At this point in my life, I’m not one to overdose on Halloween candy. Up until a few years ago, yes. Now, not so much.
Mostly because if I start eating it, I won’t stop. So I don’t start (if I can help it).
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want something sweet on the holiday. I mean, who doesn’t? This is one of the most sugar-centric holidays we have in this country, and I’m a lover of sweets. I just don’t need to eat an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (though I’d love to).
My newest favorite sweet treat happen to taste a bit like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups mixed with cookie dough, but they’re much, much healthier: Peanut butter cookie dough bites.
I plan on bringing these to some of the Halloween-themed functions I will be attending, and I highly recommend making them if you’re staring down the candy stash hours (or days) before the trick-or-treaters begin to show up. Eat a few and you’ll feel much better than if you overdo it on the candy, plus you’ll get a dose of good fat, fiber and flavor.
These days I tend to make a double batch of these any time I have a moment to actually “cook” them (funny how the baby loves to eat but would rather not give me time in the kitchen).
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites (adapted from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats or oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 heaping tablespoons smooth peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (you might want a bit more if there’s no salt in your peanut butter)
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
If using regular rolled oats instead of oat flour, start by grinding your oats into a fine powder using either a high-speed blender, food processor or (my favorite) a coffee grinder.
In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the almond flour, oat flour and salt and beat again until combined. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a bit more peanut butter and/or maple syrup. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Roll the dough into small balls. If the chocolate chips fall to the bottom of the bowl, press them back into the dough when rolling. Place the finished bites on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper.
Freeze the bites for five to 10 minutes or until firm. Store the bites in the freezer in a freezer bag for quick and easy snacks.
Makes about 30.
Tips: Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature (I keep my maple syrup and almond flour in the fridge) because if ingredients are too cold, the coconut oil will start to solidify, making it hard to mix. Also, if you’re using the type of nut butter that requires stirring, make sure the oil is well-incorporated before measuring it out for the recipe.
October is pretty tuber-tubular, according to the local farm set.
A group of area farmers, foodies, restaurants and stores have banded together to make October “Celebrate Sweet Potatoes” month in Lawrence, even going so far as getting the City Commission to give the orange spud its own month.
The group set up a website, celebratesweetpotatoes.com, and filled it with information on events, “Tuber Tuesday” sweet potato specials and facts about the different types of potatoes and their stellar nutritional value.
Hoyland Farm’s Bob Lominska says the idea really is just to get local eaters out of the idea that sweet potatoes are strictly for eating with marshmallows at Thanksgiving.
If you’ve followed this space for the past few years, you know I’m quite the sweet potato fan and feature them often in my recipes and the recipes I share. As part of my own personal mini celebration of sweet potatoes, I went back through my recipes and found some of my favorites, and thought I’d also share a recipe I haven’t yet that pairs two of my favorite fall staples.
But first, some of my personal favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes include:
Now, for a new recipe. I love this dish from Nancy O’Connor’s “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” because it’s pretty and pretty versatile. It really is both a side dish and a dessert (I’ve even had it for breakfast). If that sounds like it could be a description of the old marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes of yore, think again. This one has the added bonus of apples and makes your kitchen smell like that homey scent Yankee Candle only thinks it gets right.
Oh, and even though October is almost over, there’s obviously nothing wrong with keeping the tuber-tubular train rolling well into spring.
Sweet Potato and Apple Bake 2 or 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced approximately 1/4-inch thick
2 flavorful fall apples, peeled and sliced approximately 1/4-inch thick (I used Granny Smith and didn’t peel them)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a large shallow baking dish. Arrange sweet potato and apple slices attractively in dish.
Combine butter, maple syrup or honey, cider and salt in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter is melted.
Pour half of the mixture over the sweet potatoes and apples. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Halfway through the baking, drizzle the remaining butter/syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes and apples. Serves 6.
