Tag Archives: chocolate

Chocolate Pistachio Energy Bites [gluten free]

I’m such a sucker for any kind of place where high-quality food is the focus. Farmers’ markets. Gourmet food shops. Italian markets. Bakeries. I love it all. It’s no secret that I love experimenting in the kitchen, and finding new foods and ingredients gives me inspiration to try new recipes… plus I just love eating food, obviously.

A few weeks ago, I was walking to a Starbucks to work for awhile before meeting a friend for dinner, when I passed by a spice shop. I’ve seen it before when it was closed for the day, but this time it was open.

Naturally, I walked in the shop and moseyed around smelling and tasting things. I wound up leaving with some goodies – all that were new to me, with the exception of local cinnamon infused honey (I pretty much buy that whenever I see it!).

For San Diego area locals, the shop is called Savory Spice in Encinitas, and it’s super fun to pop into if you’re a spice nut like I am!

One new-to-me thing that I bought was pistachio extract. I’m a fan of pistachios, but for some reason they’re a forgotten nut to me sometimes. I’m constantly all about peanut butter, almonds + almond butter, cashews + cashew butter… but pistachios seem to fall by the wayside. Then I make something with them and am reminded that I dig em.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cereal Bars [gluten free]

As a traveler, I’m not usually the person that seeks out the best shopping spots in a given area. I’m not huge into shopping and my husband absolutely loathes it, so shopping is never on our vacation checklist. While I prefer making memories, taking photos, and going on adventures while traveling, I do enjoy nabbing a souvenir that reminds me of the trip and is unique to the area.


For instance, I picked up coasters in New Orleans that have the city’s symbolic fleur-de-lis design on them. When I put my drink on one, memories from my time there come to mind.

The last time I was in Italy, I bought a bracelet from a street vendor. Every time I wear it, I think of the magic of Venice.


During my trip to Ireland a few months ago, the souvenir that I took home was a jar of locally made honey. I nabbed it at a health food store during my excursion to the Cliffs of Moher, and every time I use some of that honey, I think of the rolling hills of Ireland. Now I wish I had bought more of it!


Recently while I was spooning my Irish honey into my green tea, I got the idea to make pumpkin spice cereal bars that are glued together with the goodness that is honey.


I’ve always been a big cereal lover. I eat it with protein powder mixed in & with banana or blueberries; sprinkle it on top of my smoothie bowls; and sometimes I eat it dry with a handful of dried cherries & chocolate chips for a healthy dessert. There’s something about chocolate with oat cereals like Cheerios that is just so yummy!

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Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Cake for 1

Every time I get anything new for my kitchen, I get seriously excited. Some people may not understand my enthusiasm in the least bit, but kitchen gear to a foodie is like candy to a kid… Okay, I get excited in candy stores too, but you get what I’m trying to say.

So you can only imagine how great it was when I walked into Bed Bath & Beyond after my bridal shower a bunch of years back with thousands of dollars in gift cards. My bridal shower was on the east coast, and since I live on the west coast, most people gave me a gift card instead of shipping tons of presents.

bridal shower

My mom and me at my bridal shower…opening a Bed Bath & Beyond gift card

I wish I had a photo of the awesome madness of that shopping excursion…though I did just find this lovely photo of my face when I walked into my grandma’s house for what I thought was a lunch date, only to find 50 people in her kitchen for my surprise bridal shower:

bridal shower surprise

Um yeah, I think my eyeballs bugging out of my head say it all… I was surprised!

Oh and did I mention that my husband was deployed at the time? So I went on a shopping spree at Bed Bath & Beyond alone. With a lot of money. And no supervision. Can you say troubleee? I walked out with 2 entire carts worth of kitchen home items and could barely contain my excitement.

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Chocolate Raspberry Mocktail + Puritan’s Pride Giveaway!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Puritan’s Pride, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Hi friends!

Today’s post is the last installment of my 3-part Puritan’s Pride seasonal smoothie challenge. You may remember that in October, the theme was pumpkin smoothies (you can check out my chocolate chip pumpkin protein smoothie here), and my November creation was a pineapple mint smoothie for the belly soother smoothie theme. So what do we have going on for this month? Yummy mocktails!


This simple 4-ingredient mocktail includes dark chocolate and cocoa powder, which are sources of antioxidants to support total-body wellness. Raspberries are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients, and using frozen ones makes the mocktail a bit creamier.

