It’s that time of year, when people start making resolutions to eat healthier. And hopefully what that means is they’re selecting foods that best support their health goals and aren’t doing some crazy deprivation diet. Because eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to go to extreme lengths – it just means being intentional about the food you’re eating and paying a little more attention to what you put in your body. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s still okay treat yourself and have a little fun! And these Healthy Cacao Nib Brownies are the perfect example of that. They’re gluten-free/dairy-free/refined sugar free and still taste like the perfect cakey brownie!
About three years ago on Christmas Eve, when Lou was just a little pup and refused to sleep in…..I was up crazy early watching The Great British Baking Show Christmas Masterclass (as one does at 4:00 AM). On the episode, Mary Berry made the most gorgeous pavlova wreath and, for some reason, I decided I had to make one myself. Right then. So I busted out a pavlova at 5:00 AM for our Christmas Eve dinner that night. And the funny thing is that the husband loved it so much that it’s now become a tradition for us to make pavlovas for the holidays. I typically make one for our big Christmas dinner and then another one for New Year’s Eve. Usually, it’s a pretty standard pavlova topped with either passion fruit or mango curd, lots of freshly whipped cream, and an assortment of berries. But this year I decided it was time to change things up a bit and came up this Chocolate Swirled Raspberry Hazelnut Pavlova for our New Year’s one.
Whenever people ask me how I come up with recipe ideas, I always tell them “Oh, I get inspired by a lot things like vintage cookbooks or what’s in season or a new dessert trend I’ve seen.” But if I’m being honest…..most of my ideas come to me because it’s something I really, really, really want to eat. Like something I’m seriously craving and need to develop a recipe for ASAP so I can eat as much of it as I want. And that’s exactly how the idea for these Healthier Peanut Butter Buckeyes came about.
Well, I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been getting lots of requests for gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan recipes. This is another one that came at the request of a friend. She asked if I could make something for her son’s birthday……the only kicker was that it had to be both gluten-free and vegan. And since I believe every kid (and really every adult) should have an awesome dessert on their birthday – I immediately accepted the challenge.
For those who don’t know, I am a full on holiday geek. I love this time of year. Christmas music? All about it. Twinkle lights on everything? Yes please. Two Christmas trees? Not yet…..but that’s the dream. If it wasn’t obvious, I fully embrace the holiday season. Especially the baking part. It’s the perfect excuse to go a little overboard and make a ridiculous amount of treats. And while I’m all for decadent cakes and cookies and breads, every once in a while it’s nice to make a treat that’s on the healthier side. That’s where these Dark Chocolate Honey Truffles come in.
Can we all agree that Costco has the best/most unnecessary stuff ever? I mean, yes, there are tons of necessary things like screaming deals on bulk butter, nuts, and even lobster. But they also have things that you don’t really need, but REALLY want once you see them. Take for example the 3 lb tub of Reese’s Pieces I recently bought. Did I technically need 3 lbs worth of peanut butter goodness?? Probably not. Did buying it totally make my day and maybe even life infinitely better?? That’s debatable, but I’m leaning towards yes.
So now you’re probably wondering, “What do you do with 3 lbs worth of Reese’s?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First, you eat it….like a lot of it. Then you hide it from your husband cause he’s eating it faster than you and you’ll be damned if he gets to eat more of it than you (I have candy sharing issues). Then you realize you still have an insane amount of Reese’s Pieces left and should probably figure out a way to use it up. That’s where this recipe comes in.
Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
- Yield: 16 bars 1x
½ cup milk (any percentage will work)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
½ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons non-fat dry milk powder
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats, lightly toasted
Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
In a large heavy saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, non-fat milk powder, and butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture together until the butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it is at a boil, stop stirring and let boil for a full 90 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate chips. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until it is completely incorporated. Finally, fold in the oats.
Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer. Let the bars cool and set up for at least one hour. You can do this either on your counter top or in the fridge. Once the bars have set, cut into 16 pieces. If you want to add a little extra flair, drizzle the bars with some melted dark chocolate and top with coarsely chopped salted peanuts!
Sometimes when you’re developing a recipe, you have a very specific image in your head of how you want the finished product to look. This was the case five years ago when I came up with my original Salted Caramel Brownie recipe. I had the most insanely, frustratingly specific idea of how I wanted them to look. I wanted two fudgy, dark chocolate brownie layers with a layer of thick salted caramel in the middle. It couldn’t be pockets of caramel or a faint ribbon of caramel – it had to be a distinct, gorgeous, continuous copper layer of caramel.
No joke, I drove myself crazy trying to accomplish this. Every time I pulled the brownies out of the oven, I’d get my hopes up thinking maybe this adjustment fixed it. But, more often than not, the caramel layer would bake into the brownies and all I’d be left with is the faintest caramel remnant. I was just about to give up, when a seemingly crazy idea popped into my head. What if I created a frozen layer of salted caramel??? This would give the brownies enough time to bake and because the caramel was frozen it wouldn’t immediately dissolve into the brownie layers.
Sharing is caring or at least that’s what they say. In most cases, I’m all about sharing – especially when it comes to food I’ve made. However, there are a couple areas in my life where sharing is a little harder. The first is french fries (there’s never enough!)…..and the second is recipes. Let’s be honest here, every baker or chef has at least one recipe they don’t want to share. That one recipe they’ll protect fiercely and keep to themselves. The recipe they’re most proud of and the thought of sharing it physically pains them. This one is mine……..
Because it’s Halloween weekend…..and because I’m obsessed with Take 5 candy bars, I decided to share the recipe for these awesome Take 5 inspired Scotcheroos! These bars have a Peanut Butter Rice Krispie / Pretzel base, a Salted Peanut Caramel middle, and are topped with a Dark Milk Chocolate Glaze. They’re salty-sweet perfection and everything I dreamed of when developing the recipe. Hope you guys love them as much as I do!