— Recipe from “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” by Nancy O’Connor
The kiddo has been talking about bringing his lunch to school for more than a year.
In the days before he started preschool, he asked if this is the year he could bring his lunch. We said no (because of school policy), but that he could bring his lunch in kindergarten.
I sort of suspected that eventually his enthusiasm for bringing his own lunch would wane. But it didn’t during all of preschool. Or in the days leading up to kindergarten, where he got a chance to bring his own lunch to a camp he was attending. And it hasn’t waned (yet) now that he’s an actual kindergartener.
It’s funny, because I remember wanting school lunch. Mostly because it (sometimes) contained things I didn’t often get at home: pizza, french fries, etc. More than that, I remember collecting quarters specifically so I could buy a la carte goodies my parents wouldn’t let me have such as ice cream, cookies and Little Debbie Nutty Bars.
I can’t delude myself into thinking my perfect little boy won’t do this too, no matter how interested he is right now in eating fruits and vegetables. Kids are constantly learning about themselves and the world around them through their experiences. And experience includes food.
I’m not going to put my kid in a food bubble until he’s 18.
But I will make his lunch. For as long as he wants me to.
Which might be until next week or might be until he’s old enough to drive. Hard to tell. But while I do have control of his lunchbox, I’d prefer good stuff go in there.
But I don’t want him to feel deprived either, which is why he always (so far) gets a treat to go along with his basic sandwich/fruit/vegetable trio.
So, one week he got our favorite little chocolate chip cookies (above). Another week, he’s gotten these cookies, which he actually likes better, even though they’re pretty ugly. But even an ugly cookie is a tasty cookie. I’ve also been giving him some special muffins, which I’ll share next week.
But first. The best ugly cookie ever to go in a lunchbox. And, yes, I’ll make them for him through his 18th birthday and beyond.
I feel good putting these in his lunchbox. They’re healthy, taste good and might even stave off his eventual career as a small-change thief with a soft-spot for junk food. Or not.
The Healthiest Cookies Ever (Recipe from www.detoxinista.com)
1 ½ cups raw walnut halves
1 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 12)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds plus 3 tablespoons water)
½ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade, process the dates and walnuts together until a crumbly texture is formed. Add in the salt, baking soda, vanilla and flax egg and process again until the batter is relatively smooth. Add in the chocolate chips and briefly pulse, just to combine.
Spoon the batter onto a lined baking sheet, and use your hands to gently flatten the cookie dough. (Tip: Wet your hands with water to prevent sticking.) Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve immediately, and store the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for best shelf life. These cookies should last a week in the fridge, and a month or more in the freezer.
When attending a wedding, it is normally customary to RSVP, choose an outfit, talk the hubby into a tie. But recently, my wedding prep became RSVP, choose an outfit, bake a pie.
Actually, two pies.
A good running buddy of mine requested at her recent wedding that a few of her guests bake two homemade pies for the reception’s dessert table rather than bring a gift. It’s an idea that I thought was genius. And went along perfectly with the locally sourced theme of this wedding in which 75 percent of the reception dinner for 200 was grown by the bride herself and the rest (save for a bit of watermelon) was bought from local vendors. (And you thought your wedding was crazy to plan.)
In keeping with the locally flavored theme, I wanted to make at least one pie that showcased the abundance of blackberries we have right now in our home berry patch. I also wanted to feature the pie crust my grandma made probably weekly when I was little. As I wrote awhile ago, she was a fabulous cook and I’m honored to have her recipes in my arsenal.
So, for one of my two wedding pies, I decided I’d make pie the old-fashioned way. Grandma’s crust paired with my spin on Sauver’s blackberry pie recipe.
The result, as you can see above, was gorgeous, and tasted great, too.
Now, it’s not exactly the healthiest thing I ever put in this column, however. For a pie more along the lines of what’s usually in this space, check out this recipe, which I adapted into my other pie by making it in a deep-dish pie plate and using cherries for the topping rather than strawberries (I called it Vegan Cherry Cheesecake Pie at the wedding).
