Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops

I have many fond memories of peanut butter cookies. When I was young, a neighbor introduced me to Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. I don’t know if you remember them, or if they still make them. Even if they’ve faded from our collective retail opportunities, I will always remember them because when he asked his mother for one, it was always by full name, the whole shebang, from “Nutter” to “Cookie” with a “please” tacked on at the end. He was a polite and specific kid. These were peanut butter cookies for my young friend.

While I enjoyed those cookies (any food acquired from someone else’s Mom ranked high for me as it does with most little people), I admit that I greatly preferred my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies. I’ve no idea what recipe she used or if she had any special tricks, but with four kids I’m guessing she used one from a well used copy of Betty Crocker or something and simply followed the instructions and finished them with the required fork cross on the top to press them a little flatter. That is a peanut butter cookie to me.

I later I had a friend who’s Mom was on the verge of opening a cake business. She was doing a lot of practicing and a lot of baking all around, and she introduced me to another popular peanut butter cookie. The chocolate drop. These are the round jobbies with a chocolate kiss in the middle pressed down to flatten the dough a bit and add that chocolate peanut butter magic. I can still be convinced that anything with chocolate is worth a try, so I happily helped taste test lots of these, which were peanut butter cookies for my friend.

In considering what sort of treat to make for lunches recently, I remembered a happy Halloween discovery. Ms. Picky Pants now likes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, at least she does right now. ;-) While I’m not particularly enthusiastic about these particular candies as they seem to have acquired a waxy/filminess that I don’t remember noticing in my own Trick or Treating days, I was happy to hear of her appreciation for the peanut butter/chocolate combo as this opens up many doors in the lunchbox treat department. And so I embarked on devising a peanut butter cookie for my little people. As usual, it became something of a exercise in revision mashed up with memory and a lot of tasting. I’ve discovered that omitting raw eggs from cookie dough has the slightly negative side effect of removing the only real barrier to eating the dough raw until you feel sick… but I digress. Without further wandering into my own raw cookie dough mishaps, I give you..

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops  – inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ “Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies” in Vegan with a Vengeance. – makes approx 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 c white wheat flour
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1 c solid sweet (I used turbinado, you could mix white and brown)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 coconut milk (or whatever you like)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • approx. 36 large sized dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil baking sheets, or cheat and use parchment like I did.

This is pretty standard cookie procedure stuff. Mix the dry ingredients (not including the sugar). Mix the wet ingredients and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the dry to the wet and stir to combine. The dough will be on the stiff side. Make balls with about 2 T of dough. Place on baking sheet. Flatten with a fork by pressing in one direction and then the opposite. Think about someone who made you cookies when you were little. Add a dark chocolate chip to the top of each, pressing it in a bit so it will stick.

  

Bake in oven for 9-11 minutes or until just starting to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes so they will firm up. Continue cooling the ones you don’t consume on a wire rack. Delish!

Sesame Whole Wheat Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges

It’s been a long time since I made pancakes around here. I noticed that having added chocolate chips a few times, the expectation from the little people became increasingly chocolate chip focused. They also, as a result of growth spurts, were a lot hungrier in the morning, and the need for speed was a driving factor in my pancake break. The lovely thing about taking a pancake break is that when you start to make them, everyone is happy to wait, very flexible about the kind of pancakes you make, and oh so excited to eat breakfast. And they didn’t even know how good they were going to be…

These pancakes were fantastic. Light and flavorful. Warm and comforting. The perfect platform for some chopped oranges with a little honey.

Sesame Whole Wheat Pancakes

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  • 3 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c chickpea flour
  • 1/3 c corn meal or polenta (oats would probably work too)
  • 1/3 c sesame seeds
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • fresh grated nutmeg to taste (I use a microplane)
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 3 1/2 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)

Honeyed Oranges

I believe you can do this with any oranges. Personally I used clementines because we love them and I had them to hand. These “measurements” are really unimportant – do it how you like.

  • 4 small oranges
  • a 1/2-1 t honey

Procedure

If you have not pre-heated your pans via some overnight magic, I strongly suggest you do so first thing. Turn the oven to 300 (or so) and place oven safe pans (I use well seasoned cast iron) in the oven to warm). Why? See my full pancake method explanation here, or just take my word for it. Mix the dry ingredients. Gently heat coconut oil to liquify it. Mix the applesauce, banana and milk. Add these to the dry ingredients and stir until mostly combined. Add liquid coconut oil and stir to combine. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

While the batter is resting, chop oranges into bite sized pieces. If you wanted to be really fancy, you could supreme them, but I rarely feel like being that fancy, especially in the morning. Drizzle with a small amount of honey and let sit. I used 4 clementines (very small) and less than a teaspoon of honey, just for reference. You should use what you like and prepare to taste.

