Living the Plantlife

photo 3So I want a garden. I want to grow squash, peppers, strawberries and zucchini. I want to grow corn and potatoes, regular and sweet, and I want to grow tomatoes and jalapenos and even herbs.  I want to grow everything. All my own stuff. Two problems: 1. I kill everything, and 2. I live in an apartment with no yard to grow a garden.  But this year I decided I just HAD to grown SOMETHING.  And after promising myself that I would not forget to water my beautiful plant babies, I decided to buy some cherry tomato plants and a few jalapeno plants.  I also decided to to grow come herbs: coriander, parsley, basil lettuce leaf, rosemary and chives.  Since I don’t have a place to put a garden, I borrowed a few planter pots from my boyfriend’s mom (she is my teacher in this whole… “growing thing”) and put four small jalapeno plants in one pot, four small tomato plants in another, and all five of my herbs into the third.  My tomato and jalapeno plants have yet to sprout, and according to their little plant information sign thingies, tomatoes take about 60 – 65 days to mature and jalapenos take 60 to 80 days to mature.  So I should see some tomatoes around the end of July and the peppers probably closer to the end of the summer.

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 I am super duper, over the moon ecstatic about my mini garden.

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When my boyfriend and I {hopefully} buy a home next year, we will plant a big garden with as many veggies as possible.  And eventually, we want to build a greenhouse when we can grown our own produce all year round. Of course, that’s a stretch from my three potted veggies and herbs, but we’ll get there one day.  For now, I’m just working on not accidentally killing the plants I have now. I can rarely keep plants alive inside my home, but I think the reasoning for that I don’t care enough to remember to water them… and then they die.  Which, is sad, I don’t want to be a plant murderer, I want to be a plant grower, a gardener, a herb whisperer, a seedling soother, a shrub nourisher.  I want to be like professor sprout from Harry Potter, just a total boss when it comes to gardening.

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I of course, had to purchase a bright pink watering can. Because, you know, it’s pink, and pink water cans water plants more efficiently. Everyone know that.

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 Now, onto the recipe I’m going to share.  The recipe is simple, quick, excellent for a weeknight meal, and contains loads of fresh rosemary from my herb garden.  I can across this recipe at bakedatmidnite.com while browsing Pinterest and tailored it a little based on the veggies I have in my house.

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Roasted Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

serves two

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cut into strips
  • 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs olive oil for browning chicken
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

to make the sauce

  • 2 large rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and add to the skillet, browning on both sides.  This should take 5 to 8 minutes per side.
  2. Add all vegetables to a large bowl and toss in 2 tbsp. olive oil. Spread the veggies evenly over the bottom of a n oven safe baking dish. Top with brown chicken.
  3. Mix all sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken and vegetables.  Add another few rosemary sprigs (whole) on top if desired, and bake at 400 F degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

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So, super fantabulous right? Love love love this recipe and it’s great because it doesn’t really require much effort, making it a perfect weeknight dinner.  I like to add a little more wine to the mix as well.  After I pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies, I dump a little more wine over the chicken and veggies so that the veggies are almost completely immersed.  This helps ensure the veggies will soften a little more.  Ken likes his veggies a little firmer so this time around I didn’t do that, but I prefer a softer veggie.  I love the fact that I can use a little bit of what I’ve grown in this recipe.

I absolutely wish I had the ability to start my big gigantic vegetable (and maybe fruit?) garden this year, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until my and Ken have a backyard to plant one in.  Happy baking!

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Garlic Lime Chicken Salad with Bacon, Goat’s Cheese and Arugala

There are alot of things that can make a salad great.  I think a great salad requires some sort of cheese, some bacon {DUH}, grilled or sautéed chicken slices with a wonderful sauce or marinade {no poached, boiled, or seasoning free chicken for this girl}, and an extremely tasty {preferably homemade} dressing.  This salad has all those things, as well as a rainbow coloured assortment of veggies. Yummy!  I’ve developed a love for salads recently. They’re just so darn good, and I like how light I feel after I eat them, but yet full and satisfied.

