Category Archives: Whole Grain

Raspberry Stout Truffle Brownies

This post has nothing to do with brownies.  But by the end of it, I am probably going to want to bake a pan. (And maybe the interspersed pictures will make us all happier.)

I have been thinking a lot about empathy and tolerance in our world — specifically the lack of it.  I see it in war and conflict and politics.  I see it on Facebook every day among grown adults.  I see it in anonymous comments attached to posts or articles that make me sad and angry and sick.  I see it in my daughter’s class and with kids who are 8 or 9.  She tells me about kids making nasty comments about her food allergies (“Random Boy X told Random Boy Y to say that he had peanut butter for breakfast so they didn’t have to play with me.”)  She tells me about a boy who moved here from another country and is clumsy.  And how people make fun of him because of it.  I see my daughter’s sadness.  I can only imagine the other boy’s.

I think about gay children committing suicide because they feel like they have no hope of ever fitting in or being loved and accepted.  I see two other children — both of Asian descent — who are responsible at some level for another child jumping off a bridge.  Children who should know a thing or two about being considered “different” in this country.

I think about a pavilion full of Muslim women and children who were having a baby shower the other day when I was at the park with my son.  As the acorns fell on the pavilion roof and made shockingly loud bangs, my baby and I laughed and covered our heads.  I wondered if the other mothers thought about taking cover in a different way.

I think about myself.  It is probably with a huge dose of white girl privilege that I say I didn’t feel accepted in my mostly white, protestant, small town.  I was all of those things, but it wasn’t good enough.  I think about “friends” who caused pain like it was sport.  I think about the people I should have reached out to, if only I would have had enough strength to realize it was OK.  I think about who I might be if I would have embraced who I was, rather than fighting it at so many turns.  I wonder if I’m still doing it.

I think about what I need to teach my children.  I think about the grounding I need to give them so they have the courage to be good.  Soccer and piano, be damned.  The only thing I wish for my children is the strength to do right in the face of others who do not.  I hope that is enough.

Raspberry Stout Truffle Brownies

Makes 2 dozen large, or 3-4 dozen small

Brownie Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup good quality Stout Beer (I used Otto’s Black Mo Stout)
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Ganache Ingredients:
2 T unsalted butter
2 T heavy whipping cream
1-2 T good quality Stout beer
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 11×8-inch metal baking pan* with foil and grease with softened butter.

2.  Melt 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir in beer and raspberry preserves. When mixture is hot and begins to bubble, turn heat off and stir in 6 ounces of  chopped bittersweet chocolate until melted and well combined.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla for 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and slowly beat in melted and cooled chocolate mixture until well combined (make sure the chocolate mixture is cool enough so it doesn’t scramble the eggs!). Add in flour mixture until just combined. Don’t overmix.

5.  Pour batter into prepared dish. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-22 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

6.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath which will stop the brownies from cooking (and preserve that truffle-like interior) after you take them out of the oven.  To do this, fill a larger baking or roasting pan with ice cubes and water (no more than halfway filled up). If you don’t have a larger pan, maybe fill the sink with a bit of ice water.

7.  When brownies are done, remove from oven and place pan directly into ice bath.  Be sure the brownie pan is sitting on top of the ice or floating so the water doesn’t get into the brownies!  Cool the brownies in the ice water bath for at least 10-15 minutes and remove carefully. (See photo)

8.  While brownies are cooling, make the ganache.  To do this, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cream and Stout. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and stir in remaining 6 oz. of chopped chocolate until melted and smooth. Pour ganache over mostly cooled brownies, and smooth the surface, using a rubber spatula. Freeze the brownies until ganache is set, about 15 minutes.

9.  Cover tightly and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Lift the foil-lined brownies out of dish, and slice into bars using a sharp knife (peeling the foil away).  They are very rich (much like truffles), so I would suggest cutting them into small, almost bite-sized, pieces. (I made these a day ahead and stored them in the refrigerator — removing about an hour before serving.)

*You really need a metal baking dish for these brownies because a hot glass one will probably crack in the ice water bath.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

This post is brought to you by summer camp.  Sweet, sweet summer camp.

