Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons (Gluten and Refined-Sugar Free)

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I rarely buy desserts when I’m out and about, but when I see chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, I need them. Neeeeeed them. Do not pass go, do not collect your things or walk away, just get your wallet out and pay for the damn macaroon. I’ve come to embrace my weakness…because embracing it means I get more macaroons.

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I love that most restaurants sell HUGE macaroons, because you can eat the whole thing and truthfully say, “I’m just eating one cookie!” (side note: this same logic also works for a large glass of wine). However, when I make macaroons at home I try to be much more responsible. Take this recipe, for instance, where the macaroons are not only a normal cookie size, but they’re also gluten AND refined-sugar free! What?! I know.

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Part of my inspiration for these little bites of heaven came from the honey in our pantry; I geek out at any opportunity to use our super flavorful clover honey from the Beast’s family farm in Wisconsin. No matter where your honey comes from, using a combination of honey and applesauce instead of white sugar keeps the inside of the macaroons chewy, soft, and without even the slightest hint of dryness. The chocolate coating is daaaark, silky smooth, ever-so-slightly bitter, and absolutely perfect.

Warning: you NEED to double, triple, or quadruple this recipe. 24 hours later, almost all of my macaroons were gone. Not only can I physically not stay away from them, but the Beast loved them, and even my mother, who always suspects that I put “weird” stuff in food, and hates baked goods without “real” (aka white) sugar, devoured the one I brought to her. Who even needs white sugar and gluten? Not me, and not even my mom, as long as we have macaroons.

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California Caprese Grilled Cheese

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You know those tasks that sit in the back of your mind, making themselves quietly comfortable until the most inopportune times? Then, when you’re doing something like falling asleep or driving, you remember that one thing (or those twenty things) you need to do, think “dang it!” momentarily, but then those responsibilities fade away away as quickly as they came.

There are several (SEVERAL) tasks that fit this description for me, ranging from paying my dental bill to organizing my closet, but the only one I acted on recently was making a Recipe Index page. I can’t even describe to you the satisfaction and pride I felt after completing that task on Friday.

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As I built the “Burgers/Sandwiches” section of the page, I came to the realization that I’ve never posted a sandwich recipe. Not a one! Plenty of burgers, but no sandwiches. You’d probably think this means I’m not a big sandwich eater, but you would be dead wrong. In fact, I’m obsessed with sandwiches. I eat them all the time, so why not share them with my internet friends?

To remedy this huge, HUGE issue, today I’m sharing my very favorite type of sandwich: tomatoes two ways (including a pesto!), creamy mozzarella, and rich avocado, all sandwiched between hearty, seeded bread. I literally eat something along these lines at least once a week. The Beast and I call it our “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Night,” so it’s obviously a very adult, refined meal.

If my grown-up grilled cheese needed to get ready for a fancy night out, it’d drench itself in this balsamic drizzle. It makes the whole delicious combination even more appealing; The tomatoes get sweeter, the subtle flavors of the mozzarella and avocado are heightened, and when the drizzle hits the basil you will INSIST that you’re eating bruschetta for dinner…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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At long last, there is a sandwich on this blog, listed on my fancy new Recipe Index page. Whew, it feels good knowing I can check that one off the list. My dental bills may still be sitting in the office, and my closet may still be a hot mess, but dang it now you know I eat sandwiches in a big, bad way.
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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sauce

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All I want in the winter is comfort food. This means that I often end up cooking any variation of mac and cheese, ridiculous grilled cheese sandwiches, or pizza. Fortunately, the Beast switches things up when he cooks for me. One of my favorite Beast creations occurred a few months ago when he made potato gnocchi for his Italian mother who came over for dinner. Only after he began the recipe did he realize we had no potato ricer, which is pretty necessary for gnocchi. Instead, he ended up improvising by cutting the potatoes really fine, and making the most amazing, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi I’ve ever had. His Italian mom approved in a big, big way.

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The meal stuck with his mom, and she ended up giving him a potato ricer as a Christmas gift. On Valentine’s Day last week he took it out for the first time, and made perfectly creamy, buttery lemon-thyme gnocchi. As much as I loved the gnocchi, I couldn’t stop thinking of the possibilities with the potato ricer. My mind immediately went to sweet potatoes and brown butter, which is a combination I’d never tried, but knew I had to…as soon as possible.