Now, the first thing I want to say, is that yes, I know, i have been writing that much, and the reason for that is: 1) I suck and I’m lazy; 2) aside from this salad and a delicious BBQ chicken pizza I’ll share next week, I have made nothing new and exciting; and 3) I wish I could say it’s cause I’ve been busy, but I’ve been playing video games and reading books like it’s my freaking job, and I’ve just plain and simply made no time for writing.  So, I apologize for that, but after a trip to the Dominican, countless hours of video games, and six whole books later, I’m back!  My trip was magnificent by the way.  Truly fantastic. I’d go back in a heartbeat. And the food…oh the food. It was so great. And there was alot of it. And I mean alot. And the booze was also plentiful. I came back feeling a little bloated. So I made this salad to make myself feel better, a little lighter.

photo 2So whats in it? Well, as the title suggests, I marinated the chicken in a garlic and lime concoction that included four {minced} garlic cloves, a little salt and pepper, 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I essentially mixed all the ingredients in a large bowl, plopped in 10 oz of raw, slice chicken strips, and let sit for about a half hour covered in the fridge.  Then, i added the chicken to a skillet, along with a few large spoonfuls of the leftover marinade, and cooked covered on medium heat, flipped every few minutes, until the chicken was cooked through.  Then I removed the cover and cooked until the juice of the marinade were gone and the chicken began to brown.

While cooking the chicken, I also cooked four slices of bacon (two for each person, but cook only one for each person if you want to cut some calories).

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Once all the meets were cooked, I placed both the chicken and bacon atop a bed of fresh spinach, lettuce, arugula and red cabbage.  I added a few hunks of goat’s cheese and then made a homemade honey dijon dressing that included honey dijon mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil, white rice vinegar and celery seed.

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Garlic Lime Chicken Salad with Bacon, Goat’s Cheese and Arugala

makes two dinner sized salads

Ingedients

for the chicken marinade

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

 for the salad

  • 10 oz. chicken breast, sliced
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into strips
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup lettuce
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 oz goat’s cheese

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add sliced chicken and allow to sit for about 30 minutes covered in the refrigerator.
  2. Strain chicken from marinade and add to a skillet along with a few large spoonfuls of the marinade.  Cook on medium heat, covered and flipping occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Uncover the skillet and continue to cook until all extra marinade juices are gone and the chicken begins to brown.
  4. Divide the salad ingredients between two plates and top with the cooked chicken.
  5. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and divide into two, drizzling over the salads.  Top with goat’s cheese (1 oz. per salad).

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, salad is an amazing thing to eat during the week, because it takes very little time and effort, and trust me, I am not one who likes slaving away in the kitchen during the work week. So, try this and add a little salad inspiration to your week!

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

GAAAAAH! Okay, it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and, it’s not that I don’t love you guys, honest I do, I’ve just been lazy in the kitchen department and haven’t made anything new or worth writing about.  However the past few days I’ve become motivated to get back in the kitchen and make something new, tasty and healthy, the latter likely having to do with the fact that I am going to be sitting on a beach in the Dominican in less than a week.  Let me tell you, I am shit at dieting. I suck.  I eat healthy most of the time, but I often overeat and drink on the weekends.  I’ve lost about 10 pounds, definitely not the 20 I had originally intended… but I just can’t help it, food is SO GOOD.  Nonetheless, my eating habits can be problematic, and my lack of physical activity.  But I’ve started running and it’s making me feel a little better.  Anyways, I’m sure you’re all like, “That’s a really sad story Kelsey Bakes, but lets get to the recipe part.”  Well okay then, I will! Because I’m avoiding carbs like it’s my freaking job right now (not actually, I’m just reducing them a little), I thought  I would test out a few new salads this week.  I started off with my Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing and then moved on to the yummy recipe that I’m going to share with you today.  Trust me, you’ll love it, even my boyfriend Mr. Skeptical liked it.

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The first thing I like to ensure when I make a salad is that it is as colourful as possible.  Lots of colours not only means lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, but it means lots of taste too.  For this salad I added corn, red onions, red cabbage, spinach, romain lettuce, green peppers and julienned carrots.  I really can’t stand a bland salad.  I mean, what’s the point?  I vowed to start a Salad Revolution and dammit I’m going to do it! I’ve been on a HUGE red cabbage kick lately, and so has my boyfriend.  After begging me to to put any cabbage in his salad, because it was “disgusting” I chopped it up and threw it in anyways, and now he’s begging me to put more in.  Win.

