Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins

3 Mar

I recently stumbled upon the best banana chocolate chip bran muffins! I love the fact that this muffin favorite can be changed only slightly and become a healthy treat. Who doesn’t like banana chocolate chip muffins? And now I can eat one each morning for breakfast guilt free! I have made them the past two weekends for a quick and healthy on-the-go breakfast throughout the week. They keep very well in an airtight container for up to 7-10 days which makes enjoying these delights each morning a breeze. A banana chocolate chip bran muffin will make any morning better.

banana choch muffins


Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins (Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe blog)

Makes about 2 dozen muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 16 – 18 minutes per muffin pan


  • 2 tbls. butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, coarsely mashed
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups bran flakes
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine butter, applesauce and sugar. Mix until smooth.

Add the eggs, coarsely mashed bananas and buttermilk. Mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, salt, bran flakes and chocolate chips. Mix to fully combine, lumpy batter is to be expected.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full of batter. Bake 16 – 18 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a cooling rack.

Cool completely before storing. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a little more than a week.



Chocolate Dipped Double Ginger Cookies

18 Feb

Happy President’s Day and Valentine’s Day weekend! The past few days we have had a bit of a thaw here…if you can call 30 degrees a thaw 🙂 but unfortunately it sounds like we are in for another cold snap the rest of the week. There is not much to do other than stay inside and make the best of it when it’s practically below zero out. Just another excuse to make something sweet and indulge.

Double Ginger Cookies 1

If you like ginger cookies these are positively addicting! The dark chocolate compliments the crystalized ginger perfectly and they stay chewy long after they come out of the oven. I start making these around the holidays and usually don’t stop until the spring. They are a versatile cookie recipe that is sure to please. In December alone I made four batches of them for various get togethers and gifts. These are a fantastic sweet treat to enjoy while waiting for the weather to warm up.

Double Ginger Cookies 2

Chocolate Dipped Double Ginger Cookies (adapted from a William Sonoma recipe)

Makes 3-4 dozen

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hr. 15 min.


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 whole extra-large egg, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg white
  • ½  – ¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • ½ cup coarse sugar crystals
  • 1 bag of dark chocolate baking chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa)


Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside. (Not imperative that the dry ingredients are sifted)

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the oil, brown sugar and molasses until well blended. Add the whole egg and stir until blended. Stir in the flour mixture and the crystallized ginger.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white (you may need more than one egg white). Spread the sugar crystals in a shallow bowl.

With dampened hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Brush each ball lightly with egg white and roll in the sugar to coat. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are set and crackled, 15 to 18 minutes.

*NOTE* I check them at 12 min and go from there. I like them chewy as opposed to crispy so I usually take them out a little before 15 minutes is up.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will firm up slightly as they cool.

While the cookies are baking (and then cooling) melt 1 package of dark chocolate baking chips in a double boiler. When fully melted, remove from heat. After cookies have cooled, dip half of each ginger snap in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to allow chocolate to set. They will set quicker if you put them in the fridge. Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies.

Make-Ahead Tip: These cookies keep well. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.



31 Dec

The holidays are such a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends keeping up old traditions or making new ones. As you might suspect most of my family traditions revolve around food or a special drink of some sort. For us the holiday gatherings start in November with a few Thanksgiving dinners and then onwards into December with holiday parties, Christmas & Christmas Eve dinners and then comes to an end with Epiphany dinner on January 6th.

Glüwhein 1

This holiday season I decided to try my hand at mulled wine since last year at this time my family and I were lucky enough to be traveling in Germany and Austria. My sister and I traveled together before we met up with our parents in Munich and stayed with a good friend of mine and her husband in Ingolstadt (45 minutes outside of Munich) where we got to experience the German Christmas Markets for the first time. They were so wonderful! Filled with beautiful decorations, huge Christmas tress, unique gifts, awesome German food and mulled wine: Glühwein! This was my first encounter with Glühwein and I loved it! To me it was Christmas in a mug…red wine, cinnamon, cloves, all spice, oranges. YUM 🙂 Every Christmas Market had its own version of Glühwein and it was fun to try them all as we visited Ingolstadt, Munich and Salzburg. To me, Glühwein became the drink of the season.

