Instagram Shenanigans

Let’s all just consider for one moment how great the word “shenanigans” is.

Ok. Thanks for indulging me on that one 😉

I’ve been busy with school and musical rehearsals recently, so I haven’t been cooking from recipes too much. However, I’m still doing my best to be creative and fun with what I eat, and, when I can get a good picture, I love to post photos of that on Instagram. I thought I’d post a few of these photos on here as well though, because this blog is not only about recipes that I make; it’s also about just having fun with interesting, creative, pretty, or plain awesome food!

  1. Berry and Chocolate Oatmeal

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I just made some plain oatmeal with water and a little salt, then topped it with blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate arils, and extra-dark chocolate. This was supremely delicious, and so fresh and wholesome.

2. Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Banana Oatmeal

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Again, this was plain oatmeal, topped with sliced banana, peanut butter, and raspberry jam. I love this combo, especially with really good jam (we got some Spoon Fruit jam from a small company in Michigan. I love Michigan berries!).

3.  Curried Rice, adapted from The Full Helping

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Here, I adapted a recipe from The Full Helping titled Creamy Curried Quinoa. I made a ton of changes, like switching out quinoa for rice, but drew heavily from the recipe for guidance. This was actually amazingly delicious, and so, so healthy. It’s seasoned in a very savvy, delicate way that enhances all the natural flavor of vegetables and rice. Also, it made a huge amount of food (like, 5x more than pictured!).

4. Mixed Berry Oatmeal

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Um, more oatmeal. I guess you can see what I’m into making right now! But this was really fun to make, and kind of adventurous by my standards. I cooked rolled oats with mixed frozen berries and water, and topped them with ground flax and chocolate PB2. It was yummy, but let’s be honest I was mostly in it for the pretty color 😉

5. Oh She Glows Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Yay, cookies! These are Angela Liddon’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, made this very day as a special weekend treat. I’ve featured these cookies on the blog before, and they are a recipe I come back to again and again.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what I’ve been up to on Instagram! And if you have an Instagram, please leave your username in the comments section. Let’s be friends! ☺️

All the Vegan Brownies

Yesterday, as I made my third batch of brownies in only a couple weeks, I realized two things. First, that there is no such thing as too many brownies. Second, that it’d be fun to do a little vegan brownie comparison! These are the three recipes that I used:

  1. Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, by Minimalist Baker

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  1. Almond Butter Brownies, by Chocolate Covered Katie, with alterations by me (separate post on these brownies here)

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  1. Unbelievably Melty Gooey Brownies, by Chocolate Covered Katie

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One note about the Almond Butter Brownies: I tweaked the recipe, so all opinions expressed reflect my unique results and do not necessarily apply to the recipe as written by CCK. All the other recipes were made pretty much as written in the original recipe 😊 I’ll compare them in a few different categories: Texture, Taste, and The Healthiness Factor (oh so dramatic!).

Texture:

  1. The PB Swirl Brownies have a great texture! They are dense, chewy, and rich, with a smooth peanut butter swirl that contrasts somewhat with the brownie itself, though it all plays together very harmoniously. They grow moister and firmer as they sit in the refrigerator.
  2. The Almond Butter Brownies have a surprisingly traditional texture. They are nice and chewy, but they are a little more delicate than the PB Swirl brownies. They actually dry out in the fridge and do not become firmer as they sit.
  3. The Gooey Brownies have a very unique texture (as suggested by the title!). They are not chewy, nor are they firm… they are completely soft, like half-baked batter. They are also a bit gritty, because of the coconut flour. When they have first cooled after baking, you have to scoop out the brownies with a spoon to eat, but when they sit in the fridge overnight they do firm up to the point that you can cut them out and hold them. Even at that point, though, they are quite delicate. The texture is nice for a once-in-a-while thing, but I wouldn’t want to eat brownies like these all the time.

Taste:

  1. The PB Swirl brownies have a very rich, dark, chocolatey flavor. They do not taste like beans at all (praise the Lord!). The peanut butter swirl is super peanut-buttery and lightly sweet, and overall they are more rich/dark than sweet. Just sweet enough for a treat.
  2. The Almond Butter Brownies (again, as I made them, not as the recipe dictates… I think if you followed the recipe they’d taste quite different!) have a unique flavor, with lots of molasses and chocolate. You can also taste the mix of peanut butter and almond butter, without just one flavor overpowering the other. I love how much depth of flavor these brownies have.
  3. The Gooey Brownies are not as multi-dimensional as the others. Since I used coconut oil for the non-specified oil in the recipe, there’s a hint of coconut, but it’s mostly just chocolate. I like how these brownies taste, but they’re nothing sensational.

