Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Ooooh boy these are some good little cookie like thangs!  There is no baking involved and lots of goo on the fingers to lick off when you are done.  What could be better than that?

Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you what was better than that?  Well!…. These lovely little sweets were consumed, enjoyed and complimented by folks from all ranges of the baked goods and sugar consumption spectrum.  In other words, as my son would say, both the health whacks like his dear old Mom and the normal people liked these cookies.  This is not always the case with the sweets that come out of my kitchen.  In fact, both of my sweet offerings were appreciated.  One of them, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies, was shared earlier in the blog and now, because I am so nice and generous and love to toot my own stolen horn, I will share the Nut Butter Bliss Balls recipe with you!  I hope these recipes (along with the list of healthier holiday foods from our blog that Little Sis is working on) will help you party with folks from all over the spectrum this holiday season.  ‘Tis the time of year for sharing, right?

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So back to tooting my own stolen horn…. I didn’t steal a horn, I adapted a horn, er…  recipe, from the wonderful Diana Herrington at Real Food for Life.  She calls them Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.   Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t do peanuts, so I made them both with almond butter and the original way because my son and I LOVE peanut butter.   They are heavenly either way.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup nut butter (I have tried almond and peanut – you can cheaply make your own almond butter – with or without chocolate!)
1/2 cup honey (original is 3/4 cup – I found 1/2 to be awesomely sweet but chickened out and added another Tbsp tothe1/2 cup for my guests batch)
1/4 cup coconut (unsweetened, flaked)
1/4 – 1/2 cup almond flour (original coconut flour which is costly) but you could also use oat flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

First off – if you don’t have toasted nuts and seeds, I toasted the sunflower seeds at 350 for about 8 minutes – just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and the sesame seeds for about 5 minutes, again, watch them as ovens are different, pans are different, it’s a beautiful variable world!

Secondly – the reason for the wishy-washiness of the flour amount.  Peanut butter and almond butter (beautiful variable world consideration again) have varying consistencies, and honey is hard to measure accurately, so the stickiness of your final product is affected by these variables.  I use almond flour which is the dried out leftovers from making almond milk, so it may be a bit lighter than store bought almond flour.  Basically you want a dough consistency that is sticky enough to hold together and pick up a coating of sesame seeds but not too sticky to eat.  Start with the lowest amount of flour and add more until you like the consistency.  Taste tests are totally appropriate and recommended.

After you’ve toasted the sunflower seeds, place them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and smush it all together, preferably with a purple spatula ;-)

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Pour your toasted sesame seeds onto a plate, form edible size balls (this of course will be affected by the wonderful variety of mouth sizes…. I make mine large) and roll them in the sesame seeds.  For more variety you can roll them in unsweetened coconut.

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I am singing a happy song of variety….. and one must try all of the varieties to be equitable (after eating your pre-emptive veggies of course!)

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Breathe, enjoy the season, and as Little Sis says when I worry over pleasing guests that are coming…. “It’ll be fine.  They’re your friends!  They love you.”

Peace and love to you and yours in this world of infinite variety and possibility.

A Cookie By Any Other Name

A cookie is a cookie is a cookie, right?

I’ve known that is not true since I was very young.  Not to brag, but my mother baked when I was a kid.  Her cookies were better than any store bought cookie…. but not as good as bakery cookies (sorry Mom).  I preferred a good cookie.  Who wouldn’t?

Once she started working she didn’t bake as much but still being budget conscious, she bought the cheapest cookies available.  I thought they were really lame…. until my best friend would come over and be delighted to break into the cellophane wrapped goodies.  She didn’t get cookies at all, so she thought even the cheap-o, 3 dozen for $1, lame ones from the store were okay.  It’s what you get used to, isn’t it?

