The “Saucy Mamacita” Burger… and a GIVEAWAY!

IMG_3891When it comes to burgers, I have some pretty high standards, which is why I hardly ever order one when I’m out to eat. Most restaurant burgers are either too big, too greasy, too overloaded with sauces or toppings, or not flavorful enough for my taste. Yeah, I’m picky… but I’d rather pass on something altogether than eat it and end up underwhelmed (although burgers from Five Guys are always perfection and I will never turn down one of those!).

Over the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been entering a lot of recipe contests, many of which have been for burger recipes. My approach when creating one of these recipes is to focus on making sure that everything is in balance. If I add something hot and spicy, I’ll complement it with something cool and refreshing. Rich or creamy ingredients are balanced with crisp or crunchy toppings. You get the idea.

After being chosen to participate in the Saucy Mama Recipe Contest (with the requirement to make something that would fall into either the “burger” or “bacon” category) and selecting the products I wanted to use, I knew that a burger was the way to go. Saucy Mama / Barhyte Foods provided me with six different sauces / dressings / mustards of my choice; while they were all soooo delicious, the Lime Chipotle Marinade and Poblano Ranch Dressing stood out from the pack. I decided to stick with a Mexican-inspired flavor profile, which led me to a) create my burger patties from ground beef AND chorizo, b) marinate some thinly-sliced fresh mango in the Lime Chipotle Marinade (because mango with chili powder and lime is a classic Mexican snack, sweet and spicy combined – remember what I said earlier about balance?), and c) add avocado, cilantro, and a  sauteed tomato / corn salsa. Oh yeah, I stuffed it with some cheddar cheese as well… because, why not? 🙂

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The winner of this competition will secure a spot on the Saucy Mama team at the World Food Championships that will take place this November in Orange Beach, Alabama… how cool would that be?!?!?! The judges won’t be announcing the winner until the end of next week, but in the meantime we have a little gift for one of YOU…

GIVEAWAY TIME!!! Saucy Mama / Barhyte Foods would like to send three of their products (your choice) to one of my followers – all you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me which three products you’d love to try! Choose from their mustardsmarinadesdressings, or wing sauces. I will choose a winner at random from all submitted comments next Thursday, June 22nd, when the recipe contest winner is announced. Good luck, and get saucy!

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“Saucy Mamacita” Burger
featuring Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle Marinade & Saucy Mama Poblano Ranch Dressing

yield 4 large burgers

4 soft sesame seed burger buns (approximately 4” diameter), toasted
1 batch tomato/corn salsa (recipe follows)
4 cheddar-stuffed beef/chorizo burger patties (recipe follows)
1 batch Lime Chipotle-marinated mango slices (recipe follows)
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
½ cup Poblano Ranch Dressing
4 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
4 slices thick-cut bacon, prepared (recipe follows)

Spread ¼ of the tomato/corn salsa (approximately 2 tablespoons) on the bottom of each bun. Top each with the following, in order: 1 cheddar-stuffed beef/chorizo burger patty, ¼ of the marinated mango slices (approximately six slices), and ¼ of the avocado slices (approximately six slices). Drizzle 2 tablespoons of Saucy Mama Poblano Ranch Dressing over each burger, sprinkle with one teaspoon of the chopped cilantro, then add bacon (one slice, cut in half) and the top bun. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

 

 Tomato/corn salsa:
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 ½ ounces fresh corn kernels (cut from one average-sized ear of fresh corn)
1 ½ ounces red onion, minced
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
6 ounces chopped tomato, flesh only (approximately two medium tomatoes)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add corn kernels and sauté for five minutes, stirring every thirty seconds. Add onion and cook for an additional three minutes (continue stirring every thirty seconds). Add garlic, tomato, salt, and pepper; cook for an additional ten minutes, stirring every minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

 

Lime Chipotle-marinated mango slices:
flesh from one mango, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle marinade
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Toss mango slices with Lime Chipotle marinade, lime juice, and sugar. Set aside until needed.


For cheddar-stuffed beef / chorizo burger patties:

24 ounces / 1 ½ pounds ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
12 ounces chorizo sausage, removed from casings
3 ounces shredded mild cheddar cheese
8 slices (approximately 6 ounces) pepper jack cheese

Thoroughly mix ground beef and chorizo. Divide into eight equal portions (approximately 4 ½ ounces each), and flatten into discs that are 5” in diameter, with the center slightly thinner than the edges. Place ¾ ounces of the shredded cheddar cheese on top of four of the discs (in the center), then top with the remaining four discs, and press the edges together to seal.
Heat a saucepan or griddle over medium-high heat, and sear both sides of each stuffed patty for one minute per side. Cover patties with pot lids, decrease heat to medium-low, and cook for two minutes. Top each patty with two slices of pepper jack cheese, then cover again and cook for one minute until cheese is melted.