After several weeks of kids at home all day and attempts to get real work done late at night, I have a bit of breathing space.   And you’d think after cooking three meals a day for three weeks that I might have some recipes to show for it.  I probably would have — other than the fighting.  Oh man, the fighting and bickering and whining between siblings is almost too much to handle.  My older sisters alluded to this a few years ago with not-so-vague comments like “Just wait until they start to fight.”  These comments probably occurred (and went right around my perfection force field) as I was praising how much my children love each other, what a great big sister my daughter is, and how my son just looks adoringly at his sister all day long.  Right.

But now my son goes crazy when his sister sings.  Which is always.  And she goes crazy when he ruins her stuff.  Which is always.  They started out sort of like roommates.  You think the person is super cool because she brought BOTH a boom box and a microwave; and then you realize she has very bad body odor and you want to pummel her when she schmoopy talks to her boyfriend at night.  I guess all you can hope for is that by the end of the year, they end up going to a kicking party, have an “I love you man” moment, and are BFFs forever.

So if you are able, take a moment today to thank your mother for putting up with all of your annoying shit.  You can bet she considered leaving you alongside the road at some point in your childhood — though she’ll deny it.  You can also bet that when she enrolled you in clarinet camp, she was more interested in her sanity than in your music skills.  She’ll deny that too.  And just to shatter the rest of your childhood, she made chocolate chip cookies because she had PMS cravings.

Luckily, these cookies will both satisfy the cravings and quiet the children.  They use coconut oil, making them dairy free and giving them just a hint of coconut flavor.  They also have a bit more salt than I would normally use, giving them a touch of that perfect salty/sweet combination.  Chilling the dough will keep them taller and prevent them from spreading too much.  We used ours for cookie ice cream sandwiches one warm evening, which was pretty fantastic.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups of dark chocolate chunks or chips (from about 9 ounces of chocolate)

1.  Mix whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Using an electric mixer, cream the softened coconut oil with the brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs (one at a time) and mix until incorporated.  Add in vanilla extract and mix.

3.  Add about a third of the dry ingredients mixture to the coconut oil mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Repeat with remaining dry ingredients (1/3 at a time).  Do not overmix.  With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in chocolate chunks/chips until mixture is thoroughly combined.  Chill dough for 45 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Because they do tend to spread, I only put 9 on a single sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes until just golden.  Allow to cool for a minute or two and then transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough (keep dough in the refrigerator while baking other batches).  When completely cooled, store in an airtight container or freeze.

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

A few months ago, I decided to go off gluten.  While I haven’t been entirely faithful, I am still attempting to avoid it.  And like almost everything else, I am very bad at “all or nothing” eating.  I’m trying to eat less meat, but I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian because beans have nothing on a seared medallion of filet mignon. I’m trying to eat less dairy, but how the hell is one supposed to give up heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella? And I’m trying to eliminate sugar, but you can’t make caramel without it, so there goes that. And alcohol?  Oh yes, one can give up alcohol and live many more years. But as the old joke goes:  you don’t actually live longer, it just feels like it.

I guess I’m not cut out for strict regimens of anything.  I start feeling sorry for myself.

So I have a pantry and refrigerator full of supplies based on my abandoned “regimens du jour.”  Here’s the brown rice flour.  There’s the coconut milk.  Back there (in the way back) is the goat’s milk yogurt.

Oh, and there’s the quinoa flour!  Aside from being a kick-ass Scrabble word, what might one do with quinoa flour?  I did some reading and found out that it can generally be substituted 1:1 for normal wheat flour in baking (except if you are making a yeast-leavened product, because it has no gluten).  It intrigued me so I decided to figure out a cookie recipe that would utilize all quinoa flour and be very allergy friendly (especially for kids).

As usual, I cut back on the sugar tremendously, so this recipe is not overly sweet.  It is another one of those cookie recipes that is more health food than dessert.  But you could easily add more sugar if you wanted to.  And the end result is pretty darn good — and a great allergy-friendly treat because it contains no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, and no nuts.  It does have eggs, but I bet you could substitute each egg with 2 T water, 1 T oil, and 2 t baking powder (that’s the “egg” combo I used in baking when my daughter was allergic to eggs).  If anyone with egg allergies tries this, let me know how it turns out.  Also, I used cocoa nibs to keep the sugar down even more, but feel free to substitute with chocolate chips if you like.

One VERY interesting side note, however:  I stored these cookies in our cookie jar and when I got some out for the kids today, the interiors of the cookies were green!  I have seen pumpkin seeds create a green tinge in certain things, but this was really green.  I am wondering if it was a reaction with the quinoa or the cocoa nibs.  Green food coloring without the chemicals, perhaps!  The ones stored in the freezer were fine, so if you don’t want greenish cookies, try that.  The kids thought the green color was pretty funky, however.   Any food scientists out there who could explain this one to me?

