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Farewell Winter – Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
– John Steinbeck

The first day of Spring is a classic metaphor for new beginnings. But it’s also the end to the season of heartiness and perseverance. In Winter we huddle around the hearth. We tend to nest inside. We focus inward. And when Spring blossoms forth, we follow. Bursting with the energy pent up the long, cold months.

To pay tribute to this day of transition, I wanted to find a dish that captures the balance of the heartiness of winter with the fresh zest of Spring. I found it in Tom Kha Gai, a traditional Thai soup made from chicken, ginger, coconut milk and mushrooms. Soup by its very nature embodies the wintry sense of comfort, while the ginger and lemon epitomize the bright promise of Spring. I found my inspiration recipe from She Wears Many Hats and got to work.

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I’m still a Thai cooking novice, so I was nervous taking on a traditional dish like this. But, it turned out to be much easier than I thought; and now I’m ready to face the new season by challenging myself to make even more exotic dishes.

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Here’s my Tom Kha Gai recipe, completely Paleo, and fairly effortless…

Thai Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Ingredients

1 lb of Cooked chicken, shredded (I used light and dark meat)

  • 3-4 Peeled carrots, sliced into coins
  • 3 T Cilantro, fresh leaves
  • 1 1-inch piece Ginger, fresh
  • 1 T Lemongrass, dried
  • 8 oz Mushrooms
  • 6 c Chicken stock or broth
  • 1 can of Coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 2 T Fish sauce
  • 3 T Lime juice
  • 1/2 t Red pepper flakes
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • Lime wedges
  • 1 c cashews

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook carrot coins for about 4 minutes, stirring often. They should still be fairly firm. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In same saucepan, add ginger and lemongrass, stir to toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, lime juice and pepper flakes; bring to a simmer and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken and simmer for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk, fish sauce, and cilantro; lower heat and allow to mingle for about 10 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Toast cashews in toaster oven for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  7. Top individual soup bowls with cashews. Garnish with cilantro leaves and/or lime wedges.

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Easy, right? Can’t think of a better way to finish out Winter. Enjoy and Happy Spring!

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Winter Beer Bread

Winter can be a time for cocooning and hearth-huddling, at least for me. I think it’s the combination of frigid temperatures outside combined with the dawn of a new year. It is a season ripe for introspection and solo activities, preferably someplace warm. Which is why it’s the perfect time of year for baking.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to try out and shoot a beer bread recipe for Edible Nashville. I have loads of experience with quick breads, but my loaf bread skills are still a bit underdeveloped. Undaunted, I told myself a new year is for trying new things, so I forged ahead.

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This beer bread recipe comes from Tennessee Brew Works, and is a lot simpler than you might think. The most difficult part is allowing yourself time to wait at the different dough-proofing stages. But hey, while you wait, you can pour yourself a glass of Southern Wit – the star ingredient for the bread. Southern Wit is a refreshing Belgium White Ale with pear and honey notes. Yum.

But even if this had been a difficult recipe, I would still be extolling its virtues here because – ohhhh my – it is some of the most delicious bready goodness I’ve ever had! And don’t get me started on its aromatic properties (your house will smell like a gourmet bakery). But that taste – I tell you it somehow tastes better when you make it yourself.

It’s a new year. Go for it! Here’s the original recipe over at Edible Nashville.

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Southern Wit Beer Bread

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf or 2 mini loaves)

Starter

  • 1 c. Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 1 c. bread flour
  • 1½ t. active dry yeast
Dough
  • 1¼ c. warm Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 4 c. bread flour
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. butter (melted)
  • 1 T. salt

Directions

  1. Make starter by combining beer. flour and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand in a warm place (above the oven is usually a good choice) until mixture is foamy and doubled (about 20 minutes).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix in a stand mixer until combined. Using dough hook, beat until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Pour a little oil over the dough and place in the warm area to proof until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Then, punch dough down and knead about 5 minutes.
  3. Shape the dough into a narrow baguette shape and place on a baking sheet (or place in a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan). Brush with a little melted butter and let rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake about 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch. Place on a cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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Your dough should look a little something like this ^ for your first kneading. If it’s too wet, add in a little more flour.

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In the last step before baking, hand roll your dough into a baguette shape like I did, or you can place the dough into a loaf pan.

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Did I mention it smells fantastic?

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Your final loaf pairs well with Gouda, pecans, pears and of course, beer. It’s great for mid-winter entertaining. But just as great as a simple, warm snack for cocooning on your own.

Jen

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Happy 2016!

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”
— Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

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Happy 2016! I’m looking forward to the new year and the opportunities it brings. It also marks one year anniversary of this little blog, ciderandblackblog.com and Cider&Black on Instagram. What started out as an experiment has turned into a gratifying creative outlet and even side business. I’m so thrilled to be at the one-year mark, and couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities a new year brings.