 

For thick-cut bacon:
4 slices (⅓ pound, before cooking) thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 350•F. Line a sheet pan with foil, and arrange bacon in a single layer. When oven is preheated, place tray of bacon in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, draining grease every 6-8 minutes. Remove bacon from baking tray and place on a separate paper-towel-lined tray and set aside.

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BacalaRico Pollock Cakes with Raw Carrot Salad and Yellow Pepper Coulis

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The recipe that I’m sharing with you today was created for the CFE International “Saltfish Blogger Recipe Challenge.” I don’t cook fish/seafood very often (when I do, I tend to stick with what I’m comfortable with — tuna, salmon, and shrimp), so this challenge definitely took me out of my “comfort zone.” CFE International provided me with several bags of their BacalaRico Salted Pollock fillets, and after much deliberation, I decided to make a somewhat Asian-inspired dish that would be perfect as a plated appetizer (or add a side salad, and you’ve got yourself a full meal!).

 

Before beginning the recipe, it’s necessary to prep the salted fish fillets by soaking them in water (in the refrigerator) for at least eight hours, changing the water three times during that period. The fish is completely coated with salt when you first remove it from the package, and the soaking process removes the excess; even after a proper soaking, the fish still has a high salt content, which is why I haven’t added additional salt to any portion of the recipe.

 

 

BacalaRico Pollock Cakes with Raw Carrot Salad and Yellow Pepper Coulis

serves four, as an appetizer

 

For the Raw Carrot Salad:

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tsp yuzu hot sauce

3/4″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

8 cilantro leaves

2 tsp lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until carrots are finely chopped. Stir the mixture with a spatula to ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

 

For the Yellow Pepper Coulis:

1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into chunks

pinch of freshly-cracked black pepper

Place the bell pepper chunks in a small saucepan, and add just enough water to cover the peppers. Bring to a boil and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until peppers are soft. Remove from heat and pour off most of the water, leaving about two tablespoons of water in the pan. Puree with an immersion blender (or food processor) until no chunks of pepper remain.

 

For the Pollock Cakes:

12 oz package of BacalaRico Boneless Salted Pollock Fillets, prepared according to instructions above / on package

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

 

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup diced bell pepper (I used red, orange, and yellow)

1/2 cup diced white or yellow onion

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

 

2/3 cup good-quality mayonnaise

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 tsp fish sauce

1/4 tsp sesame oil

 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp canola oil

 

4 sprigs of cilantro, for garnish

black and white sesame seeds, for garnish

 

Begin by cooking the prepared pollock fillets in 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat until just cooked through, about three minutes per side (do this in batches so that you do not overcrowd the pan). Remove from pan and allow to cool.

 

Heat 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the bell peppers and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately five minutes; add the garlic and black pepper and cook for an additional minute or two. Set aside to cool.

 

While the fish and pepper/onion mixture are cooling, prepare the raw carrot salad and yellow pepper coulis; set aside until ready to plate the dish.

 

Once the fish has cooled completely, use a fork or your hands to flake it apart into small chunks. Combine fish with the cooled pepper/onion mixture in a mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. After thoroughly mixing, divide into four portions and form patties that are approximately 3/4″ thick and 2 1/2″ diameter.

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Coat patties with the additional panko bread crumbs, then heat the three tablespoons of canola oil in a sauté pan and cook the patties for one to two minutes per side, until crispy and golden brown. Remove patties from pan and place on paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Divide the yellow pepper coulis between four separate bowls or plates, and top with the raw carrot salad (I used a small round cookie cutter to form the raw carrot salad, but feel free to just spoon it on top of the yellow pepper coulis). Place one pollock cake on top of the carrot salad in each dish, and garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a sprinkle of black and white sesame seeds. If desired, add a drizzle of sriracha mayo (1 Tbsp mayonnaise combined with 1 tsp sriracha). Serve immediately, and enjoy!

