June 8, 2016

My FAVORITE Banana Bread (chocolate chips, vegan + gluten free options)

Happy summer!!

I apologize for the gap in posts. I was finishing up my first year as a school counselor and the end of the year got a little crazy. Plus, I'm finishing up final wedding details and our social calendar has been going steady almost every weekend for the past couple of months.

Don't get me wrong, it's been an exciting time, but I haven't found the time to create new recipes, photograph them, and write posts. I am happy to report that I am now on summer break!! My first ever paid summer off. Such an amazing feeling! And even though my wedding is just a few days before I start back to work again next school year, I still hope to be able to post new recipes more frequently.

Today, I am posting my very favorite banana bread! I've made it probably 10 times and I'm surprised I haven't posted it before now. It's the most moist, flavorful banana bread I've ever had. Although I love traditional banana bread with walnuts, this chocolate chip version is out of this world. You could always sub out nuts for chocolate if you want to. You can also use gluten free flour and the recipe is vegan if using milk free chocolate or nuts.

As the temperature warms up, bananas seem to ripen quicker on my counter. I had three tired bananas that I was able to use up in this recipe. I also keep a bag of frozen bananas in my freezer. Check out these vegan banana ice cream bites and stay tuned for new ice cream recipes I want to try out this summer with my ice cream maker.

Jessica's Favorite Banana Bread

Makes 1 9x4" loaf or 1 9x4" and 1 mini loaf


2 cups All-Purpose Flour (gluten free if desired)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup real maple syrup
2/3 cup cashew milk (almond, cow or milk of choice)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed tired bananas (about 3 large)
1 cup chocolate chips (or leave out or sub nuts)


1. Preheat oven to 325ºF and lightly grease a 9x4" loaf pan. (I used a loaf pan and a mini loaf pan because this recipe makes a lot of batter)
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add 1/3 cup oil, maple syrup, milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir until smooth.
3. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips.
4. Fill the prepared pan(s) halfway with batter.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes if using a mini loaf pan. Larger loaf will take 40-50 minutes. Cook until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.
6. Let the bread sit for 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. This is an especially moist bread, so it may not look completely done when you remove it. It firms up as it cools, but center may sink in a bit.


May 4, 2016

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips

I have had the biggest craving for muffins lately. I love pretty much all baked goods in general, but I am especially fond of breakfast pastries. Shopping at Sprouts I always pass the baked goods display and feel tempted... but in California the law makes a lot of food service providers list the calorie content of their products, and alas, 450 calories is just too high for me. But that's a-okay because I found the most delicious healthy muffin recipe that's gluten free, vegan, and has a surprise ingredient. Drum roll please... garbanzo beans!

You'll have to trust me that you absolutely cannot taste any "bean" aftertaste whatsoever. Just make sure you rinse and pat dry the beans before you blend them. These muffins are very moist and have a fudgier, more dense consistency than normal muffins. They taste better the next day, so if you can help it, let them rest for 24 hours before consuming. Or don't. They're still good fresh from the oven.

This recipe only makes for 8-9 regular sized muffins, so double the recipe if you want more. The chocolate chips are optional--improvise with nuts, chia seeds, or berries if you feel so inclined. Also, only fill the cups about 1/2 full. The muffins won't rise much as there's no flour and filling them to the top can result in the tops sinking in.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips
Adapted from here


1/2 cup quick oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 medium (1/2 cup) mashed over-ripe banana
1 can garbanzo or white beans (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey (I used agave because that's what I had on hand and it was great)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
optional handful mini chocolate chips, crushed walnuts, shredded coconut, pinch cinnamon, etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 8-9 muffin cups.
2. Drain the beans and rinse extremely well, then pat dry. This is important because it gets rid of any bean taste.
3. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a blender or high-quality food processor.
4. Pour into the muffin cups – don’t overfill or they will rise and then sink in the centers. Bake 17-20 minutes. They will look underdone – let sit 20 minutes and they will firm up. Muffins last for 3-4 days refrigerated or 2-3 weeks frozen.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Have a great week! :)


April 25, 2016

Baked Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites

Are you looking for a kid-friendly or even spouse-friendly healthy food option that everyone can enjoy? Then look no further! These pretzel crusted chicken bites are the perfect appetizer, snack, or main course. Serve them up with a side of baked sweet potato fries and you have an easy, crowd-pleasing meal even the pickiest of eaters are sure to love. You don't even have to tell them the chicken bites are baked. The crunch on the outside, tender chicken on the inside, and great flavor could fool anyone.

I like mine with ketchup and Greg prefers honey mustard or BBQ sauce. It felt like we were eating a "bad" meal, but in reality, it was pretty healthy. Next time we're going to try using gluten free flour and pretzels, so I'll update you on how they turn out once I do.

You can serve these little guys as an appetizer with toothpicks or have as your main dish. Either way, everyone will love them!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites
Adapted from Sally

1 and 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups finely crushed pretzel thins (or more, as needed)
nonstick spray like PAM, olive oil spray, or coconut oil spray

1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or coat heavily with nonstick spray.

2. If using chicken breasts, pound down and cut into little 1-1.5 inch pieces. If using boneless, skinless chicken tenders simply cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces.

3. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Beat eggs in another shallow dish. Pour pretzels into a third shallow dish. Coat each chicken piece in flour, shaking off any excess. Then, dip in egg and let any excess drip off. Then generously roll in the pretzels, shaking off any excess. Add more crushed pretzels to the dish if you are running low. Place the chicken bites on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn each piece over and continue baking until the outside is crisp and the centers are cooked through, about 6-8 minutes more. Baking times may vary, just make sure yours are cooked through. If you like them more brown, bake longer. Serve chicken bites with toothpicks (if using as an appetizer), honey mustard, or cheese sauce. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.



