Banana Bombs, A Contest, and New Friends

Banana bombs are aptly named. They’re an explosion of deliciousness since they’re full of ripe bananas, gooey dates, coconut oil, cinnamon, vanilla, oats, and smooth chocolate chips. I got to share banana bombs with the world (or rather with some people from my city) this past Saturday for the Incredible Edibles cooking contest sponsored by our local paper.

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About a month ago, there was an ad in the paper to enter a recipe into the “Incredible Edibles” contest for a chance to make your recipe for judges and potentially win a prize! I thought, “Why the heck not enter?”

I couldn’t find a reason not to, so I entered two recipes- my peanut butter carrot muffins in the “baked goods” category and my banana bombs into the “simple and quick” category.

I kind of forgot about the contest until a few weeks ago when a woman from the paper called to tell me that my banana bomb recipe had been selected as a finalist for the “simple and quick” category! I was to compete for the grand prize by making my recipe in the local community college’s fancy kitchen and presenting it to judges. The recipe would be judged on both taste and presentation.

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My parents and I loaded up the car last Saturday morning and headed to the kitchens downtown where the competition took place. I took my mom with me because a) we could bring someone to help us, b) a guardian had to come with me because I’m under 18 years of age. We signed in, unloaded our supplies, and I got baking! We had to bring all of our ingredients and utensils (food processor, baking sheets, oven mitt, spatula, cookie scoop, etc.), but the paper gave us a gift card to reimburse us for the ingredients.

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Crafting in the kitchen. Thanks for the picture, Sue and Dave!

Other finalist recipes were chorizo breakfast burritos, egg toasts, a french toast bake, stuffed mushrooms, meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting (so innovative!), cheesy zucchini bites, and a fancy dip displayed in bread bowls. I participated in the morning session of the contest along with eleven other finalists participating in four categories (appetizers, side dishes, simple and quick, and breakfast). Twelve other finalists in four other categories made their dishes in the afternoon.

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I made three batches of banana bombs. **Side note: I used to call banana bombs banana balls but bombs sounds cooler.**

I made one regular batch (with chocolate chips), one batch with walnuts and chocolate chips, and one “almond joy” batch (with coconut and chocolate chips). I like the add-ins, but I’m partial to the original batch because I love oodles of chocolate chips.

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Once I was done making and baking the bombs, I arranged them in a visually-pleasing way for the judges. We had two hours to make and arrange our food, which was more than enough time for me, but some people finished plating their food in the nick of time (it reminded me of the TV show “Chopped”). We were stationed next to a woman who also finished with some time left (hi Sue!). She made a delectable-looking veggie toast appetizer, and it was fun to get to know her and her husband while baking.

Sue’s appetizer- spicy cream cheese sandwiched between pastry dough and topped with zucchini and onion. 

Once everyone finished plating their food, the three judges went around the large table our food was at and tasted every dish in each category (there were three finalists per category). It was intense- the judges had scoring sheets and everything! I was “against” creamy pumpkin soup and a chicken/ avocado/ rice dish in my category.

Left- one of the side dishes. Right- the chicken avocado dish I was “against.”

We got to try all the dishes as the judges agreed on the winners. Unfortunately, my dish was the only vegan dish, so I just ate a bunch of banana bombs (sorry not sorry). All the other dishes looked really good though!

Two of the three breakfast dishes- egg toasts and baked french toast.

As we finished eating, the judges came in and an announcer declared the winners of each category. My new friend Sue won the appetizer category! The pumpkin soup was the winner of the simple and quick category.

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Above- the judges tasting all the food. Below- one of the judges tasting my banana bombs!

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The set-up of the room. 

After the awards, two of the three judges (who were local food professionals and chefs) pulled me aside and said that they were really impressed with my banana bombs, but they didn’t really fit into the category since soup, rice, and banana energy bites aren’t very similar. Because of this, the banana bombs didn’t win. However, the judges ended up giving me the honorable mention! **Insert 20 more exclamation points here!!!**

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My recipe will be in the paper on March 4! I’m PUMPED. 

Hooray for recipe contests, new friends, and BANANA BOMBS.

They make life good.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for- the banana bomb RECIPE! I actually published it on my blog in November 2014, but I’ll post it here too so you don’t have to open a new tab.

