Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins


Moist and not too sweet, this is my most requested muffin recipe this year. They’re good for breakfast, with afternoon coffee, or add chocolate icing for a special treat. There are lots of ways to play around with the basic ingredients, but here are the specific proportions, ingredients, and methods that seem to work best for me here in Highlands, baking at 4000′ elevation:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cashew milk
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Mix
  • 1/2 cup Hodgson’s Mill Buckwheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli if you can find them, Hershey’s if you can’t).  Minis work best to spread the chocolate flavor around.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two standard muffins tins with 16 muffin liners.  In a large mixing bowl, add egg, bananas, agave, & oil.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Add all other ingredients in order given, mixing all the while until just combined.

Use 1/4 cup scoop to fill 16 muffin liners.  They will be not quite full.  Bake about 25 minutes until risen & golden, then cool slightly before moving each muffin to a cooling rack.

Bon Appetit!  Come see us in the mountains and I’ll make them for you!!

Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

541 Hickory Street, Highlands NC 28741 (828) 526-2060


Lemon Almond Flour Cookies

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The Taste of Summer!

Gluten-free and made with agave syrup, the cookies are good by themselves if you’re looking for a low-sugar treat – but, add the glaze and WOW – you’ll be instantly transported to a beautiful sunny day in Sorrento!

Note: To make a similar gluten-free bar cookie without almonds, click here for my recipe for “Lovely Lemon Bars” from May 2013.

This recipe makes about 24 small cookies. Preheat oven to 350 and line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.

For the cookies:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour from blanched almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup organic blue agave syrup
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and then add all other ingredients, mixing by hand until well combined.  Using a one-tablespoon scoop, drop balls of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1″ apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with the bottom of a juice glass coated with sugar. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Cool completely on cookie sheet.

In the meantime, mix all ingredients to make the glaze.  When completely cool, top each cookie with one teaspoon of glaze.  Allow the glaze to set before serving.

For the glaze:

  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine yourself on the coast of Italy or – better yet and easier to get to – in Highlands!

Come see us soon in the mountains! – Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

541 Hickory Street, Highlands NC 28741 (828) 526-2060


Chocolate Cherry Buckwheat Beet Muffins

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Chocolate Buckwheat Beet Muffins

(Note:  This recipe was revised in June 2018, and we think it’s better than the previous version, so give it a try!)

It’s hard to say whether this is a breakfast muffin or a dessert muffin. My husband doesn’t like chocolate chips at breakfast (why???) so if you’re like-minded, leave them out and you’ve got less sweetness. You could add 1/4 cup light brown sugar to make up for the lack of chocolate chips. Either way – they’re perfect with a rich cup of Colombian. You can used canned beets, but roasting your own gives the best color and flavor. You can also use a ripe banana. Lots of options with this recipe!

By the way, don’t throw away those beet greens!  In our area, Walmart’s beets are sometimes the best when they have fresh, beautiful greens attached.  Cut out most of the red stems (they’re tough & bitter), chop & saute the greens in a little avocado oil, add your favorite seasonings, and serve with any style eggs along with one of these muffins for a beautiful breakfast plate. Here at the Inn, we serve the muffins with Eggs de Provence (see separate recipe), grilled chicken & pineapple sausage with a dijon-maple glaze, and fresh fruit. This recipe makes 10 muffins.

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup cooked minced beets, or 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cup Hodgson Mill buckwheat flour; or for a lighter muffin, use half buckwheat and half Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix for a lighter muffin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with ten liners.  In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients one at a time in the order given, mixing constantly until all are combined. Do not over mix.  Fill each muffin cup with about 1/4 cup batter and bake for about 25 minutes.  Muffins will be risen, cracked, and glossy as shown above.

A recipe from Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

541 Hickory St, Highlands NC 28741 (828) 526-2060

Index of Favorite Breakfast Casseroles

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We wish you a Happy and Healthy 2017!

Brrrr…don’t let those beautiful blue skies fool you – it’s 11 degrees outside!!!  A perfect day for doing what I’ve promised:  make it easy for you to find where the heck those recipes are. So here’s an index to those oft-requested ones and all you have to do is click on the date to be linked to the original post.

p.s. These are all make-ahead and very easy!

Red, White & Blueberry French Toast

Red, White & Blueberry French Toast

May 29, 2013

Make it with or without pecan topping.  Use all blueberries, or half blueberries/half cranberries.  Use any kind of bread you have on hand – whole wheat, dinner rolls, croissants. For contrast, I serve it with Jimmy Dean Hot sausage patties, and fresh fruit.  Most importantly, use only real maple syrup.


Eggs de Provence

Eggs de Provence

June 29, 2013

The easiest breakfast dish ever and gluten-free! Hard to ruin this one, and it can hold over while you get everything else ready.  Leftovers? Just microwave a little to re-melt the cheese.




Potato Tomato

Potato Bacon & Green Onion Casserole

June 30, 2015

Breakfast in a pan and very family-friendly! Anything red & green makes it pretty – cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, red peppers, asparagus leftover from dinner – you get the idea!