Glühwein 2

The recipe below takes me back to the Christmas markets and beautiful snowy landscape with each sip. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and Happy New Year’s Eve!!

Makes about 3 liters and serves 10 – 12

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 4 hours & 10 minutes


  • 1 box of red wine or the equivalent to about 3 liters (I used Black Box Merlot which worked great. I would stick to a Merlot, Syrah or Spanish Garnacha – advice thanks to Amusée)
  • 3 – 4 four fresh oranges
  • 1 tbls allspice (NOT ground)
  • 1 tbls cloves
  • 1 tbls cassia buds (cinnamon buds) or four cinnamon sticks
  • 1 – 2 tbls sugar (the worse the wine the more sugar you will have to add)


Pour wine into a slow cooker or very large heavy bottomed stock pot. Start to warm the wine. DO NOT BOIL. Add the slices of one orange and the freshly squeezed juice of two. Place the allspice, cloves and cassis buds or cinnamon sticks in a cheese cloth and tie into a small bag. Drop that into the wine. Let the wine warm for at least 2-4 hours before serving so the flavors come together.

Before serving take the cheese cloth with the spices out, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. If necessary add juice from the last orange as well.

Serve warm in fun holiday mugs.


Chicken and Red Pepper Chili

14 Dec

It finally feels like the holidays here in Minneapolis. We just had our first big snow this past weekend and lights on the trees are twinkling through a soft layer of white. A whopping 8 inches fell!! Being snowed in all day makes for a good excuse to cook something warm and comforting. We worked up quite an appetite shoveling twice that day so we decided to make a big batch of chicken chili that would warm you through and stick to your ribs. This chili is both hearty and healthy with a good does of veggies. I particularly enjoy the addition of red bell peppers to the mix as this adds a slight sweetness which balances nicely with the spicy kick of the red pepper flakes and cayenne.

I hope this chili warms you through and enjoy the winter wonderland!




Serves: 4

Timing: 1.5 hours or more

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 1 hour or more


  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can Heinz beans, not drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • a good couple of shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy…)
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano

Note – all spices are to taste so feel free to add more or less depending on preference.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large dutch oven, on medium to high heat sauté onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add ground chicken and cook through. While the chicken is cooking chop the red bell pepper. Combine both beans, diced tomatoes, red bell pepper in the dutch oven. Stir the tomato paste into the chicken broth and add to the pot along with all the spices. Stir to combine and place in oven to simmer for at least one hour.


Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos with Lime & Cilantro Sour Cream

14 Jul

It’s been a bit balmy around here for the last few weeks and hot weather makes it easy to crave something light and refreshing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On this particularly warm night Mike and I decided to relax with a few pomegranate margaritas and grilled fish tacos. I chose tilapia because that is what looked freshest at the market but any firm white fish will do. I am always trying to eat more fish and this is a perfect way to accomplish that.


Shake up a margarita, get the grill going and enjoy the weather!


Grilled Tilapia Fish Taco

Serves: 2

Timing: 30 minutes


  • 1/2 pound tilapia
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 lime, juice & zest
  • 1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 to 4 tortillas


  • Lime & Cilantro Sour Cream (recipe below)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
Lime & Cilantro Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 lime. juice and zest (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Whisk together the canola oil, lime juice and zest, coarsely chopped jalapeño and cilantro. Marinate fish in this for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the fish is marinating slice the avocado, chop the tomatoes and combine the sour cream, lime juice, lime zest and chopped cilantro leaves together. Let the sour cream sit and the flavors marry while the fish is grilling.

Place the fish in a grill basket or directly on the grill. Grill for about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds to a minute and remove from the heat. Let rest for at least 5 minutes and then flake the fish with a fork. Option to reduce/cook the extra marinade and drizzle on flaked fish before serving – I highly recommend this!