Healthiness:

  1. The PB Swirl brownies are actually pretty nutritious. They are also gluten free. Here’s the rundown of their ingredients: black beans, 2 flax eggs, coconut oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, maple syrup (or agave), raw sugar (I think I just used granulated), baking powder, baking soda, peanut butter, powdered sugar, chocolate chips (for dispersing throughout and sprinkling on top. I omitted them.) Honestly, you’re probably not going to get much healthier than that for a brownie. Especially given how indulgent these brownies taste, they are quite impressive health-wise!
  2. The Almond Butter brownies are fairly healthy as well, and are gluten free. They have cocoa powder, maple syrup (I used molasses), lots of nut butter, rolled oats, baking soda, and salt. I count that as a pretty healthy brownie. They are also oil-free!
  3. The Gooey Brownies are pretty darn healthy, too. And guess what? They’re gluten free as well! (I do still eat gluten though. I didn’t intentionally make only gluten free brownies for this post!) The basic recipe contains coconut flour, applesauce, water, vanilla, oil, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, coconut sugar, and a little stevia. You may also add flax meal, which I did.

I’m not going to name one recipe as the healthiest, as I’m not qualified for that. But I will say that I think they are all good choices for the health-conscious baker 😉

I think my overall favorite would have to be the almond butter brownies. I love that I can use molasses to sweeten them, and that they are composed primarily of nut butters. I think next time I make them I’ll add flax meal, too.

I hope you feel inspired to make some vegan brownies! You know, I kinda feel like a fourth batch….

CCK Almond Butter Brownies

Hey guys! I’m real excited about these brownies. Want to know why? They are:

  1. Reasonably healthy, at least by my own standards.
  2. Gluten free!
  3. Easy to make, bake, and eat.
  4. Made of basic ingredients. No maca around here, much as I want to try it!

I got the basic recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie, but made some adjustments as always. For starters, I used both peanut butter and almond butter in the recipe, simply because I never seem to have enough of one nut butter for a recipe like this. I also used molasses to sweeten instead of maple syrup, which was a perfect healthier substitution! And finally, I reduced the amount of sweetener from 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons to just 1/2 cup. They are a little crumbly though, which was probably my fault for reducing the liquid and might be remedied by some aquafaba or a small flax egg. I’ll have to try that and report back!

I would only recommend these healthy brownies to people who like nuts and molasses, because you can definitely taste both of those ingredients. But, if you do like those ingredients, and if you also like rich, chewy, fragrant, hearty desserts… you might like these brownies 😉

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My Favorite Breakfast

I don’t know about you all, but, despite my desire for variety in my lunches and dinners, I tend to eat the same breakfast every day. I have high standards for breakfast: it must be filling; nutritious; fast; and sweet, without being loaded with refined sugar. Therefore, ever since I found my almost-perfect breakfast for this school year, it’s been almost a daily occurrence. This is it:

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This is a recipe/recipe idea from Chocolate Covered Katie, and it is probably the recipe of hers that I’ve made most often! She has many variations. These are a few that I’ve personally tried:

  1. Banana Bread in a Bowl
  2. Gingerbread Breakfast Cereal
  3. Chocolate Banana Bread in a Bowl

However, out of all of those options, my favorite is the Chocolate Banana Bread in a Bowl. This is because the strong chocolate flavor masks many add-ins, especially those that are not quite so tasty! Because of that, I always add a handful of spinach, and often, a bit of turmeric. This is my basic recipe, adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s original version.

Ingredients:

1 heaping cup (maybe 1.25 cups) of your favorite hearty flake cereal. My favorite is Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise.

1 cup of plant milk

1 banana

2 small handfuls spinach

2-3 tablespoons cocoa or cacao powder

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

a dash of salt

a dash of vanilla

4-5 drops of Now’s Better Stevia Liquid Sweetener, in Original

Process:

Throw everything into a food processor or blender and blend on high until smooth. Once smooth, pour into a bowl and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. I find that it has thickened by the time I put away my ingredients and top with ground flax. Serves one.