I also like to bake and I have always been a cookie person as opposed to a cake person.  Many of our friends can tell you that they looked forward to dessert at our house because they knew it would be really good.  Every person’s good.  Plain old good.  Good old good – sweet – good.  What you get used to good. Continue reading

Blogiversary Cookies.. and a Giveaway

It has been a whole year. I absolutely cannot believe it. Bigg Sis and I had been talking about doing some writing together and it dawned on us that there was a way to get started, like right away. And so we dove in, and wrote post after post, but I don’t think that we had any idea that, unlike putting a book or a series of articles out there, the space of the blog was going to be one that was going to give so much to us. That we would develop relationships with other bloggers, that our own dietary choices would continue to evolve because of the amazing real food community we’ve stumbled into. I’m a little overwhelmed. I’m not kidding.

I have been deeply gratified by the comments we’ve gotten that essentially tell us that we’ve made a difference for someone. It’s like karmic payday. I have been delighted and surprised by the support I’ve received and the way I’ve been stretched as a cook, as a writer, and as a Mom. I feel lucky, and together Bigg Sis and I wanted to be sure that you know how much we appreciate you. Those who show up every time; those who pop in and comment, and all of you lurkers. We appreciate you and hope that we give you some small piece of what you all give to us.

In the vein of giving back, we’d like to offer everyone a blogiversary cookie, and for one lucky reader, a blogiversary book. But which to do first? Me, I’d go for the cookie, but I’ve seen what happens on these here internets, and I’m betting you’d like to know about the giveaway…. Continue reading

CranCherry, Almond, and White Chocolate Cookies

So yeah…. meant to get this one up before the holiday, but I also meant to get approximately 8000 other things done before the holiday, so today is the day.  Besides all that, my sister asked for the recipe so since I would have to write it down anyway, I figured I would write it down here. :-)  

These cookies are sweeter than my usual offerings, so I think they’d make an excellent first step for someone who’s just starting to think about cutting back on sweets and sugar OR an excellent indulgence for those who’ve committed to a low sugar scene.  If you’re trying to cut gluten (or eliminate it altogether), these are also a good bet for you.  Frankly, they were delicious and while I am going to have to wean myself back off the sweet stuff because of this diversion, I’m going to say it was well worth it.  So whether this is an indulgence or the beginning of a change for you – enjoy!

CranCherry, Almond and White Chocolate Cookies 

  • 7 cups rolled oats, dividedIMG_8622
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 4 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cherries and cranberries mixed (I imagine 1 full cup of either would also work)
  • 2 c white chocolate chips (real chocolate chips would also be delightful)
  • 2 c almonds, rough chopped

Use a food processor or power blender to turn 3 c of the oats into flour.  Sift the oat flour together with the baking soda and salt.  Combine the sugar, syrup, applesauce, banana, and coconut oil in a bowl and mix until as incorporated as the coconut oil will allow. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  At a lower speed (or with a slower hand), add the flour mixture a little at a time.  Mix in the remaining oats.  Add the mix-ins.  Cover the dough and refrigerate it for at least 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line or lightly oil baking sheets.  Use a spoon or scoop to drop balls of dough onto the baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with fork or finger.  Bake for about 8 minutes.  Rotate pans (and move top to bottom/bottom to top if your oven is like mine).  Bake about 8 more minutes or until bottoms are browning and some browning is on top as well – or to your cookie done-ness preference.  Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and remove to wire rack for cooling.  Eat, quickly, before the others catch on…..  I mean share with loved ones. Delish!

For other lower sugar treat options, check out our treats category on the sidebar. If you’re thinking about making some changes in the New Year, check out our Baby Steps or Sugar Busting series – we’ll be recapping some of these strategies to help all of you who want to try something new in 2013.

Spicy Sweeties – My New Favorite Cookie

While growing up, my sister my mother and I would all gather in the weeks before Christmas and produce cookies… loads and loads of cookies.  As we got older and moved out of the house, we still often found time to perform our ritual cookie fest.  In more recent years, driven in part by the distance between us and in part by a lack of interest on Mom’s part in making any more cookies (ever, thank you very much), my sister and I have satisfied our pre-holiday baking ritual in our own homes, with sporadic help from those around us, then sharing our holiday booty (er, cookies).  And so, for me (and my chief beneficiaries) Christmas has become inextricably tied to little baked yummies.