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

Makes 18-24 cookies

1 cup sunbutter (I used crunchy — and any other nut/soy nut butter would work)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1/3 cup cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sunbutter with honey in a large bowl.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

2.  Combine salt, baking soda, and quinoa flour.  Stir into sunbutter mixture until just combined.

3.  Stir pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs into dough.

4.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Flatten slightly with a fork if you like.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until just done.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Apologies for the lentil salad meltdown and thanks to those who sent words of support.  Ham bones have a way of making me crazy. Or maybe it’s motherhood and children.  Who the hell knows.  Anyhoo.  Life goes on and we still need chocolate, right?  So, I shall stay strong and carry on and only drink vodka when I *really* need it.

Recently it was a little rainy and I needed something to hold over my kids’ heads to ensure good behavior I wanted to engage in a meaningful life skills activity with my children.  So we decided to bake cookies and I thought I’d make something up with all spelt flour to see how it turned out.  I have done a lot of baking with sprouted spelt flour, but have rarely used it as a 100% wheat flour replacement in a recipe.

We decided to do a chocolate and coffee cookie with a creamy, sweet glaze to replicate some sort of 1000 calorie creation at Starbucks.  Except we used all sprouted spelt flour and cut back on the sugar.  And instead of hipster music, we listened to Hall and Oates.  Can I mention how much I have enjoyed listening to them lately?  It is an odd phenomenon and I attribute it to being almost 38.

The spelt flour actually worked quite well.  The cookie was moist and slightly cakey — partially due to the spelt, I think, but also because we used a lot less sugar than a normal cookie recipe.  They reminded me of a coffee- scented, cakey Oreo with a nice kick from the sea salt.  And that’s a pretty good combination as far I am concerned.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Note:  I didn’t do it, but I think that adding some chocolate chips or chunks would be delicious.

Makes 2-3 dozen

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sprouted spelt flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
2 T espresso powder

Glaze:

1 cup of powdered sugar, thinned with heavy cream until glaze consistency

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sprouted spelt flour, cocoa, baking soda, sea salt, and espresso powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.  Cream together with brown sugar and honey for 1-2 minutes.  One at a time, add eggs and mix well.

3.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir with a spatula to finish mixing and make sure the flour is completely incorporated.

4.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 8-9 minutes until just done.  Let cool for one minute and remove to racks to cool completely.

5.  While cookies are baking/cooling, mix glaze and drizzle over cooled cookies.  Let harden a bit and then store in a sealed container or in the freezer.

Cocoa Butter Chocolate Chunk Brownie Cookies

Recently, my brother in law who works for a chocolate company (unnamed, of course — that’s how we do it here) asked me if I would ever have any interest in getting my hands on cocoa butter or chocolate liquor. Thinking that maybe I could give myself a massage and get drunk on chocolate, I said yes of course.  I really have never known cocoa butter to be anything more than a remedy for pregnant belly stretch marks — but I thought it might be interesting to fool around with it.

So I commenced with The Google and found out that it was used pretty infrequently in mainstream cooking and baking. Cocoa butter was used to make chocolate and sometimes in truffles or the like, but I rarely saw it used in anything else.  I’m guessing the main reason is that it is hard to find and more expensive — but given the interest in plant-based, vegan fats, it seems like it might catch on.  It is a bit harder at room temperature than coconut oil, but it softens up or melts quite nicely.  And, of course, it imparts a wonderful essence of chocolate — which is great when you want a non-animal fat and aren’t in the mood for essence of coconut in all of your baked goods.

Beyond, it seems purely luxurious, doesn’t it?  The idea of pure cocoa butter in a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert seems, well, pretty awesome.  And then if you stuff that cookie full of melted dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chunks, and white chocolate chunks?  Well, send me to my room and draw the blinds.  These cookies will not disappoint.  And while I tried to stay sane (I used a bit of whole wheat flour), I didn’t cut back on the sugar because I knew I would lose the amazing brownie chewiness if I did.  Feel free to experiment with less — but this is the one time (OK, maybe one of four or five times) of the year that you need to eat a cookie the way it was meant to be eaten.