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For more information on BacalaRico Salted Pollock Fillets and other products distributed by CFE International, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram! These products can be found at the following retailers: Costco, Empire Supermarkets, Food Bazaar, Hannaford Bros., H Mart, Jetro, Key Foods, Price Chopper, Price Rite, Stop&Shop, ShopRite, Trade Fair Supermarkets, Western Beef.

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Coconut Candy, Two Ways

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A few months ago, I spent three amazing days on the island of Maui. I was there to participate in a cocktail competition, so that left only a day and a half to explore the rest of the island. Thanks to my obsessive planning tendencies, I had made a loooong list of places to see, food to eat, and anything else interesting that I had read/heard about. Coconut candy was one of the things on that list: hand-cut slices of fresh coconut tossed with sugar and slow roasted for hours until they became crunchy bits of heaven – how could you go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, I didn’t try any coconut candy while on Maui (you can’t do / eat everything, you know)… but it remained in the back of my mind as something that I wanted  to try to make at home. Last week, I bought a coconut and searched the web for tips and found that the sugar:coconut ratio and preparation varied greatly from one recipe to another. Since I hadn’t tried the original and therefore didn’t have a point of reference, I decided to make two different versions to see which one I preferred:

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For version A (on the left in the above photo), the coconut meat is thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler, then boiled in a sugar syrup before being slowly baked in a very low oven. After cooling, the strips were still a bit tacky, as the excess syrup on the baking sheet had thickened and coated some of the slices. I improvised my way out of a sticky situation by grabbing a jar of vanilla sugar* (plain granulated sugar would work just as well) from my cabinet and rolling the coconut candy strips in it, in the same way that I would roll candied orange peel (which also has a sticky texture after being boiled in syrup;  after being rolled in sugar, the sugar crystallizes with the residual syrup and creates a crunchy coating). Once they have dried on racks overnight, the coconut candy strips have a delicious crunch and awesome toasted coconut flavor.

*To make vanilla sugar: Slice a vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then scrape the seeds and add to 2 cups of granulated sugar. With your fingers, rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar until they are thoroughly distributed. Pour into a glass jar, along with the scraped vanilla bean pod, and seal tightly before storing in a cool, dry place. Whenever you use a vanilla bean for a recipe, put the rinsed & thoroughly dried pod into the jar. You can keep the same jar of vanilla sugar almost indefinitely, and simple continue adding more sugar and seed pods as needed.

Version B (on the right in the above photo), the coconut meat is cut by hand to twice the thickness of the slices made with the vegetable peeler. After the slices are coated in brown sugar, they are sprinkled with turbinado sugar and slowly baked. In my opinion, B is the better of the two. There is less added sugar overall (and some of it ends up caramelizing on the baking sheet anyway), so the coconut itself is the dominant flavor. The thicker slices take on a robust, smoky taste unlike any coconut treat that I’ve ever had before.

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Coconut Candy, Two Ways

Note: These recipes each use 1/2 of a fresh coconut, so I’d recommend dividing your coconut and making both versions at the same time – then you can sample some of each variety! If you only want to make one version, use the whole coconut and double the other ingredients.

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(above: before going into the oven) (below: after baking for four hours)

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Version A          Yield: approximately 60 strips of candy / 3 oz total weight

coconut meat from 1/2 of a fresh coconut

1 1/2 cups / 12 fl oz water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 of a vanilla bean

 

2/3 – 1 cup vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar), for rolling

 

Preheat your oven to 200F. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, cut the coconut meat into strips, approximately 1/16″ thick (make them as long as possible). Add the coconut strips to a heavy-bottomed pot along with the water and sugars. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then continue to cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every five minutes, until the syrup has reduced to 1/3 of its original volume and the coconut strips are translucent. Remove the vanilla bean pod.

Transfer the strips to a rimmed, very lightly greased baking sheet, being careful not to add too much excess syrup from the pot. Spread in a single layer and bake for 4 hours in a 200F oven, rotating the tray and gently stirring the coconut strips every hour.

As soon as the coconut strips are cool enough to handle, roll them in the vanilla / granulated sugar, then place on a cooling rack. Set in a cool, low-humidity area for 12-24 hours, until sugar has crystallized and formed a crunchy outer coating on the coconut candy strips. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months at room temperature.

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Version B          Yield: approximately 30 strips of candy / 3 oz total weight

coconut meat from 1/2 of a fresh coconut

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar (approximately 3 single-serve packets)

Preheat your oven to 200F. Using a sharp knife, cut the coconut meat into 1/8″ thick strips (make them as long as possible). Toss the coconut strips with the brown sugar in a small bowl, then place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes, until the brown sugar has melted slightly from the humidity. Toss again, making sure that the sugar is coating each strip of coconut.

