In the Kitchen: Sugar Free Peanut Butter Muffins and Pudding

Today’s recipes are the first of many sugar-free and naturally sweetened desserts and snacks that I’ll be sharing with you here on the blog. With many sugar free recipes, there are often variations and substitutions you can make in the type of natural sweetener you use, as well as other ingredients, that will affect the flavor and sweetness of the dish, so in addition to the basic ingredients, you will see these substitutions listed along with notes on how to sweeten the dish even more with ingredients that may add sugar, for those who are trying to cut back or eat healthy but aren’t ready to entirely cut out sugar.

If you’re not used to eating sugar free treats, even at their sweetest these recipes may take some getting used to, but the more you cut excess sugar out of your diet, the sweeter natural foods will taste.
I especially love these muffins. I call them my power muffins! Packed with peanut butter, whole wheat and a touch of honey for sweetness, they are perfect for a grab and go breakfast, mid day snack or served with soup or salad for lunch or dinner. Drizzle on a bit on honey or natural fruit jam for a healthy dessert alternative. If peanut butter isn’t your thing, try using almond or cashew butter. There are many ways to customize these muffins to suit your tastes and dietary needs.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cups original or vanilla* soy, almond or rice milk

*Note that some vanilla milks have a form of sugar in them. If you use a plain milk you can try adding 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract to the muffins for a little extra flavor.

You can use any kind of natural nut butter in these muffins such as almond, cashew or hazelnut in place of the peanut butter for a different taste or in case of allergies. You can also use any type of molasses in place of the honey. Try blackstrap molasses for an extra boost of iron!

Stir flour and baking powder in a bowl, set aside. Mix peanut butter, oil, honey and milk in a separate large bowl until smooth.

The peanut butter tends to clump in the middle, so I find a whisk especially useful. A glass bowl also lets you look at the bottom to see if it’s mixed thoroughly.
Add the dry mixture to the liquid mixture and stir with minimal strokes, do not beat.
Batter will be a little lumpy looking. Line 12 muffin tins with paper (or grease and flour) and fill about two thirds full.
Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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Continuing with the peanut butter (yes, it’s my favorite!), here is a super quick and easy recipe to create a healthy, sugar free pudding. This recipe can also be made using different nut butters such as almond or hazelnut.

1 small ripe banana
1/2 cup plain or vanilla* nonfat yogurt
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or any nut butter)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*I prefer to use vanilla yogurt as it adds a little extra flavor and sweetness but do note that there may be sugar in it. If you’re going for totally sugar free, use the plain. Otherwise, look for a vanilla yogurt that contains natural rather than artificial sweeteners, or learn how to make your own here!
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process first on low speed, then on high speed until smooth. Refrigerate and store for up to 4 days. Serves 4.

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Chocolate French Silk Pie

This delicious pie is a holiday staple in my family. Either my Mom or I make it every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, and if Tyler is lucky, he gets it on his birthday. I won’t lie and say it’s super easy to make, but it’s not technically difficult. There are just a lot of steps and it takes some time, but the results are well worth the work. I make my own crust and my own whip cream, but you can easily use store bought. You will find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 40 min | Chill Time: 5 hours | Serves 8 – 10

1 baked pastry shell
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (6 oz)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 cup whipped cream

Beat two egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a medium heavy saucepan combine 1 cup whipping cream, the chocolate pieces, butter and sugar.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat.

Gradually stir half the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Add the egg mixture back to the remaining chocolate in the pan and continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken (about 5 minutes or so).

Remove from heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of whipping cream.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water, stirring the mixture occasionally, until it begins to stiffen (about 20 – 30 minutes).
In the meantime, prepare your pastry shell. You can use homemade or store bought but it needs to be baked before you fill it.

When the chocolate is done chilling, transfer to a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Spread the filling in your pastry shell, cover and chill for 5 – 24 hours.

Before serving, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I make homemade whip cream but you can use store bought, Cool Whip works good. I also use a deep dish pie pan when making this so I can get a good thick layer of whip cream.
Since Thanksgiving was a bit ravenous at our house this year, I didn’t have the chance to get a pie slice photo before it was gone! Though I’m sure you can imagine how scrumptious it looks, and now you’ll just have to try it yourself. I’d love to hear what you think!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

