Gluten-Free Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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One thing I like to do as I am utilizing what is in my pantry is use up items I do not particularly care for, or I can’t quite remember why I bought it. I found a box of live Gfree gluten-free baking mix. Live Gfree is Aldi’s line of gluten-free grocery products. While I joke that enjoy a gluten-FULL diet, I particularly enjoy gluten-free pretzels – they have a nicer, lighter crunch than regular pretzels.

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Main Ingredients – all things on hand – previously frozen, thawed bananas, gluten-free baking mix, and a mix of chocolate and butterscotch chips

For the baking mix, I wasn’t sure what to do. Reading the recipes on the back, it was like Bisquick. With the pandemic looming I’m either by myself or with my boyfriend, so I didn’t want to make something like pancakes or waffles, it felt wasteful.

Rummaging through my supplies, I opted for a banana bread. Banana bread is one of those foods that is really the kitchen sink of breakfast or coffee pastries. You can throw in just about anything and it will still be good.

In my cabinet I had some loose chocolate chips and butterscotch chips mixed in zipper baggie together – a combination I often use in blondies. In my freezer I had about 3 frozen bananas – something I usually save for smoothies, but they looked like they were on their way out. Using up these ingredients, even if this didn’t work, I would not have felt bad trashing the banana bread.

GLUTEN-FREE BUTTERSCOTCH CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

  • 1 package live Gfree gluten-free baking mix (1 pound)
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan, set aside. Mix mashed bananas with the baking mix, add remaining wet ingredients one-by one, forming a thick, but smooth batter. Stir in chips and salt. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 2 hours before serving.

Tips:

  • “Mix-ins” – can be flavored chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc., instead of the chocolate and butterscotch
  • I used a glass pan only because of what I had on hand. Any loaf pan will do, just double check baking times
  • For storage, the first night I wrapped in tea towels to keep loaf from drying out, but also to retain some crispiness on the edges. After the first night I wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge
  • When serving, warm a slice of the bread in oven or toaster oven – heat at 200 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. This tastes best when the chocolate is melty and gooey

The verdict? This banana bread was amazing! Gluten-free baking flours and mixes have come such a long way the last few years. I was also impressed with the ingredients in the package – all things I could pronounce and all natural – rice flour, sugar, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum. Also, if I followed a true gluten-free lifestyle, I could probably replicate this baking mix and make it in bulk. However, for its price point (less than $6), I think it’s fine getting the box mix.

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Gobs of melty chocolate had me drooling!

Other than a subtle grittiness from the rice flour, I could not detect a big difference in taste or texture from traditional banana bread. My boyfriend also said he only knew it was gluten free because I told him.

So, my apologies for referring to the mix as “this garbage” on my Instagram story before I actually used it. I was VERY wrong.

Homemade Coconut Oil Chocolate with Fleur de Sel

  

I have been on a huge coconut oil kick lately. I first learned about the benefits years ago when I was a writer for the eco-living site Ideal Bite. It is truly a superfood.

Lately I have been using it more as a supplement and in my cooking as it is supposed to be a metabolism booster. I use it to make popcorn, I’ve had it in coffee, and I like a little in my morning smoothies. It appears to be working because I find my jeans being looser without a drastic change in diet.

I came across this chocolate recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try, but I took it a step further with cacao nibs instead of organic cocoa powder. The main reason being while I had both nibs and powder at home, I had more nibs than I knew what to do with.

  
The goods – coconut oil, honey, cacao nibs, vanilla extract, and fleur de sel. 

 I pulverized about a cup of nibs in my food processor. The texture was still grainier than I wanted so I mixed in about 1/4 cup of honey.
  
The honey made the mixture much smoother and I hoped the heat from the oil and stove would help smooth it out.