022 blog

White Cheddar Flan

November 18, 2013

Served with baked apples and Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread, this is a perfect Fall breakfast. Use extra sharp Vermont White Cheddar for maximum flavor and sprinkle with grated parmesan when hot from the oven.




Sausage Primavera

August 13, 2014

Spicy sausage, sauteed mushrooms, green onions, fresh spinach, diced cherry tomatoes, Italian spices, & cheese.  What more to say?




Happy Breakfast Baking!

Upon request, I will add more to this index so you don’t have to dig through eight years of blog posts.  Thanks so much for your interest and please come to Highlands soon so I can cook for you at Colonial Pines Inn!

Recipes from Donna Alley, Innkeeper along with husband Chris, Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

541 Hickory Street, Highlands NC 28742 (828) 526-2060









Double Chocolate Almond Cookie Bars

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That title is the best I could do, because these are not exactly brownies. Although the ingredients are about the same, this technique is easier than melting chocolate and mixing by hand.  Use a mixer for the dough and bake in a foil-lined pan for easy clean-up.  I find this more pleasant than dropping bits of cookie dough on a baking sheet and obsessing over whether they’ll be too gooey or too crisp.  These will have a crispy crust and a gooey center!!

The dark chocolate almonds are a nice touch but completely optional and so is the Starbucks VIA instant coffee. If you don’t have that on hand – no worries, but it does add a rich flavor. For gluten-free, substitute Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Mix for the all-purpose flour (keep the buckwheat). With the coffee, almond & chocolate, maybe a better name would be Cafe Mocha Bars?  Call it what you like, here’s my most requested recipe this year:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lt brown sugar
  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tube Starbucks VIA (regular or decaf)
  • 3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/8 cup sliced almonds (for top)
  • 25 dark chocolate covered almonds (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350 and line an 8X8 baking pan with foil, leaving extra “handles” for easy removal after baking. In a large mixing bowl, cream eggs with sugars.  Add eggs & mix until fluffy.  Mix on low while adding soda, salt, Starbucks VIA, cocoa, buckwheat, and flour.  Add the extracts, chocolate chips & 1/2 cup almonds, mixing briefly.  Spread batter evenly in pan and top with 1/8 cup almonds. Bake about 23 minutes. Allow to cool, then use foil handles to remove from pan. Cut into 25 pieces and press one chocolate almond into each piece (optional).

If you’re a chocolate lover, it might be a good idea to double this recipe for a 9X13 pan!!

A recipe from Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

Highlands North Carolina (828) 526-2060

Coconut Almond Macaroon Cake

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324Light & reminiscent of Spring, these macaroon-like squares are not excessively sweet but melt in your mouth and are gluten-free.  I’ve adapted this recipe from the one on the package of Bob’s Red Mill “Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour” which is made from skinless, blanched almonds.  Be sure to look for this product rather than “Finely Ground Natural Almond Meal” which is made from whole almonds and has flecks of skin visible. You’ll have a prettier result!


Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8X8 baking pan with foil.  Cream the butter & sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy.  Add almond milk & extracts.  Add salt, baking powder, coconut flour & almond flour. Mix until well combined, then add flaked coconut & pineapple and mix briefly. Spread evenly into pan and top with sliced almonds.  Bake 30 minutes until slightly browned.  Cool and cut into 16 squares.

  •  6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or coconut cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  •  1/4 cup organic coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1/8 cup sliced almonds

If you like to experiment, it might be nice to try this with orange extract, just to vary the flavor a bit.  The original recipe called for milk instead of almond milk, no flaked coconut, no pineapple,and no toppings. Also, I have tried cutting the butter down to 4T with success.     So – depending on what is on hand in your pantry – go for i!

For something more decadent, add a cream cheese frosting such as this one: 1 stick softened butter, 2 oz cream cheese, 1/2 tsp vanilla & 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar. After icing the cake, top with flaked coconut and sliced almonds.

Serve with a light afternoon tea like jasmine green tea and maybe a bowl of fresh berries or yogurt. My gluten-free guests love it. Bon Appetit!!

A recipe from Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed & Breakfast

Highlands, North Carolina (828) 526-2060

Sweet Potato Muffins with Orange & Fresh Ginger

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Something about being stuck inside when you know it’s going down to single digits outside and there might be snow in the morning makes me think of ginger, cinnamon, & orange.  Sounds like a comforting herbal tea, but if you add leftover sweet potato, my favorite baking flour (buckwheat), and buttermilk, you’ve got a healthy, not-too-sweet breakfast muffin idea. This recipe makes 8 standard muffins.

So here goes…

  • 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 1/2 cup choped walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/8 cup finely ground walnuts (or pecans) for topping
  • 1/8 cup turbinado sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tin with 8 liners (I like the brown ones for this recipe). In large mixer, add first 15 ingredients and beat well.  Add buckwheat and mix until just combined. Use 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to fill each muffin cup.  Dust tops with ground nuts and turbinado sugar.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve warm with honey and a cup of tea. Wrap up in a blanket and feel the glow!!