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I can be very weird about chicken.  It can’t be too moist or juicy because that makes me feel like it’s undercooked and then I get all nauseous and want to puke.  It also can’t taste too chewy – it just freaks me out. The chicken has to be perfect.  I’ve found that if I cook the chicken in my skillet, covered, until it’s nice and tender and then remove the lid and let the juices evaporate that the chicken gets a really great texture.  For this chicken, I sliced up some boneless skinless chicken breast and added about 1/4 cup of wing sauce (I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce) to a large skillet.  I cooked covered for about 7 minutes, flipping as needed, and then removed the lid for about another 2 to 3 minutes.

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For the Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing, I combined 1/2 an avocado, 6 tbsp. of Kraft Fat Free Ranch Dressing and 1 tsp of Sriracha Sauce.  You can add more Sriracha if you want more spice.  I simply used a whisk to mix it all together and then drizzled it over the chicken and vegetables.

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Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

makes 2 dinner sized salads

Ingredients

FOR THE SALAD

  • 10 oz. of Chicken, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup of red onion
  • 1 large julienned carrot
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup red cabbage

FOR THE DRESSING*

  • 6 tbps. of fat free ranch dressing
  • 1/2 an avocado, mashed
  • 1 tsp. sriracha or hot sauce
    *note that this makes quite a bit of dressing, I jarred mine and saved it for my lunchtime salad the following day.

Cooking Directions

  1.  Pour wing sauce over chicken strips and cook in a skillet on medium heat, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, flipping as needed.  Once the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear, uncover the chicken and continue to flip for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl and then divide between two plates.
  3. In a small bowl, combine avocado, ranch and sriracha until they are well mixed.
  4. Top your salad mix with half of the buffalo chicken and then drizzle the Avocado Ranch dressing on top.  I used about 2 tbsp of the dressing.

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And that’s it! Pretty easy right? I enjoy making salads during the week because they take barely anytime and very few dishes… and they make me feel a little skinnier in the morning.. hehe. Happy cooking!!!

Crunchy Thai Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing

photo 4I’m not much of a salad person.  I never have been.  Well perhaps that’s not true, let me rephrase that.  I’m not a meat salad person.  Give me a salad with beans and chickpeas and lentils, mixed with fresh veggies, or a spinach and fruit salad mixed with crisp spinach leaves, juicy strawberries and some kind of nuts, like almonds or walnuts, and then top it with a vinaigrette, and i’m S O L D sold. But for some reason, when you add meat to the mix, weather it be chicken or beef or fish, i just can’t do it.  It almost makes me nauseous. I have been on a quest to find the right Chicken salad.  I HATE fruit and meat combos (most of the time) so that was definitely out.  I made a mango barbecue chicken salad a few months back and I almost threw up trying to digest it.  Meat just freaks me out sometimes. I’m always concerned that i will get salmonella, or mad cow disease, or die from all the hormones and antibiotics hiding in there.  Sometimes meat just isn’t appetizing to me. But I like the taste of meat, and I’ve tried the vegetarian thing – just not my thing.

So what is a girl to do? Do I force down yet another boring unappetizing salad? Do I settle for a less than tasty dinner just because I’m trying to eat healthy and lose a few pounds? NO. I REFUSE to continue to eat less than tasty things just because they’re “healthy”.  NO. I will NOT sacrifice taste for fewer calories. NO. I WILL find a chicken salad that I love and can digest without wanting to eat an entire pizza to wash down the awful taste and cleanse my palette from the bland taste that is chicken salad.  I have challenged that bland chicken salad to become something more.  Something more than unseasoned chicken on a bed of greens. I REFUSE to settle for something less than extraordinary.  I want to be inspired by my salad. I want some SERIOUS salad Swag and some UNBELIEVABLE dressing. I want my salad to blow my mind.  To blow my tastebuds’ mind. I daresay, I have started a salad revolution.  Welcome to the uprising of the not-so-boring, unbelievable tasty, salad of awesomeness.

