chocolate chips (I used half carob chips, half semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375; grease 12 muffins tins.

Combine applesauce, coconut sugar, honey, chia seeds, egg, yogurt, and vanilla in a bowl. 

Combine flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and chocolate chips. I like to keep a few chips on the side, about a tablespoon, to sprinkle on top of the muffins before right before baking.

Add wet and dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Using a icecream scoop, fill cupcake tins and sprinkle chocolate chips and chia seeds (optional) on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to rest on cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before you pop them out. 

Basic Peanut Butter Glaze (optional)
4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1-2 tablespoon milk of your choosing, depending on how thick you like your glaze

Mix together until smooth, drizzle as you see fit!

Gluten-and-Lactose-Free Buckwheat Pancakes with Roasted Strawberries

For those that have followed along with my silly stories, I only bake gluten-free when my girlfriend Rhubarb visits.  On top of being gluten-free, Rhubarb's diet is now lactose-free as well. You can imagine the sweat bead that formed on my brow when we made plans for brunch. Where could we eat that could ensure her needs were met? The pressure was too much and I offered to host brunch. Hence, these buckwheat pancakes!

These pancakes are incredibly easy to make. Quite frankly they FASCINATED me because they were so hard to burn. They're beautiful, fluffy, and... how do I put this... bland. Don't let my opinion deter you! Rhubarb was stunned when me and our mutual girlfriend commented on the lack of flavor. She felt that they were dead-on perfection and the group quickly realized that our palettes were divided based on our dietary norms. For those that eat gluten-free, these are fantastic. For the rest of us, there was something lacking. That's where the roasted strawberries come into play; they add sweetness and zest! Plus, roasted strawberries are amazing in general.

I'm so enamored with these pancakes that I am determined to tinker with them until all parties are satisfied. Initial thoughts include adding lemon zest, reducing the coconut milk on the stove to a more concentrated flavor, and using more maple syrup. How do you make your buckwheat pancakes? Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

Gluten-and-Lactose-Free Buckwheat Pancakes with Roasted Strawberries
serves 4

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes
from Creative Simple Life

2 cups organic buckwheat flour 
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 can organic coconut milk OR 2 cups of milk of your choosing
2 eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons organic canola oil + more for for the pan 

Michele's Super Easy Roasted Strawberries 
1lb fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed 
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the pancakes, preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and very lightly butter or oil. But whole strawberries on the baking sheet and sprinkle with light brown sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tender to fork prick. When done, turn off oven and leave inside to keep warm until time to serve.

While that bakes, mix together the flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the coconut milk, eggs, maple syrup, and canola oil. Once thoroughly mixed, add this liquid mixture to the dry mixture.

Stir until the batter is mostly smooth. Then set it aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to fully absorb the liquid ingredients.

Preheat a cast iron skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add some oil for frying the pancakes.
Pour ¼ cup of the batter per pancake onto your preheated skillet, pan, or griddle.

Cook the pancakes for 1½ minutes per side, flipping when bubbles begin to burst at the surface and the edges begin to look cooked.

Top with strawberries, bananas (optional), and maple syrup. Best served warm.

So You Want to Bake a Wedding Cake

This upcoming October marks an amazing moment that I cannot wait to bear witness: Heather is getting married. Who is Heather? We became friends back in college at a random apartment party; while I studied closer to Northern VA, she grew in the RVA scene; she then made the jump to new adventures in Jackson and drove back be in our wedding; HB even designed the first banner for this site out of the goodness of her heart. In other words, she's awesome and I love her.

As long as I have known her, Heather has been ready for true love. She didn't want a fling or nonsensical relationship- it was all about finding the Real Thing and putting yourself out there for better or worse. Where I was shy and aloof, she was bold and expressive. We went through the whole  spectrum together- from hurtful break ups to finding the Real Thing. It's crazy to look at how far we've come and process that I get to make their wedding cake: Chocolate Cake with Raspberries. 

The only issue with the happy couple living states away (aside from not getting to chill on the regular) is not being able to stuff them full of cake. They will only be in the area once before the wedding so the selection has to be on point. I want this freaking cake to be perfect and have been scouring the internet for tips, lessons, and tricks of the trade.

To help narrow down the selection, a group of wonderful friends have agreed to form "The Cake Committee." These poor bastards have to sit at our kitchen table and try an array of cakes, fillings, and frosting. Once all options are exhausted, the trial cake will be made. Have I mentioned that I want the cake to be perfect?

For this round, I made three chocolate cakes; three fillings; two types of frosting; and one ganache. It was a great exercise because I have never frozen a cake for more than a few hours before frosting. This helped gauge my expectations and form a better schedule for the day of the wedding. There's going to be a lot of prep work the week of but it will be totally worth it.

Smitten Kitchen: Chocolate Butter Cake
SixOneSeven: Crazy Chocolate Cake
Barefoot Contessa: Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Diana's Desserts: Raspberry Bavarian
Taste of Home: Raspberry Filling
Smitten Kitchen: Basic Raspberry Filling

Smitten Kitchen: Swiss Buttercream
I am Baker: The Perfect Crusting Buttercream

Smitten Kitchen: Ganache 

The Cake Committee wasted no time. The Raspberry Bavarian was knocked out immediately much to my surprise. Not far behind that was Taste of Home's recipe because it was too close to a buttercream frosting. We were all stunned to have the Basic Raspberry Filling win the race as it was the least visually appealing but had a lovely and refreshing tartness. 

Next up was the frosting which was no contest for the Swiss Buttercream. It's subtle sweetness won the crowd over instantly. It's going to be a tough one to beat but I will keep looking for other options. 

Last but not least, the most important element of that whole wedding CAKE thing... the cake! This is where people had the most back and forth. Words were said; feelings were hurt. Kidding.

And the winner of the chocolate cake preliminary battle is....
.... Smitten Kitchen.

No surprise there ladies and gentleman! While all cakes received points for moistness and richness, Smitten had a little trick up her sleeve. What tipped the scale for this cake? A dash of cinnamon in the mix to help dial down the overall sweetness. Let's see if it makes it out of round 2, scheduled in February, starring What Katie Ate's, "Chocolate Fudge Cake," and Call Me Cupcake's, "Chocolate Cake Deluxe."

Special thanks to The Cake Committee! Till the next episode!