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This dish has a similar depth of flavor as my butternut squash mac and cheese, but with the added plus of dumplings that are so intoxicatingly rich and delicious that you will be thinking about them for days. Especially how the caramel-hinted brown butter perfectly highlights the slight sweetness in the potatoes…that’s just not something that can be easily forgotten.

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In the recipe below I say that this serves 4, because it SHOULD, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did. I’m not proud of this, but we ended up eating the whole recipe for dinner on Sunday, and then didn’t talk about anything other than our fullness level for a good half hour. This gnocchi is ridiculously satisfying, but try to stick to one serving. It will be hard, I know, but do your best. Although the uncomfortable fullness hurt, the worst repercussion of our overeating was the lack of leftovers for weekday lunches. I miss you, sweet potato gnocchi.

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I wish I could eat this every day.
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Protein Powerhouse Veggie Burgers

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“You’re a vegetarian? How do you know you’re getting enough protein? I know someone who nearly died because they were a vegetarian and didn’t eat enough protein. Did you know soy can give you cancer? What do you even EAT?” I know it usually comes from a harmless place, but I’m continually amazed when people critique my diet, particularly the protein issue. You’d think more people would talk to me about Iron or B Vitamins, which could actually be a more interesting topic, but nope, it’s always just protein.

I understand where it comes from, as the generic American diet is MEAT-MEAT-MEAT focused, and meat is packed with protein. Boom, logic. However, I think I speak for the majority of vegetarians when I say that we know what we’re doing, we know what foods are rich in protein, and we’re often more focused on creating balanced meals than the average meat eater.

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Take this burger for example, which has 11 grams of protein in every damn patty. Add a whole wheat burger bun, and your meal climbs up to about 17 grams of protein. The burger is hearty, rich, spicy, and downright irresistible when slathered in a smooth roasted red pepper Greek yogurt sauce.

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Since vegans get even more grief about protein than I do, I decided to really drive home the plant-based protein point by making the patty completely vegan. Simply leave off the sauce (and top with avocado instead-yum!), for a vegan, high-protein meal. For gluten-free folks, put the patty between a gluten-free bun and you’re golden.

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If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ve probably realized I’m not a judgmental vegetarian. I know there are all kinds of diets that can be healthy, energizing, and smart; it just seems that vegetarian and vegan foods are often overlooked by meat-eaters. However, I live with one of the biggest carnivores around, and that carnivore ate two of these protein-packed patties within 6 hours. If that’s not a stamp of approval for veggie burgers, I don’t know what is.
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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (With a Hint of Nutella)

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I know Valentine’s Day is kind of lame. I understand that, yet I can’t help but get a little giddy about the themed desserts. My Valentine’s Days have always centered around dessert, and not really in a romantic, “Be my Valentine, Katie. Here’s some chocolate” kind of way, but in the form of a heart-shaped box of Dove truffles from my parents.

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I look forward to that box of truffles all year; what could be better than delicious chocolate in a heart shape? Of course my love of Valentine cuteness doesn’t stop with truffles. I can’t get enough of pink and white sprinkles, heart-shaped sugar cookies with sky-high frosting, and of course all things red velvet.

Red Velvet is a bit of a mystery to me. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but what makes it so good? It’s a chocolate cake with red food coloring…that’s literally it. Still, there’s something incredible about it. It could be the color, the fluffy cake, the smooth cream cheese frosting, or all of the above.

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This year, I thought I’d elevate the cuteness by making red velvet into whoopie pies. To bring the deliciousness to a whole new level, I swirled some melted Nutella into the cookie batter. The resulting Valentine’s dessert is the perfect combination of fluffy, soft cookies, creamy tangy frosting, and just the slightest hint of Nutella.

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When I went to Target to look for additional Valentine’s trinkets, my heart broke a bit when I saw an absence of heart-shaped cookie cutters. How cute would these whoopie pies be in heart shape?! So cute, yet so lame at the same time. Perfect for this holiday.

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