The Circle: My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

The lovely Roxana of Illuminated Perfume recently invited me to be part of her holiday blogging collaborative and I just couldn’t pass up this fun opportunity! It’s a blog-o-rama Advent-ure which began on November 29, correlating with the first day of advent. Each day, a different blogger adds their sparkle to this gathering of light by sharing their thoughts and memories about scents and the holidays. Today I light a candle with my contribution and by Christmas Day, all the candles on the tree will be lit.
In true lillyella fashion, when I think of scents and the holidays, I think of food and crafting — my two favorite things! Does crafting have a scent, you ask? You bet it does! The aroma of bubbling hot glue, the smell of my sewing machine engine working at high speed, dried lavender, I could go on and on.
When it comes to food, that pretty much speaks for itself, but there is one scent that unmistakably says Christmas for me, and that’s gingerbread. It’s the only time of year I bake my favorite gingerbread cookies, which I now, in my seventh year of doing so, have my friends, family and neighbors asking for come December 1st.
The recipe is simple, but it’s one I adapted and perfected over a few batches many years ago. The perfection lies in not overcooking them, but only if you like ’em soft and chewy. If not, this recipe isn’t for you.

8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Sift the dry ingredients into a small bowl and set aside. In a medium/large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and molasses, then mix in the egg.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix well. Chill in the freezer for about an hour or in the refrigerator 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350°. Roll out a portion of the dough about 1/4″ thick on a lightly floured surface or silicone cooking sheet. Keep the remaining dough chilled while working.
Cut out with cookie cutters and and place on greased cookie sheets or sheets lined with silicone mats. Bake for 8-10 minutes (depending on cookie size) and don’t overbake! They should be pretty soft when they come out and almost seem like they aren’t done yet. That’s the key to their deliciousness 🙂
Let cool completely before decorating with icing, candy pieces, powdered sugar or cinnamon and enjoy!

You can follow along with the rest of this collaborative blogging Advent-ure by visiting the Illuminated Perfume Journal each day to see the next contribution. Happy Holidays!

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Cake Roll

My pumpkin extravaganza continues with what I consider a fall dessert staple, Pumpkin Roll! Last Christmas I asked for jelly roll pans just so I could make this very spiral of deliciousness. With the right tools, this recipe is fairly quick and easy and the results are nothing less than impressive. You will find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 40 min | Bake Time: 15 min | Serves 8 – 10
3 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar (I use Splenda and up it to 1 and 1/4 cups)
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional, I left out)
sifted powder sugar
Cream Cheese Filling:
6 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease a 15x10x1 baking/jelly roll pan. Line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper, grease the paper. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl beat eggs on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored.

The volume of the eggs will significantly increase (shown left).
Next, gradually beat in the granulated sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Spread evenly in prepared pan. If desired, top with chopped walnuts.
Prepare a towel for rolling the cake by sifting powdered sugar over it.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Do not overbake or it will get spongy.
Immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn out onto the prepared towel. Remove the wax paper. Position a short side of the cake at the end of the towel.

Begin rolling into a spiral, cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese filling. In a small bowl beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth each time.
Spread filling onto cake to within 1″ of edges.

Re-roll the cake. I find it helps to kind of lift a bit as you roll, otherwise you just push all the yummy filling right out the end. Once rolled, trim the ends clean. Cover and chill for 2 – 48 hours. Store in refrigerator.
Sift a little powdered sugar over the top before serving and enjoy!
Between you and me, the real reason I love making this so much is because of how cute it looks on my favorite vintage serving tray 😉

You can find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles

I have to say, I impressed myself with this one. Words can hardly describe the deliciousness of these heavenly bites, though I was reluctant to eat them because they just looked so darn cute on the plate. Make them as a special dessert, take them to a party or package them as gifts – trust me, your friends will be impressed, too. The recipe is surprisingly easy (though you can pretend you slaved for hours) and you’ll find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 30 min | Makes 30 truffles
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks, wafers or chips
2 cups white and/or milk chocolate chunks, wafers or chips
1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
This recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest which is simply shavings from the skin of an orange. You can use a zester or the smallest part of your grater and scrape the outside of the orange against it. Do not go too deep, as you only want the orange skin, not the white layer underneath.

Now onto the recipe! In a large bowl add the pumpkin, softened cream cheese and orange zest.
Melt 1/2 cup white chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat or in a small bowl in the microwave as instructed on the package and add to the pumpkin mixture.

In a small bowl mix the gingersnap crumbs, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
Cover and chill until solid enough to roll into balls, about 2 hours.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 1 teaspoon pumpkin mixture at a time and roll into balls. Set them on one of the baking sheets. It seems like there is not much filling in the bowl but don’t make the balls too big, a little bit goes a long way when you eat them. I used a melon ball scoop to size mine and it worked great.
Set some gingersnap crumbs nearby to sprinkle on top.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, transfer to a small, deep bowl. Drop one pumpkin ball into the chocolate at a time, gently spoon chocolate over to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift the truffle out of the chocolate, let any excess drip off and transfer to the other baking sheet. Sprinkle a few crumbs on top. Once finished, chill truffles until chocolate is completely set, about one hour.
This recipe originally called for only white chocolate but I decided to try some with milk chocolate and they were equally delicious! I was amazed at how different the two tasted. I’d love to hear if you give this one a try, enjoy!

