Healthy Brownies. Say whaaat?

Carley S. wrote, “I would love to see a healthy way to make brownies! If that’s possible. Haha.”

Well, Carley, you’re in luck. I knew the person to ask for this task. A cave girl! Shannon of Cavegirl Bakes had just the recipe, because she’s in the business of healthy baking. In fact, in addition to being a PR maven by day, she trains and inspires others to lead a healthy lifestyle. And she bakes! I taste tested these brownies myself and am thankful to Shannon for allowing me to pass this recipe along to you!

Double-Down Monkey Protein Brownies

Her recipe for Double-Down Monkey Protein Brownies offers a double dose of banana and chocolate thanks to both chocolate and banana-flavored protein powder, plus mashed banana and cocoa powder. These flavor bombs are satisfying while being grain-free, dairy-free and – shockingly – sugar-free. The bananas and small amount of agave nectar make them plenty sweet. Plus, they are packed with protein and healthy fats from the almond butter and eggs.

These and other batches of “Paleo and Primal” baked goods can be ordered for delivery nationwide through Shannon at shannon@badassfitness.net. Learn more about Cavegirl Bakes gourmet muffins and brownies!

Cave Girl Bakes Double-Down Monkey Protein Brownies

Double-Down Monkey Protein Brownies from Cavegirl Bakes
Makes one batch of about 16 brownies

4 bananas (3 mashed, 1 sliced)
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa flour
1 scoop each of GNC Lean Shake Rich Chocolate and Banana
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoon butter, coconut oil, or ghee
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Mix the three mashed bananas (setting aside the sliced banana for the end) and all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl using a hand mixer.

Stir in the sliced bananas and the chocolate chips (if using chips).

Pour the batter into the greased pan, spreading it evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean (these will be fudgy and moist).

Try not to devour them all at once!

Nutritional info per brownie:
185 calories, 3 grams of fat, 18 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar (mostly from the bananas)




Speakeasy Engagement Party

Geoffrey, a dapper father of two amazing kids, and Katherine, a brilliant and beautiful triathlete, found each other at just the right time in their lives, and I’ve loved watching their romance grow. G popped the question in the fall, setting their wedding-planning year into motion.

I was honored when Katherine asked me to be in her bridal party and was eager to start planning the first celebration alongside her local bridesmaids, Brandi, Brittany and Mandy. We enjoyed brainstorming, crafting and creating an engagement party for the adorable couple, and I was excited to host the evening at our place. We decided on a speakeasy theme with mood lighting, gilded boozy-bottle décor and 20s attire.

Our unique version of this Wedding Paper Divas invite helped set the theme into motion for a roaring engagement party. Guests RSVPed to our party-specific gmail address and google phone number (Great idea, Mandy!), where they could receive the speakeasy password, “manatee.” The password was selected for no reason other than the bride-to-be’s irrational fear of the gentle sea cow.

Liquid Leaf-painted jars and clear mason jars were sprinkled around the party and illuminated with a mixture of real and battery-operated tea light candles.

Beer and wine bottles from the hostesses’ homes, plus some collected from a local watering hole, were spray painted in silver and gold and placed in clusters with candles. Getting the labels off the bottles required a long soak in a soapy cooler + a Brillo pad.

Brittany’s pretty damask ribbon added a nice touch around a grouping of bottles and to a gorgeous feather arrangement (which I neglected to capture).

Guests could take their pick of flapper flair. We created complimentary hair do-dads using assorted feathers and hair clips from the craft store. A basket filled with 20s-era props was also nearby for those looking to ham it up. Chalkboard clips made easy labels and complimented the speakeasy theme. We relocated our kitchen chalkboard to the fireplace and added the couple’s names using chalk pens, mimicking the invitation font.

At the bar, a 20s drink was in order, so we did a little research and selected “the Bee’s Knees,” a gin-based drink. I’d say it was definitely more gin-based than juice-based. Lemons and fresh local honey made it a sweet signature beverage in addition to beer and wine options. The Pandora station played Jazz Age tunes until we got a little crazy with the iPods later in the evening.

At the appetizer table, we included a few of the bride’s favorites, such as bruschetta and of course the Junior League Feta Black Bean dip. The delicious strawberry cupcakes were homemade by bridesmaid Brittany – her striped cupcake liners and turquoise dessert stands were a pretty addition to the color palette.

On the patio, an overturned Jack Daniels half barrel (Home Depot) with a glass top (Bed, Bath & Beyond) created a rustic, speakeasy place to rest a beverage. The little chalkboard buckets were a Target dollar-bin find, and they looked super cute with the couple’s initials. Thankfully, the yard was in bloom, so bunches of camellias in buckets helped dress up the patio.

Guests kicked it up celebrating Katherine & Geoffrey. And most importantly, K & G looked like they had a blast. Happy engagement, you two! We look forward to your big day and every celebration along the way! We love you!




