No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola Bars

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This week has felt kind of crazy.

I’m used to working from home three days a week. This week, I was in the office every day to help with some training. When you add up the one hour commute each way and the lunch hour I usually use to do housework, nine of my usual “doing stuff” hours have been chewed up. That’s like an extra day! Quite obviously, quick and easy has been the go-to for food this week.

I mixed these bars up over the weekend and they’ve been a great go-to for breakfast or a post-gym snack. Loaded with nuts and seeds, they’re quite filling – and since they’re no-bake, they only take about five minutes to prepare.

These can easily be made vegan – just use vegan chocolate chips – and gluten-free - just make sure you’re using gluten-free oats.

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola Bars
(slightly adapted from 86 Lemons)
Makes an 8×8 pan worth

1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. flax seed meal
1/8 c. chia seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. almonds
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. agave nectar
3/4 c. natural peanut butter

Line an 8×8 pan with parchment.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flax meal, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds and chocolate chips. Stir agave nectar in until evenly distributed. Stir in peanut butter until well combined throughout.

Press mixture into prepared pan. Freeze for 1 hour, then remove from pan and cut into bars. Store in freezer until ready to eat.

Apple Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

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As someone who doesn’t have food allergies, I always struggle a little when I have to cook for someone who does. It’s not because I can’t do it – it’s because I always want to make something that everyone will like. This cake is beautiful, perfect for Thanksgiving – and gluten free.

This is rich and chocolatey, which makes it an awesome dessert even for those who aren’t on a gluten-free diet and the apples and hazelnuts make it perfect for the season. It’s a little more involved than a normal cake, but it’s not very hard and totally worth the extra effort!

Apple Hazelnut Chocolate Cake
(from BakeBakeBake)

1 to 2 Granny Smith apples
1/3 c. hazelnuts, chopped
8.8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
3 eggs, separated
4 t. cornstarch
3 T. honey
Powdered sugar and cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Prepare an 8-inch or 9-inch springform pan. Use nonstick spray or softened butter to great the bottom and sides of the springform pan.

Peel, corn, and slice the apples into ½-inch pieces and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the heavy cream over the chopped chocolate and let cool for about a minute. Mix thoroughly to make a smooth ganache. Using a rubber spatula, slowly mix in the egg yolks and cornstarch, until thoroughly incorporated. The mixture should be smooth and slightly thick.

In a separate bowl, add the honey to the egg whites, and whip to soft peaks.

Using a whisk, add about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whipped egg whites in two batches, taking care to avoid over-mixing. White streaks of egg white should still be visible in the chocolate.

Deposit the batter into the greased springform pan. Top with the chopped apples and hazelnuts, then dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar and ground cinnamon.

Place the springform pan on a cookie sheet, or sheet pan, and bake immediately for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted to the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the springform pan for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.

Linked up with Ingredient Spotlight: Chocolate at Finding Joy in My Kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

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I’m a chronic cookie dough eater. It drives my husband nuts because he’s convinced I’m going to die from eating raw eggs. I was so excited when I ran across this recipe because it meant I could eat all the cookie dough I wanted without him nagging.

The hardest part of making this has been having it sit in the fridge all day without devouring it.

It’s also great because it’s gluten free. Mark’s cousin and uncle are both celiacs so when we go to family parties I like to bring dishes they’ll be able to enjoy too. We’ll be serving this with Nilla Wafers for the non-celiacs and gluten-free animal crackers for the celiacs.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

1 c. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 c. semisweet mini chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar over medium heat. Stir continuously, until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla and set aside to cool.

Beat the cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar for 1 minute. Slowly beat in the cooled butter mixture and beat again for another minute. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Fruit Dip

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If there’s one thing I’m making a lot of this holiday season (other than cookies, of course), it’s dip. Both families do their holidays pot-luck style and dips are a great thing for the buffet table.

This dip I brought to my family Christmas party last weekend as a lighter dessert option. We served it with apple slices, melon, banana and strawberries.  It went over really well – some people even ate it without the fruit!

You could easily lighten up this dip by using fat free cream cheese and fat free cool whip and make it quite diet-friendly. It’s also a great option if you want (or need) to make something gluten free.

Chocolate Fruit Dip
(from Taste of Home)

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. whipped topping
Assorted fruit for dipping

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in cocoa and vanilla. Beat in whipped topping until smooth. Serve with fruit.