April 11, 2016

Skinny Green Curry Coconut Chicken {gluten free, dairy free}


I have been craving curry and coconut flavors lately. It might be because our wedding venue is Polynesian, so those flavors are always on my mind? Not sure. Whatever the reason, I spotted the Thai Green Curry simmer sauce at Trader Joe's the other day and I had to buy it.

For some color and extra nutrition, I added some diced red bell pepper and sauteed spinach at the end. The result was quite beautiful and tasty! It's spring time here in San Diego and we have gorgeous flowers blooming all over our yard. I added my favorite blossom to the plate for an extra special touch. :-)

This dish is very easy to make and can be easily altered to taste. The sauce is pretty mild, so even skeptics will enjoy a new menu item for dinner. Serve with brown rice, quinoa, and sub out chicken for tofu if you're a vegetarian.

Green Curry Coconut Chicken
Makes 3-4 servings


1/4-1/2 diced red bell pepper
1/4 diced yellow onion
3 small chicken breasts, cubed
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 jar Trader Joe's Thai Green Curry simmer sauce (or sauce of choice)
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: steamed brown rice or other starch

1. Cube chicken breasts and saute in coconut oil on medium high until cooked through. Set chicken aside and cover.
2. Add diced red bell peppers and onions to pan using juice and oil from pan. Cook until onions are soft and translucent.
3. Add chicken back to pan. Pour about 1/2 cup of sauce and stir to coat chicken and veggies.
4. Add about a handful of fresh spinach and stir until leaves are wilted. Add more sauce if necessary or to taste.
5. Serve immediately over rice or quinoa.

This makes delicious leftovers, too!



March 14, 2016

Honey Lime + Mint Fruit Salad

My grandma used to make a fruit salad with chopped up bananas, fruit cocktail, and walnuts. Even though it was the easiest salad in the world to make, I just loved it. It was the best after it sat in the fridge for awhile and got really cold. My favorite part was the mushy bananas. ;-)

Even though I love my grandma's recipe, it's starting to be strawberry time in San Diego, so I was inspired to try something new. This Honey Lime + Mint Fruit Salad kicks up a regular old fruit salad a notch with a zesty citrus honey flavor and fresh mint aftertaste. You can use whatever fruit you prefer, but I think strawberries are a must in this one.

Honey Lime + Mint Fruit Salad
Makes 1 medium sized bowl


2 cups sliced strawberries
2 medium bananas, sliced
1/2 container fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (this was equal to 1 1/2 limes, but it depends how juicy your limes are)
1 Tbsp honey or agave (I actually prefer agave because it goes really well with lime juice; margarita, anyone?)

1. Chop up all fruit and mint and toss together in a medium to large bowl.
2. Juice limes until you have 2 Tbsp of juice, then mix with 1 Tbsp honey or agave.
3. Pour juice over fruit and mix to coat.
4. Eat right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Enjoy your bowl full of sunshine!



March 11, 2016

Skinny Homemade Peanut Butter Cups {Gluten Free}

Fri-yay!! Celebrate with this fabulous homemade peanut butter cup recipe!

This yummy, gluten free treat will satisfy your sweet tooth with mostly wholesome ingredients and low calories. You probably have the ingredients on hand too.

Chocolate chips melted with a little almond milk create the base and top while peanut butter mixed with a banana and a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract make up the rich filling.

Skinny Homemade Peanut Butter Cups {Gluten Free}
Makes 6 peanut butter cups

3/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp almond milk
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup creamy peanut or nut butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


1. Line 6 muffin cups in a muffin tin with paper or foil muffin liners. Spray liners with cooking spray.
2. Melt chocolate chips and milk on low over stove stirring until chips are all melted. (Be careful not to burn.)
3. Pour 1 Tbsp melted chocolate into each liner, coating bottom.
4. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash banana, peanut butter, and vanilla until creamy and smooth.
5. Remove muffin tin from freezer and drop about 1-2 Tsbp peanut butter mixture into each cup and spread evenly.
6. Top each cup with remaining chocolate and smooth over banana mixture gently to edge.
7. Freeze for 3 hours and enjoy.
8. Store in freezer.

Could be made vegan if using vegan chocolate chips.

February 29, 2016

PB2 Flourless Chocolate Brownies {gluten free, low refined sugar}

Good morning!

Here's something to brighten up your Monday... flourless, low refined sugar chocolate brownies made with PB2! Personally, they brightened up my whole weekend. ;-)

These are very easy and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. Never heard of PB2? Well, I'm about to change your life. Here's a post I did on it a couple of years ago.

(Not pictured: egg, chocolate chips, salt, vanilla)

These brownies are super moist, surprisingly cakey, and very rich and chocolatey just like a "regular" brownie. You really wouldn't know they're flourless. I have a couple of other healthy brownie options like these gluten free chocolate avocado brownies and these vegan chocolate raspberry brownies. Which is your favorite?

PB2 Flourless Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from Skinnytaste
Servings: 12 • Serving Size: 1 bar • Points +: 4 pts • Smart Points: 6
Calories: 131 • Fat: 5 g • Protein: 6 g • Carb: 26 g • Fiber: 3 g • Sugar: 20 g
Sodium: 217 mg • Cholesterol: 20 g

cooking spray
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup PB2
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk or dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nonstick 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Beat the egg and egg white in a small bowl with a whisk.
3. In a large bowl combine the PB2, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and mix well with a spatula. Add the egg and egg whites and stir. Add water, honey, vanilla and stir with a spatula until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Set aside to cool, then cut into 12 bars cutting 3 rows x 4 rows. Store in an airtight container or share.

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