Chocolate Cherry Protein Smoothie

This is my new favorite smoothie.  As in I have it twice a week (at least).  Sometimes  I make a double batch and freeze one.  Then I grab it out of the freezer on the way to the gym and, after a workout and shower, it’s just thawed enough to stir and drink.  Which is pretty much having your cake smoothie and eating drinking it too.  Or something like that.

It’s going to be a bummer when our Costco stops carrying frozen organic cherries, as they make this smoothie possible.  Cherries make the smoothie seems indulgent and give a nice, rich flavor.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Smoothie

Chocolate Cherry Protein Smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I like Sun Warrior Vanilla Rice Protein)
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • few ice cubes


Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.  Add more non-dairy milk (or water) as needed to get the desired consistency.


  • freeze leftover coffee into ice cubes and use in place of water ice cubes to give a slight coffee flavor
  • freeze chocolate coconut water (I used the Zico brand) and use in place of water ice cubes
  • use chocolate almond milk for even more chocolate flavor

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

banana chocolate chip muffins | The Lively Kitchen

Want to know how I stay in my kid’s teacher’s good graces? These muffins.  (tucked in a bag with a little gift card). *

Want to know what I bring when it’s my day to provide snacks for preschool? These muffins.

Want to know why I generally separate three bananas from each bunch I buy so they can quietly get really ripe in the fruit basket and not be consumed as a snack before they are baking ready? These muffins.

* My boy’s teacher gets more than my girl’s, as he needs more grace.  It’s tough to keep hands to yourself when you’re a five year old boy.  It’s even tougher to be a teacher in class of five year olds.  They deserve much more than muffins!

banana chocolate chip mini muffins | the lively kitchen

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Makes about 36 mini-muffins.  

This recipe can easily be made into 12-14 regular sized muffins, 4 mini loaves or 1 standard loaf.  But they won’t be nearly as cute.


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease or line 3 mini-muffin pans.
  2. Using a mixer, cream together softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition.
  3. Mix in bananas, sour cream and vanilla and beat until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to butter/banana mixture and stir by hand until just combined and moist.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched.
  7. Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Bars (grain free)

Chocolate Cherry Almond Bars | the lively kitchen

I have this thing with bars.  Which sounds like I’m about to admit a drinking problem, so I better clarify. (although I do have a tea drinking problem lately….)

I have this thing with energy bars. As in I can’t go grocery shopping without picking up at least one.  As in I’m quite territorial about my ‘bars basket’ in the pantry and my husband knows to ask which ones he can have since I’ve (ridiculously) over-reacted more than once when he innocently grabbed a bar I was saving for a special day. As in I consider them ‘treats.’  Pretty much – don’t get between me and my bars.

This homemade bar recipe has become a new favorite in our house.  It makes 12 which means I don’t have to hoard them.  They are also grain free, kid friendly and pretty customizable.  Plus, the husband just grabs one from the fridge on the way to work, leaving my precious ‘bars basket’ in the pantry alone.  {insert mischievous grin}

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Bars | The Lively Kitchen

Chocolate Cherry Almond Bars


  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup diced dried cherries


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond meal and salt in a food process, pulse twice.
  3. Pulse in coconut oil, water, honey and vanilla
  4. Pulse in coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips and diced cherries just until combined.
  5. With wet hands, press mixture into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely before cutting with a sharp knife.  I use the parchment paper to lift the baked bars out of the pan, place the whole pan worth on a cutting board and then cut them with a large butcher knife.
  8. Store bars in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Zucchini Lemon Spelt Muffins

Ah zucchini – the poor little veggie that becomes almost a culinary burden in the hot summer months.  It can’t help being such a prolific garden plant. Except in my ‘garden.’  I use the term loosely.  But seriously, I’ve never successfully grown even one squash of any kind.

Luckily it’s bountiful and cheap at the farmer’s market.  For main courses, zucchini stars in the following recipes:

Summer Vegetable Brushetta pasta

Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna (from Peas and Thank You)

Vegetable Sautes over rice or quinoa

Stacked Vegetable Enchilada Bake

For breakfast, though, this recipe is pretty stellar.  I think the secret to baking with zucchini is to squeeze the ever loving tar out of it.  Get out all the moisture you can – I use a couple of clean dish towels and pat/press vigorously. On advantage to using zucchini in whole grain flour recipes is that the fiber in the grains absorb the moisture better than white flour.

I used spelt flour in the recipe, as I’ve been experimenting with it in baked goods.  When the kids are in school again and I can have a complete thought At some point, I will do an Ingredient Spotlight post on Spelt.  For now, know it’s a whole grain and it works well in the following muffin recipe.