Transfer the strips to a rimmed, very lightly greased baking sheet, in a single layer. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and bake for 4 hours in a 200F oven, rotating the tray and gently stirring the coconut strips every hour.

As soon as the coconut strips are completely cool, transfer to an airtight container. Store for up to 2 months at room temperature.

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Kiwi, Avocado & Wild Blueberry Smoothie

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. #WildYourSmoothie

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Avocados are in EVERYTHING these days, and not only savory meals – I’ve seen recipes for avocado ice cream, creme brûlée, and of course, smoothies. I’ll admit that I was extremely hesitant at first. While I love the rich, creamy texture of avocados, I wasn’t convinced that a smoothie made with avocado would be appetizing to me… but I decided to give it a try anyway.

To cut through the richness of the avocado, I chose the sweet-tart taste of frozen wild blueberries, along with fresh kiwi and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Like avocados, wild blueberries are a nutrient-dense superfood, full of antioxidants (nearly twice as many as cultivated blueberry varieties). Since approximately 99% of the wild blueberry crop is individually quick-frozen (IQF) at harvest, the fresh taste and exceptional nutrition is “locked in” for use all year round.

This is an incredibly simple recipe, but out of the several wild blueberry-based smoothies that I played around with, I liked this one the best. The tartness of the wild blueberries / kiwi / lime combined with the creaminess of the avocado creates a well-balanced beverage that is perfect for any time of day.

 

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Active Time: 1 minute

Yield: one 12 fl oz (1 1/2 cup) serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries

1/2 ripe avocado, skin & pit removed

2 kiwi fruit, roughly chopped (approximately 3/4 cup chopped); before chopping, cut a slice of kiwi and reserve for garnish

1/4 cup / 2 fl oz water

1/4 cup / 2 fl oz freshly-squeezed lime juice (approximately 2 limes); before juicing, cut a slice of lime and reserve for garnish

2 tsp organic agave nectar

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Add all ingredients to blender and blend for 30-60 seconds, stopping and stirring if necessary, until very smooth. Pour into your glass of choice and garnish with the reserved kiwi / lime slices and a few wild blueberries. Enjoy!

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Wild Blueberry “Vision Health” Smoothie

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. #WildYourSmoothie

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First, a quick biology lesson:

Free radicals are unstable, highly-reactive molecules which play important roles in the human body. Some free radicals work to kill bacteria on a cellular level, while others play a part in regulating the various systems of the body, or help with the body’s natural healing responses. On the other hand, there are types of free radicals (specifically those that are derived from the oxygen molecule) that can cause damage to, or death of, cells when present in excess (which can then result in cancer or other serious illnesses). Just as the human body produces antibodies in response to pathogens, it also produces its own antioxidants to combat free radicals… the problem is that the body doesn’t always produce enough.

 

But wait, don’t fear – fruits and vegetables are here! Antioxidants that naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables can be extremely effective in neutralizing the excess free radicals in the body, thereby protecting cells from unnecessary damage.

Wild blueberries are an excellent choice for increasing your antioxidant intake. These little purple-blue gems have one of the highest antioxidant capacities per serving, when compared to other antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Wild blueberries have been determined to have a positive impact on health of the heart, brain, urinary tract, and vision, as well as cancer prevention.

For this smoothie recipe, I decided to go with a theme of “vision health.” Considering that my own eyesight has slowly declined a bit over the past few years, and one of my uncles is legally blind, it seems like something that I should focus on. Since both carrots and mangoes are known to contain antioxidants and other nutrients that have positive effects on vision health, I chose to combine both of those with wild blueberries for a triple-threat of sorts. Plain Greek yogurt is added for creaminess, chia seeds for a nutrient boost, and agave nectar for some natural sweetness (but you can feel free to skip it if you’d like). The resulting smoothie is a pleasant balance of sweet and tart, much like the wild blueberries themselves.

