Tag Archives: peanut butter

Swirls of Serendipity

6 May


Peanut butter and chocolate…they’re BFF’s, right? A classic combo made in heaven….and totally off limits if you’re trying to eat healthy….NOT!

If you’ve been reading HHH for a while, you’ve heard me talk about Hungry Girl. You’ve seen me make HG recipes time and time again. And hopefully, you’ve subscribed to her weekly email (if not, GET ON IT)! If you are a subscriber, you saw this recipe for HG’s Nutty-Good Brownies in your inbox this week. Being the PB and chocolate lover that I am, I could NOT get it out of my mind! I knew I HAD to make them…so on Wednesday night, I did. Let me tell you, these brownies did NOT disappoint. I’ve made HG’s Cheesecake Brownies before, and these are essentially the same, but swapping the cream cheese for PB. Since they’re made with pumpkin and no fat, they tend to be more cake-y than fudgy, but they’re delicious nonetheless. And getting PB and chocolate for 160 calories for a HUGE brownie….no complaints here! I made a half batch, so all the photos you’ll see are for 1/2 the batch, FYI. Here’s the recipe:

HG’s Nutty-Good Brownies

One 18.25-oz. box moist-style devil’s food cake mix
One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
1/4 cup creamy reduced-fat peanut butter, room temperature
1 tbsp. light soymilk (plain or vanilla) or fat-free milk (whatever you have on hand)  (I made a half recipe, but found I needed the full one tbsp of milk to make the mixture a bit more spreadable)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking pan (about 9" X 13") with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix with pumpkin. Stir until completely blended. (Batter will be thick.) Spread batter into the baking pan, and smooth out the top.
In a small bowl, combine peanut butter with milk. Using a butter knife or a narrow spoon handle, stir until thoroughly mixed. Swirl the peanut butter mixture over the top of the batter with the knife or spoon handle.
Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 – 25 minutes.
Allow to cool, and then cut into 16 pieces. Enjoy!

Serving Size: 1 brownie (1/16th of recipe)IMG_0977
Calories: 160
Fat: 4g
Sodium: 293mg
Carbs: 30g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 15.5g
Protein: 2.5g

The reason the pumpkin in this photo looks a little funky is because it’s pumpkin that has been frozen then thawed in the microwave.






The pumpkin and cake mix (FYI, if you’re making 1/2 batch, use 2 cups of cake mix). I stuck the spatula straight up in the batter to show just how thick it is!







I microwaved the peanut butter for a few seconds, then added a bit of extra milk to make it easier to swirl.





The peanut butter on top of the brownie batter in the ban, before the swirling action has started (use an 11 x 7 pan for 1/2 recipe).






A swirling action shot…look at me go!





These brownies are baked and ready to be devoured. Try them….4 ingredients, PB and chocolate goodness, 160 calories. Pretty much a no-brainer if you ask me (unless you’re allergic to peanut butter, in which case I offer my profoundest and deepest apologies).

Do you have any baking plans/recipes you want to try in the near future? Let me know, I’m always keen for new recipe ideas!


Break out the Tye-dye

6 Apr


Last weekend, I gathered some eggs from my chickens, participated in an anti-war demonstration, made my own nut butter, wore my Birkenstocks over my sandals and burned some incense. …WHAT?!?!? Ok, ok, I was having some fun with you…only one of those statements is actually true (hint: look at the picture). To me, all of those activities seem rather “hippy-ish” (no offence at all if any or all of those things are things you engage in on a regular basis). I am in no way a hippy – I won’t be voting for the Green Party in the upcoming election, I hate incense and I wouldn’t be caught dead in socks and sandals (even though some very cool people that I know choose to partake in this fashion “statement”). But, last weekend, I did make my own nut butter….so, as per the title, if that makes me a hippy, then break out the tye- dye (wait ‘till you see what I did with it, then you’ll really  think I’m a hippy).


Now, I know that many members of the blog world have made your own nut butters. In fact, the inspiration for the title of this posts comes partly from Tina – I remember her blogging about how her husband referred to her homemade nut butter as “hippy butter.” I have no exact measurements for you, but since my ingredients were simply 100 % nuts (how’s that for all-natural?), you can’t go wrong!

Homemade Nut Butter

I started by getting my nuts nice and toasty. I keep my nuts in the freezer (they IMG_0627keep longer that way. Due to the high natural oil content in nuts, then will go “off” more quickly if stored at room temperature), so toasting them in the oven took just over 10 minutes at 350. I just spread  them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toasted away. My mix of nuts consisted of pecans, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts; all unsalted, with skins. I was REALLY happy with the flavour I got, but at the same time, I can’t wait to try other nut combos. Once toasted, I put all the nuts into my mini food processor (I didn’t even wait for them to cool) and got to blending.IMG_0628IMG_0629







The two pictures show different stages in the blending process. At first, it’s just finely chopped nuts….then the mixture gradually starts to clump up and come together…until it’s finally a nice smooth paste as all the oils are released…no added ingredients needed!IMG_0630

I found my homemade nut butter a lot smoother than most natural nut butter that you buy, it didn’t separate at all. I was going to just put my nut butter into a tupperware, but I decided it seemed much more “artisanal” to go for the Mason jar, don’t you agree? From the quantity of nuts I used, I got about 3/4 cup, I’d say (the amount in the jar is the entire batch). Side note: don’t you LOVE the new picture spot I found? It’s our dining room window in early evening….I just love the combo of the old wood, the lace runner and the perfect lighting! 


