No-Bake Protein Granola Bites

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As I slowly attempt to get into Ironman Shape (or rather good enough shape to begin the training plan for my Ironman next year), I wanted to make some healthy snacks that I can easily refuel with after training. I’ve made a lot of date bars in the past, but I was ready for something a bit more….oatey 😀

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (or chopped-up m&ms)
  • 3/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, mixing gently so the crispy rice cereal doesn’t get crushed. Mix until well-combined.

Using a cookie scoop (or roll small amounts in your hands), drop rounded tablespoonful-sized portions onto a parchment or wax paper lined cooking sheet. I used my cookie scoop and then rolled the scooped portion out between my palms. Let the granola balls firm up in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Once hardened, place in a large tupperware-type container or ziploc bags to freeze or refrigerate. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or for a few months in the freezer.

They taste AWESOME! I love the crispy texture that the cereal adds, and that they are so protein packed 😀

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake

 I received a cake order that I was absolutely thrilled to make. A COOKIE DOUGH CAKE. Genius, right? You no longer have to choose between a chewy, chocolate chip cookie, and a scrumptious piece of cake. You can have them both!! I decided to make my favorite white cake base, layered with cookie dough, and frosted with a fluffy vanilla buttercream.
Cake Base:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cookie Dough Filling:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Begin by making the cake batter. Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray. Cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy with a hand mixer. Add sugar, one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Next, add the eggs one at a time. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour milk and vanilla into measuring cup and whisk together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternately with the milk mixture (always remember to begin and end with dry ingredients). Gently stir all ingredients, until combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure to have all ingredients mixed well. Evenly distribute cake batter between cake pans and place pans into oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in cake pans for about 5 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to allow them to finish.

As the cakes bake, make the cookie dough filling. Begin by browning the butter. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, until it begins to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning, and let it cool.

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With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt,  and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips. Place the cookie dough in the fridge to allow it firm up slightly, and to help the flavors develop.

As the cookie dough cools, prepare the vanilla buttercream.  Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the vanilla and heavy cream. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional two to three minutes, until light and fluffy.

Divide the cookie dough in half, and mold into two large disks. Place the cookie dough layers on top of two of the cooled cake layers, and finish molding to completely cover the cake. Stack the layers on top of each other, so that the cookie dough topped cake layers are the bottom two layers. Cover the cake with the vanilla buttercream, creating a thin crumb coat. Place the frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes, to allow it to harden. Proceed by covering the cake with the remaining frosting, and decorate as desired.

I decided to place half cookies (baked with some left over cookie dough) around the base of the cake, and top the cake with chocolate ganache. I let the ganache set fully by placing the cake in the fridge, then piped on buttercream swirls around the top of the cake, and placed little bits of cookie dough on top of the swirls.

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Chocolate Chip Bagels

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My friends and I planned a picnic in Central Park, and I volunteered to be on bagel duty. I experimented a lot with bagel recipes and flavors last Fall, and really fell in love with this traditional bagel recipe. Homemade bagels always take a little bit of effort, but they are SO worth it. The ingredients include:

Sponge:

  • 4 cups high-gluten bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 2-1/2 cups of water at room temperature

Dough:

  • 1.5 cups chocolate chips
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 additional teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of barley malt syrup (can also use honey or molasses)
  • Egg wash (beaten egg white)

Yield: 12 large bagels
Sponge: 5 minutes mixing, 2-hour rise
Dough: 1 hour (kneading, resting and shaping)
Delayed rise: Overnight
Boiling and Baking: 30 minutes

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Begin by mixing the 4 cups of bread flour, 1 teaspoon of instant (rapid rise) yeast, and 2-1/2 cups of water in a 4 quart mixing bowl. It should have a thick consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic. Let the yeast do its job and allow the mixture to double in size (at least two hours).

Once the sponge has risen, mix 1 tablespoon of barley malt syrup, 2 tablespoons of honey, additional teaspoon yeast, 3 teaspoons salt, and about 3 1/2 cups of the bread flour into the sponge. Once the ingredients are fully incorporated, add in the chocolate chips, and knead the dough either by hand or with a dough hook. Add the remaining flour as necessary, and knead until the dough is a little stiff (not tacky) and a little springy. It should be satiny and smooth, without any dry bits of flour. This takes about five minutes using a dough hook, or about 10 minutes if kneading by hand. Divide the dough it into 12, equally sized pieces.

Shape each piece into a round smooth ball by using your thumbs to pull one surface of the dough around so that it forms a nice smooth skin, and squeeze the folds on the bottom together to seal this ball. Take it and roll it between both cupped palms to further smooth out the folds and form a nearly perfectly round ball.

