Monday, December 24, 2012

Last-Minute Christmas Recipe: Peppermint Brownies with Eggnog Glaze

Heeellooooooooooooooooo! It's Christmas Eve, peoples!

Not that you needed me to tell you that. 

Well, I mean...I think we all know you did. 


Recipe! Right - yes, I have a last-minute one. I'm one of those last-minute people. Try it sometimes. It's fun. 

In a I'm going insanse and about to scream at the top of my voice. 

But still fun!

And oh, is this recipe perfect for last minute needs. And it's easy! Like, "I-can-make-this--and-wrap-a-present-and-sing-along-to-Michael-Buble's-dreamy-voice-crooning-Christmas-carols-all-at-the-same-time"easy peasy. 

But seriously, it is. Because it involves - gasp - a box mix. But not just any kind! One without artificial ingredients and high fructose syrup. 

Never mind that the stuff is in practically in everything. I tend to go for a 80/20 ratio: 80 % organic, clean eats and then 20%  "regular" treats. Kodiak has fantastic box mixes with the best of both worlds: all natural ingredients, whole wheat flour, supreme fluffiness in the final baked product, and a delicious taste. I've tried their pancake mix, brownie mix, and cookie mix. They are all delicious and I love the company and their products! But, of course, any box mix you have in your pantry will also work. 

Best of all? This only has seven ingredients and can be thrown together in 20 minutes or less. So if you need something sweet to leave for Santa, a last minute stocking stuffer, or a midnight snack while you wrap presents  (or, let's be honest, find a way to use up the bajillion candy canes in your house), here you go! 

And by switching out the eggs and oil for Greek yogurt you get brownies that are ridiculously moist, fudgy and sweet enough without making your teeth ache. 

Eggnog glaze - sweet, deliciously decadent, yet light, and oh-so-naughtily nice. Do it! Attempt to not lick it off the spoon, drizzle it over everything in the cookie box, or on top of ice cream. Gingerbread cake or cookies with this would be. ah. maz. ing. 

Oh my....oh my goodness. 

These were addictingly good! My family couldn't keep their hands off of them...and I may have eaten 1/4 of the pan myself. It's the crunchy edges - they get me every time!

My little helpers loved them!

Well, the older one did...I think this one's in hyper-shock from the (small amount of) sugar. Either that, or it's brought out her peppermint beast genes. 

Oh dear. 

Peppermint Brownies with Eggnog Glaze

Peppermint Brownies
1 brownie box mix
1 6-8 oz. cup of Greek yogurt
1/3-2-3 cup of water
20 mini candy canes or 6-8 regular sized ones
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Eggnog Glaze
2-3 Tbsp. eggnog (I used Silk Nog for vegan glaze)
1/4-1/2 cup of powdered sugar (depending how thick you want the glaze to be)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
 2. Add Greek yogurt to box mix and stir together in large bowl. Add water if too dry, little by little as needed. 
3. Crush two-thirds of candy canes/peppermint sticks and mix into brownie batter. i also added chocolate chips for a little extra chocolate. Almonds would probably be delicious as well. Spread batter in greased pan. 
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on how soft you like them. 
5. Remove and let cool for 30-45 minutes. 
6. Wisk together eggnog and powdered sugar (adding more powdered sugar for thicker consistency).
Drizzle over cool brownies. 
7. Place rest of candy canes/peppermint sticks in Ziploc bag or between two sheets of parchment paper and crush with rolling pin. Sprinkle over brownies and drizzle with eggnog glaze. 

 Plate and enjoy!

Go make these!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Update: Hooray for Holiday Baking!

Dear peoples of the world,

I know. What am I doing here? I've shamefully ignored this blog, failed to post ANY recipes, or even update you that my stomach (and the rest of me) resided in another state this year because I did the thing most 18-year-olds do.

I grew up.

Ok, not really. I just headed off to college...which, oh by the way, I loved. 

Like seriously, y'all. I had countless meltdowns about essays, deadlines, being busy, and enduring finals, but I utterly love college!

Except, the not being able to cook very much bit. And eating mostly in dining halls.

Yeah...still, I managed to bake twice this semester, and while both times were at an absurdly late/early time in the evening/morning (it was after midnight, 'kay?), I did bake.

Granted, both times were in the last two weeks of school, but...I'll take the victories I can get.