As a thank you to my readers, I have a special cocktail recipe to ring in the new year – Prosecco with red currants.

Prosecco with Red Currants

Ingredients (makes 1 cocktail)

  • 1/2 c. chilled Prosecco
  • 2 T. currant nectar or cassis
  • 1-2 slices of starfruit
  • 1-2 small bunches of red currants

Directions

  • Pour the currant nectar or cassis into a wine glass.
  • Pour Prosecco over the cassis.
  • Garnish with starfruit and mini munches of red currants.

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Thanks for reading, and cheers to 2016!

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Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Winter will always be baking season to me. It’s the season to warm yourself around the heat of an oven, whether you’re making cookies, pies or a simple dinner. The latter is what I was after – I wanted to branch out to find a new  recipe for a family meal time that was hearty, healthy and maybe a bit more exotic than a typical casserole. Eggs are a standard crowd-pleaser in my house, so I started with them as the first ingredient.

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In researching recipes, I came across one that had just the right blend of healthy and exotic – Tunisian Shakshuka. This baked egg dish has many variations, but the basics are the same – eggs, onions, other vegetables, Italian parsley and harissa paste. I decided to make mine with green beans and sweet potatoes.

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I found that it wasn’t too difficult to pull together, especially if you prep and cut your veggies beforehand. And I was entranced by the rich, earthy aroma that filled my home while it was baking. Best of all, my family loved it! The warm, gooey-ness of the eggs mixed with goat cheese and the veggies was irresistible. One modification there, I held the harissa for the portion that went to my little lady. So keep that in mind if you don’t like that kind of warmth!

Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Ingredients (makes 6-8)

  • 8 eggs
  • 2–3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ pound green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. harissa sauce
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Rinse and chop all vegetables.
  • In a large cast iron skillet, mix sweet potatoes, onion, bell pepper and string beans with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You may also mix them in a large bowl and then portion out into 6 single-serving skillets.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  • Pour the cream evenly over the vegetables, then spoon in the harissa and goat cheese. Sprinkle torn pieces of spinach on top.
  • Then, gently crack the eggs into the skillet (or skillets) and season again with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake another 8–10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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I definitely recommend trying this if you’re looking for a new dish to spice up your baking routine. Although I served it for dinner, it could also be the star of a holiday brunch with friends. After all, this is the time of year to share the warmth. Enjoy!

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Share a Glass of Autumn’s Perfect Cocktail

As the days grow short and a chill settles into the air, I find myself drawn toward food and drink that share an essence with Autumn. Foods that are simple, golden-hued, and perhaps, have a bit of bite – just like the crisp morning wind.

As Thanksgiving approached, I wanted to find an encapsulation of the season that would be the perfect accompaniment to all those harvest dishes. In other words, I was on a quest to find the perfect Fall cocktail. To help me in my journey was my talented friend and fellow blogger from Five Dishes. Together, we researched the classics (mulled wine, hot toddies), the overdone (sorry, pumpkin spice anything), and finally found a drink that seemed completely fresh, but traditional enough to play well with the requisite turkey and cranberry sauce (or truly, whatever Fall’s bounty graces your table this year.)

Spices and Fruit

Our chosen cocktail is earthy, fragrant and has a color like a sugar maple in fall. And yes, it has a lovely, subtle bite thanks to the spiced rum. But the best part of all? It was unbelievably easy to make.

Apple rum punch ingredients

Autumn Punch

Ingredients (makes 2 cocktails)

  • 2½ oz spiced rum (we used Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum)
  • 4 oz fresh unfiltered apple juice
  • 2 big pinches of Chinese 5 Spice
  • 2 long threads of lemon peel
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bottle of quality hard Pear Cider (apple cider would pair well, too)

Autumn apple rum punch making

Directions

In a shaker half-filled with ice-cubes, combine the rum, apple juice, and Chinese 5 spice.  Shake well and pour in a glass. Top with the pear cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick and twist of lemon peel.

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The recipe is for two, so you can make sure to enjoy with a friend. I can’t think of a better way to toast this holiday of sharing. Cheers!

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Summer Peaches: Two Ways

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It’s Labor Day weekend and I can’t think of a better way to honor it than a salute to one of the sweetest, most Summery fruits: the peach.

Peaches have a way of going from your mouth straight to your heart. Their warm, bright taste just seems to emit love. In fact, Renaissance artists used the peach symbolically to represent the heart. So today I share not one, but two recipes from my heart to yours – Gluten-free peach-banana muffins and Peach-mint smoothie-sicles.

1. Gluten-free peach-banana muffins

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Ingredients (makes 12; adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake)

  • 1 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 2 T unsweetened coconut, plus 1 T more to sprinkle
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds

Directions

  • Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  • Mix wet ingredients in medium bowl.
  • Add wet mixture to dry.

