Chocolate Protein Brownies

I’m waving the white flag of defeat! After over a year of trying to resist, I finally broke down and purchased protein powder—ugh. A little background for my readers… I’ve been working with a personal trainer doing strength training for a little over a year. I always had the mindset that lifting heavy weights was taboo for women, so it’s been exciting to feel (and see) myself getting stronger. I usually try to aim for getting about 30% of my calories from protein and I recently increased the amount of calories I’m eating each day. Although eating more food is always exciting, I’ve been struggling to get enough protein each day. A girl can only eat so much baked chicken and black beans.

Back to the protein powder. I’ve always had this mental stigma that only ginormous body builders use protein powder. I also like to try and get most of my nutrients from “real” foods. Regardless, I decided that I’d give it a chance. So I did what I always do when I’m faced with purchasing something new—I headed to Amazon. After a good hour of research, I settled on what looked like a reasonably priced option that several reviewers promised tasted just like chocolate milk. I was skeptical. Two days later (thank you Amazon Prime) my protein powder arrived and I was excited to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that it was fairly tasty when mixed with soy milk. Was it as good as chocolate milk? Not quite.

Can you see where my story is going? The next logical step for me was to try baking some desserts with my newly acquired protein powder. Over the years I’ve managed to make my desserts low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sugar. However, I’ve never been able to make them high-protein. After researching tips and tricks for baking with protein powder, I assembled my own recipe for chocolate brownies. This recipe has another secret ingredient—black beans—which I promise you can’t even taste in the final product. As always, Matthew is the brutally honest taste tester of all my baked goods. Although he doesn’t like chocolate (blasphemy in my opinion) he told me this was the best healthy dessert I’ve ever baked—which I consider a definite win.

Chocolate Protein Brownies

Servings: 12 • Calories: 124 • Fat: 4 g • Carbs: 14 g • Fiber: 4 g • Protein: 9 g • Sugar: 3 g • Sodium: 152 g

Ingredients
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 large eggs
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
15 ounce can black beans, drained
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup peanut butter flavored candy melts, optional

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil and grease. Set aside for later use.

In a food processor, mix together all ingredients (except candy melts) until batter is smooth. Pour batter into greased pan. If you want some peanut butter flavor, warm candy melts in microwave and drizzle over top of dessert. Use a toothpick to create swirls in the batter.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You want the brownies to look a little underdone, as they will firm up once cool. Cool brownies on a baking rack for about 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Keep in mind that protein powders tend to toughen baked goods. That’s why it’s nice to have a very moist batter, which this recipe does. As a result, make sure you do a good job of thoroughly greasing your pan so the brownies don’t stick to the edge and are easy to remove.

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Miniature Pecan Tarts

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Super Bowl 50 is right around the corner! Regardless of whether you’re a Panthers or Broncos fan, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the big game. Although I love football and am a diehard Vikings fan, I usually feel pretty “meh” about the Super Bowl. To be honest, I get more excited about the food, commercials, and halftime show then the actual game. After I heard Beyonce was returning to the halftime show this year, it honestly didn’t matter who was playing in the actual game. Matthew was equally excited that Bruno Mars would be returning as well.

Halftime shenanigans aside, navigating the snacks at your Super Bowl party can feel like somewhat of a minefield for those of us with healthy eating New Year’s resolutions. In an attempt to lighten up one of my favorite desserts, I decided to miniaturize a pecan pie recipe. I stumbled upon some pre-shaped miniature phyllo shells at the grocery store and used this as a base for my pecan pie filling. The hardest part is stopping at just one of these little delicacies. If you’re looking for a healthier option for munching on Super Bowl Sunday, be sure to give these a try!

Miniature Pecan Tarts
Adapted from Athens Foods

Servings: 15 • Serving Size: 1 mini tart • Calories: 68 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 6.5 g • Fiber: 0.3 g • Protein: 1 g • Sugar: 4 g • Sodium: 23 mg

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 large egg
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans chopped
15 Mini Phyllo Shells

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of the oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except pecans. Mix well. Stir in chopped pecans. Arrange mini shells on a baking sheet. Fill mini shells with one rounded teaspoon of pecan mixture.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them cool before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
These miniature tarts are so easy to make, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands in the kitchen. Homemade whipped cream is the perfect topping for this dessert. While the tarts are cooling, whip up a batch and add a dollop to the top before serving!

Miniature Bran Muffins

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It’s time to breathe a big sigh of relief because we all made it through the holiday season and are well into the New Year! That means we battled out holiday parties and family meals that were no doubt filled with our favorite treats. For me, this included sweet potato cheesecake, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese… the list could go on. I don’t know about you, but my body is ready for a break from these sugar and butter laden treats.

That’s why I’m turning to a lighter recipe for this January. Enter these delicious miniature bran muffins. At 40 calories a piece, these muffins are the perfect thing to give you a little morning boost without wasting the typical 400-500 calories that can be found in most muffins. I like to make a big batch and then freeze them individually in plastic wrap. That way all you need to do is pop a few in the microwave for 20 seconds and voila, a no fuss snack ready in seconds!