   
 

I heated the oil until warm (I was scared the chocolate would fry) and whisked in the cacao and honey mixture. It was not incorporating as much as I wanted and it wasn’t sweet at all. I ended up using the full amount of sweetener the recipe suggested – 3/4 of a cup (I mixed maple syrup with the honey), and it helped it all come together like a sauce. I added in about a tablespoon of vanilla. I love vanilla and always use more than a recipe calls for. 

  
I was now ready to cool it. 

 
I lined a pan with plastic wrap and poured out the chocolate.

  I then let it set for a moment and sprinkled it with the fleur de sel.

   Chocolate is ready to cool and harden in the fridge!

 
Texture is slightly fudgier than I intended. Next time I will lesson the oil and increase the cacao. 

Rich and Indulgent Hot Chocolate – Powder Free!

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Awhile back I bought this Stonewall Kitchen Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce thinking it would change my life. I expected it to taste similar to hot fudge, but instead it was more like a bark of very dark chocolate with some corn syrup to soften it. It’s not a bad flavor, I just like my chocolate sauce to be able to stand on its own (think eating straight from jar on a depressed night). This product is a true topping/condiment – it is meant to enhance.

By now you probably realize my love of chocolate. I discovered this sauce makes a super rich, indulgent hot chocolate in less time than it would take you to boil water to dissolve a commercial grade packet in. The ingredients are premium and high quality – and heated up tastes like a luxurious ganache, hence the perfect hot chocolate base.

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Feel free to play around with the amount of sauce for your desired consistency. I like 2 tablespoons of sauce per 1 cup of milk. I used nonfat milk, but you can also play around with other fat milks or milk alternatives like almond mind.

“INSTANT” HOT CHOCOLATE
3 tablespoons Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
1 1/2 cups Nonfat Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Sea Salt

In a small sauce pan, heat chocolate sauce over low heat until melted and smooth. Whisk in milk, vanilla, and salt. Heat mixture until hot but not boiling. Top with your favorites – whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, etc. Enjoy!

 

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Melting sauce in sauce pan

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COST PER SERVING: $1.49
Chocolate Sauce – $.75
Milk – $.69
Vanilla and Salt – $.05

The One Minute S’more

chef's journal

My favorite new product is probably one of the least healthy on the market. Sugar and corn syrup laden, but of course, absolutely delicious. Jet Puffed Marshmallow Bits. My favorite part of Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Packets is definitely the dehydrated marshmallows. The product is solely the marshmallows. Add it to beverages, or in my case, make one utterly delicious low brow s’more.

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All you need for the s’mores is three ingredients – marshmallow bits, graham crackers, and a chocolate spread. Nutella, frosting, Justin’s nut butters, etc. all work. I’m a fan of the Choco Dream brand Chocolate Almond Spread. Spread some of this chocolaty love on a graham cracker, top with the marshmallows, and you’re good to go! S’mores in under a minute!

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

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My boyfriend just celebrated his birthday this past week. Like many men, getting an answer out of him in terms of what he wanted for a birthday cake and what he wanted to do to celebrate his birthday was like pulling teeth. Through a painful text message conversation, I narrowed down that he’s not a big cake person, is anti fruit flavored cakes, not a big ice cream fan, likes cheesecake, and said that anything that combines chocolate with peanut butter is good.

So I narrowed it down to a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. I brainstormed some ideas – peanut butter flavored cheesecake with fudge, peanut butter cheesecake with peanut butter and chocolate swirl, cheesecake with peanut butter cups, etc. The only thing I was certain was that it would have an Oreo crust, as opposed to graham cracker or another type of cookie.

In recent months, I have become a fan of the mini peanut butter cups, the ones that are a bit larger in size than an M&M. It came to me that it would be fun to fold those into cheesecake, almost like chocolate chips, and in lieu of chopping up full sized peanut butter cups. So finally I had the cake narrowed down – vanilla flavored cheesecake with an Oreo crust, mini Reese’s mixed in, the top decorated with hot fudge and full sized peanut butter cups. Since, you know, nothing says love as much as making the most fattening cake imaginable.