Commence with the drooling.  And if you want a source for food grade cocoa butter (and don’t have a brother in law), try here.  The cocoa nibs are generally available in a chocolate store, a good grocery store, or gourmet store.  I should add that if you can’t find cocoa butter, I am sure regular butter would be a perfectly delicious substitute.  It just wouldn’t be cocoa butter.  And on Valentine’s Day, how fun would that be?

Cocoa Butter Chocolate Chunk Brownie Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet dark chocolate, chopped
6 T cocoa butter (regular butter or coconut oil would work also), softened
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 t instant espresso powder
2 t vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a double boiler, melt together 8 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and cocoa butter until completely smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.

2.  In a bowl, sift and mix together white whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl with a mixer, mix together espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs until just combined.  Add white and brown sugar and mix for about two minutes until the mixture is very thick and ribbony.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in melted chocolate mixture.  Add in flour mixture and fold until just combined.

4.  Stir in cocoa nibs and chocolate chunks.  After a minute of two, the mixture will stiffen up considerably and will seem almost like the texture of fudge.

5.  Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto parchment lined baking sheets.  I would not put more than six cookies on one sheet because they spread.  Bake for 15-16 minutes until just done on top with a crackly crust.  If you use more than one cookie sheet at a time, I would recommend switching the sheets midway through the baking time.

(BTW, Valentines pictured are courtesy of my daughter who was busy at work assembling them during our snow day today.)

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies

So I was talking to a mother the other day and she mentioned that her 1 year old daughter had tested positive for anemia (actually at a severe level) while at a routine check up.  We haven’t signed HIPAA forms here at Cuizoo, so I can’t name names, but suffice it to say that she was freaked out and a little dumbfounded by the diagnosis. And as with many childhood medical situations, the pediatrician was rather matter of fact about it and forgot that MOTHERS FREAK THE F**K OUT when told something like this.  She was sent off with some rushed instructions about supplements and a two second statement about feeding the child dark leafy greens.

It instantly reminded me of when my daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies.  The pediatrician gave us the test results, told me they were life threatening, and sent us on our way with an Epi-Pen prescription. And I was like, I’M FREAKING THE F**K OUT here and you are already next door checking on Timmy’s whooping cough.

At that point, I had very few friends who had kids (and no one with experience with food allergies) so I was pretty much on my own trying to figure out what to feed a child who couldn’t consume dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, or nuts.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), I became a specialist when it came to limited or special diets for children — which has been a good thing because I get questions from people needing advice on a daily basis.

When the unnamed person told me about the anemia, I started searching for iron-rich foods that wouldn’t require the child to chew on meat and bones all day long.  I told her that I would come up with a reasonably healthy, toddler-friendly snack that would be super rich in iron.  I decided to go the pumpkin and white bean route because they are great sources of iron — and what I ended up with is a great kid’s treat (that adults will probably enjoy too).  It is a very cakey and tender cookie and it definitely passed my kids’ taste test.  It could actually almost be a breakfast bar on the go if you skip the white chocolate (or don’t . . . your choice).

And if your family is not eating as much meat as you used to, it’s also good to remember iron levels for non-anemic children (and adults).  Legumes and dark leafy greens are great sources — and actually it seems like you can’t go wrong integrating them both into your diet for many reasons.   I ran this recipe through a nutritional analysis and it came back pretty strong with each cookie having 120 calories, 4 grams of fat (could easily cut back on that further by using applesauce), 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 4% of your daily Calcium, 20% of your daily Vitamin A, and 10% of your daily Iron.

And it seems to me that getting a one year old to eat one of these is going to be a hell of a lot easier than a bowl full of spinach.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/2 cup of butter, softened (1 stick, could replace at least half with applesauce if watching fat)
1/2 cup of honey*
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup of white bean puree (approximately one 15 ounce can pureed with 1/8 cup of water)
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup of old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds (finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)
1/2 cup of small white chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (Optional.  But once again, finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  Cream softened butter and honey together until light and fluffy.  Add in egg and mix well. Add in egg yolk and mix well again. Add in white bean puree and pumpkin puree and mix until incorporated.

3.  Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix until just barely combined.

4.  Finish mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, white chocolate chips/chunks, and dried fruit (if using).

5.  Drop by the tablespoon full onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 11-12 minutes until just golden.  Let cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes and then cool fully on racks.  (Can store in a tightly covered tin or freeze.)