Zucchini Lemon Spelt Muffins


  • 2 cups spelt flour (could use whole wheat or all purpose flour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind (save the lemon for the icing)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded zucchini, patted dry
  • 3/4 c refrigerated coconut milk (not the canned kind) + 2 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, combine zucchini, milk, oil and egg and stir well.
  3. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently to combine.
  4. Place batter in 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, checking for doneness around 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.

You could stop there.  Or you could add some completely unhealthy glaze.  Which I most certainly did.

Lemon Sugar Glaze

Mix Together – 1 cup powdered sugar and 2-3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice

Naturally Green Doughnuts! (aka Baked Vanilla Doughnuts)

 Alternative Titles: Shrek Doughnuts, Nickelodeon Doughnuts, Kermit Doughnuts

After my two successes using beets to make a natural pink food color, once to color buttercream frosting and once to make pink sugar cookies, I started thinking about what other fruits or vegetables I could use to get colors other than pink.  I’m all for abolishing gender stereotypes in parenting my son and daughter, but, seeing as how my son wants a Ninja Turtle cake for his upcoming birthday, I’m thinking I should expand the available color palate for future baking projects.

Then I read this naturally colored rainbow cake post at Itsy Bitsy Foodies.  First I  feel like a total slacker for never attempting such an impressive kitchen experiment (check out all the colorants she screened). Then I think ‘score, someone has done all the work for me!’   I think it was Einstein (Happy Birthday, by the way, to Mr Einstein) who said “A hundred times every day, I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of men, living and dead,and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received. “

 So, in the spirit of exerting myself to give as much as I have received, I took the idea of using spinach as green food coloring from the Itsy Bitsy Foodies and applied it to a baked doughnut recipe.   Because Einstein was totally talking about green doughnuts.

To make the natural green color, I juiced about 3 cups of fresh spinach.  I can’t think of a way to create a smooth, concentrated green colored liquid without a juicer, so if you are juicer-less, you can use store-bought food color or just let the doughnuts be naturally off-white.

I added spinach juice to both the batter and the frosting, but got a much bigger color impact in the frosting.   I couldn’t add more than 3 Tbsp of spinach juice to the batter without needing to compensate for the added liquid.  As you can see below, the 3 Tbsp didn’t add too much green to the finished baked good.

 If I try to make a more green baked good in the future (like, say, some Ninja Turtle green cupcakes), I will use my dehydrator to further concentrate the green spinach juice so I can get more color into the batter without adding to much liquid.  See Husband, I really do need all those random kitchen appliances.  Really.

Baked Vanilla Doughnuts with a Naturally Green Glaze


 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
3/4 c buttermilk – can also use 3/4 c milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1/4 c honey
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat a donut pan with cooking spray.

2.  Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir well with a whisk.

3. In a second bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, honey, butter and vanilla, stirring well with a whisk.

4.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Don’t over-stir, as it will make the donuts less tender.

5.  Either spoon batter into the donut pan, or, if you’re a perfectionist like me, pipe the batter into the pan using a large plastic bag with the corner cut off.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until donuts are slightly golden on bottom.

6. Cool in pan about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Green Glaze  

  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh spinach juice (or milk, for a white glaze)

Mix sugar and juice/milk together until smooth and thick.  Add more liquid or sugar as needed to get consistency right.  Spread over cooled doughnuts.

These work equally well as muffins:

The spinach juice is absolutely taste-less in the frosting.  My husband and kids loved these and they’d be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

Repeater Recipes – Chocolate Avocado Pudding

This is a recipe in my Repeater Recipe series, a series of posts where I feature previously posted recipes that show up often in our meal rotation. It’s also a good chance to introduce some ‘classic’ recipes to my new readers.

First Appearance on the Blog: August 23, 2010

I had forgotten about this recipe until a few weeks ago when, stocking up on avocados (one perk of Super Bowl Week grocery specials), I got home and then wondered just what I was going to do with 6 ripe avocados. One can only eat so much guacamole. If one is me, than that one can eat a LOT of guacamole, but still, some variety is nice. I also had several ripe bananas and somehow, out of the dusty corners of my mind, I remembered this pudding.

I ate it twice last week and am planning on it again this week. It’s always a good time for pudding. This pudding has an incredibly creamy texture. It’s not ultra rich or decadent, so if you are going for a sinful tasting dessert, this isn’t your recipe. But, if you are looking for an everyday treat that is slightly sweet and has just enough chocolate flavor to satisfy a craving, this is a good one. My kids love it as a dip for fruit and graham crackers.

Chocolate Avocado Banana Pudding

Creamy and fresh – a great mid-afternoon snack. It doesn’t taste like a decadent dessert, but is great for a everyday snack. It’s also a great dip for graham crackers and bananas.

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3T rounded cocoa powder
  • 2-3 Tbs coconut or any other non-dairy milk (as needed)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1-2T honey or 1 packet stevia or sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine all in blender or food processor
  2. Process and scrape bowl a few times until thoroughly combined and fluffy.