 

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Active Time: 1 minute

Yield: one 12 fl oz (1 1/2 cup) serving

Ingredients

1 mango: 3 thin slices reserved for garnish, remainder roughly chopped (approximately 1 cup chopped)

1/4 cup / 2 fl oz 100% carrot juice

1/8 cup / 1 fl oz freshly-squeezed lime juice (approximately 1-2 limes)

1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries, plus extra for garnish

2 tsp chia seeds, plus extra for garnish

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tsp organic agave nectar

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Blend the chopped mango with the carrot juice and lime juice until thoroughly broken down, 30-60 seconds depending on your blender. Add all remaining ingredients and blend for 30-60 seconds, stopping and stirring if necessary, until very smooth. Pour into your glass of choice and garnish with the reserved mango slices, a few wild blueberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds. Enjoy!

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Wild Blueberry & Blood Orange Smoothie

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. #WildYourSmoothie

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During the warmer months, I like to spend some of my free time hiking. Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring, NY is, by far, my favorite place to do so. The climb is somewhat challenging (for me, at least), the view of the Hudson River and the surrounding Hudson Highlands is incredible, and to top it off – wild blueberry bushes grow along the various trails! I’ve always been (perhaps a little too) excited to find wild berries growing in the woods… it’s like receiving a little surprise gift from nature.

Wild blueberries are one of only three varieties of berries that are native to North America (along with cranberries and Concord grapes), and have been present in fields and barrens (areas in which the wild blueberry bushes are the dominant species) across the Northeast, particularly Maine and Eastern Canada, for at least 10,000 years. These “low bush” blueberries are much smaller than cultivated varieties due to lower water content, and therefore have a more concentrated, powerful flavor (and a brighter color as well).

For this smoothie recipe, I decided to pair wild blueberries with winter’s favorite citrus, the blood orange, as well as some 100% cranberry juice and fresh baby spinach. Plain Greek yogurt is added for creaminess, ground flax seed for extra fiber, and agave nectar for some natural sweetness (but you can feel free to skip it if you’d like). Since I am using IQF (individually quick-frozen) blueberries, there is no need to add any ice, which would only dilute the flavor of the smoothie.

 

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Active Time: 1 minute

Yield: one 8 fl oz (1 cup) serving

Ingredients

one blood orange

1/2 cup (tightly packed) fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries

1/4 cup / 2 fl oz 100% cranberry juice

2 tsp ground flax seed

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tsp organic agave nectar

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Cut the blood orange in half, then cut & reserve one slice for garnish. Cut the peel and pith off of one half of the orange, and juice the other half.

Place baby spinach leaves in the bottom of the blender. Top with wild blueberries and all remaining ingredients. Blend for 30-60 seconds, stopping and stirring if necessary, until very smooth. Pour into your glass of choice and garnish with the reserved blood orange slice and a few wild blueberries. Enjoy!

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Banana Almond Breakfast Bars

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From time to time, I’ll take one of my standard recipes and mess around with it, attempting to make a more healthful version (something that could be part of a sensible breakfast or serve as a mid-morning snack). These Banana Almond Breakfast Bars are the end result of several different trials, all starting from my go-to banana bread recipe. By replacing all-purpose flour with a combination of whole wheat flour and almond meal, using coconut oil instead of butter (though coconut oil is actually higher in calories and fat, it has many more health benefits than butter), and choosing honey instead of white sugar, I’ve turned the sweet, fluffy banana bread recipe into a slightly dense, hearty bar.

To make this recipe, you will need bananas that are completely brown (even better if the skins have started to turn black) – if your bananas only have brown spots, they’re not ready. The higher level of sweetness in overripe bananas is what allows for such a small quantity of added sweetener (honey) to be used.

Ingredients

2 medium overripe bananas (fully brown or black skins)

3 Tbsp / 1.5 fl oz coconut oil, melted

2 Tbsp honey

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup / 4.25 oz whole wheat flour

1/2 cup / 1.6 oz almond meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup / 1.25 oz chopped dark chocolate (optional)

1/2 cup / 2.25 oz sliced almonds

1/2 tsp granulated sugar (optional)

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Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a glass or light-colored metal 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Mash the bananas with a wooden spoon until only small chunks remain. Add the melted coconut oil and stir vigorously to combine, then add the honey, egg and vanilla extract.

Gently stir the whole wheat flour, almond meal, salt and baking soda into the banana mixture. Fold in the chopped chocolate, if desired, and transfer batter to prepared baking dish.img_2190

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Scatter sliced almonds over the top of the batter, covering it completely. Gently press them down into the surface of the batter.

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Place baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar (optional), then return to oven and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. When completely cool, cut into your desired number of bars (I think 12 is a good number). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for up to two months.

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