This is such an easy and fast breakfast. During the school week, I usually just top with a tablespoon of ground flax, and then have a snack of something else during school so I’m not starving when it’s finally lunch time. But, during the weekends, I often top my bowl with something more elaborate, such as designs of dried fruit and nuts. They’re nothing special compared to many others’ creations, like Heike at Haselnussblond (she’s seriously awesome!), but here are a few of my past bowls!

 

From left, the above bowls are: banana bread in a bowl, topped with walnuts, sliced dried figs, chia seeds, and a geranium bud (which I did not eat!); chocolate banana bread in a bowl, topped with vegan soy yogurt, raspberries, walnuts, and sliced fig; and sweet potato pie in a bowl (a different recipe of mine), topped with a chocolate swirl, walnuts, and raisins.

I’ve got to go and work on some homework now, but I hope you guys have a wonderful rest of the day. What’s your favorite breakfast?

Blueberry Apple Pie Bars

Hold the phone because guess what?

  1. I made blueberry apple pie bars. They are good. Trust me.
  2. I got Photoshop and actually edited a photo!! Go, me!

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I’m really glad to have finally gotten that (buying Photoshop) out of the way. I am a big under-buyer, even when it comes to other people’s money. So, when my mom and dad gave me a card for Christmas saying that it was good for the purchase of Photoshop for my computer, I waited way too long to actually get it, even though I totally wanted it! It’s because downloading it involved decisions, such as choosing between packages and plans, and that just makes it hard. Does anybody else feel this way about buying things? I just seriously hate wasting money, especially when it’s not mine!

As far as these delicious blueberry and apple bars: consider them the cousins of these strawberry oat bars 😉 That’s because I used the recipe for the strawberry bars for reference, but adapted it according to which groceries we ran out of personal creative flair. It’s no longer free of refined sugar, but it does have an extra punch of protein thanks to the almond flour, and it tastes like a chewy, rich cookie. Also, blueberries are pretty and I love them. Here’s the recipe:

Apple Blueberry Pie Bars

adapted from the Healthy Strawberry Oat Bars by Sally’s Baking Addiction

Filling Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. brown sugar

pinch of salt

1 cup blueberries*

1 cup peeled and finely chopped apple (this was 1 small-ish apple for me)

2 tbsp. corn starch

2 tbsp. warm water

Crust/Crumble Ingredients:

1 cup plus 1/4 cup rolled oats

1 cup unblanched almond flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup of nut butter**

1/4 cup applesauce

a pinch of salt***

Filling Process:

Mix together the blueberries, sugar, chopped apple, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil  over medium heat, stirring consistently until the blueberries release their juice. You may want to smash a few to aid the process along. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and warm water until smooth. Once the blueberry mixture is boiling, remove from heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Set aside.

Crust Process:

Preheat oven to 325º F. Then, dump everything in a pan and mix! Mix really, really well. It’s pretty thick and sticky, so just consider it your arm workout for the day. Line an 8-by-8 inch pan with parchment paper and press the dough (leaving behind about 1/2 cup for the crumble) into the pan. Press really firmly! Once it’s even, pour the filling on top, and crumble the rest of the dough on top with your fingers. Bake for 29 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 12-16 bars

Notes:

* I used frozen blueberries. I haven’t made these with fresh, but I’m pretty sure it would be fine.

** I really like to use 1/2 cup almond butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter. It gives them a more complex flavor, and it keeps the peanut butter from being overwhelming.

***I actually did not use a pinch of salt in the dough, but my nut butters contained salt. Use according to your own preference.

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I love these bars, and my friends do, too. If you make these, please let me know what you think! Have an awesome Friday!

 

 

 

Healthy Strawberry Oat Squares

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I am writing this blog post from my first hour classroom at school! The class is Recent American History and we finished our notes early, so I figured I’d just go ahead and start my next blog post on my computer. Today is the first day of school after Christmas Break, and the mood at school is actually pretty good. People are glad to see each other, though nobody really wants to have to wake up early again. I guess I’m feeling the same way. Christmas Break was really nice, though very up-and-down emotionally. That’s kind of just how it feels to be me right now (#teenager!). But, break can’t last forever, so here I am!

Anyway, since I always bring a little mid-morning snack to school, I whipped up some snack bars to make going back to school a little easier. Don’t they look delicious?