Place the tortillas on the grill for 20 seconds, flipping once. Divide the flaked fish among the tortillas and garnish with the preferred garnishes.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Serves: 2

Timing: 5 minutes


  • Ice
  • 3 oz. tequilla (blanco, 100% agave)
  • 2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6 oz limeade
  • 1/2 oz Pama liquor


Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake and pour over ice. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.


Hawaiian Style Pork Ribs

18 Apr

This past weekend we had a little get together at our place with a few of our good friends. Having people over for dinner, lunch or brunch is one of our favorite things to do. I love planning the menu and this time around I had a unique rib recipe that I was dying to make! I got the recipe from the fantastic Sommelier Leslee at Amusée. The ribs were wonderful and I will definitely be making them again!! To round out the meal I served Spanish roasted potatoes with garlic aioli, asparagus with a lemon vinaigrette and lemon tart for dessert.

This recipe is perfect for a small group of people so invite your friends over and enjoy!

Hawaiian Style Pork Ribs

Serves 4-6

1 ¼ cup light brown sugar

1 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon chili flakes

4 cloves garlic, minced (fresh)

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or grated

3 pounds baby back ribs

3 scallions, green parts, thinly sliced


Whisk together sugar, soy sauce, oil, chili flakes, garlic and ginger with a ¼ cup of water in a large bowl. Add ribs and coat well. Cover bowl with plastic and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place ribs curved side up on a lined sheet pan with a baking rack. Roast for 30 minutes on each side or until tender.

While the ribs are roasting, add marinade to a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce. Use reduced marinade to baste ribs. You can also make extra marinade if needed.

Serve with extra sauce and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.


Rosemary Garlic & Lemon Chicken Burgers

24 Mar

Grilling season has started early here in MN. We have recently had some record busting temperatures around here, to be exact 17 Twin Cities records and 8 state records have been broken in March (MPR shout out)!! The gorgeous weather has made it impossible not to get out and fire up the grill! When I think grilling I automatically think burgers. Of course there are many other wonderful things to put on the grill but we tend to make a lot of burgers at our place. I have to admit I have never used ground chicken for a burger which is odd since we always make turkey burgers and you would think the next logical step would be a chicken burger right?

I had this burger last weekend on a little north woods getaway and honestly couldn’t wait to make it again as soon as possible. Not only is this burger a cinch to make but is also relatively healthy too! We didn’t have any arugula on hand so we just used some salad greens. You can also sub out the full fat mayonnaise if you would like a lighter version.

Happy Grilling!!

Ingredients (adapted from Food Network)


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press or very finely minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tbls of lemon juice


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/3 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sandwich rolls or burger buns
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup arugula, divided

Arugula Dressing

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup balsamic
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Serves: 4

Time: 30 min (prep) & 7-10 min (cooking)

For the mayonnaise: Let the garlic sit in the lemon juice for about 3-5 minutes. This helps mellow the sometimes bitter taste that fresh garlic can have. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, garlic & lemon juice, lemon zest and rosemary; set aside.

For the burgers: Oil the grates of the grill before you turn it on. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill or place a grill pan over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, add the ground chicken, Panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, half of the olive oil (this will help keep the chicken from sticking to your hands) and 1/2 of the mayonnaise mixture. Gently combine the ingredients and form the chicken mixture into 4 patties. Place the burgers on the grill and cook for about 7 minutes on each side. Transfer to paper towels and let rest for a few minutes.

While the burgers rest, toss the arugula in the olive oil and balsamic dressing. Brush the cut side of each roll with the olive oil and a small amount of the mayonnaise. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly golden.

To assemble the burgers: Spread a dollop of the remaining mayonnaise mixture on the tops and bottoms of the toasted buns. Place the chicken burgers on the bottom halves of the buns. Top each with 1/4 cup of arugula and finish with the top half of the bun.