Stay warm and call us NOW for the best choice of rooms this Season!

A recipe from Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

In -town on Hickory Street, Highlands North Carolina (828) 526-2060 10am – 10pm





Better Than the Original!

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Does anyone in your family like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Well…this is the ADULT version, but the kids will like these BETTER, too!! They’re made with rich dark chocolate, organic peanut butter, and freshly ground peanuts.  You won’t go back!!


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 7 oz confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup Smucker’s Organic Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 6 oz Ghirardelli 60% semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 oz Ghirardelli 85% chocolate bar
  • 2 T finely chopped roasted peanuts

Melt butter.  Put confectioner’s sugar in a small mixing bowl and pour in butter while mixing.  When well combined, add peanut butter and mix until smooth. Line a 9X9 baking pan (or 8X8 for thicker bars) with waxed paper, leaving extra paper to grasp for easy removal. Press mixture evenly into pan and allow to cool slightly.

In a measuring cup, microwave the 60% chips in 15 second increments, stirring in between each heating, until chocolate is just melted.  Chop 85% chocolate into small pieces and add to melted chocolate.  Keep stirring until chocolate pieces are completely melted. This can take some patience, but if done properly will give a shiny tempered chocolate finish. (See note below about using Melting Chocolate Wafers instead). Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the peanut mixture and top with chopped peanuts. Allow to cool thoroughly.

When the chocolate is completely hardened, remove from the pan by grasping the waxed paper “handles.” Turn the chocolate side down on a cutting board and peel off the waxed paper from the bottom.  With a large chef’s knife, cut the bar in strips and then in uneven triangles or squares as desired.  Don’t worry if the chocolate breaks unevenly – see the photo!

Store in an air tight container.  Do NOT refrigerate.

p.s. Any combination of chocolate will do.  I like an extra dark flavor as above, but you could substitute 8 oz  of Ghirardelli Melting Chocolate Wafers which consistently give a shiny, tempered chocolate look and are easier to work with, although they are a bit sweeter.


A recipe from Donna Alley, Colonial Pines Inn Bed & Breakfast

Highlands North Carolina (828) 526-2060



Potato-Potahto, Tomato-Tomahto

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One of the most crowd-pleasing breakfast casseroles I have made, this one is even kid-friendly and can be made with different vegetables according to your family’s tastes. Lately I’ve been using basil & tomatoes, but red peppers & chopped spinach, or any other combination of vegetables will do.  The more colorful, the better. You can also subsitute sausage for the bacon.  A little time is needed the day before to chop, grate, measure, fry, & mix the ingredients; but in the morning – no worries!  Just it pop the oven and serve along with a bowl of fresh fruit and a muffin. Easy-peasy. This version is made in a 9X13 pan and serves 8. One note regarding tomatoes: using grape or cherry tomatoes works best because they don’t produce as much water during baking.

Potato Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Casserole

  • 12 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (or any combination of cheeses you prefer)
  • 12 oz frozen hash brown shredded potatoes
  • 20 oz bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 1 large whole green onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (for topping)

Grate, chop, and assemble all ingredients as listed above.  Spray 9X13 pan with cooking spray.  Layer half of each of the following in this order:  cheese, potatoes, bacon, onion, basil, and tomatoes.  Repeat layers with remaining half of each ingredient.  Mix eggs, half-and-half, milk, pepper, and cayenne.  Pour over and top with 2 oz cheese. Cover & refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, preheat oven to 325 and bake about one hour until eggs are set and edges are lightly browned. Cut into rectangles and serve immediately.

Or, join us at the Inn and I’ll make it for you – then you’ll be ready for that hike up Whiteside Mountain!!

Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast, Highlands NC, (828) 526-2060

Donna & Chris Alley, Innkeepers Since 1984 – That’s right, this is our 32nd Season!!

Pretty Please with Sugar on Top

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There are hundreds of blueberry muffin recipes but this one is my all time favorite. A hint of lemon, the surprise of fresh cranberries, and the character of buttermilk make these muffins special. The recipe makes 8 muffins but they won’t last long, so it might be a good idea to go ahead and double or triple!

Red, White & Blueberry Muffins

Happy Memorial Day and Thanks to All Who Served!

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 24 fresh cranberries
  • extra sugar for tops

Preheat oven to 375, and line a standard muffin tin with 8 paper liners.  Beat egg, oil, & buttermilk until smooth.  Add sugar, vanilla, & lemon.  Add baking powder, salt & flour, mixing until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Using a 1/4 scoop, fill each muffin cup almost to the top. Add 3 cranberries to each muffin, pushing down to cover with batter. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp sugar on top of each.  Bake 18 – 20 min until muffins are lightly browned.  Makes 8 muffins.

Enjoy with a cup of tea on a beautiful Memorial Day in your own backyard!

Donna Alley, Innkeeper Since 1984, Colonial Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast

541 Hickory Street, Highlands NC 28741 (828) 526-2060