Sunday, February 23, 2014

Flame Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

I am perpetually working on trying to make a healthy cookie.  You know, a cookie that you can eat for breakfast without feeling completely irresponsible, a cookie you can give to your neighbor's kids without triggering any hyper activity or a cookie you can bring to work without hearing "Why are you trying to ruin our diets, thank you!"

I thought it would be a good idea to start with ingredients that are in trail mix or granola; whole grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds.  Of course you need the sugar element and the fat element and the flour element, but those elements are just where your cookie goes from healthy snack to snack attack.  So I subbed coconut oil for butter, barley malt syrup for most of the sugar and fermented some of the flour with sourdough starter.

But once I found Flame raisins at the health food store they became the reason d'etre for the whole shebang.  Flame raisins are bigger, sweeter and juicer than any other raisins I have ever tasted, and I'm a big fan of raisins.  There's a healthy dose of them in this cookie, along with sunflower seeds, goji berries and dark chocolate chips. Almost all of the ingredients are organic and the egg was one of those pasture-raised beauties with a dark orange yolk.  

I know the list of ingredients is as long as your arm.  And when I was putting them all together I really had my doubts.  And possibly even thought I was wasting some very good, and expensive stuff, on cookies that were going to taste like saw dust.  Happily that was not the case and the dear husband even ate two before they were cool and declared "they're really good, wait 'till you taste them!"

flame raisin oatmeal cookies

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup  barley malt syrup
1 tablespoon molasses 
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1 egg
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flame raisins
2 tablespoons goji berries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 

In a small bowl whisk baking soda, salt and cinnamon into flour and set aside.  In a medium bowl blend together coconut oil, barley malt syrup, molasses and sugar.  Beat in egg.  Add flour mixture and sourdough starter and mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  (If mixture looks runny refrigerate for 1/2 an hour.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop cookies onto parchment lined sheet pans by tablespoonfuls.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden.  Cool on wire rack.  Makes 18 cookies.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sugar and Spice Pull Apart Bread

I love, love, love this months' Sourdough Surprise, and it's totally in the why-have-I-never-done-this-before category!  It's so easy, the dough is a dream to work with, it's crying out loud delicious and the possibilities for fillings are infinite (even though I went with the safe, tried and true, sugar and spice flava).  Plus, how could you not love a food that encourages you to eat with your fingers.  But seriously, pull apart bread, where have you been all my life?

Of course I don't live under a rock, I was familiar with the concept.  I even received a monkey bread pan for Christmas a long time ago.  And I might have made the recipe that came with it. Either it wasn't very good or my baking skills weren't up to snuff, but I never made it again.  And where that pan is now is anyone's guess.  Since then, thanks to the interwebs and sites like Pintrest, pull apart bread has exploded and recipes for sweet and savory fillings abound.  

I've made this version, adapted from the lovely Pastry Studio blog, twice already and both times my husband and I had a tug of war with the loaves.  Slathered with more butter and sprinkled with more spice mix it literately got me through a snow storm of winter despair.  It's casual and comforting, like having coffee with your best friend.  Yes, I know I just alluded to bread being my best friend.  That really shouldn't come as any surprise, I just hope no one ever tries to pull us apart.   

sugar and spice pull apart bread (adapted from this)

2 tablespoons warm water
1 package yeast (2 & 1/4 teaspoons)
pinch sugar
1/4 cup warm milk
2 ounces melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups bread flour (give or take, plus more for rolling)
1 cup sourdough starter (discard is fine)


2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
2 ounces melted butter 
confectioners' sugar glaze (optional)

In a small bowl whisk yeast and sugar into warm water; let sit to proof.  In a stand mixer with a dough hook mix together flour sugar and salt. Add butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, yeast mixture and sourdough starter; mix until dough forms scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Add more flour if mixture seems too wet.  Beat dough on medium speed until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Scrap dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, cover and refrigerate over night or let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1-1 & 1/2 hours. 

For the filling, whisk together cinnamon cardamom, ginger, cocoa and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Butter a 4" X 8" loaf pan and line with strip of parchment paper long enough to hang over the long sides. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface, knead to a uniform shape and roll dough into an even rectangle approximately 10" X 20".  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush melted butter over dough and sprinkle with sugar and spice mix.  Cut dough into 4 equal strips on the long side and carefully put one strip on top of the other.  Once all strips are lined up, cut into 4 portions.  Place dough in a row in prepared pan, cut side up and sprinkle with any remaining spice mix.  Bake bread for 35-40 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  Remove from pan and cool completely before glazing, if desired.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Maple Frosted Banana Smoothie Mini Cupcakes

I'm probably the last person on the planet to get on board with the green smoothie thing.  I've already had two today and looking forward to tomorrow's.  Basically you can blend anything with kale and it's suddenly a delicious, healthy meal.  Today I had an apple, strawberry yogurt and kale smoothie and later in the day a kale, raspberry yogurt, apple (I was really trying to use up that apple), sunflower seeds and wheat germ smoothie.  I feel invincible!!