Having been pounding on the Sugar Busting drum for nearly a year now, this season of warm gooey sweetness brings a sense of disorientation and a little culinary dread.  What will I do about the cookie situation?  Will I renounce all the traditional goodies I’ve been making my entire life? Will I deny my family ALL the pleasure that a holiday tray of sweets can bring?  Will I hand out cookies in my annual gesture of neighborly goodwill?  Yes, probably; no, definitely not; and, we’ll see how much time I have.

In my desire to still have a treat-y Christmas, I’ve doubled down on my efforts to find baked goodies that I can feel good about giving my little people.  Turns out there’s a lot out there, including Big Sis’ fabulous fudge, but you know me, I can’t simply follow a recipe.  I tend to be inspired by a recipe rather than instructed by it, and this time inspiration was glorious. And so without further ado (because how much more rambling can you really take), I give you…

Spicy Sweeties (GF, V) – inspired by oatmeal and chickpea flour cookies on Taste of Beirut.

  • 3 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 1 c chickpea flour
  • 1/2 t salt, baking soda, baking powder
  • 2 medium bananas (very ripe)
  • 1 egg ( I used flax)
  • 1/4 c + 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 t + a dash garam masala (or to taste)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/8 c sunflower oil (or other oil)
  • 3 T tahini (or other nut butter, but the tahini is more delicate than most)
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips or chunks or however you like it
  • 1/4 c chopped pecans
  • 1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350.  Grind 2 c oatmeal in food processor or heavy duty blender to make oat flour.  Add chickpea flour and salt, baking soda, baking powder and pulse to combine.  Transfer to bowl and stir in remaining 1 1/2 c oats.  Combine bananas, egg, maple syrup, garam masala, vanilla, oil and tahini either in bowl of standing mixer or in food processor.  (You can, of course also mix these things by hand – I am lazy and have angry finger joints).  The rest of the procedure here is pretty typical cookie stuff.  Add the wet to the dry and mix in whatever way you like to mix cookie dough.  When the dough is fully incorporated, add in the mixy bits and stir to combine.

Drop onto lined or oiled baking sheet with a scoop or tablespoon.  I put my usual dozen on a pan with no drama.  When the pan is full, use a fork (honestly my finger worked better) to flatten the cookies out.  Because there is no butter, they will not melt down the way many butter based cookies do.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until bottoms are brown and there is some browning around the edges.  Cool for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire racks.  While they are delicious warm because ANY cookie with chocolate in it is yummy warm, the real fabulous complexity of these babies is best appreciated after cooling, when the garam masala shines through.  Delish.

Want to know what else to do with that garam masala? Try warming up with a great big bowl of spicy yum – mulligatawny soup for all!

When You DO Need a Treat

I struggle with the treat area.  There, I said it.  My kids have been the fortunate recipients of mostly unprocessed or only lightly processed snack foods, but I have, in my forty some-odd years on the planet, consumed a fair number of packaged snack foods.  The difficulty that this poses for me as a parent is that I am vulnerable to the argument that perhaps I am being TOO restrictive, that I am depriving my kids (OH NOOOOOO, ANYTHING BUT DEPRIVING YOUR KIDS!!!!) of some sort of necessary and later to be romanticized pleasure of childhood.  So I struggle to find balance.  They don’t get A LOT of the things that their classmates and friends get, but I attempt to frame it, as I do with myself, as a turn toward the abundance and delicious satisfaction that real food, even as snack or treat, can provide.

Healthful twin lunches. Healthy twin kids.