Anyways...the point of all this is to explain I had a fabulous reason for not posting and that I'm back! I'm back home, where the stove isn't a floor and four doors down away from me, I don't have to lug ingredients down a flight of stairs and into another part of the building - oh, and the grocery store's just down the street from me.

Just call me blissfully happy.

And, and, AND - it's Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!

That means it's cookie time and holiday treats time and all the magical, lovely, tantalizing scents and sounds of the holiday season-time.

And eggnog. Can't forget eggnog - because that's definitely the most important thing about Christmas.


But in all actuality  I'm extremely excited. I love food period, but I especially love all the treats, goodies, and dishes that appear in November and December.

(Rasberry chocolate chip banana nut bread)

 Some of the ideas bouncing around in my head?

Pb chocolate cups,

red velvet anything,

eggnog smoothies,

 peppermint hot chocolate,


chocolate chip scones,

 and cookies.

Every cookie you can think of.


I think if I was paid to do nothing but bake holiday treats, I would be happy forever.

What's on your holiday baking list? I'm thinking Emma's amazing Nutella cinnamon rolls or Mama Pea's Eggnog Scones for breakfast on Christmas morning.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday: An Early Start and Sweet End

Hello! Popping in for a quick What I Ate Wednesday, hosted as always by the fabulous Jenn over at Peas and Crayons!

Last night was...interesting. I didn't get very much sleep (lots on my mind), so I was up literally at the crack of dawn, typing away and working on a few posts. It was absolutely freezing inside and pouring down rain outside, so I had two mugs of an old favorite: Twinings Irish Breakfast tea. I headed off to morning Mass and came back cold and ready for breakfast. 


I was thisclose to breaking out my last can of pumpkin left over from the fall so I could make pumpkin oatmeal, but I figured it'd be sunny and bright in the next few days...and pumpkin's such a fall food for me. I didn't want it going to waste. So I opted for classic whipped banana oatmeal with egg whites and chia seeds for some extra protein.

 Topped with Wild Squirrel Sneaky Cinnamon Almond Butter (my favorite), plus more cinnamon and chopped apple!

Iced coffee with a splash of 2% Horizon milk on the side...

Behold the photograph-taking beauty of my little sister's new camera. 

She saved up her money and splurged on a Canon Rebel. Yes, she's 12. And she has a fancy camera - not just any camera, but a Canon Rebel - before I do. The injustice! Although..I spent my money on a laptop for college, so it's not that I didn't have the funds. 

But, because she's an awesome little sister and my best friend, she's sweetly given me permission to use it. (I wonder if she realizes just HOW much I'm going to be taking her up on her offer, hehe.)

I'm in love.....

Head over heels in the mirror. (Holla for messy top knots!)

After breakfast, I turned to what's now my favorite part of my morning routine: reading the Word, quiet time with God, and journaling what's on my heart. Some amazing women started a Bible study devotional called #SheReadsTruth - and it has truly been so good for my soul. The first devotional was called "Soul Detox."

My word...each day was so convicting and stirred me more than the previous one. God was definitely moving my heart! We - a group of women online {Join us!} - are now on our second study, "Living A Surrendered Life" and it's even better than the Soul Detox, which I didn't think was possible. Each morning, I go to the You Version app on my iPhone where it lists the Scripture for that day, read it in my Bible, and then  spend some time contemplating the devotion/questions that accompany the Scripture that day. 

I journal what struck me in a special way, whatever I'm struggling with, or thoughts on the passage and snap a picture for Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SheReadsTruth. It's the same nourishment for my soul that these healthy eats are for my body. :)


No workout today...I was absolutely exhausted, so I did some of this before lunch (although not long enough). I'm a firm believer in not working out if your body doesn't feel up to it - and it just wasn't going to happen today. After a brief doze, I woke up ready for lunch!

Scrambled egg, spring mix, feta cheese, hot sauce, zucchini, and avocado on a brown rice English muffin with the rest of the apple from breakfast on the side. Sounds like Operation "Clean-Out-The-Fridge" but the flavors worked. Eggs are so versatile, you can pair them with almost anything: apple + cheddar, Swiss and raspberry jam with spinach, avocado and mustard, etc. 

I had half of the egg on the sandwich and the rest as a side salad.