Having the blender out (yes, I'm still kickin it old school with a blender) my head was swirling with smoothie options and that's when I hit on the idea of a smoothie cupcake.  It starts out like a smoothie with bananas, milk, lemon juice, then takes a right turn into dessertville with the addition of sugar and flour.  The rich maple frosting drives it home.  They are just the right size for a little sweet nibble, especially when you've been sooooo good the rest of the day!
maple frosted banana smoothie mini cupcakes

1 ripe banana
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line mini cupcake pan with mini cup cake papers (or butter and flour, up to you).  In a blender add banana, oil, egg, vanilla, sugar, milk and lemon juice.  Blend on low until mixed.  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until blended. 

Pour batter evenly into cupcake pan.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cupcakes on wire rack before removing from pan.   Cool completely before topping with maple frosting (recipe follows).  Makes approximately 1 dozen mini cupcakes.

maple frosting

2 tablespoons unsalted soft butter
2 tablespoons soft cream cheese
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
a handful of chocolate shavings (optional)

In a small bowl whisk together butter and cream cheese.  Add confectioners' sugar and blend well; add brown sugar and continue whisking.  Add maple syrup and vanilla extract and whisk until creamy.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Pipe or spread on cool cupcakes.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings if desired. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Romeo and Juliet Cookies

I don't know the exact genesis of these cookies, I only know they are my attempt to recreate the ones we get at our favorite super market, Wegmans.  A google search turned up a couple of hints, but not close to what I was looking for.  If anyone knows the story and the genius baker who came up with the delightful recipe, and name, please let me know.

In the mean time I made do with recreating the recipe by reverse engineering.  In other words I ate a bunch of them and went by taste.  I started with a simple Toll House cookie- backed out the chocolate chips, used all white sugar instead of half brown sugar and dropped the yolk in favor of just the white.  Oh, and added a bit of almond flour, cause that's my thing.

While, in my opinion, the cookie is really just a vehicle for the jam and chocolate, the next time it's been suggested to make it more cake-y.  Thanks hon, guess I should have left the yolk in after all.  And you know that any chance I can get to use Bonne Maman raspberry preserves in a recipe I am so there.  I'm guessing it's the mix of white and dark chocolate that plays into the name of these cookies.  Two opposing factions that just go so good together.  Happy Valentine's Day y'all! 

Romeo and Juliet cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
4 ounces white chocolate
4 ounces dark chocolate 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stand mixer cream butter and sugar, add egg white; scrap down the beater and bowl as necessary.  Add vanilla extract.

Whisk together flour, almond flour and baking powder, add to butter mixture in a couple of additions, scraping down the bowl in between to make sure everything is mixed well.

Scoop batter onto parchment lined baking sheets by rounded teaspoonfuls (they may look small but they spread) and flatten.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.

Once cookies are cool spread the undersides of half of them with raspberry preserves and top with the other half.

Chop and melt chocolates in separate bowls using your favorite method. I used the microwave on low for 60 seconds, stirred and returned for another 60.  Or you could use a double boiler with the water on a low simmer, you don't want to get any steam or moister in the chocolate.

You can dip all the filled cookies in dark chocolate or half in dark and half in white.  Once cookies are dipped pour remaining chocolate into two piping bags (I just used parchment paper cones), and drizzle contrasting chocolate on each cookie.  Makes about 20 cookies.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kale and Carrots

I'm still eating my way through winter.  What else can I do?  Thankfully our power didn't go out after the last storm, an ice storm, but as of yesterday some homes in the area were still without and my heart goes out to everyone struggling with this crazy weather.

I took a break from cookies, breads and pies and finally made a contribution to the kale band wagon.  It's super simple and very tasty with lots of crunch (especially since I served it with a side of wasabi chic peas).  And of course, super fortifying, absolutely brimming with good stuff for your body!!  There's a lot of winter out there and I want to be ready for it!

kale and carrots

1 bunch organic kale, stems trimmed, chopped
2 large organic carrots, trimmed, cut into thin, long slices
1 & 1/2 cup cooked red quinioa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted pinenuts
1 tablespoon raw unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon dried sour cherries
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 

Steam carrots until tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Meanwhile, Heat oil on medium high heat in a large skillet.  Add kale and saute until tender.   Add steamed carrots and season to taste.  

Stir dried cherries into cooked quinoa.  Serve kale and carrots over quinoa topped with pine nuts and coconut.  Makes two servings.