My recent efforts, as a reflection of my desire to keep my kids on the attitude of gratitude end of the spectrum as regards their lunchtime totage, have focused on the treat portion of our little stainless steel container.  As it turns out, packing lunch has been something of a guilty pleasure for me.  The picky child in our family takes her Tinkerbell lunchbox everyday with the utmost trust that I have included SOMETHING that she will eat.  And I generally do.  And the funny thing is, she eats it.  She eats most parts of whatever I pack.  She eats things she won’t eat at home, and when she gets home, she finishes whatever’s left…. hot diggity.  So I have no guilt about providing a small not so sweet in their tins.  I have made two lovely discoveries this week that I thought I would share… one that is gluten (but not chocolate) free, and one that has gluten, but is vegan, and I must say, quite awesome.  I’m eating some right now as I type.  On to the goodness…

What do you mean what happened to the first row? What first row?

First up: Gluten Free Blondies – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Chip Blondies. These babies are BEAN based; that’s right, you heard me, bean based.  So I’m thinking I need to whip up a lunchbox yummy and looking at my fridge to see what I should use up and rolling my eyes at the container of white beans from the previous night’s dinner… turns out they were just what I needed.  I love it when that happens.

See those little beanies in there?

The changes I made to Katie’s recipe here are pretty minimal.  I cut the sugar to 1/2 c from 3/4 c.  For the grain I used a mixture of flax and rolled oats. I added 1T of applesauce because my batter seemed too dry (I used homecooked rather than canned beans).  I went a little light on the chips to no ill effect and I added 1/4 c of pecans. The procedure is super easy. Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients with the exception of chips and nuts (if you use them, which you should) in a food processor until the batter is smooth. Add chips and nuts and stir to incorporate. Place in 8×8 greased or lined baking pan. Bake for around 30 minutes. They will be softer than your average blondie – sort of fudge-y and awesome. If you’re smart enough to eat one warm, you’ll get the reward of the melty chip drip that is part of the blondie experience. Delish.

Turns out beans weren’t the only thing I needed to use up. With the onset of the school year (and cooler temps), our green smoothie intake has diminished and my banana purchases got ahead of me. Super over-ripe bananas can only mean one thing in my house… banana bread. Oh yes. This recipe is adapted from one I got from a dear friend who first made it for us during a delicious fall weekend on a farm in the Catskills. She had adapted the recipe from one she’d had given to her by someone else… Honestly neither one of us has any idea at this point where it originally came from. On the off chance that it was yours and you still recognize it, let me know and I’ll credit you.

I was encouraged to limit my pecans so we could try it “both ways.”

Intensely Good Banana Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup regular oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/4 c peanut (or other nut) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecans for the top

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Place sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, banana, nut butter, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Decorate with pecans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Eat some while it is warm and the outer crust is at its peak. Cool completely on wire rack before storing.  Amazing.

Need more ideas for healthier sweets?  Try these gluten free chocolate chip cookies, these gluten free coconut almond milk mash cookies, honey milk balls, apple oat muffins.

This week we’ve joined Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Blog Carnival. Check out the other real food entries here.

Concession Sweets

As many of you know, my twins started kindergarten this fall….. gack.  There’s an awful lot swirling around in my head about THAT very fact and rather than sit here and take it in, there’s a whole new world of work and school logistics to get to know.  We’re all feeling, while still reasonably enthusiastic, a little tired and beat up around here.  The kids are especially tired in part because their school day is so much longer than anything they’ve done before, and in part because the paltry amount of time they are given to consume lunch is not working out too well for ravenous boy and chatty girl.  Lunchboxes are coming home with a dent at best.  They do, of course, always manage to extract the small sweet that I’ve been including to cheer them up at the time that they say they miss me the most (awww, yes, it breaks my heart a little).  Because of these developments, after having a talk about the fact that veggies need to be eaten before sweets just like at home, I’ve doubled down on my efforts to find and make sweet bits that are much less…. well everything.  The delightful thing about severely restricting sweets is that your kids get a lot less picky about them and so this is one category of food where everyone, even my daughter, is consistently rapturous about my efforts, and let’s face it, that’s pretty good for the chef. :-)