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BANANA BOMBS

MAKES 18-21 COOKIE SCOOP SIZE BANANA BALLS

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • ½ cup pitted dates (about 12 dates)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups oats
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • optional add-ins: 1/4 to ½ cup each of coconut flakes, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, peanut butter chips… really whatever your heart desires! I like to do batches with 1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes and ½ cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup walnuts and ½ cup chocolate chips, and batches with ½ cup raisins instead of chocolate chips to change it up.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend together everything except the oats and chocolate chips in a food processor. Then add 1 and ½ cup of oats and pulse in the food processor for 5 seconds or so. Take out the food processor blade and mix in the remaining oats and the chocolate chips (and possibly your other add-ins). Scoop onto a cookie sheet with a cookie scoop or a spoon and bake for 13 or 14 minutes. When they come out of the oven, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then enjoy!

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Have you ever been in a cooking contest of any sort? If you were to be in one, what recipe would you make? Link it up in the comments- I’d love to see!

xx Ellie

P.S.- Happy Leap Day! There’s an interesting article about Leap Year HERE if you’re interested. Have a great “bonus” day!

banana bombs

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Surprise Spice Cupcakes

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Guess what the surprise in this cupcake recipe is! It’s a very special secret ingredient.

Any guesses?

I’ll give you a few hints.

1. It’s white.

2. It’s a vegetable.

3. It looks a lot like broccoli.

4.  This picture.100_6777

If the picture didn’t give it away, then I think you need to eat more vegetables. 😉

The secret ingredient in these cupcakes is cauliflower!

I first heard about putting vegetables, namely cauliflower, in baked goods in a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious.

“Cauliflower? In cupcakes?” you might think. “Eeeeew!!”

Take a chance. Make a (healthy) change (to the average cupcake). And breakawaaaaaaaaay (from your baking stereotypes).*

*sidenote: was anyone else a huge “Princess Diaries” fan when they were younger?? Those were my favorite movies (and the song “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson, which was featured in the second movie, was one of my favorite songs) for a good year in elementary school.

Back to cupcakes, since that’s probably why you’re here.

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They’re flavorful because they’re full of spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. They’re also crazy because of the cauliflower.

The only ingredients in these that you might not have are flaxseed meal and nondairy milk, both of which you can purchase at most grocery stores. If you can’t find flaxseed, you can always use a ½ cup of silken tofu in place of the flax egg. Not the most convenient substitution, but it’s the only one I’ve tried that doesn’t jeopardize the flavor of these cupcakes.

I tried making these with all tofu and no oil or nondairy milk… not a good idea. As you can see below, it creates HOLLOW muffins! That’s actually pretty cool… but it’s not that fun to eat. Trust me. I did a lot of taste testing on these for you. It was extremely difficult (not!). Multiple trials means I get to eat more cupcakes, which is always a good thing. Seriously, when are more cupcakes a bad thing!??

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My “what the heck!?” face because I made hollow cupcakes.

I didn’t really know what to do with the frosting on these, but I wanted to make it healthy… so I made the frosting out of tofu! I know, I went SO CRAZY with these cupcakes. I promise you though- they taste good!!

I also created my very first RECIPE VIDEO for these cupcakes to give you a step-by-step visual on how to create them. I hope you like it!

Cauliflower Spice Cupcakes

Makes around 14 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup cauliflower puree
  • 1 cup nondairy milk (I prefer almond)
  • 1 flax egg (3 Tbsp water + 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal)
  • 1/4 cup oil, preferably coconut (melted so it’s a liquid)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

To make the cupcakes:

  1. Make a flax egg by combining 3 Tbsp water with 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal. Cover it and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes (so it can combine and become “eggy”).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Steam the cauliflower in one of two ways. Either put it in a steamer and steam it for about 15 minutes (or until it’s soft) or put it in a bowl and fill it partway water and put it in the microwave for three minutes (until it’s soft, look HERE for a more in-depth description of how to steam veggies in the microwave).
  4. Drain the cauliflower and puree it in a food processor. You might need to add a teaspoon to a tablespoon water to get the cauliflower to blend.
  5. Add in the nondairy milk and process for 5-10 seconds (until combined).
  6. Take the blade out of the food processor and take the bowl off the stand. We’ll be mixing everything else by hand!
  7. Add in the flax egg and oil. Stir until just combined.
  8. Add in the brown sugar. Stir until combined.
  9. Add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir until combined.
  10. Add in the spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg) and vanilla. Stir until just combined.
  11. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  12. Scoop the batter into the cups. Fill each cup 3/4s of the way.
  13. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are no longer gooey in the middle when you put a toothpick in them (to test their done-ness).

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Frosting

loosely based on this recipe from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

  • 1 package of silken tofu (preferably soft, but firm silken tofu works as well)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • nondairy milk as needed to thin out the frosting (about a teaspoon)- add at the end only if you think your frosting is too thick.