After batter has rested, drop it by 1/4 c measure into warm lightly oiled pans. Wait until bubbles form and gently turn. Marvel at the beautiful color. Serve to hungry hordes with the oranges and watch breakfast disappear. Absolutely delish!

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Happier Caramel-la Dipping Sauce (no added sugar, vegan)

Okay, so how do you make caramel sauce with no added sugar.  Caramel IS sugar – it’s just sugar cooked to a certain temperature with some butter thrown in, right?

Clearly there is only one way to make caramel that is ‘no added sugar’ and that is to leave out the caramel part.  Like low fat peanut butter.  How do you make low fat peanut butter….. leave out some of the peanut butter and put something else in there.   Doesn’t that thought make you want to read the label on the low fat peanut butter -yikes!

In this case however, the substitution is not scary – even if it is Halloween tomorrow.  In this case, you use the sweetness of dates, the smoky flavor of maca powder and almond butter to make a dipping or dripping sauce that will make any apple proud. Continue reading

Summer’s End Zucchini Bread

The nights have gone cool, and who can complain at this point in the year? While I confess that the climate in mid-Maryland often leaves something to be desired, a nice fall here really can’t be beat. Our nights are cool, and days are dry with clear blue skies. Perfect time to get the last few harvests of summer veggies.

I’ve gotten the last of the tomatoes, the cukes are dwindling, my butternut squash are hanging on the vine getting a nice protective skin, and I thought the zucchini were done. Then I lifted a few of those gigantic leaves. What I had assumed was the wooden border of the garden was actually a huge and very dark zucchini. I mean HUGE. And two days later – another on a plant that I thought had given up earlier in the summer, but was growing in secret behind another plant. So now I have these enormous zukes.

My favorite trick with zucchini is to shred it and freeze it. I tend to do it by weight, put it in a bag, write the weight on the bag and pop in the freezer. Why by weight? Because my favorite zucchini bread recipe calls for zucchini by weight. So as we move into the cold months, I have my key ingredient already shredded and measured, ready to go. My favorite zucchini bread recipe is based on one I used for years from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. America’s Test Kitchen publications, such as The America’s Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook (this is the new version of the book I have which is no longer in print), are fantastic. If you are trying to improve your cooking skills, there are few more comprehensive resources. The recipes are not intended for restrictive diets, but they are full of real food and I’ve successfully adapted many of them as my own dietary preferences have changed. And what I’ve learned from the authors has been priceless. This zucchini bread is lightly spiced, sweet but not cloying, and deeply satisfying with a cup of coffee, or a mug of tea, or whatever you want to drink.

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  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded and drained (see below)
  • 1/4 c coconut milk (or whatever kind works for you)
  • 3/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 4 T coconut oil, melted and let cool but not harden
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c walnuts chopped and toasted (or if you’re like me you don’t toast, forget to put them in the batter and then put them on top where they will toast in the oven and then think you’re awesome for doing that)

Preheat oven to 375 with rack set in middle of oven. Coat a small loaf pan (mine was 8 x 4, standard is fine, but your loaf will be shorter). Shred zucchini on large holes (I used a food processor)l Place zucchini in strainer. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to distribute the salt. The salt will pull the liquid out of the veg. Let drain for at least 15 minutes. Wrap a tea towel (or paper if that’s all ya got) around the zucchini and squeeze the remaining water out. Be astonished by the amount of water in that veg. No, you can’t skip that step. Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup, applesauce, coconut oil, flax eggs and lemon juice together in a bowl. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Fold the zucchini and the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix (yeah, I don’t know why either).

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Scrape batter into loaf pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean – or until it feels right to you (that’s my test, a little press in the middle with my finger), should be about an hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Continue cooling on wire rack for at least an hour, being sure to have a taste while it’s still warm. Super yum.

Fall Recipe Parade – Yes, there’s some pumpkin

It’s that time of year – one of the many that sneaks up on me each and every year. While it is still sunny and warm here in mid-Maryland, I am apparently supposed to desperately want pumpkin everything. And honestly, I’m okay with that (except for the coffee thing, I don’t get it – but to each her own coffee). Here at the pantry we do have a healthy love of pumpkin. We also love the other flavors of fall and the opportunity to break out those super warming dishes as the temperatures begin to drop. To welcome this season of bounty and cool nights, we offer you a treasure trove of autumn yum. Most of these recipes are both gluten and dairy free. :-)

Morning Warmer Uppers

  

1. Pumpkin French Toast

2. Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oats

3. Sweet Potato Apple Oats

Mains

  

4. Slow Cooker Burritos

5. Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala 

6. Sweet Potato Chili with Greens

Sides

  

7. Amazing Applesauce

8. Herbed Bulghur Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

9. Waldorf Saute

Sweet Endings

  

10. Super Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

11. Walnut Crust Apple Pie

12. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Yay for pumpkins and apples, for warm afternoons and cool mornings, for low humidity and crunchy leaves, for new pencils and new schedules. Here’s to fall and wonderful food, family, and friends. Delish!