Blackberry Pie and Grandma Jeanne No-Fail Pie Dough
1 recipe for pie dough (below)
⅓ cup flour plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups blackberries (if using frozen, defrost and drain juice)
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon lemon juice
Zest of one lemon or 2 more teaspoons of lemon juice
A pinch of cinnamon
1 egg white
Unwrap 1 dough disk; transfer to a well-floured surface. Whack it with a rolling pin several times to flatten it out; turn it over and repeat. Roll out dough to form an 11-inch circle and transfer it to a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. (If dough tears and needs mending, dab a little water where it requires patching and "glue" on a piece of dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put berries, ¾ cup sugar, lemon juice, zest (if using), cinnamon, ⅓ cup flour and salt into a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mash gently to make a textured filling; pour into chilled crust and set aside.
Beat egg white and 1 tablespoon water together in a bowl and set aside. Roll out remaining dough disk into an 11-inch circle; cut into ¾-inch-wide strips. Arrange strips over pie in a lattice pattern, trim excess dough and crimp edges of pie. Brush crust with egg mixture; sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven until crust is just golden, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes more. Let cool before serving.
Note: I had leftover dough from the latticing and ended up making “pie dough cookies” with the excess (this is another thing I used to do with my grandma). To do this, combine the remaining dough scraps, roll into a rough circle, and then top with butter and cinnamon sugar. Roll the dough into a log and then cut little pinwheel shaped cookies from the log (cut each slice about a quarter-inch thick). I baked them for about 20 minutes once the temperature was lowered to 350. The kiddo loved these more than the actual pie.
Grandma Jeanne’s No-Fail Pie Dough
3 cups unbleached flour
1 ¼ cups shortening (Note: I swapped butter for this recipe, as I don’t like the nutritional profile of shortening)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Cut-in until the mixture doesn’t cling (breadcrumb or shortcake texture). Note: This can take five minutes or more, be patient.
1 tablespoon apple vinegar
1 egg, beaten
½ cup water
Mix wet items.
Add wet to dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring constantly until moist-will form a ball when completely mixed.
Chill in discs, wrapped in plastic, for at least one hour before rolling out.
Makes two 9-inch pie crusts.
For Valentine's Day, my little guy wanted to make something special.
He’d already devoured my deconstructed chocolate-covered fruit salad (turns out he likes white chocolate?), so we decided to make something else from scratch.
Ever since Christmas, he’s been constantly asking to make cut-out cookies, but we just hadn’t done it, mostly because I don’t want him to think it’s OK to eat Grandma’s sugar cookies all year long. I mean, they’re delicious, but they’re not the healthiest dessert imaginable.
So, I found a recipe on one of my favorite sites that is for a cookie with a base of almond flour and honey. I find these ingredients to be far healthier than flour and white sugar and butter. Add in a healthier version of icing, and we were off to the races.
Thus, we had a win-win-win: Kiddo gets his special cut-out cookies, Mom gets her nutritional preferences met and we both get to eat the heck out of a special holiday treat.
Of course, Valentine’s Day has passed, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make these for your sweetheart for another occasion
Almond Flour Frosted Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened (or use butter instead)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the frosting
2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cookie ingredients until a thick, creamy batter is formed. If the dough seems dry, add a little bit of maple syrup to make it creamier.
Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge
Using a cookie scoop, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Press each bit of dough flat and then cut into desired shape with cookie cutters.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, simply cream together the coconut oil, honey, almond extract and salt until well combined. If the coconut oil starts to melt (it melts at temperatures above 76 degrees), briefly place the mixture in the fridge to help it set.
Frost the cooled cookies, and let them set in the fridge for a more solid-frosting.
— Recipe adapted from www.detoxinista.com
So far this month, I've written about tricks for eating healthy, frozen food helpers, the pros of eating dessert and how to plan healthy snacks.