So what did I do with my delightful nut butter? Generally, although I LOVE peanut/nut butters, I try not to eat a lot of them because of their high calorie content. But some did find its way onto a slice of HG Banana Bread (thawed from the freezer) for a late night snack…tasty! But that’s not the “hippy” use I found for my nut butter….no…that was: homemade granola bars!

Since it was the beginning of the month, I was thinking about what to make my brother-in-law for his monthly birthday sweets instalment. Since he and my sister have just gotten possession of their new house, and he is busy doing some minor renovations over there,  granola bars came to my mind. I thought they’d make the perfect healthy snack/breakfast on the go for the busy days ahead. I’ve made 2 granola bar recipes from Smitten Kitchen, both have been delicious. I remembered one had nut butter as an optional ingredient, so I figured, if making homemade granola bars, why not go all the way (into hippy-dom Winking smile) and use my own homemade nut butter?

The recipe I used is below, my adaptations/changes/notes are in brackets. These bars are really tasty, but a bit hard to cut, even after chilling in the fridge for 1/2 hour, as per recipe recommendations. You just have to use your hands to sort of smush them together a bit…definitely worth the effort! And a bonus for my celiacs out there….if you can get your hands on gluten-free oats (I know they’re hard to find), you can make these gluten-free!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from King Arthur FlourIMG_0643

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender – that’s what I did)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (I went for the full 3 cups…a nice mix of sweetened flaked coconut, lots of dried raisins, dried apricots, dried apricots, a little bit of leftover tropical fruit from the tropical chocolate chip cookies, and chopped pecans and cashews)

1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional) (since I was so enthused about my homemade stuff, I used 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

6 tablespoons melted butter (since I bumped up the nut butter, I decreased this to 4 tbsp)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used honey…if you observe the warped bottle in the photo above, it’s because my honey had crystalized and I had to microwave it in the bottle…and it warped)IMG_0644
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″  (mine was 9 x 9) pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and IMG_0645water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)IMG_0646

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)IMG_0653

Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

There you go, 2 delicious hippy-inspired recipes (and once again, no offence at all meant to anyone who considers themselves a hippy, I’m just having a little fun, since I am about as far as you can get from a hippy). Put on your tye-dye, light your incense, break out your guitars and enjoy!

Do you have any favourite “all-natural” (hippy) recipes you make? Or do you consider yourself a hippy?

PB Pleasure

9 Mar

If you are allergic to peanut butter, my sincerest apologies. I am truly sorry that you cannot experience once of life’s greatest pleasures, and one of my favourite taste sensations – peanut butter. Given that I am a teacher and have a cousin with a peanut allergy, I am used to being around those with life-threatening allergies, so I understand how careful you have to be about this allergy. However, this doesn’t stop me from enjoying peanut butter in the comfort of my own home. 🙂

This dessert is my own creation – and quite tasty – nutty, fluffy, full of peanut butter-y goodness, and guilt free! I don’t have a name for it – let me know if you have any suggestions! You can make this beauty with 4 simple ingredients – here’s how it goes!

Mix 2 or 3 tbsp thawed fat-free Cool Whip with 1 sugar-free vanilla pudding cup and 1 tbsp PB2 (I can’t remember if I have mentioned this stuff before? It is powdered peanut butter – with waaay less fat and calories than the real deal. You can mix it with water for a spread/dip, but I like it best for adding peanut butter flavour to desserts and smoothies without a ton of calories. And you can order it online in Canada!). Chop up one 100 calorie Nutter Butter bar (note: you could use any 100 cal bar/cookie pack, I just go with the Nutter Butter to maximize the PB experience). Stir the chopped pieces into the pudding mixture and dig in!

The Cool Whip adds extra creaminess and fluffiness, and the PB flavour comes through nicely….and of course, like all desserts, it does nicely with a cup of tea. Since I’m such a PB fan, I am SO grateful for lower-calorie peanut butter options…usually if you are trying to cut calories, you need to avoid peanut butter at all costs, so any guilt-free PB flavour combos are welcome. 🙂

Snow day banana bread

19 Jan

I will take an opportunity I’m given to bake. This banana bread was one of the 3 projects I tackled on my recent snow day. Surprise, surprise, another Hungry Girl recipe. I love banana bread and baked goods of any kind. But, when I started Weight Watchers, for the most part, I gave up on having quick breads and muffins as part of my every day diet. They tend to be way too high in fat and calories to enjoy on a regular basis (but of course, as I always say – in moderation, anything can be part of a healthy diet). In reality, many muffins/quick breads have as many (or more) calories than desserts!

Thank goodness for Hungry Girl. She and her team renovate recipes so we can enjoy our favourites in a slimmed-down version, perfect for every day life. Now…I’m not going to lie. This doesn’t exactly taste like classic banana bread, what your mom or grandma would make. It is good, and I really enjoy it; but the recipe has no fat or sugar in it…you can’t expect miracles! On the upside? Serving size is HUGE…one serving is a slice that is 1/8 of the loaf – pretty generous – and with 140 calories and almost 4 grams of fibre, that’s only 2 WW points (on the old system)…not too shabby! Some of this loaf will be eaten fresh, but most will go into the freezer to be enjoyed later on as part of a quick breakfast or a snack. My favourite way to enjoy it is as a snack spread with a tablespoon of Better ‘n Peanut Butter (this a product I discovered via Hungry Girl that, sadly, I haven’t been able to find in Canada, so I buy in the US when I can). You can’t beat the combo of PB and banana! For about the same calorie count, just use 1/2 tbsp of regular or low fat peanut butter.

Thanks to the snow day, I now have 8 servings of a healthy breakfast or snack waiting for me. 🙂 What’s your favourite quick bread recipe?