Super Easy Freezer Pickles

 photo IMG_0689.jpgI may have mentioned it already, but I have a cucumber problem this year. I haven’t had a cucumber problem in many, many years. I can only assume that our relatively cool summer prevented the nasty powdery mildew and other humidity related diseases that eventually do in all of my curcurbits. In surveying my cucumber bounty, I knew there was only one answer, to pickle some of them. Big Sis and I have already shared some pickle preparations, but they aren’t really meant for the long haul, sort of more of a 10 day window on those puppies. My past experiences with hot water canning for pickles left a bad and totally non crunchy pickle taste in my mouth.

 photo IMG_0687.jpgAnd so in honor of our cool summer, I turned from one temperature extreme to the other in search of a perfect freezer pickle recipe. I found this one, and then didn’t follow it. :-) Who on earth needs 4 cups of sugar in anything? Not this momma. And I assume that the turmeric was added for the sake of color – to make them look more like commercial pickles, which use yellow food dye to look like what? What would happen if we all just decided greenish pickles are okay? But, I digress. I hustled out to the store and picked up some of these babies. I could use glass, and with a vinegar based brine I usually would, however, one of my kids’ new chores is to do the fetch it run from the downstairs freezer and I had visions of freezer pickles all over the basement. So I went with plastic.

This couldn’t have been easier. These won’t last as long as water bath pickles would, but given the reaction my kids had to the batch I prepared last week, they won’t make it until winter anyway.

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  • 8 pounds cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2T salt
  • 1 1/2 c maple syrup (oh yes I did)
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t mustard seed

In a large container (I had to use my largest pot), combine cucumbers, onion, and salt and let sit for 3 hours, stirring periodically. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse cucumbers and onions. Add liquid to cucumbers (being sure to get them out of the strainer first… I’ve done such things). Pack in 1 pint containers, being sure to leave at least an inch at the top for freezer expansion. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge, consume with a week or so. Crunchy, sour, sweet, delish!
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Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you… Continue reading

Grilled dessert… with or without chocolate

Grilled vegetables are not new to me, and like roasted vegetables, I never tire of them.  Whatever you have in the garden or the vegetable bin will probably be great coated with a little oil or marinade and then skewered, ka-bob’ed, wrapped in foil, laid right on the grate or tossed in a fancy grilling box to sizzle over the coals for 15 – 30 minutes depending on how big you cut it and how tough it is.  I particularly like to include colored peppers for their sweetness and red onion because it infuses everything with a lovely flavor.  Zucchini, mushrooms, yellow squash, green beans, whole cherry or grape tomatoes – it’s all good!  Corn is good on the grill also and Little Sis has a no-fuss method here.

The eye-opener for us this summer is grilled pineapple.  After the veggies are done, we just lay rings of pineapple (I’ve used fresh, not tried canned) right on the grate and let them sit until warm or seared – whatever you like!  I do brush the slices very lightly with oil first – I used avocado, but coconut would be awesome as well – both of these are safe high heat oils.  Let them cook about 5 minutes a side, but keep an eye because it all depends on how hot and how close the coals.

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The flavor is amazing!!!  Sweet, juicy and a perfect summer dessert.  The first time we did this the fire was hotter and we got the lovely brown char lines on the pineapple.  Last night the fire was cooler, so no lines, but it was still awesome.  Our guests really enjoyed it.  One of our brilliant guests spied the dark chocolate that the children had rejected for use in s’mores and wondered if the pineapple would be even better with chocolate on top.  Well, very few things suffer from the addition of chocolate, so…. we tried it.

Melt some squares of chocolate – estimate how much you’ll need for the amount of pineapple in question.  We did not have much pineapple left, so I did probably 2 ounces.  Adding a little coconut oil makes it drizzlier, I added very little- probably 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon.

Melt slowly in the microwave (15 – 20 seconds a few times, then less, stirring between), or in a double boiler.

Cut your pineapple into chunks and either drizzle the chocolate over, or let people dip.  Luckily the kids didn’t see what we were doing right away.  Let them have s’mores – I’ll take chocolate drizzled pineapple any day of the week!  Mixed in with friends, kids setting off  bottle rockets, and top it all off with reading beside the fire after the guests were gone and the evening was very sweet all around!