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Chocolate Mint Oatmeal Flax Cookies [Gluten Free]

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

Holiday Decor Collage

My weekend was full of holiday related activities: buying a tree and decorating it, buying outside lights and decorating my front yard, shopping for gifts, and starting this DIY craft…

DIY cork wreath

…a wine cork wreath! I’m not all that crafty but I’ve been wanting to do something with the many corks I have around, so I decided to give it a go! I’ll be sure to share the final product, which I’ll hopefully have done later this week. Chances are I’ll be glue gunning corks at 11 pm tonight!

Coinciding with my holiday cheer, I also did some baking last weekend.

mint cookie baking

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Stuffed Strawberries

hazelnut strawberries-1

In honor of Valentine’s Day taking place in a few days, I have a delicious dessert recipe to share with you all today.


It all started when I heard about Davida‘s Valentine’s Day Bake Off. Naturally, I wanted to participate, but there weren’t any baking ideas immediately popping into my head….and then I thought of making a homemade version of Nutella. Since it’s V-Day, the idea of strawberries were also on my brain. Technically there isn’t any baking involved in this recipe, but I figure that there’s no room to be a stickler for rules when chocolate is involved, right? 😉

stuffed strawberries-2

I think many people would agree with me when I say that Nutella is heavenly tasting. I think it’s slightly ridiculous that people see it as a “nutritious” thing to eat for breakfast, but I do not pass up the opportunity to get a crepe stuffed with fruit and Nutella when given the chance. Random Fact: World Nutella Day just passed on February 5th. I kid you not, this holiday exists!

In recent times, I satisfy my chocolate hazelnut spread urges by buying Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter, which is deeeelish and also addicting, yet is better for you because the first ingredient is actual hazelnuts — unlike Nutella, where the first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil (Hazelnuts as the first ingredient in hazelnut butter?? Brilliant!). When I got the bright idea to try and make chocolate hazelnut butter myself, off to Whole Foods I went for some dry roasted hazelnuts….


You can also buy raw hazelnuts and roast them yourself if you’d like.

Other star ingredients in this butter include maple syrup, almond milk, sea salt and dark chocolate.

Spread Ingredients

To make the butter, first pulse all of the hazelnuts in a food processor. After a minute, they’ll look like this…

hazelnut spread-1

…but you’ll want to keep going until the nuts form a hazelnut paste as pictured here:

hazelnut spread-2

The next thing to do is melt the chocolate, almond milk, and vanilla extract in a saucepan. I used dark chocolate discs for this recipe. After melted, I combined the chocolate in with the hazelnuts in the food processor, and added sea salt, maple syrup, cocoa powder and vegetable oil. I thoroughly mixed everything until it looked like the deliciousness below.

hazelnut spread-3

At first, I attempted to use the hazelnut butter to stuff the strawberries right away, but then quickly realized that right out of the food processor, the spread is a bit too runny. Case in point:

stuffed strawberries

You actually could use the hazelnut butter as is if you’d like to simply dip fruit into it, or whatever else you people do with Nutella…

hazelnut dip

…but for the purposes of stuffing strawberries, what I did next was place the hazelnut butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it harden up a bit.

While that’s happening, you’ll want to cut the stems of your strawberries off and scoop out some of the flesh in the middle with a butter knife, as your dog longingly looks on in hopes of nabbing one of the berries of course…


After the butter has hardened up a bit, remove it from the freezer and scoop some into each of your strawberries.

The cutest grandma in the world (mine of course!) always sends me little things for Valentine’s Day. Last week she sent me toffee and cupcake decorators for the holiday, so I used some of my decor to spruce up my hazelnut butter stuffed strawberries.

cupcake decor

stuffed strawberries-3

I find this to be a very pretty, Valentine’s Day-ish dessert, don’t you?

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Stuffed Strawberries
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • 12 large strawberries
  • 1 cup dry roasted hazelnuts
  • 6 oz dark chocolate discs, chips, etc. (You'll want to stay away from bitter baking bars though.)
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 TBSP maple syrup
  • ½ cup (chocolate) almond milk
  • 2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ½ TSP sea salt, plus more to taste
  1. Place hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse for a couple of minutes until it forms a thick paste.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with the almond milk over low heat, stirring often. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the food processor, and mix in the sea salt, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vegetable oil. Pulse again for a few minutes until everything is combined well.
  4. Place the butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes to allow it to harden a bit. You'll want it to be not runny, yet still very easily spreadable.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the stems of your strawberries off and scoop out most of the flesh with a butter knife. Once the butter is ready, remove from the freezer and use a butter knife to spread some into each strawberry. Serve immediately.


Question: What’s your favorite dessert?