And of course in doing so, everyone wanted the recipe, so here you go…

PEANUT BUTTER CUP CHEESECAKE

For the filling:
3 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 bag Reese’s Minis

For the crust:
20-24 Oreo cookies, crushed fine in a food processor
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For topping:
1/2 cup hot fudge, room temperature or warmed slightly
About 8 full sized Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, cut in half

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan with a bit of cooking spray.
  3. Combine crushed Oreos, melted butter and sugar until well blended. Press mixture evenly into pan, both on bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake about 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Lower oven temp to 325 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, using a hand mixer, mix cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated. Add eggs and mix in thoroughly. Then blend in sour cream and vanilla.
  5. Fold in mini peanut butter cups. Add filling to pan with cooled crust, and bake for about 50 minutes to one hour. Top of cheesecake will crack slightly. Cheesecake is done when you can dip a toothpick in the center and it comes out mostly clean (do not over bake – if top of cheesecake is golden brown, it is overdone).
  6. Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for one hour. At this time, you can evenly spread the fudge in the center to decorate. After the hour, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of three hours, up to overnight.
  7. When the cheesecake is cooled, decorate with the full sized peanut butter cups. Carefully remove from spring form pan and transfer to a plate – enjoy!

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Vegan Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Leave it to post-Easter to continue on the meat free and dairy free crusade. I was asked to do a coffee tasting for a work meeting and I cannot do a coffee tasting without epic treats. It’s just my MO.

While I made Chocolate Chip Caramel Cheesecake Bars for the rest of the crew, one of my fellow managers is vegan, so I wanted to prepare a treat that he could eat as well. The coffee we were tasting, Starbucks Caffe Verona, goes great with chocolate and caramelized sugar. Most caramel recipes contain dairy, so I went on a hunt to find a caramel flavoring that was vegan. I could have just purchased Starbucks caramel syrup, but I was not thinking when I was at the grocery store. Instead, I found this product, Walden Farms Caramel Syrup. It was fat free, sugar free, calorie free, gluten free, etc….and more importantly for my purpose, dairy-free and vegan.

I wasn’t sure what to do with my caramel sauce, all I knew is that I had to come up with something vegan which included chocolate and caramel.

Racking my brains for a little while, it hit me. Modify an Oreo truffle recipe. Oreo truffles were a huge hit with my staff back at Christmas time, and they are super easy to make – oreos mixed with cream cheese and dipped in chocolate. At my disposal, I had vegan dark chocolate for melting, Nabisco Famous Wafer Cookies (which are essentially oreo cookies without the filling), and the caramel syrup. I decided to mix the cookies, sauce, and some margarine to create my truffle filling. The margarine and caramel sauce became my cream cheese substitute. Caramel was used for flavor and the margarine was used as a creamy fat which would solidify at room temperature.

So…here’s my on the fly recipe:

  • 20 Nabisco Famous Wafer Cookies
  • 1/4 cup Walden Farms Caramel Syrup
  • 1/4 cup Margarine, melted
  • 4 ounces Vegan Dark Chocolate (more or less may be needed), for dipping
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Shortening, for dipping mixture
  1. In a food processor, process cookies, syrup, and margarine until mixture is smooth. Transfer truffle filling to a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
  2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (your preference depending on what size you’d like the truffles), scoop out filling and roll into balls and place on waxed paper. Place the balls back in the refrigerator while you work on the next step, or until you’re ready to dip.
  3. When you’re ready to dip, melt chocolate and shortening over a double boiler until smooth. The addition of the shortening is a short cut so you don’t have to spend the time tempering the chocolate. Remove from heat.
  4. Dip the cookie balls into the chocolate, roll around using two forks or two spoons. As each ball is coated, transfer to waxed paper. When all the balls have been dipped, you can move the truffles to the refrigerator to cool and harden.
  5. Truffles can be served immediately after the chocolate is hardened. To store, keep refrigerated in an air tight container.