This recipe uses Truvia baking blend, which is a low-calorie alternative to using sugar in your baking recipes. It’s a mixture of Truvia and regular sugar made specifically for baking. It’s not for everyone, some people think it has a strange aftertaste, and others are opposed to artificial sweeteners. If you find you don’t like the taste, it’s easy to convert to a full-sugar recipe. One half cup of Truvia baking blend can be replaced with one cup of regular sugar. You can easily substitute 6 tablespoons of real sugar in this recipe!

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Miniature Bran Muffins

Servings: 24 • Size: 1 mini muffin • Calories: 40 • Fat: 0 g • Carbs: 7.0 g • Fiber: 2.0 g • Protein: 2.0 g • Sugar: 1.0 g • Sodium: 132.0 g

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
3 tablespoons Truvia baking blend
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Grease miniature muffins cups.

Mix together wheat bran and milk, and let stand for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, egg, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in bran mixture. Sift together all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into bran mixture until just blended.

Scoop into muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 6-10 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Once the batter is mixed, put your muffins in the preheated oven right away. Batters like this one that use baking powder and baking soda need to be baked immediately so the leavening power is not lost.

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Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

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It feels like the month of January has flown by in record time! Matt and I rung in 2015 with family in Minnesota. Since then we’ve slowly been getting back into our groove in Ann Arbor. After two weeks of vacation, coming back to work is always challenging. However, there’s always some comfort in settling back into a routine and what is familiar.

I decided not to make any resolutions in 2015 because I inevitably start to lose motivation by the time February rolls around. Instead I decided to dedicate myself to working out with a trainer doing semi-private lessons with one of my workout buddies. I usually really enjoy group fitness classes so I was a little skeptical of working out with just one other person. Although each session is challenging, I’ve found that I’m really enjoying myself! One of the hardest parts is waking up for our 6 am workouts once a week. Although I am a morning person, it’s hard to get myself out of bed that early. Once I’m awake, the bigger question then becomes what on earth do I eat so early in the morning?!

These oatmeal blueberry muffins are the perfect answer to that question. They are packed with healthy ingredients and even got a thumbs up from Matt in a taste test. I love popping one in the microwave for a quick and easy snack. Considering they only have 130 calories and 2 grams of fat, you can indulge without guilt. So give these muffins a try and enjoy!

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Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Makes approximately12 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons agave
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a muffin tin with liners and lightly spray with oil.

Place oats in a food processor or chopper and pulse a few times. Soak oats in milk for about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, agave, apple sauce, vanilla, egg whites, oil and mix well.
In a third bowl combine whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and whisk to combine.

Combine oats and milk with sugar, applesauce mixture and mix well. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 22-24 minutes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When you bake with fresh or frozen blueberries, the color is affected by the level of acidity in the batter. If the batter has a bit too much baking soda, the blueberries turn green around the edges. You can balance the acidity by adding in a little extra vinegar (or buttermilk, or whatever acid that is called for in the recipe) to balance out the extra baking soda, or you could even use a touch less baking soda in the next recipe.

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Low Fat Banana Bread

IMG_0616Happy New Year! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to 2013.

I’m back on the grid now after recovering from my 12 day December baking extravaganza and the bustle of the holidays. It was great being back in Minnesota with Matt and getting a chance to catch up with friends and family. Somehow even with a week it seemed like there wasn’t enough time to do everything and see everyone. It was a wonderful trip, but still ended with teary goodbyes to my parents at the airport. No judgment on teary goodbyes, even at 28.

I came back from Minnesota armed with some great new tools for my baking blog. I received the book Food Photography by Nicole Young, which I’ll be putting to use to try and produce some mouthwatering pictures for you in the upcoming months. I also received a pastry mat and a cookbook by Michel Roux, French-born chef and restaurateur. Pastry making is something that totally intimidates me, so I’m looking forward to tackling my nemesis.

My original plan for January was to cook all fat-free and healthy dessert recipes to cater to health conscious readers trying to adhere to their New Year’s resolutions. I was on track when I made this low-fat recipe for banana bread. But then Matt offered my baking skills for a dinner party with friends, so I decided to jazz it up a bit with a butter glaze for the top. So if you’re looking a healthy recipe, just omit the glaze and enjoy the pure flavor of this moist banana bread.

Low-Fat Banana Bread
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Banana Bread Ingredients
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup smashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Lightly grease 8 1/2 x4 1/2×2 1/2-inch pan and dust with flour. Using an electric mixer; beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in smashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt over mixture; beat until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto rack and cool. Once cooled, mix ingredients for glaze together and pour over bread.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
I’m sure you’ve heard warnings against over-mixing your batter. The reason why is that over-mixing flour activates the gluten, a protein that can give baked goods a firm and elastic structure. While this may be delicious in a chewy pizza crust, it’s not as desirable for muffins and quick breads. Instead, mix your wet and dry ingredients just until they are incorporated. A few lumps in your batter won’t hurt you.

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