This is a tough question for me! I love chocolate cake and ice cream/fro yo, but in recent time I’ve been liking fancy cupcakes. I think we can agree that for V-Day, strawberries and chocolate are where it’s at!

[Secret Ingredient] Double Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin Bites

A couple of days ago, I was on a mission to come up with a mini-something recipe that could serve as a baby snack or dessert.

An I’m-waiting-for-dinner-to-cook-and-need-to-eat-a-little-something-ASAP recipe.

Also an I-just-ate-dinner-and-am-not-really-hungry-but-want-a-bite-of-something-sweet snack.

Since pumpkin eats are constantly on my brain these days, I naturally incorporated some into the recipe – in more than one way. I think that including chocolate in a sweet recipe is always a good idea, so this recipe quickly became a combo of chocolate + pumpkin yumminess. And then there was the mini muffin tin I happened to see peering from my cabinet just waiting to be used, all of which resulted in these babies…

muffin bites

Then comes the *secret ingredient* part…

I wanted to omit use of any oil and make this recipe super healthy in general, but I still wanted them to be moist. Especially when incorporating protein powder like I did here, the recipe can get dry easily. I did some research online to see what people most frequently use in protein powder brownies/cakes/muffins, and I kept finding black beans to be the common denominator.

Now, I’m not really a fan of putting ingredients in things that don’t seem like they should be there, though I certainly have tried it.

Avocado in chocolate mousse? Get outta here! 

Tofu in homemade dressings, desserts, etc.? No thank you. Been there, tried that…it wound up in my garbage can. 

But I decided to give the black beans a go in my muffins. I figured I can’t knock it ’til I try it, right?

muffin bites-1

Besides using pure pumpkin in the muffin bites, I also decided to use some pumpkin cream cheese to keep the recipe nice and moist. Trader Joe’s pumpkin cream cheese = nom.

muffin bites-2

The recipe also included honey, cinnamon, cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips. When I combined everything in my food processor, I was still feeling skeptical about using black beans.

muffin bites-3

But once the batter was smooth, I was very happy with what I tasted. Friends, I wouldn’t lie to you – it did NOT taste like black beans. It just tasted like chocolate pumpkin goodness, and after I spooned the batter into my mini muffin cups, I ate as much batter out of the food processor as I could. I was like a little kid eating the remnants of boxed brownie mix with a wooden spoon after my mom put the brownie batter in the oven (I obviously did that EVERY TIME my mom made brownies growing up!).

muffin bites-4

When my hubby, whose not crazy about beans, tasted the muffins, he had no idea that there were black beans in them. Not only did he give the muffins a thumbs up at first, he keeps eating them and not questioning my vague description as them being “nice and healthy chocolate pumpkin bites.” Muwahaha.

muffin bites-7

muffin bites-8

I’ve been eating the muffin bites on their own as a few-bite mini snack, and also have been cutting them into a couple pieces and topping my yogurts with them. As I said in my last post, I pretty much top my yogurts with anything tasty that’s in my kitchen!


[Secret Ingredient] Double Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin Bites
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
  • ½ cup pure pumpkin
  • ½ cup pumpkin cream cheese (or regular will work too)
  • 1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Designer Whey)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 TBSP honey
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1 TSP cinnamon
  • ½ TBSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line mini muffin tin with 24 muffin cups.
  2. Combine all ingredients except dark chocolate chips in a food processor. Blend until very smooth.
  3. Add chocolate chips, and pulse a bunch of times so that the chips are chopped up a bit but not completely blended.
  4. Evenly spoon batter into muffin cups.
  5. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before enjoying.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 mini muffin, Calories: 75, Fat: 3 g, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Sugar: 7 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 3 g

Chocolate Protein Squares


This is exactly how I felt when I woke up this morning!

My family left for the airport today. It’s always a bit sad to say goodbye to them knowing we won’t see each other for awhile. My extra long weekend was packed with lots of fun, but I think it all caught up with me, because today I was exhausted! I’m sure all of the wine drinking didn’t help. 😉 I’m glad that I did that three-day detox just about a week before they visited, because my liver took a beating with my family in town. Hey, it’s okay if that happens once in awhile right? All I can do is take a nice break from alcohol and eat super clean moving forward – which is exactly what I plan to do! I also will be getting to sleep nice and early tonight.

While my family was in town, I whipped up some yummy eats & drinks. Most were recipes that I’ve talked about on the blog before, including homemade salsa, guacamole, sangria and pizza. But I also wanted to come up with a new snack idea. My parents and siblings are active, fit people, so protein-packed snacks are always appealing to them. Keeping this in mind, I sought to create my very first recipe for protein brownies.