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  • Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into prepared cups.
  • Sprinkle with additional coconut and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

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2. Peach-mint smoothie-sicles

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Ingredients (makes ~6 molded popsicles)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1/2 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. almond or coconut milk
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped

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Directions

  • Add bananas, peaches and yogurt to a blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes (it will still be lumpy).
  • Add all remaining ingredients except mint. Blend until smooth.
  • Stir in mint.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 5 hours).
  • Serve with blackberries and fresh peach slices.

Peach popsicles

Hope these peachy recipes find a way into your heart – just as they did mine. Happy Labor Day!

Mango Mojito overhead

Welcome Summer with Mangoes and Goat Cheese

Memorial Day weekend is here, and with it comes the brightest and boldest of seasons. There’s something about the sunshine this time of year that makes colors more saturated and alive. I want to absorb that feeling; to eat it and drink it. So I set out to capture the season’s vivacity in two new recipes.

To stay grounded in the season, I took two warm-weather staples – chips and cheese dip and Mojitos – and recast them with vibrant ingredients. First, the appetizer.

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Seed Crackers with Goat Cheese, Apricot Thyme Jam and Pomegranate Seeds

This is almost too easy to call a recipe! But it’s so good that I just had to share. 😉

Ingredients

  • 30+ seed crackers (I like Mary’s Gone Crackers brand)
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • 1 jar apricot jam
  • 1 t fresh, minced thyme
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions

  • Spread goat cheese on crackers, followed by a dollop of jam.
  • Sprinkle minced thyme.
  • Top with 3-4 pomegranate seeds.
  • Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Pomegranate Snack

For a refreshing Summer drink, I looked to the Mojito. There are myriad fruit Mojito recipes out there, but the bright, sunny taste of mango fit my definition of “summer in a drink” best. I tried a few variations, and ended up with a simplified version that can be whipped up relatively quickly in a pinch. Just remember to keep extra simple syrup and mangoes on hand!

Mango Mojito

Simple Mango Mojito

Ingredients

  • 2.5 oz of white rum (mango rum would be even better!)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz of simple syrup (or to taste)
  • 6 mint leaves
  • Soda water
  • 1/4 a mango, cubed
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  • Muddle mint leaves with 2-3 mango cubes.
  • Shake rum, syrup and soda water and ice cubes in a shaker.
  • In an empty glass, add mint leaves and non-muddled mango cubes (Note: you may also freeze the mango cubes to act as ice cubes. Freezing them also ensures you always have some on hand!)
  • Pour rum mixture over fruit.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and extra mint leaves, if desired.

Hope you enjoy these little tastes of sunshine as much as I did. Happy Summer – and cheers!

Jen

Mango Mojito detail

red spinach salad

Marsala: Beyond Chicken

Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.

– Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®

Marsala Pantone

The color of the year is inspired by the satiation that can only come from a truly great meal. Similarly, I am continually inspired by the colors at play in the foods I eat (as evidenced here and here). But, I’ve never thought about inspiration traveling in the opposite direction. Could a single color inspire a new recipe?

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I was skeptical. Particularly given the subdued hue at hand. Besides the obvious chicken Marsala, the only immediate associations I was making with the restrained color were none-too-culinary, (um, chili dogs, anyone?) Further complicating the issue, this color is really hard to pin down –  is it red, brown, or really burnt sienna in disguise??

And yet, in the thick of winter, I kept finding myself drawn to its warm, inviting nature. It reminds me of a shade you might see dancing on a wooden floor in front of a freshly-lit fireplace. It’s sophisticated and easy. I suppose that’s fitting…just like its namesake, Marsala Italian wine.

And so I embraced the marsala, and found my way to three new recipes featuring ingredients which share its color value…or at least, very close variations. Each one has that same hint of sophistication and ease. In fact, each recipe can be prepared in three steps or less, which is hardly enough time to pour yourself that glass of Marsala wine. But, one can try. My skepticism has been proven wrong before. :)

Here they are. My three new, easy (but deceptively sophisticated) ways to eat marsala:

1. Paleo balls with coconut and carob chips, starring dates and dried cranberries

Ingredients (makes about 16)

  • 1 packed cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup nut of choice (almonds, cashews or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more to roll in
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup carob chips

Directions

  • Process dates, almonds, coconut, honey and sea salt in a food processor. Add a tiny bit of water if mixture gets too dry. Add in cranberries and carob chips at the end for a final blend.
  • Roll into balls.
  • Keep in an airtight container. I usually keep mine in the refrigerator, but this isn’t necessary.

