Did She Say Chickpeas AND Chocolate?! (GF,V)

We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap.  The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion.  While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us.  She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix.  We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.

IMG_9838Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you).  I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome.  What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading

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!

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.