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I decided to go for a Thai themed salad.  I love Thai sauce.  It’s so damn good.  I used the President’s Choice Memories of Thailand Fiery Chili Pepper Sauce as the coating for my chicken.  I diced up 10 oz. of Chicken into strips, placed it in a skillet with about 1 – 2 tbsp. of the Chili Pepper Sauce, and cooked on medium, covered, until the chicken was no longer pink inside.  Flip the chicken every few minutes.  The sauce is thick and will begin to caramelize.  Once the chicken is cooked to your liking, remove the cover and allow any remaining juiced to evaporate.  This will also give your chicken time to brown slightly, and gives it a nice “from the grill” taste.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of your salad.  I used sliced cabbage, julienned carrots, romaine lettuce and thawed frozen corn.  I also prepared my own spicy Sriracha dressing using olive oil, soy sauce, Sriracha Sauce and the juice of one lime.  To top off the salad, I added some crunch and sliced up one of my homemade flour tortilla wraps  into skinny strips and toasted them in the oven.

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Crunchy Thai Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing

makes two dinner sized salads

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 10 oz. of Chicken, cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp. of your favourite cooking sauce
  • 1 6-inch tortilla, cut into strips
  • 1 romain heart, slices
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 large carrot, julienned

For the dressing

  • 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha Sauce (depending on your desired level of spice)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp.  reduced sodium soy sauce
  • the juice of one lime

Cooking Directions

  1. Place chicken strips in a skillet on medium heat.  Add 1 – 2 tbsp of your favourite cooking sauce, like President’s Choice Memories of Thailand Fiery Chili Pepper Sauce.  Cover and cook until chicken is no longer pink inside.  Once chicken is cooked through, cook for an additional 1 – 3 minutes to brown the chicken and allow the sauce to caramelize.
  2. Prepare the rest of the salad while the chicken is cooking.  In a large bowl, add sliced cabbage, romain lettuce, julienned carrot and the thawed corn.
  3. Make the dressing by whisking all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour about 1/2 the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Place the sliced tortilla wrap on a baking sheet and broil until crisp, about 2 minutes.
  5. Divide the cabbage mixture between two places and top each with one half of the cooked chicken and half the toasted tortilla wrap slices. Pour the remaining dressing over each plate and enjoy!

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My boyfriend found the sauce to be a little too spicy for his liking – I used 2 tbsp of Sriracha in the dressing I made.  So i agreed to tone it down the next time I make this.  This salad was so good, that I actually made more and took some for lunch the next day.  I’m very happy about how well this turned out.  It was not gross, or bland, or boring.  It was full of flavour and the crunchy tortilla added a great texture to the salad.

So.  People. I urge you to get some salad inspiration.  Join the revolution against plain, unsavory salads! Happy Cooking!

Healthy Seven Bean Chili

104Hello! Happy Hump Day! I had a fantastic vacation.  It was literally a week of swimming, laying in the sun, snuggling, saunas, and…you guesses it… EATING. Why is it that camping and vacations so often revolve around food? They always do for me. It’s like all my inhibitions go out the window and I’m like, yes, let’s buy those super duper high calorie burgers, and that extra rack of ribs with the super delicious but salty sauce, oh and chips? well yes we NEVER buy these, but let’s get four bags and eat them all. Yikes. That was my week in a nut shell, and while I have no regrets, because I enjoyed every bite of that burger and every rib from that rack, it’s September, Summer is over and it’s time to start eating clean again…to an extent of course. I vow to make as many healthy bakes as humanly possible, but I found some pretty tasty recipes over the last few months and I will eventually have to make them, and they are NOT diet friendly. Oh well, I gotta live a little, right?  I officially started eating clean yesterday, and while I know I will have a little extra treat here and there, I have to stick to it.  I’m going to a wedding in the Dominican in May – huge motivator – and I also have a wedding in April, and one in September (assuming I’m invited to both my cousin’s wedding…which I mean, come on, I will be…).  So, my goal is to lose 32 pounds by Christmas Eve (that’s only 2 pounds a week) by eating clean and increasing my physical activity. I am PUMPED and after one day I am already feeling fantastic.