20140705_202014-001Have you got any fruit on the grill this summer?

 

Green Beans, Raspberries and Almonds Oh My!

 photo IMG_0459.jpgSummer is here FOR REAL. Know how I know? It’s not the lack of school. It’s not the calendar. It’s not the heat. It’s not the clothes and toys strewn around the house with wild abandon. It’s the garden. My garden has told me that summer is well and truly here by giving me a glorious bounty of green beans and raspberries.

We planted a small grouping of raspberry canes three years ago. I now have a raspberry thicket that in the last two days has yielded 8 cups of deliciously sweet and fabulous raspberries. And that’s after the Japanese Beetles take a share. I must have found one of those magic spots in gardening, because frankly I’ve not done anything special for these raspberry canes. They are so vigorous that they are taming the mint that somehow got in the ground over there (what kind of idiot would plant mint in the ground… ahem… yeah…).

 photo IMG_0465.jpgMy favorite summer meal game is to look at the produce I have and find a way to put it together and enjoy it. So a few days ago I was staring at a big bowl of green beans and a big bowl of raspberries. Why not? I’ve done beans with oranges, why not berries? Why not indeed?

Green Beans with Raspberries and Almonds

  • olive oil for the pan
  • green beans – as fresh as possible, so much yummier fresh
  • salt to taste
  • raspberries
  • almonds
  • balsamic vinegar

Yes, that’s it. No I don’t have quantities. I feel confident saying that your own preferences can rule the day on this one. Warm the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the green beans to the pan. The key is to sauté the beans until they are just al dente. They will get a little deeper green and sweat a little. Add a sprinkle of salt. When beans are very nearly to the tenderness you prefer (yes, you have to taste them to determine this), add the raspberries and almonds. Give them some gentle stirs. Splash in some balsamic vinegar and stir gently to distribute. The raspberries are delicate and will disintegrate if you over-bother them. When warm, remove from heat and serve. Eat as soon as possible and with great summery gusto. Delish!
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BBQ Slaw as a Main Dish? Yes, Please (GF,DF)

Summer has arrived and while on the one hand that means veggies are becoming plentiful and delicious and oh so fresh, but it’s also the time for all kinds of food traditions that don’t line up as well with my current efforts. Let me be clear – I am no purist. If the occasion or the offering is adequately compelling, I will ditch my well-honed nutritional guidelines, but in order to have that only be a very occasional complete gustatorial debauch, I am also very much in favor of scratching the craving itch without crossing any health lines.

So one of the things I admit a weakness for is barbecue. Barbecued whatever. It’s typically not as appealing to me as it used to be as I’ve developed some real aversions to the usual carriers of barbecue sauce, but I can still bring the flavor to my mouth just by thinking about it. Oh yes, I can dig some barbecue.

In my family, barbecue meant North Carolina barbecue and I love love love that and it falls into the category of foods for which I will nutritionally sin and that is the end of that. But when it comes to the other kind – the tomato-y kind, that’s the one I’d like to flirt with, but not really take home. This dilemma has been solved. Thanks, in part, to The Washington Post.

Apparently North Carolina Piedmont Slaw is a thing. It’s a regional thing, and I now officially love it. Especially since I tampered with it and made it a meal, not a side. Ditched some of the sugar, and added sprouted beans to make the most powerful summertime party slaw you’re gonna wanna eat. No fear, I’m sure unsprouted beans would also be fine, I just happened to have an enormous bag of sprouted ones (thank you Costco).

Power Barbecue Slaw inspired by North Carolina Piedmont Slaw, Washington Post

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  • 1 medium head cabbage (I used half green, half red)
  • 2 c dried beans of small size, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (read the nutritional label to check sugar content)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t paprika
  • hot sauce to taste

Why the two colors of cabbage? Because it’s pretty, yup, that’s it. Know what else? Cabbage is CHEAP. This is a veggie where I can let my aesthetic preferences govern the budget. I initially started grating the cabbage in the food processor, but didn’t like how small it was grating, so I only did half of it that way. Honestly, cabbage is not hard to chop as it does a lot of the work for you, what with all those little segments. Moving on, chopped cabbage in large bowl. Add drained, and preferably cool, or at least cooled with cold water rinse beans.

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Mix the next 6 ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to cabbage and beans. Mix gently to distribute. Serve as part of a salad, serve as a side, or do like we did and turn it into a sloppy jane, with a few pecans on top. Oh yes. That’s some good summer eating. Delish.

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