How to: Serve Wine at Parties

When preparing for get-togethers this holiday season, or any time of year, wine is a safe and expected element for the cocktail list. Refer to these tips in your party-planning process to avoid overlooking bar elements, and set up a smooth vino spread.

Purchase Prep
As a general rule, it’s better to have a little more on-hand than what you need for a party. Take a look at your guest list, and estimate the number of wine drinkers – your guess doesn’t have to be perfect! One bottle of wine fills about four to five glasses, and you can expect an average of three glasses per wine-drinker. After a little math, you’ll be in grape shape!

A Vino Variety
Offer guests options, including both red and white wine. I like to offer at least two whites (a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc) and one red (a Pinot Noir), and more varieties depending on the size of the party. Other popular reds include Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet.

Brands: When in doubt, ask your local wine retailer for recommendations based on the number of guests and your budget. Price doesn’t necessarily dictate best taste.

Cater to Guests
If you know a particular guest will expect her favorite Pinot Grigio, make it happen. If someone loves Prosseco and it’s her birthday, break out a bottle for the special lady!

Chill Out
Be sure white wines begin to chill at least 1-2 hours before guests arrive – make use of any room in the fridge for pre-chilling, rather than wasting ice early. Before guests arrive, place white wines in buckets or tubs piled high with ice.

For Openers
Open a red and white (or two) before guests arrive, so no one has to fuss too much with the opening process. Tools to have nearby: a foil cutter (to eliminate unsightly edges that cause dribbling) and a trusted, easy-to-use wine opener.

Free the Reds!
Once you uncork a red, let it breathe. Set the cork aside in case you need it later on for storage.

At Your Service
For those tending the bar, the general rule is to fill glasses halfway, since it allows guests to swirl and appreciate aromas. Personally, I like to pour a little more than halfway!

Proper Supplies
For a more formal event, have enough red and white wine glasses available for guests. Otherwise, be sure to have wine size-appropriate plastic cups. Cocktail napkins are also a must!

Wishing you safe and successful celebrations throughout this merry season!




Crowd-pleasing Dip for the Holidays!

If you are fortunate enough to know a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee, you may have had the pleasure of trying the famed JLT Feta Black Bean Dip. It’s a treat!

This dip is a winner among crowds. It might be the apple cider vinegar, the sugar or maybe the shoe peg corn. Oh heck, it’s everything! I highly recommend adding this to your list of favorite party dips. Served with Fritos (definitely the sturdy “Scoops,” since you won’t want to miss a drop), this dip tends to disappear quickly. Thankfully, the recipe serves 30 handily, making it great for larger gatherings, including holiday entertaining.

Here’s your how-to, courtesy of the Junior League of Tallahassee and its A Thyme to Celebrate cookbook, available for purchase (see details below).

Feta Black Bean Dip:
Serves 30

½ cup sugar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 (15-ounce) cans shoe peg corn, drained and rinsed
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk sugar, vinegar and oil in a large bowl. Add the black beans, corn, scallions, cilantro and cheese and mix well. Chill until serving time. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips (Fritos Scoops are recommended).

To find this and more tried and true recipes perfect for all of life’s celebrations, purchase A Thyme to Celebrate, Tallahassee’s official cookbook. $20 each, all cookbook proceeds go to the Junior League of Tallahassee. Contact me for details!




Send a Spoonful of Comfort this Season!

There is something so darn comforting about a bowl of soup. I will freely admit I am a soup fanatic and will make it on the hottest of Florida days, but this nippier time of year makes soup that much more comforting and delicious. My affinity for soup stems from my childhood – I frequently enjoyed mom’s homemade chicken-noodle recipe with No Yolk noodles, and grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in tomato soup, perfect on rainy days before making a fort under the dining room table.

The memory of soup is what led Marti Wymer, founder of Spoonful of Comfort, into the business of sending “love by the ladle.” She wanted to send the comfort of soup to her mother who was ill and very far away at the time. In honor of her mother, Marti set out to help others with sick loved ones through deliveries of a Spoonful of Comfort (old-fashioned, handmade chicken noodle soup with no additives or preservatives) – the business now hosts a variety of treats and can be packaged for many loving occasions!

Does someone you know have the sniffles? Maybe a student or recent college grad can’t make it home for the holidays? Want to show you are thinking about a family with a new baby, but don’t want to intrude on their special time? There are so many reasons to send soup, and I love that there are so many ways to customize the packages!

A holiday gift box can include soup (of course), along with a candy cane, Christmas cookies and cozy socks…even a blanket! Maybe someone needs some sweet bread and tea? How cute is that!? Or give someone a long-distance sweet squeeze with a lemonade package! All options tie back to one thing: comfort. Spoonful of Comfort is one gift I can’t wait to give this season.