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These are healthy strawberry oat bars, and they are so yummy! I veganized an almost-vegan recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (all it took was a flax egg instead of a chicken’s egg!), and they turned out perfectly. They are full of oats, almond butter, peanut butter, and strawberries, making them a wholesome snack that will keep you energized. I even had one of these as part of my dinner last night! And they are easy to make. Since I only made minor adjustments, I’m not going to write out the recipe for you (I think it’s important to respect those who actually come up with these recipes), but I’m linking the recipe below, and these were the adjustments I made:

  1. I replaced the chicken’s egg with a flax egg.
  2. Where almond butter is called for, I used half almond butter and half peanut butter. This makes them lightly peanut-buttery without being overwhelming.
  3. I used frozen strawberries. No problems there.
  4. I left out the 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar in the filling.
  5. I used a mixture of quick and rolled oats.
  6. I used applesauce instead of apple butter.
  7. I left out the sliced almonds in the crumble topping.
  8. I added just a pinch of salt to the filling.

Find the recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction 🙂

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Here’s to a great start to 2016. I’m determined to keep my resolutions, and I think these bars will help keep me revved up to do exactly that! 😉

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes

Hey guys! I am writing this post as I ride home to Ada after being in Dallas for the past few days. That was a very interesting trip… Dallas is quite the big city and is very stimulating. We walked all over downtown, went to the top of Reunion Tower, went to Galleria Mall, ate at the awesome Spiral Diner, and (possibly my favorite part!) walked in the botanical gardens. It was a fun trip, but I’m glad to be going home again. I’ve always been a homebody when all is said and done.

Before we left, I made this delicious dish by Gena Hamshaw: vegan lentil sloppy joes! My whole family and I loved this dish. In fact, I made it in the morning, and by 8:30 that evening, it was all gone! I think it’s definitely better than the non-vegan sloppy joes I’ve had. This version is bursting with flavor from the unique blend of seasonings, which include smoked paprika, chili powder, mustard, and plenty of onions and garlic. It’s also pretty simple to make: just cook the lentils, prepare and sauté the veggies, combine everything, and let simmer for a few minutes.

I ate the finished product in two ways: as the filling in a sandwich (pictured below), and mixed into sautéed zucchini with tomato sauce and hummus for a quick, filling dinner. I also think it stands alone very well. So go ahead! Make a versatile, delicious lentil dish that will not only taste good, but do your body, the Earth, and the animals a favor as well. 

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Wait, one more thing: I just need to go on about one of my favorite sweeteners for a moment! I used maple sugar for the 1 tablespoon of sweetener called for in this recipe, and it reminded me how addictive the scent of maple is. In the U.P. of Michigan, there are many sugar maples (makes sense, given the proximity to Canada), and maple syrup, maple candy, and maple sugar are all popular gifts given in the community. You could buy locally made maple syrup at gas stations, health food stores, and other privately owned businesses. So, as much as I already love the smell and taste of maple sugar, I love it even more because it reminds me of home.

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Chocolate Covered Katie Gingerbread Banana Bread

Ok, so the title is a mouthful… but hey, I’m just trying to give you all the information 😆

I thought I’d show this Gingerbread Banana Bread from CCK off a little, because it turned out to be pretty delicious! I’m not really surprised though, because I’ve made Katie’s regular fat-free banana bread before as well, and that is definitely the best basic banana bread (alliteration? Yes indeed, I’m a scholar 😂) I’ve ever had.

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I felt good about making this recipe just 2 days after Christmas, because in fact it is pretty healthy. It contains Bob’s Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour instead of wheat flour (not that I’m against wheat, but all we had was AP white flour), a conservative amount of maple syrup, molasses, lots of ginger, coconut oil, and tons of banana. I used very ripe bananas, which contributed to the sweetness to the point that I didn’t need to add the optional sugar.

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I’m pretty happy with the texture of the bread. It’s a little tiny bit on the gummy side – nothing too bad at all though, and I’d personally prefer that over crumbly. Overall, it’s soft and cake-y, yet satisfying. I feel like, when I use Bob’s 1-to-1 mix, the texture always comes out as very melt-in-your-mouth, rather than chewy. It’s never bad, but sometimes I prefer the heartiness of wheat flour. Do you have any preferred GF baking mixes? I haven’t experimented too much, though I have fallen in love with almond flour!

Also, the flavor here is great. Total gingerbread, just with the addition of bananas! It’s mildly sweet, and I think that’s just right. No need for the optional sugar listed in the recipe if your bananas are ripe enough.