Blender PB & B Cookies

I’ve had my vita-mix for almost a year and a half now and it is easily our most used appliance.  It mostly does smoothies, but occasionally I let her how her power over other foods.  Like dry oatmeal.  In order to make oat flour. In order to make cookies.  With peanut butter, ripe bananas and chocolate chips.  Need I say more?

Actually, this recipe could be made with a less powerful blender, as all of the ingredients are pretty soft and easy to blend, so if you don’t have a vitamix (we call ours The Precious), don’t fret.

Peanut Butter & Banana Blender Cookies

This cookies are wheat free, vegan and have only 1/3 cup of added sugar.  They are also tender, delicious and freeze well. Win win.  Could be made gluten free if you use gluten-free oats.


  • 2 1/4 cups quick oats
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 ripe medium bananas
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place 1 1/4 cups of quick oats in a blender or food process and blend/process until a fine flour is formed.
  3. Place oat flour in a bowl, along with 1 cup of quick oats, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix.  No need to rinse out the blender yet.
  4. Place bananas, coconut oil, peanut butter, and vanilla in the blender and blend until smooth and uniform.
  5. Add banana mixture to the oat mixture and stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Batter doesn’t spread much, so they can be placed pretty close together.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until bottoms are starting to brown.

Lemon Blueberry Donuts

Sometimes during November and December I need a break from baked goods with cinnamon, pumpkin, ginger, apples, nutmeg and/or cloves.  Sometimes I also need a break from laundry, whining and stepping on legos, but that’s not as easy to remedy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fall/winter flavors (proof: pumpkin bread, cinnamon sugar donuts, pumpkin chocolate chip energy bars), but when you are all cinnamon-ed out, give these a try.  You could also make in muffin form. No, blueberries aren’t in season, but frozen blueberries are available year-round.  In order to keep the blueberries from dying the batter, I placed them in each donut by hand after I had spread the batter in the pan.

Lemon Blueberry Donuts

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (more to taste)

Lemon Sugar Glaze (stir until smooth)

  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 425.  Spray donut or muffin pan with cooking spray.
2.  Combine flours through salt in a large bowl and stir well with a whisk.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, honey, butter and vanilla and stir well with a whisk.
4. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined.  Gently stir in blueberries if you don’t mind color streaking.  If you do, wait to put in the blueberries after the batter is in the pan.
5.  Put batter into prepared pan and bake about 8 minutes, or until batter springs back when lightly touched.
6. Let cool on a wire rack.  When completely cool, top with lemon sugar glaze.

Tart, tender and not a cinnamon clove or pumpkin can in sight….

Are you needing a break from cinnamon and ginger too?  

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

My friend Kerri reminded me about these cupcakes.  They aren’t exactly green juice, but they aren’t a bad treat.  I’d like to call them muffins, but, to me, the term ‘muffin’ has a healthier connotation.  These are healthier than your average cupcake with the zucchini, whole wheat flour and dark chocolate chips (okay, maybe that last one is a little bit of a stretch, but I’ll take any chance to feel good about dark chocolate), but they are more of a dessert than an everyday breakfast muffin.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini, patted dry
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease muffin tins (recipe makes about 18 muffins/cupcakes)

Place sugars, cream cheese, butter and coconut oil in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in zucchini, 2/3 cup chocolate chips, and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean.


Lime Tarts with Coconut Almond Crust

Thanks for all the feedback on my kid-feeding post.  I felt a bit vulnerable posting it and I’m glad to see that it seemed to be received well.  Or, at least those who disagreed did not comment.  🙂

I finally got around to making the Lime Mousse Tart from Raw Food Real World.  I modified a bit based on what I had on hand and here is my version.

Lime Tarts with Coconut Almond Crust (raw)

Makes 2 personal sized tarts

Coconut Almond Crust


  • 3/4 c almonds (I used a mixture of raw almonds and dehydrated almond pulp from almond milk making)
  • 1/2 c shredded, unsweetened raw coconut
  • 1.5 tsp lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 tsp coconut butter/oil
  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor.
  2. Process until well combined, but a bit chunky.
  3. Divide the dough into two parts and press each part into the bottom of a plastic -wrap lined small bowl or tart pan.
  4. Place bowls/tart pans into the freezer while you make the filling.
Lime Filling
  • 2 ripe medium sized avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp lime zest (take about 3 limes)
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp coconut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • 4 packets of stevia
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Taste and add more stevia or agave nectar if more sweetness is desired.
  2. Place filling onto prepared crusts.
  3. Chill if eating soon, otherwise, cover tightly with plastic wrap (place directly on surface to prevent browning) and freeze.  When ready to serve, allow about 15 minutes to soften.
It is quite tart, but I loved the creamy texture combined with the tart filling.  I thought about skipping the crust, but am glad I made it, as it adds a great contrast in texture and taste to the filling.