Places these on a greased cookie sheet, or silicone baking pad. You should let them rest for about 10 – 20 minutes to allow the gluten strands to reform.

To shape the bagels, grab a ball of dough and push your thumb into the center. Poke with fingers of both hands, begin enlarging the hole. Work your hands around the circle so that the dough remains the same thickness around the hole. As the hole closes up, keep stretching it until it shrinks to no less than about 2″ diameter when relaxed.

As each bagel is formed, place it back on the greased cookie sheet, or greased silicone baking mat. Make sure to leave enough room between bagels; 6 – 8 bagels will fit on a cookie sheet. Once the bagels have been formed, let them rest for a few minutes to allow them to proof. As they begin to rise a bit, they are ready for the fridge. Spray the bagels with a light cooking oil spray and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over them.Place them in the refrigerator overnight. Chilling the dough allows the yeast to work on the proteins in the dough, which yields some of the classic flavors that make bagels taste like bagels.

Place two baking racks in the center of the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees F. Fill a pot with water, and add one tablespoon of barley malt syrup, and one tablespoon baking soda. The makes the water a little bit more alkaline. Bring the water to a boil. Prepare a couple of baking sheets. Take the bagels out of the refrigerator. Carefully lift the bagels, and place them two at a time in the boiling water.

Boil them for 45 seconds to a minute on one side, then flip them over and boil for an additional 45 seconds to one minute on the other side. The longer you boil them, the chewier the crust will become.

Using a slotted spoon, place the boiled bagels on paper towels. Pat them dry with a paper towel (taking care to not wipe away all the melting chocolate chips, then place them on the baking sheet. If any chocolate chips fell out during the boil, feel free push a few more into the tops of the bagels. Brush the bagel tops with egg wash. Let the bagels bake for 11-14 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

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My review: I really liked the amount of chocolate chips in the dough, and found that a Nutella schmear is perfect with these bagels. They had a great chew, and the crust was perfectly crispy.

Nutella Crunch Cake: Take II

Back by popular demand, I received another order for a Nutella Crunch Cake. I used the same tried and true recipe as last time, but mixed up the presentation. What that really means is that I slathered the cake in hazelnuts, coated the sides with chocolate chips, dolloped Nutella all over the place, and sprinkled a little sea salt on the top 😀

Chocolate Cake:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup strong black coffee, hot
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutella Buttercream:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Prep Time:15 minutes

Bake Time: 15 minutes

Cool Time: 1 Hour

Assembly Time: 45 minutes (30 minutes of cooling for crumb coat)

Servings: 6-8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 6-inch round cake pans, and line/grease the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Begin by making the chocolate cake batter. In a very large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be thin).

Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs). Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Add the Nutella and beat until combined. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the vanilla and heavy cream. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional two to three minutes, until light and fluffy.

For the cake assembly, frost each layer of cake, and top with toasted, chopped hazelnuts. Add a very light sprinkle of sea salt on top of the hazelnuts. Once the layers are all stacked, apply a thin crumb coat, and let the cake sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. Frost as desired with remaining frosting.  I decided to coat the sides of the cake with chocolate chips, dolloped (warmed) Nutella around the edge of the cake top, and sprinkled a little sea salt on the top.IMG_0245.JPGIMG_0240.JPG

Baked Red Velvet Donuts

One of my favorite things to do with left over cake batter is make donuts. Yes, you can just fill a donut pan with cake batter, and BAM! It works. No need to make a special batter, or find a new recipe. Cake batter = donut batter 😀 After baking a big red velvet cake earlier this week, I decided to bake some red velvet donuts, topped with a cream cheese frosting.

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Red Velvet Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3/4  cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
  • 1/2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • dash salt

Preheat oven to 325. Grease donut pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla and red food coloring. Stir in the coffee, and white vinegar. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients a little at time, mixing after each addition, until just combined. Fill each donut holder 3/4 full, then bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Keep a close eye on the donuts, you don’t want them to over bake! It will continue to cook as it cools. Let the donuts cool in the pan for about five minutes, then remove from the pans onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Slide a knife or offset spatula around the outside of the donuts to loosen them from the pan.

While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Combine the softened butter, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and powdered  sugar in a large bowl. Gently mix by hand, then finish combining with a hand mixer or stand mixer. Whip until the frosting is fluffy.

Once the donuts cooled fully, I decided to pipe on the frosting with a closed star tip, and sprinkle some red velvet crumbs on top 😀

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