2. Rosemary root vegetable saute, starring beets

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bunch of beets (about 1 lb.) washed and cut into cubes
  • 1 yukon potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into medium slices
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T rosemary
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F then toss all vegetables in a large bowl with the garlic, rosemary and olive oil until coated.
  • Spread vegetables evenly on a cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 45 minute to an hour, stirring at least once midway through. Serve immediately.

red spinach salad with pomegranate seeds

3. Spinach pomegranate salad, starring red heirloom spinach

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bag of red heirloom spinach (I spied mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into medium slices
  • Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, slightly toasted
  • Salt
  • Red balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Directions

  • Divide spinach evenly into salad bowls. Layer with onions, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.
  • Serve with red balsamic vinaigrette. (Marsala red wine balsamic, if you’re fancy.)

Have any marsala or marsala-ish foods that you love? Let me know in the comments if I left out your favorites!

Parsnip Apple Table

Recipe: Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup

Winter has quite the arsenal – snow, ice, sleet, biting wind, single-digit temperatures. It’s bitter, gray and oppressive. Its force can’t be mellowed by mere shovels and salt. If its waging a war, it certainly feels like we’re losing.

But its not raging; it’s simply being winter. And its nature can be just as lovely as it is fierce. It has quite a quiet beauty; it’s crisp and serene.

Ice storm chicken wire

But what I love best about winter is that it forces us, through its snow and ice, to slow down, and to center our lives around the home. We fortify and warm each other with our company and the meals we share. So as winter prepares to leave us this year, I wanted to share with you my sure-fire way to beat winter’s chill: roasted apple and parsnip soup.

Parsnip Apple Pattern

The original recipe comes from Chef John. We modified some of the seasoning a bit to bring a little more heat to the table. The result is creamy and soothing, but with a kick. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket and then getting a little static electricity jolt. Just the sort of spark you need to snap you out of the dreary winter blues!

Apple Parsnip Soup

Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup with Cayenne

Ingredients:

(makes 6)

  • 2 lbs parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
  • 2 green apples, peeled, cut in thick slices
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 russet potato, peeled, cut in 8 pieces
  • 6 cups chicken broth (can combine with some water if you want)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 t. cayenne
  • garnish with rosemary crackers, walnuts or croutons, and more cayenne, if desired

Directions:

  • Cut up parsnips. Discard any parsnip centers that seem too tough.
  • Peel apples, then cut into slices.
  • Place parsnips and apples on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes until edges are caramelized.
  • Then place parsnips and apples into a steam pot on high with the sliced potato and chicken broth.  After the pot comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Next, use a stick blender to process apples and vegetables until smooth (or you can process in a regular blender).
  • Taste the soup for texture. If it is too fibery, you can strain it here. After that, add the cream and cayenne.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with desired add-ins.
Oscars Party

Recipe: Oscar Party Pun Food

The Oscars are a great excuse to gather with friends, gawk at gorgeous couture, and maybe win a bet or two with your predictions. For me, I’m also always struck by the sheer amount of people and types of craft it takes to make a movie. It’s an event that is such a juxtaposition – an earnest outpouring of adulation for professionals at the top of their game, and a frilly, bedazzled, sometimes strange ceremony that we basically play Bingo to. So, what to serve at this sequin-worthy occasion?

Enter, pun food. Pun-themed food based on Oscar nominees has been around for a while now, but I never tire of it. Never. With new nominees every year, the pun will never end! (See what I did there?)

So, drumroll please, here are my nominees for best appetizers for punny Oscar food for 2015…

Edamame Dip

Edamame “Dip-Lash” (Edamame dip)

In honor of Best Picture nominee, Whiplash

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1-2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 T chile-garlic sauce (such as Sriracha®)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Process the edamame, onion, cilantro, and olive oil into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add the avocado, lemon juice, and chile-garlic sauce; pulse again.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
  • Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Easy!

Original recipe by AllRecipes.Com


Paleo Banana Bread Muffins

“Bird-Ban-ana Bread Bites” (Banana Bread Muffins)

In honor of Best Picture nominee, Birdman

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 275 grams almond flour (about 2 1/2 cups. This will keep muffins moist)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ gluten-free chocolate chips
  • 2 T flaxseed

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease or paper a regular muffin tin.
  • Beat eggs with whisk (or stand mixer + whisk on medium-high, but I did it by hand). Do this for 203 minutes until eggs start to thicken.
  • Mash bananas gently with fork.
  • Add mashed bananas and mix until combined. Pour in honey and lemon juice and mix until combined.
  • Mix dry ingredients, including flaxseed, then add to wet ingredients in 2 additions. Mix until combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts, then spoon batter into muffin tin.
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown on the top and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Original recipe by CookEatPaleo.com


 

I loved both of these recipes for their simplicity – you won’t need a whole crew of specialty craftsman to whip them together. I’d say that’s an Oscar win!

But remember, just because these snazzy snacks were served up for the Oscars this year doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year to make them. You can incorporate then into any get together that needs a shot of healthy & special. Just make sure you have your host-of-the-year speech ready. 😉