September means that Summer is pretty well over. Not like we had much of a Summer this year anyway.  It was quite cold aside from a few major heat waves.  But i’m fine with it.  I prefer the slightly cooler weather and I love, love LOVE fall. It’s my favourite season.  I love the fashion, the cool weather, the pretty leaves, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and, yes, the cooking.  Fall bakes are fun.  They are filled with pumpkin spice and cinnamon, apples and brown sugar, cranberries even.  But the cooking is great.  When I think fall, I think comfort. I think soup, and stew, and chili.
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So this recipe I’m sharing today is one that I received from a friend.  I believe this was borrowed from The Eat-Clean Diet, and you can find the original recipe here.  I am all about finding healthy, easy recipes. This one takes the cake.  So the biggest difference between my recipe and the one from the Eat Clean Diet, is that I used beef rather than turkey.  To me, chili means ground beef, not ground turkey.  Yes, you may use turkey. It will definitely cut the fat, but I really do not enjoy the taste of ground turkey, so I opted for the beef.  I upped the amount of onion, using an entire white onion rather than the 1/2 cup.  I omitted the salt and added a tbsp of red pepper flakes rather than the optional adobo sauce.  I love spicy, so sometimes I add more depending on my mood.  I often even omit the red pepper flakes altogether, especially if I am cooking for someone who does not or cannot eat spicy food.  In that case I’ll just top mine with little hot sauce.  One other thing I associate with fall? Slow cookers. I love mine.  It makes things super easy and taste amazing.  The original recipe is cooked stove top, but to me, Chili means a slow cooker.  So, its simple.  Brown Beef. Add to slow cooker.  Add rest of ingredients to slow cooker in no particular order.  Turn on slow cooker and cook for 10 hours on low. Bam. Done. I often eat this topped with a little cheese, and then make myself some homemade garlic toast as a side. There’s two easy ways you can do this: 1. mix 2 tsp. of margarine with garlic powder and dried basil flakes, butter bread of your choice (I use Ezekial Bread) on both sides, then broil until toasted, flip and toast other side, done; or 2. Butter your bread on both sides (i mix basil into the margarine), broil both sides until almost done, and then remove from oven, cut a garlic glove in half, and then rub the toast with the clove.  The second option makes for a less garlicy flavour, but still just as good.

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This chili has seven different types of beans! All protein packed and full of fiber.  Each batch contains bunches of black beans, chickpeas, dark red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, white kidney beans, romano beans and baby lima beans.  This recipe serves about 10, and is approximately 400 calories per serving.  A nice filling supper, full of protein and very little salt.  Again, if you want to cut calories, by using 2.5 lbs of turkey, you are cutting your calories in half.  The ezekial bread and margarine is about another 115 calories. Considering how light my breakfast and lunch are I enjoy having a hearty dinner. Yummy.

Healthy Seven Bean Chili

Serves 10. 400 calories per serving.

Ingedients

  • 2.5 lbs. (40 oz) extra lean ground beef or 2.5 lbs of ground turkey for a lower calorie option
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 – 4 oz. cans of diced green chilies
  • 1 – 15 oz. can Six Bean Medley (low sodium), drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 15 oz. can Black Beans (low sodium), drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes (low sodium) do not drain
  • 1 tbsp. Brown Sugar Blend (from Splenda or Stevia)
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder (I used 2 tsp.)
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. regular yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. dried or fresh cilantro

Cooking Instructions

  1. Brown beef in a skillet on medium heat.  Drain all excess fat.
  2. Add all ingredients, including browned beef, into your slow cooker.  With a large stirring spoon, mix all ingredients together.
  3. Once all ingredients are well mixed, turn slow cooker to low and cook for 10 hours.  Serve hot and sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Pretty simple right? I am open to suggestions if anyone has any other great skinny slow cooker recipes. I am DYING to try more.  Next week’s healthy bake will be really really really good.  I have it narrowed down between two recipes: one involves chocolate and peanut butter, and the other involves raspberries and cheesecake.  I’m a total sucker for cheesecake, but there’s just something amazing about chocolate and peanut butter….it’s like they belong together. Anyways I hope you enjoyed this recipe. Remember to check out the Eat Clean Diet for more healthy, clean recipes.  Happy Baking!