*Remember that honey should not be given to children under one year of age.  You can substitute sugar or maple syrup for the younger crowd.

Whole Grain Orange Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Am I the only one who *hates* making cut out sugar cookies?  They are just so fussy.  And there is no instant gratification — make the dough, chill the dough, roll the dough, chill the dough, cut the cookies, re-roll the dough, bake the cookies, cut some more cookies, chill the freaking dough again, remove the cookies, cool the cookies, decorate the cookies.  I am just so much happier with a drop cookie that can be mixed and baked and thrown into the freezer before the children eat everything meant for Santa.

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In a different life, I think I might have been an OK chef … but pastry chef?  No way.  I am way too impatient, way too rammy, and definitely not into precision work.  I can do big bold flavors and I can make just about anything taste good, but I am not one for being meticulous — which would have made me a terrible surgeon too. Actually what would make me a terrible surgeon is my penchant for having panic attacks every time I’m in a hospital-like area.

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So, here’s a recipe for one of my favorite drop cookies.  This year I made them whole grain and cut back on the sugar a bit.  They are delicately flavored with orange zest and then drizzled with chocolate.  And they are fabulous for breakfast with a cup of coffee or on a platter for Santa.  You will find them right next to the cut out cookies.  Because you know I’m going to get guilted into making them anyway.

Whole Grain Orange Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup oats (not quick cooking)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 cup, plus 2 T butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup molasses
Zest of one large orange
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t orange extract
5-6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Mix together sugar, oats, flour, and baking powder.  Add in melted butter, milk, honey, molasses, orange zest, vanilla extract, and orange extract.  Stir until well blended and let dough sit while oven preheats (5-10 minutes)

3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop dough in heaping teaspoons.  You will not want more than 6 cookies on a traditional baking sheet because they spread considerably. Flatten and smooth your heaping teaspoons of dough into circles.

4.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until golden.  They will get very crispy as the cool.

5.  When cookies are cooled, melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cookies.  Allow chocolate to harden and store cookies in refrigerator or freezer.

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Whole Grain Whirligig Cookies

When my grandmother died, I was lucky enough to receive a few of her hand written recipe cards.  They were divided up among the family and I got a handful that included many cookie recipes.  Of course, there are about five different ones for sugar cookies and I still don’t think I have her exact recipe.  I have never successfully recreated hers — which are drop sugar cookies and cakey rather than chewy.  And even if she had written it down, it probably would have said something to the effect of “Cream some butter with sugar and eggs.  Add a few handfuls of flour, a spoonful of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Bake in a medium hot oven for as long as it takes.”  Exact recipes were not her thing.

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While I was figuring out which Christmas cookies to bake, one recipe that caught my eye was called “Whirligig Cookies.”  At first, I thought the name indicated that these were pantry cleaning cookies — because in my family, the corner lazy susan cabinets were always called “whirligigs.”  And of course, that’s where all the baking supplies were usually kept in the days before giant walk in pantries.  But who knows — they are a pinwheel/jelly roll style cookie, so maybe that’s how they got their name.

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In the end, I don’t really even remember her making these, but they sounded interesting so I gave it a try.  I substituted sunflower seed butter for peanut butter (b/c of our peanut allergies), white whole wheat flour for the all purpose, and cut the sugar in half.  You could obviously use regular peanut butter and regular flour if you like — and feel free to up the sugar to 1 cup of each brown and white sugars.  It’s Christmas time baby.

Whole Grain Whirligig Cookies

Makes about three dozen large cookies

1 cup of butter, softened (two sticks)
1/2 cup sugar (can use up to one cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar (can use up to one cup)
1 cup of sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and sunflower seed butter together with an electric mixer for about two minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at at time, and beat until incorporated.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3.  In about 2-3 additions, add flour mixture to butter mixture — mixing only until just incorporated.  Finish mixing with a spatula or wooden spoon. Put finished cookie dough in the fridge for a few minutes.

4. Meanwhile, over low heat or in a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Let cool slightly.

5.  Remove dough from fridge and place on a large sheet of parchment paper.  Using either a rolling pin (it helped to oil my rolling pin a bit) or just patting it with your hands, flatten into a 12×14 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  This is cookie dough, so be a little gentle with it because it is very tender.

6.   Pour most of melted chocolate on top of dough rectangle and spread evenly over entire surface.  Use more if needed (it will depend on the size of your final rectangle).

