Getting old is not for sissy. Thankfully, I’m no sissy even when it means learning to avoid foods that cause inflammation, like refined carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar — sweet, sweet sugar — is apparently bad for my knees.

So began the adventure to transform my lovely, yummy way of eating into something that is kinder to my joints. I’d already given up artificial sweetener, and substituting Stevia seems to be  acceptable to my tongue. Giving up wheat and corn is less acceptable, but doable. Until you’ve had your 26th scrambled egg muffin for breakfast and you would do almost anything for a waffle.

So this morning, I decided to give coconut flour a try.  I bought it a while ago but just didn’t believe it would be good for baking. Turns out it works.

Ingredients

4 mashed ripe bananas
3 cage free brown eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup organic, no sugar added peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin (12) with paper liners. Use 2 if the liners are thin — these are oily muffins.

Combine the mashed bananas, eggs, vanilla, and melted (and cooled) butter. Then, mix in the peanut butter until it’s all thoroughly blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir until it’s all blended, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the muffin batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean.

How They Turned Out

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These muffins are not homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing, but they’re good enough with coffee on the way out the door. Just 9g of sugar (compared to the usual muffin’s 30+ grams of sugar), so they won’t anger my knees.

These are the perfect autumn sweet, great alone or with coffee or a little vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup organic pumpkin pie filling or 1 cup pumpkin puree plus 1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light or medium brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbs vanilla
1 cup (or more) dark chocolate chunks

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugars together in the standing mixer.  While that goes, combine the flour, oats, and baking soda.  If you’re using plain pumpkin puree, mix the pumpkin pie spice into the dry ingredients.

When the butter and sugars are all mixed together, add the egg and vanilla.  Once those are combined, add the dry ingredients and pumpkin, alternating between the two.  When that’s all combined, remove the bowl of cookie batter from the mixer.  Fold the chocolate chunks in with a spatula.  Do not try and do this with the mixer — it will bend your beater.

Drop spoons of the cookie batter onto the prepared cookie sheets (you can make small, medium, or large cookies).  Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes. Remove the cookies to a wire rack or counter top to cool.

How They Turned Out

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These are soft, cakey and super yummy — especially for breakfast.

My favorite munchkin is going through a Space Phase. Rockets, Planets, Robots — we are enjoying discovering them all. For his sixth birthday, I attempted a rocket ship themed cake (not my best creation):

Rocket Fail

So when I found a cool space ship cake pan, I had to get it and try again. This time, I used a moist dark chocolate cake and decorated it with whipped cream and berries instead of frosting.

One note: This is my first time baking with Zulka Morena Sugar, a not-to-sweet unrefined sugar from sugar cane grown with no GMOs on small farms that use sustainable farming practices. I was very pleased with the result.

Ingredients:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large brown cage-free eggs
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 ounces (1 container) of plain 2% greek yogurt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup very hot water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups very cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
assorted berries, washed and sliced

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare two cake pans with baking spray. (This recipe filled the rocket pan and a small loaf pan.)

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and 2 cups of sugar together on medium speed until combined. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, and then the vanilla, beating to combine.  Add the cocoa powder one tablespoon at a time, mixing at a medium-low speed (otherwise it will POOF and make a mess).

Mix in the yogurt at medium-low speed.  Slow the mixer and then add the dry ingredients in three batches (be careful of the dreaded POOF). You’ll have a thick batter.

Turn the mixer off before slowly pouring the hot water into the batter. Turn it on the lowest speed so the hot water doesn’t slosh out. You can speed it up a bit as it combines. Now you’ll have a thin, watery batter.  Add the chocolate chips as the last step.

Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake them in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool completely before decorating.

Don’t make the whipped cream until right before you want to decorate and serve the cake. Chill the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the whipped cream.  Assemble the bowl and whisk on the mixer, and then pour the whipping cream into the mixing bowl. Whip the cream on high speed until it starts to peak. Sprinkle the cream with the two tablespoons of sugar and continue to whip it until it reaches a thick consistency.  Be careful not go too far or you’ll end up with butter.

Top the cake with whipped cream and decorate with the berries.

How It Turned Out:

Out of this world!