I came to the conclusion that since I think of brownies as a fudgy, super moist dessert, I’m instead calling this recipe chocolate protein squares. They’re a good post-workout snack if you’re in the mood for something chocolatey and cake-like, yet protein-packed and healthy.


Chocolate Protein Squares
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
  • 3 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • ¼ cup Truvia baking blend sugar
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ TSP vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, beat almond butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and almond milk together.
  3. Add in protein powder, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and beat everything together well.
  4. Mix chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Pour batter into an 8x11 pan coated with baking spray.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick can go into brownies and come out clean.
  7. Let cool, then cut into 9 squares.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 square, Calories: 210 calories, Fat: 13 g, Saturated fat: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Sugar: 7 g, Fiber: 3 g, Protein: 11 g

Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Butter Granola


Lately I’ve been obsessed with cherries. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I stopped at a local farm stand and nabbed some dark sweet cherries. I’ve always liked cherries, but it seems my love for them has been on a whole new level since that purchase. Fresh cherries by themselves, frozen cherries in smoothies, cherry frozen yogurt (ate some last night!), cherries in my salads – I’ve been finding endless ways to incorporate cherries into my diet pretty much everyday. One day last week, I whipped up a new recipe and found yet another way to eat (dried) cherries: dark chocolate cherry almond butter granola!  


This granola will add some pizazz to yogurt or cottage cheese, and is a nice sweet treat all on its own. The only downside to this recipe, and to pretty much all kinds of granola in my book, is that it’s addictive. I kept grabbing a handful here and there, and before I knew it, the whole batch was gone!

If you want to slash the calorie count, just cut the chocolate chips and (dare I say) dried cherries out. Almond butter, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and oats – what’s not to love?  It would be delicious as plain almond butter granola too.



Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Butter Granola
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips or morsels
  • 1 TSP cinnamon
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Melt almond butter and honey on the stove over low heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Add cinnamon and vanilla, mix together, and remove from heat.
  4. Put oats, chocolate chips and dried cherries in a bowl. Pour honey mixture over oats, then stir with a wooden spoon to combine evenly.
  5. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the granola onto the sheet in clusters, with the chocolate chips either in the oat mixture or positioned on top of oats (This is so that the chocolate doesn't burn onto the baking sheet).
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until oats are slightly browned.
  7. Allow it to cool slightly, then use a spoon or spatula to pour the granola into a bowl.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: a heaping ¼ cup, Calories: 207 calories, Fat: 9 g, Saturated fat: 2 g, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 3 g, Protein: 5 g

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Cranberries

Hi friends!

This Friday night in my household is totally relaxed. I am still under the weather with an upper respiratory thing, and my hubby had a tooth pulled earlier today, so we both felt like being couch potatoes. Our evening has consisted of me making us a dinner of homemade tomato soup, getting some fro yo, and now we’re currently watching a college football game. Even Harley’s joining in on the laziness and has been snoozing. Between a workout first thing this AM, work, a long walk with Harley, and physical therapy while feeling crappy,  I think I’ve earned some chill time tonight! 😉

Before officially moving forward from the holidays, I want to share one final dessert I made during Christmastime – chocolate bark with pistachios and dried cranberries:

I found the recipe on the Eating Well website, and the process of making these treats went something like this:

Next time I make these, I’m definitely going to use regular dark chocolate instead of bittersweet. It’s a personal preference, but I like dark chocolate the best. The recipe is below!

Chocolate Bark with Pistachios & Dried Cranberries
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: About 48
  • ¾ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 TSP freshly grated orange zest
  • 24 oz bittersweet/dark chocolate, finely chopped, divided
  1. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Toss pistachios, cranberries, and orange zest in a bowl.
  3. Melt 18 oz chocolate in a double boiler over hot water (You can also microwave the chocolate in 30-second increments instead). Stir often with a spatula so it melts evenly.
  4. Remove chocolate from heat, then stir in remaining 6 oz chocolate, mixing until thoroughly melted and smooth.
  5. Add ½ of the pistachio mixture to the chocolate and stir well.
  6. Quickly scrape the chocolate onto the baking sheet, using the spatula to spread it to an even ¼-inch thickness.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining pistachio mixture on top, gently pressing it into the chocolate.
  8. Refrigerate uncovered just until set, 30-45 minutes.
  9. Flip the baking sheet over onto a large cutting board. Remove the baking sheet and peel the tin foil off. Using a knife, cut into 2 to 3-inch chunks of bark.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Per piece, Calories: 80, Fat: 5 g, Carbohydrates: 11 g, Protein: 1 g