Find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Zebra Brownies

We’re back to the best part of any meal this week, dessert! An easy, delicious twist on the classic brownie, cream cheese lovers get your aprons on because you are going to love this one. You will find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Prep Time: 20 min | Bake time: 30 min | Serves 24
Filling Ingredients:
2 pkgs cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
Brownie Ingredients:
22.5 oz pkg fudge brownie mix
1/3 cup very hot water
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
Heat oven to 350°. Generously grease the bottom only of a 13×19 pan.

In a small bowl, blend all filling ingredients.

Beat at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside. But I first recommend a little taste test 🙂

In a large bowl, combine all brownie ingredients, beat 50 strokes with a spoon.

Spread half of the brownie batter in prepared pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture over batter, speading to cover.

Place spoonfuls of remaining batter on top of cream cheese and marble with a butter knife.
Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for about one hour before serving.

If you have even the tiniest lack of self control, I recommend you turn your eyes away from the brownies and forget you ever saw them, because I dare you to eat just one! Otherwise, eat up and enjoy! I’d love to hear what you think if you give this yummy treat a try.

You can find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Banana Pineapple Cake

As promised, here is this week’s recipe just a few days off schedule! Today I have a delicious cake that I especially love during the warmer months because it is light and refreshing and a bit tropical. Most of the recipes I share with you are very easy to make, but this one really takes the cake. Yep, pun intended. You’ll find a link for a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep Time: 20 min  |  Cook time: 30 min  |  Serves about 18
What you’ll need:
1 box yellow cake mix
3 bananas
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 tub cool whip

Prepare the cake mix as directed on package and bake in a 13×9 pan. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes or so. You can also put it in the fridge to cool faster, if you are impatient like me.
In the meantime, drain the crushed pineapple well, reserving the juice in a bowl.
Slice the bananas into thin strips. I find it easiest to cut the banana in half first. You should need about 3 bananas but if they are smaller or you like thicker slices, you may need 4.
Soak the bananas in the pineapple juice (they don’t need to soak for long). This prevents the bananas from browning. (This also works on other cut fruit, too, as does lemon juice)
Lay the sliced bananas in a single layer across the cake. You can cut them or tear them into pieces to fill gaps if needed.
Next layer the crushed pineapple on top, followed by the cool whip and you’re done! Easy, right?
And since I’ve had such incredible luck lately (italics = sarcasm), I lost all the lovely pics I took of a finished slice of cake, so all you get to see is this whip cream. The inside shall remain shrouded in mystery, so you’ll just have to make it yourself!
This cake is perfect for a summer picnic and stores well for some time in the fridge. I actually find it gets better over time as the juices soak down into the cake. It’s also fun to make with the kids because its so easy. If you’re really adventurous, you can make this as a double layer cake with the fruit and whip cream in between and on top. Whoa doggy. I hope you give it a try and enjoy! Find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Chocolate Cracker Toffee

After a week off for my Etsyversary giveaway, In the Kitchen is back with a new recipe and I thought it was time for a dessert! Since you’ve probably figured out I’m all about quick and easy, this week’s recipe is no exception. Some of you may have had this yummy treat or a variation of it, but I was first introduced to it only a couple years ago during an office cookie exchange – and it was love at first bite. You will find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 12 min | Makes about 36 pieces

What you’ll need:
1 sleeve rectangular buttery crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (NO substitutes!)
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a sturdy 10″ x 15″ baking sheet with aluminum foil and cover the surface with the crackers in a single layer, edges touching.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, for 2 minutes. The mixture will gradually combine and form a thick sauce. Be careful as it can burn very easily – keep whisking! This sauce is also delicious poured over plain popcorn to make homemade caramel corn.

Gently pour the sauce over the crackers and carefully spread it out with a spoon to cover all the crackers.
Bake the tray for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce bubbles all over
the surface.

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Return to the oven for 1 minute to melt the chips.
Remove from the oven again and, using the tip of a knife or spoon, spread the chocolate to cover the crackers.
Let cool completely (you can refrigerate) and cut or break into pieces. I find it easiest to lift the foil off the pan and peel it away from the toffee before breaking it into pieces. If you have any trouble with the foil sticking, you can spray it with non stick cooking spray before laying out the crackers, though I have never had a problem. It comes off pretty easy if you pull it slowly in one big piece.
I prefer to store this in the fridge to keep the chocolate from melting or getting too soft. Be warned, it’s highly addictive… but I’m weak.