I thought I'd end this month's healthy eating pep talk with a delicious treat that works as both a snack and dessert. And — bonus — this treat has protein (from the almonds), healthy fats (from the almonds and coconut oil), iron (from the molasses) and contains no refined sugars.
Oh, and it's a delicious treat/snack/healthy choice.
I've been making these every couple of weeks since the fall and find the taste to be perfectly sweet and spicy and the texture is nice and chewy. In fact, the only downside to these cookies is that you have to wait 30 minutes for the dough to firm up.
But it's worth the wait. I promise.
Helpful note: You want to start with all your ingredients as close to room temperature as possible. This is because the coconut oil solidifies at 75 degrees. So, if you mix it with cold ingredients, it clumps a bit and this can drastically alter how your cookies come out. Trust me, I've been impatient before and the cookies I got were flat and off.
Grain-Free Ginger Cookies 1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix until a thick batter is formed. Chill the batter for 30 minutes in the fridge to make sure it’s nice and firm before scooping.
Preheat the oven to 350 and drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat, or parchment paper. Use a wet fork to flatten each dough mound, into your desired cookie thickness. If you’d like a sugar topping, try sprinkling a bit of low-glycemic coconut crystals over the tops before baking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until firm around the edges, but still soft in the center. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serves 12.
— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com
Admittedly, there are no local ingredients in the recipe I’m sharing today. I just felt like for the week of Halloween we all needed a cookie break.
A seasonal cookie break.
If you still need a little something to have around the house or bring to a party at Halloween, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the cookie to bring.
Admittedly, they’re not the healthy fare I usually share in this space. But I don’t feel totally guilty, because you do get some modicum of vitamin A when you eat them (how’s that for rationalization?). But, really, eat them because they are totally, amazingly delicious.
Honestly, these cookies are my secret weapon this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, everyone always loves them and they are appropriate for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup shortening, margarine or butter
1-½ cups sugar (I often use half coconut sugar)
¼ cup regular or soy yogurt (vanilla, plain or maple)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour through cinnamon (all dry ingredients). Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together your shortening/margarine/butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the yogurt and then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. When all combined, add chocolate chips.
Drop by the teaspoonful onto parchment. Flatten a bit with clean fingers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Yield 50 cookies.
So, what’d we get on our last week of Rolling Prairie for 2013? Eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale.
OK, I realize peanut butter cookies do not seem like a CSA-friendly treat, but they are. Just stick with me.
You see, these peanut butter cookies use two ingredients you might see in your CSA or at the Lawrence Farmers' Market: honey and eggs.
Now, I didn't get either of those ingredients in my Rolling Prairie CSA last week. Rather, we got strawberries, snap peas, green onions, head lettuce, asparagus and Swiss chard. Those items were all accordingly eaten the normal ways: strawberries and snap peas out of hand, asparagus steamed, head lettuce and green onions in salad and the Swiss chard was juiced.
Now, I could've shared that juice recipe, but I know many of you don't have a juicer or the inclination to juice. Yes, I know my veggie juice is a tad bit inaccessible. Peanut butter cookies? Not so much. They're generally pretty easy to make, and, allergies not withstanding, they work well in large groups.
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe given to me by my friend Dorian. They are super soft and chewy, plus they don't use any white sugar or flour, which is great if you're avoiding that sort of thing.
Honeyed Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
2 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup local honey
3/4 maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs or 2 flax "eggs" (2 tablespoons ground flax seed in 3 tablespoons hot water for each egg)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. The dough will be very wet. Scoop by the rounded teaspoon onto the parchment, leaving a good amount of space between each cookie.
Bake 8-10 minutes. When they start to brown, pull them out and let them "bake" about 5 to 10 minutes more on the warm cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack. They'll be very soft.
These freeze well, though they may stick together if not separated. Makes about 40 cookies.
What'd we get this week? Beets with greens, basil(!), head lettuce, snap peas, kale and broccoli.