To make the frosting:

  1. Open and drain the tofu, then process it in a food processor until it’s a paste-like consistency.
  2. Take out the blade and add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, then stir until combined.
  3. If you think the frosting is too thick to spread on the cupcakes, add in a bit of nondairy milk (about a teaspoon). You probably only need to do this if you use firm tofu. Add in more nondairy milk if needed to attain the right consistency.
  4. Once the cupcakes have cooled for about 5 to 10 minutes, frost and enjoy!

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I hope you love these cupcakes. Please let me know if you try them!

Have a fantastic rest of your day!

xx Ellie

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hi friends! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I just wanted to wish you all a lovely day (get it?!) and to let you know that I’ll be back next week with an ebook review and a sweet treat recipe (with a crazy ingredient- any guesses?).

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The pictures in this post are of Chlostess cupcakes (recipe HERE) that my mom and I made for a veggie club meeting this past week. I dyed the filling pink in honor of Valentine’s Day.

You need to make these cupcakes. They’re incredible.

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What are your feelings on Valentine’s Day? Do you love it or hate it? Are you doing anything special for it? I’ll be celebrating by devouring lots and lots of cupcakes.

xx Ellie

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

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It’s been FAR too long since I’ve posted a recipe. Why not break my hiatus with a sweet treat like these chocolate chip zucchini muffins!?

What I especially love about these muffins (well, what I love about muffins in general) is that they’re like healthy, portable mini cakes. So I guess they’re just healthy cupcakes?

I promise you that they taste just as good as any regular cupcake, especially when packed with loads of chocolate chips. They’re also two times better for you than conventional cakes, so you can eat twice as many! Win, win!

These muffins are a great on-the-go breakfast, sweet snack, or healthy dessert!

The chocolate makes them sweet, while the zucchini adds moistness (sorry) and nutrients. Zucchini is not the only “irregular-to-dessert” ingredient in these muffins- they also contain banana.

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Funny story about the banana in these muffins- I brought these muffins into my english class sophomore year for a party and people descended upon them because they were chocolatey (and who doesn’t love chocolate? Seriously?).

One of the girls in my class took a bite and said, “These are sooo good! What’s in them?”

I responded, “Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, zucchini, banana….”

“BANANA!?” She shrieked as she spit out the bite she was chewing (not even kidding- she spit it out into a napkin). “Yuck! These are gross!”

Needless to say, she doesn’t like bananas in ANY way, shape, or form.

It’s funny how people freak out when they know exactly what’s in their food. I think the same thing were to happen if people found out what was in their meat (just saying).

Anyway, everyone in the class besides the banana hater really liked these muffins!

I hope you like them too! Leave me a comment or take a picture and tag me on Instagram (and hashtag #peanutbutterandellie) if you give them a try. I’d love to see your take on them!

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12-14 muffins

adapted from The Happy Herbivore’s Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins

  • 1 and ¼ cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder/ baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 banana (the riper the banana, the higher the chance of tasting banana in these muffins. I recommend using a yellow banana with no/ few brown spots on it.)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, preferably cane or coconut
  • 1 flax “egg” (1 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp water) OR ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup nondairy milk (I use almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup zucchini, shredded
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (I love Ghiradelli semi-sweet)

Instructions:

  1. Make a flax “egg” by combining 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal with 3 Tbsp water in a small bowl. Cover it and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Peel the banana, put it in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix it on medium-high until the banana is a purée. ((If you make this recipe without a stand mixer, mash the banana with a fork and stir everything together with a whisk.))
  4. Add in the sugar and flax “egg” to the banana purée and mix on medium until combined.
  5. Add the nondairy milk and vanilla to the batter. Mix on medium until combined.
  6. Add in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (a.k.a. the dry ingredients). Mix on low until a thickish batter forms.
  7. Wash a zucchini, cut the ends off, and grate it. You’ll grate about three-fourths of a regular-sized zucchini to get a cup of zucchini shreds.
  8. Add in the zucchini shreds and mix on low-medium until combined.
  9. Fold in chocolate chips. Your batter is complete and ready to be spooned into muffin tins!
  10. Fill a muffin pan with muffin tins. Fill said muffin tins two-thirds of the way full with batter (I used a spoon to do this).
  11. Bake the muffins for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes cleanly out of them.
  12. Let cool for at least 5 minutes, then stuff your face with these marvelous muffins! 

Happy hump day, and happy almost spring!

xx Ellie