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Okay — really it’s just a yummy chocolate cake with sweet fruit and cream. Getting to share it with such a bright star is what made it special.

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These brownies are a delightful concoction that benefited from a lack of planning.

A friend asked for something super chocolaty to inspire us at our annual independent living center board retreat, so of course I agreed to whip something up. Assuming I had all the necessaries, I woke up early to bake before our meeting — only to discover a serious lack of white sugar and no brown sugar.  What is a girl to do in such dire straits?  Improvise!!  And so were born these Dark Chocolate Maple Cinnamon Brownies.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
6 cage free organic eggs
18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large 9×12 glass baking dish with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, sifting together with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Put the chocolate chips in a very large mixing bowl. In a glass bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.

Pour the melted butter over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  (You may need to microwave the chocolate a bit to get all the way to smooth.)  When the chocolate and butter are smoothly combined, add the sugar and then the maple syrup. Stir until combined before adding the eggs in two batches, stirring to mix everything well between the two. Add the vanilla and give it one more stir.

Mix the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture in three batches, combining thoroughly in between each batch. You will have a thick batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes away with a little chocolate crumb. Let the brownies cool a bit before serving.

How They Turned Out:

Dense, very chocolaty, not too sweet — the perfect base for a fudge sundae or a pile of homemade whipped cream.

Brownies

I have a friend who only eats food from the four basic food groups — pizza, hamburgers, cashew chicken, and chocolate cake. So for his birthday we went for pizza and I made this great cake.

It’s a basic, no-fail chocolate cake recipe with an accidental twist. The ganache turned out to be a “chocolate chip ganache” because I let it harden too much before whipping, which resulted in little crunchy bits of chocolate throughout the creamy frosting.

Ingredients:

Cake

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups organic granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbs instant espresso dissolved in 1 cup very hot water

Ganache

12 ounces Guittard chocolate chips
1 cup of heavy cream

How I  Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare two 9 inch cake pans with baker’s spray and/or parchment.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  While that’s going, put all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, sifting with a fork to combine thoroughly.

When the butter is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Then add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. When that’s all combined, turn the mixer to low speed and slowly pour in the hot coffee. The bowl of the mixer will be full, so be careful not to splash yourself with hot cake batter. (I speak from experience.)

Transfer the batter to the cake pans, filling each 3/4 full. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool about 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to come to room temperature.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a glass bowl in the microwave in 15 second bursts until it is very hot but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit a minute or two before whisking the chocolate smooth. Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or more if you want to recreate my accidental chippiness).

With a rubber spatula, transfer the ganache to the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. On medium-high speed, whip the ganache into lovely frosting.

To assemble the cake, carefully level the top of one of the layers with a long serrated knife. That is the bottom layer. Spread 1/2 of the whipped ganache on the bottom layer. Put the top layer on and frost with the rest of the ganache.  Decorate as you please.

How It Turned Out:

Brians Cake

Yummy! Not too dense, not too crumby, and not too sweet. Just wonderful chocolate goodness. (It is probably even better with vanilla ice cream.)

How else to celebrate Fat Tuesday — aka Mardi Gras — than with decadent chocolate cupcakes topped with rich cream cheese frosting?

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cup Ghirardelli cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups whole milk

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cupcake tin with festive paper wrappers.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa together in a large bowl, then set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl before adding the flour mixture.  Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the milk until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined.

Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs.  Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together.  Add the powdered sugar in batches until you achieve the consistency you want.  Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and decorate as desired. Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

How They Turned Out:

These treats are sure to earn you the best beads at the parade.

MG Cupcakes 2

The fancification is from Fancy Flours (love! their goodies).

Elvis’s favorite sandwich was peanut butter and banana, sometimes with bacon and sometimes without. So I have no doubt the King would love these peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins.

Ingredients:

4 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup Guittard chocolate chips
3/4 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with fun paper liners. (This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prep your pans accordingly.)

Combine the mashed banana, butter, egg, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  In another large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  With a rubber spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. When thoroughly combined, fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Fill the muffin cups three quarters of the way full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs.

How They Turned Out:

Elvis Muffins

Yummy! Serve them warm if you can — they are soft and gooey and wonderful.  Also good at room temperature with coffee or cold milk.