This week’s little sweetie scored 100% approval and was just about as easy a cookie as I’ve ever baked.  Why is it better than other cookies?  Less sugar, less fat, and I used buckwheat rather than regular flour (read about the benefits of buckwheat here) and so have a whole slew of health benefits over your average chocolate chipper.  Yes, that’s right, once again I will breach into the realm of the sacred and dismember a classic flavor expectation with a healthier chocolate chip cookie.  Nearly blasphemous.

We Heart Buckwheat Chippers inspired by Jordan’s Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 t baking soda
  • .5 t salt
  • 1/3 c canola oil (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1/3 c applesauce
  • 2/3 c maple syrup
  • 1 t vanilla
  • heaping .5 c semi-sweet chocolate chips ( I used minis to ensure choc in each bite and because, let’s face it, they’re cute)
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in smaller bowl.  Add wet to dry and stir.  The dough will be wetter and easier to mix than traditional chocolate chip cookie dough.  Don’t be alarmed.  The dough will also be considerably darker than you might expect.  Again, it will all be okay.  Add chips and nuts (and whatever else your tribe prefers in such things) and stir gently to distribute.  Plop onto parchment or greased baking sheets.  I confess to using an official cookie dough scoop for such things (my Christmas baking requirements justified this little gem), but use whatever method you usually use with drop cookies.  After filling the tray (I got 12-15 per tray), squash the tops a little as they will not spread the way higher fat cookies do.  Bake for 6-9 minutes.  Mine took 9, but my oven is wacky.  Judge doneness by touching the cookie gently.  When it feels like a cookie and not a squishy ball, they’re done.  Allow to cool on the pan briefly for cleaner liftoff.  Cool completely on wire rack, or I should say after you’ve eaten some while they’re warm because you simply must eat some while they’re warm, cool the rest on a wire rack.  Delish.

Camm (coconut almond milk mash) Cookies

If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know that I am writing about last week’s cookies! (Course I had to tell you. I’m not very good at keeping secrets – you can ask Little Sis.)

My family has been on the road visiting other family, including Little Sis (yeah!), Step-daughter and 2 of my three wonderful step-grands, and we are now enjoying The Chautauqua Institute in New York with Dad and Step-Mom.   Little Sis kindly has posted in my absence and now I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen…Luckily I have pictures from last week’s second endeavor to use the almond milk meal (AMM) leftover from making almond milk.  And most importantly, I took a photo of the write-on wipe-off board on my frig where I noted the ingredients…

Ignore the cumin – from an earlier endeavor :-)

In the past I have been an overzealous holiday cookie maker who then embarks on the dreary 12-step process of cookie-making recovery.  Despite having only made it to step 4 this year, I have been thinking about treats that can go in a lunch box and be eaten by my gluten-free husband.  Here is my attempt to make something recognizably treat-y from AMM.

CAMM cookies
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup almond milk mash
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. liquid sweet (I used 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp. agave)
1 egg
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
dash salt and vanilla (I’d guesstimate 1/4 tsp vanilla for this small batch)

Preheat oven to 350
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Mash together the AMM, butter, and coconut
add coconut, vanilla and salt
add beaten egg

Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined baking sheet

smash with a fork to flatten
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until getting a little crispy.
If you take them out too early (I tried taking them out at different times) they stay kind of mushy.
Cool on a rack and enjoy!!

As I contemplate my only child entering Middle School with the concomitant increased freedom and exposure regarding worldly foods and foibles, I am going to attempt to provide snacks in the lunch that will entice him to walk the straight and narrow – or narrow-ish.  It ain’t going to be easy my friends!  But my rapidly rising (in height, ability and attitude) 6th grader thought these cookies were awesome, so we’re off to a good start.