Dinner somehow escaped the camera, but it was a plain Chobani Greek yogurt with frozen raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries with a spoonful of more Wild Squirrel nut butter.

Dessert? More yogurt! This time of the frozen variety. 

Chocolate, old-fashioned vanilla, and a bit of pb with fruit, nuts, chocolate chunks, and honey. And of course, plenty of water all day. 

I'm off to have a bit of fruit or glass of milk, but that's the eats for today! That being said, I'm feeling a sugar overload from the past few weeks, so I plan on eating very clean this weekend, like a mini-detox almost. Just lots of fruits + veggies, protein, and a break from sweets. Just a short one, of course!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Zucchini Cherry Muffins with Granola

It's that time of year again, when everything's green, green, green, farmer's markets are overflowing with bountiful fresh produce, and everyone and their grandmother has a boatload of zucchini. 

This all cost maybe $5 from my weekly farmer's market - score!

I became a zucchini convert last year and now love zucchini bread. I love every kind of bread or muffin, but anything chock full of veggies that tastes sweet? I'll take three, please. 

So when I got ahold of two massive zucchinis for only $1.50, I knew exactly what I was going to do with one of them. Not simply zucchini bread, but zucchini muffins. I love making muffins because they're adorable, perfectly portioned, and serve one. 

Unless, you know, you end up eating three in one day. 

And nibble on them even after you stuck them in the freezer to hide them from yourself.

 Yep. They're that good. 

These are a little different from your usual recipe because in addition to being muffins, they have dried cherries, chia seeds, and bananas for a little grown up twist. And because I wanted to make them vegan. And because we were out of eggs. 

These are also extra special because they have a crunchy coconut granola topping. LOVE Grown Foods granola to be exact!

I gushed over my love for this granola, but I loved it even more after sprinkling on these muffins. And I may or may not have eaten the tops off of two straight out of the pan....try to resist. I DARE you.

Vegan Zucchini Muffins
[Adapted from the Bread Beckers Recipe Collection]

Makes 24 muffins

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup honey
2 chia eggs,  (2 Tbsp. chia seeds + 6 Tbsp. water or you can use 2 real eggs instead)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 dried cherries
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (pastry or regular; pastry will give you a fine, lighter texture. Whole wheat will be denser and heartier.)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup Cranberry Pecan LOVE Grown Foods granola (or any type you like!)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray muffin pan with cooking spray or grease with butter/oil. 
  2. If using chia seeds, add 2 Tbsp. chia seeds to 6 Tbsp. cold water in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes; it will thicken up with a gel, egg-like consistency. If using real eggs, skip this step. 
  3. Add honey to mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl and stir in chia/real eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Grate zucchini and add to mixture -careful not to accidentally grate your fingers. You want full concentration during this step!
  5. Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and pour into wet mixture. Stir gently; fold in dried cherries and 1/4 cup of granola for a bit of crunch in the actual muffin, if you want. 
  6. Scoop into muffin pan (I used a generous-sized ice cream scoop) and sprinkle with granola on top. 
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, keeping an eye on the tops of the muffins so they don't burn. You may have to adjust the cooking time and add 10-15 incremental. The muffins should be moist but not still a wet mixture.
  8. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 20-25 minutes.

Hmm, moist muffin with crisp, crunchy coconut and granola on top? Yes, please. 

 (Note: because of their moisture, these are best eaten within two days or stored in the freezer)

Plate 'em up and eat them for breakfast, on the go, as a snack, for pre-workout fuel. Tie a pretty ribbon around them or stack them in a jar for a friend. 

And try to not eat just one. Dare you. ;)

Love Grown Granola Love + Wild Squirrel Nut Butter

A little while back, one of my favorite bloggers Ashley had a giveaway on her blog...and guess who won? Yup, yours truly. 

To say I freaked out is putting it mildly, because 
1. I'd never won a blog giveaway (there's always so many entries!)
2. As a result Graceful Eats was mentioned on Ashley's blog, Edible Perspective
And 3. The prize was something delicious that I had wanted to try for a long time -

I'd seen some bloggers praise it online and Ashley raved about it as one of her favorite granolas, so I was intrigued. I am a bonafide granola addict and extremely particular...I don't care for granola that's too sugary. It also has to have excellent clumps, and fun mix-ins never hurt! From what I'd read, Love Grown Foods sounded great, so I was very excited to finally taste it!