Scope it out. Scoop it up. Send some soup. A hug in a cup! 😉




Home Turf Tailgate

Going into one of the biggest games of the football season, our tailgate deserved something fresh. I found myself at Home Depot on the Thursday before the game buying a ginormous strip of AstroTurf to create a unique table runner – the added turf was just the ticket for this tablescape.

I used a chalkboard we usually display in our kitchen (made using an old frame and some spray chalkboard paint) as a canvas for one of my favorite lines in the song “We Are the Boys of Old Florida.” The letters looked nice and bold using chalkboard pens.

Patterned craft paper went the distance to create not only the table’s flag banner but also some mini-flag cupcake topers. I found the “We are #1” toppers at Michael’s, and the mini SEC helmets (which come in a set of all SEC teams) were also a fun addition to the cupcake stand.

My approach to tailgating is no different from planning any other gathering. You must consider things like the guests attending, the number of guests, time of day and flow of the event. Knowing this would be one of the busiest games of the season and with a tailgating window around lunchtime, I opted for grab-n-go foods that didn’t require much fuss or prep for mingling guests.

On the menu:

  • Publix chicken fingers with a side of ranch dressing – manageable and delicious
  • Pepper jelly, cream cheese and Ritz crackers
  • Cucumber sandwiches made with white bread, cucumbers and chive/herbed cream cheese (Just smear a little cream cheese on one side of each slice of bread, add cucumber slices and you’re done!)
  • Seedless grapes
  • Orange-flavored cupcakes (box mix) with whipped frosting (I loved how the orange cake mix showed through the white cupcake liners.)

Added creature comforts such as mints and hand sanitizer help keep guests clean and minty fresh. I was inspired by She’s Kinda Crafty to decorate the pump dispenser – she outdid mine for sure!

We were excited to again use our customized tailgate cups and pom-pom drink stirrers, serving Bloody Marys and sweet tea vodka-lemonades to our family and friends.

Last but not least, my husband’s tailgate contribution may have outshined the whole spread. He brought and chilled the largest bottle of beer I have ever seen, nine liters of St. Feuillien Triple. As someone once said, “Win or lose, we’re here for the booze!” …and the football, friendship and fun! Have a great time tailgating this weekend, wherever you may be!

More tailgate tips:
Tailgate Tune-up
No Celebration Penalties Here!




Aunt Carol’s Killer Cornbread

This cornbread is hard to beat. It’s a hearty side or a feel-good treat! Growing up next door to my aunt and uncle, I enjoyed Aunt Carol’s recipe at many a family dinner. It’s so delicious Josh and I added it to our wedding dinner menu, serving it to more than 150 guests. (Tip for brides and grooms: consider weaving family recipes into your special day.)

This cornbread recipe’s other claim to fame is its listing in the 1990 edition of Soup to Nuts, the official cookbook of my elementary and middle school. Oh, memories!

The weather is changing ever so slightly – good enough reason to cook up a pot of chili with some Killer Cornbread on the side. Enjoy it with BBQs, soups or whenever you want to add bread with a kick to your family meal. Enjoy!

Aunt Carol’s Killer Cornbread How-to:
Cook time: ~35 minutes

1 box corn muffin mix
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, well beaten
8 ounces creamed corn
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeños (or add to taste)
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces sour cream

Mix ingredients, adding sour cream last. You don’t need to stir in sour cream entirely – just a few gentle turns for creamy swirls!

Pour mixture into baking pan (ideally, use a well-seasoned 8-inch cast iron frying pan).

Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until slightly golden / an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


  • Rub 1 tablespoon of oil around inside edge of pan using a paper towel, then stick pan in the oven until temperature is ready + an additional five minutes before pouring in mixture – this will make the edges crispy.
  • Sprinkle some cheese on top when it comes out of the oven. Melty and delicious!




Mom’s Tuna Salad Recipe

Family recipes are something special. I am sure you have your own comforting and consistent favorites that bring back memories every time. One of my family favorites is mom’s tuna salad. She has not strayed from this recipe for as long as I can remember, and to this day, it is the tuna salad by which I judge all other tuna salads. When I moved into my first place, I remember calling mom multiple times to ask for the ingredients – I wanted it to taste right.

Since college and still today, mom offers to make me a sandwich for the road before I embark on the long car ride back after a family visit. She somehow always has the ingredients, and it’s always the perfect thing. Mom still makes tuna salad sandwiches better than anyone else, and I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

Mom’s Tuna Salad How-to:
Serves 6

Combine Ingredients:
4 cans solid white Albacore Tuna in water
3/4 cup mayonnaise…or to taste (not Miracle Whip)
1/3 cup chopped white or yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup green bell pepper
1/3 cup pickle relish
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Cracked pepper and salt to taste

Serving suggestion: Rye bread, lettuce and sliced tomato.