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By the way, I’m still on Christmas break for another week! That means we get to take a little family trip to Dallas, TX for a few days. I’ve never even been into Texas before, but now that we live in Oklahoma (which I hear is basically north Texas!) it’s time to explore the state. I’m really excited about this trip. Some of my favorite bloggers/social media presences (“presences”? Yes, we are going to that level of formality today) are from Texas or live there currently. For example, Katie from CCK and the McKnights from Cute Girls Hairstyles. I’m sure we’ll go to some vegan restaurants while we are there, so I’ll definitely post about it.

I hope you all have a great week! I’d have said “y’all”, but to be honest I’m not quite there yet. #michigander

 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Hey guys! How were your weekends? I don’t even know what’s going on with me right now to be honest. I’m trying to step up my Instagram game (I’m getting up 1 post per day if you want to check it out!) and also plan for 2 blog posts per week (Mondays and Fridays 🙂 yay for consistency!). Also, you know, Christmas is coming, and I’m planning a few presents for my family. All in all, it’s Christmas break, and I feel so busy. It’s mostly a fun kind of busy, though. Oh, and I’m getting together a Christmas cookie decorating party this week, so you might see a few photos! Exciting stuff, man.

Anyway- I made us some more soup! This is based on Minimalist Baker’s Curried Butternut Squash Soup. It’s essentially butternut squash, spices/seasonings, onions and garlic, and liquid, all blended up into creamy oblivion. I used Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste, which I love because of its many layers of flavor and hint of spiciness. I also topped it off with some plain curry powder, maple syrup, and nutritional yeast for a little more savoriness.

This recipe makes a pretty small batch of soup – I’d say it only would serve four people – so go ahead and double it if you wish. It’s also highly adjustable, so if your butternut squash is absolutely gigantic, add extra liquid to thin it out, and if your squash is very small, decrease the water a little. And, if you decide the soup is too thin, just let it simmer uncovered for 15-30 minutes, checking occasionally, until the texture is where you want it.

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

adapted from Minimalist Baker‘s Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 onion

1/2 or 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste)

a couple of dashes of curry powder

a couple of dashes of cinnamon

2 tablespoons maple syrup

salt to taste

pepper to taste

1 small butternut squash

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

2 cups of water

a generous pour of coconut milk *

Process:

Dice the onion, and peel and dice the butternut squash. Heat up a large soup pot over medium heat (not hot enough to make the oil smoke, but fairly hot) and add the coconut oil. When the coconut oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the butternut squash, the curry paste, the cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir well, cover, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the water, coconut milk, and maple syrup. Cover, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer covered for 15 minutes. Then, use a blender (I used an immersion blender) to blend until completely smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, and then add salt and curry powder to taste. Finally, if the soup is too thin for your preference, allow to simmer uncovered for 15-30 minutes.

Notes:

* you may of course leave out the coconut milk if you want it to be lower in fat. Just replace with water or vegetable stock.

* I like to serve this with a drizzle of coconut milk on top. My dad would tell you to use some Louisiana hot sauce, too!

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Minimalist Baker PB & J Muffins

I really like Minimalist Baker – it’s such a fun space, with those beautiful photographs and creative recipes! I’m always interested to try Dana’s creations, and that’s how I found this recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins.

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These muffins are vegan and gluten free, and can be refined sugar free as well. They are very soft, rich, and moist, and in my opinion, they are almost more like cupcakes than muffins!

This is a one-bowl recipe, which is always appreciated, and doesn’t generate too many dishes. It also uses pretty standard ingredients, like almond flour, gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s 1:1 Baking Flour, which is recommended in the recipe), rolled oats, and maple syrup.

I think that the flavor of the muffins, while good, would benefit from a bit more salt to bring out the peanut butter in the batter. Also, some chopped peanuts would be great to make the actual muffin itself a little more interesting. All the same, though, the muffins taste pretty darn good.

I’d recommend that you add a little extra flour if your batter seems too wet. I didn’t, even though my batter was wetter than the description given in the recipe, and I think my muffins turned out just a little too soft because of it. Just a word of caution!

I made a mistake with this recipe: I didn’t swirl the peanut butter and jelly into the tops of the unbaked muffins before baking. I think that would have helped keep the jelly on top/inside the muffins, instead of sliding off while baking, and would have prevented the middle of the muffins from sinking (which they did, but not too badly. Again, more flour likely would have solved that problem!).

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Overall, I’d definitely recommend this recipe for some fun and dessert-y (is that a word?) muffins. Just make sure to swirl your peanut butter and jelly, and pay attention to the thickness of your batter! 😁