Maddy and Alex, the founders of Love Grown Foods, met in college in Colorado and decided to fuse their respective loves of entrepreneurship and healthy living and start a business together.  They definitely have a passion for what they're doing, which is reflected in these fun stickers and magnets that came with the granola goodness!

When the granola arrived in the mail, I couldn't wait to dig in. The Love Grown Foods Team had put together an awesome package that would make any granola lover's heart beat fast. I got not one, but two full packs of their granola in addition to four mini travel packs!

  (Note: there are only three in this picture. That's because I was so busy enjoying this granola, I ate the fourth before I got around to taking picture. Hehe. Unpictured - and in my happy stomach - the Apple Walnut Delight with chunks of dried apples, which I loved!)

All of Love Grown Foods granola is gluten free - a huge plus for those with gluten intolerance. Even if you don't, like me, it's still 100% delicious. Despite the fact Ashley doesn't eat gluten and posts gluten-free recipes on her blog, I'd forgotten the granola was also gluten free.

The verdict? Holyyyyyyy yum. I officially love this granola and have enjoyed it almost every possible way: in cereal, on yogurt, straight from the bag, on top of pancakes, sprinkled over ice cream...I've even snuck it into frozen yogurt shops to put on my fro-yo!

The classic granola: sweet with honey, clumpy, and utterly delicious

Sweet Cranberry Pecan.

 Love the huge flakes of coconut in this one!!! I've had trouble keeping my hands out of this bag especially...I even baked with it last week. Recipe coming soon!

I love the convenience of these little packets - so easy and portable. Perfect for throwing in a purse or bag for car trips, or for packing lunches. I spent the night at a friend's and brought some with me just in case. 

If you haven't guessed already, I LOVE Love Grown Foods granola! Two thumbs up and huge kudos to Maddy and Alex on their amazing product. I love that the people behind the granola are just as their message. <3

Not too long after I received my granola package, I got another fabulous edible one...

 I'd first seen this fun, cute nut butter on Kath's blog. As a java lover, the Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed coffee flavor immediately caught my eye and appealed to my tastebuds! It was from two college girls (seeing a pattern here? Three cheers for young and rising entrepreneurs) who'd sent Kath some trial jars of flavors they'd made for themselves. I'd kept it in mind and thought about it every now and then wistfully. So I was very happy to see that they'd launched their own official nut butter business! Shortly afterwards, Wild Squirrel was for sale on Open Sky (an online shopping platform). You can bet I snapped some up ASAP!

The cast of characters: Honey Pretzel Peanut Butter, Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter, Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Sunflower Seed Almond Butter

All lined up like a row of Wild, Nutty soldiers!

I took my Wild Squirrel tasting very seriously and thoroughly enjoyed each spoonful.

The Joyful Java Vanilla Espresso had specks of ground espresso beans. Perfect for that morning buzzzzzzz. ;)

(Summer blue pedigree!)

(I somehow didn't take a picture of the Chocolate Sesame Seed??  It was Sun-Sational - excellent on ice cream!)

 Pretzel Pizazz Honey Pretzel = chock full of pretzel pieces with a nice, mild pb flavor. Not too salty, which was nice. Some pbs have far too much salt!

The Sneaky Cinnamon Cinnamon Raisin Pb lived up to its name...I was shocked how much I LOVED this one!! I was expecting the Vanilla Espresso to be my favorite, but I went absolutely bonkers over the Cinnamon Raisin. Who am I?!? It's not that I don't dislike cinnamon raisin nut butters, but cinnamon raisin-anything just usually doesn't rock my world. Until now! This one had a rich, deep cinnamon flavor that wasn't too overpowering and plump raisins that I found myself digging for - and I am not a huge raisin fan. But this was so good I wanted to use it for frosting.

Definitely my favorite of the four! :D

 The ingredient list for all the nut butters was simple and natural with no preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup, or extra sugar/oils. Always a good thing! I usually steer away from nut butters with those ingredients because there really is no need for any of that. I find it doesn't improve the taste and it's not good for your body.

I really enjoyed all of the flavors. Thankfully, I have four jars of these yummy nut butters, not just one - so I should be stocked for a while. :)

Until I run out, that is!