7.  Using the parchment paper to help, carefully roll up the dough rectangle jelly roll style in order to make one large “log.”  (Warning:  this will be messy and chocolate will probably ooze out.  Just be gentle while you are rolling it up and attempt to wrap it with the seam side down.)  Wrap parchment around it and place in fridge for 45 minutes to an hour, until dough and chocolate have hardened.

8.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Remove dough from fridge and, using a very sharp knife, cut into 1/3 inch slices (or as thick as you want them).  Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay the slices on it cut side up.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until just barely golden.  Do not overbake or they will dry out.

(Alternatively, you can cut your large rectangle of dough into two skinny rectangles if you want smaller cookies.  As is, these cookies turn out rather large (about 3 inches across).

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Super Fluffy Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

I usually steer clear of pancakes.  They are just not my bag, baby.  I am sure when I was a child that was different — as children tend to subsist on the “elven” food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup).  But now that I am older, I am quite happy with an egg and a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast.  Of course, the kids still clamor for pancakes frequently.  They just don’t see the beauty of an over easy egg.

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So I make them quite often.  But I have rules.  First, you must only use real maple syrup.  The other stuff is disgusting and not at all maple.  And I am *not* sorry if I just offended you.  We probably wouldn’t have been close anyway.  (OK.  So I am sort of joking.  I love lots of people who use fake maple syrup.  But I would love them more if they didn’t.)  Second, they must be whole grain.  If we are going to have dessert for breakfast (come on, you know that’s what it is), it is at least going to be a little healthier.  Third, pancakes do not come from a boxed mix.  Seriously, by the time you measure it out and add liquid, you could have made them from scratch.  Maybe Beef Wellington might benefit from a convenience mix.  But pancakes??  And fourth, they will not be made of lead.  Even white flour pancakes tend to be heavy and make you feel like you need a nap.  So, what we make is going to be fluffy, dammit.

Re-reading that last paragraph makes me sound like the Pancake Nazi, doesn’t it?  It’s true enough, actually, because I do support health care reform.

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So, this is our go to recipe for whole wheat pancakes.  It was modified from a recipe in the landmark cookbook by … Strawberry Shortcake.  Yes, the cartoon character.  I am not sure if cartoon characters require attribution, but I’m going to play by the rules.  In this version, we made banana pancakes.  You could just as easily leave the bananas out, add chocolate chips, use apples or blueberries, etc.  However you make them though, they will puff up and come alive like Frankenstein (who also supports health care reform, I believe — however his take is different than Stalin’s because he is a proponent of a triggered public option).

Enjoy.

Super Fluffy Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Serves 4-6

2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
5 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 T sugar or honey
2 eggs
2 cups of milk
3 T melted butter
Sliced bananas (or other add-ins)
Vegetable oil or butter to grease your pan or griddle

1.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a medium bowl.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Add in the melted butter.  (If you use honey instead of sugar, add it here with the wet ingredients, rather than with the dry ones.)

3.  Whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time — until the pancake batter just comes together.  Don’t over mix.

4.  Pour a ladleful of batter onto a preheated and greased griddle (at about medium heat — each pancake surface is different and you know what temp is best probably).  Lay a few banana slices on pancake batter and allow pancake to cook until golden on the first side.  Flip and and cook until golden on second side.  And as anyone who makes pancakes knows, the first batch is usually the worst.  Save those for the people who don’t like real maple syrup.

5.  Remove pancakes from heat and stack on plate while you cook the remaining ones.  Serve with plenty of butter and REAL maple syrup.

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Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

So, last week we were fortunate enough to be among the Pennsylvania residents who received the earliest October snowfall on record.  And not only did we end up with about 5 inches of snow (a day or so after our first frost of the season), we had major trees down and power outages because of the weight of the snow on the tree leaves.

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Luckily, we were only without power for about eight hours (many were without for three days or more).  By the evening, all we had to do was enjoy the fireplace and some impromptu company for a snow day dinner.  Did I forget to mention that school was even cancelled?  Nothing like recording your first snow day in mid October.

Because I am a lazy, lazy woman, I refused to go out of the house to pick up any ingredients to make dessert.  And I quickly realized that I was completely out of butter.  This does not generally make for a very good dessert.  I improvised with coconut oil and pretended it was because I was trying to be healthier.  The rest of the ingredients were luckily sitting around — apples, apple cider, and some basic staples.  I call these dumplings “almost vegan” because I made them with honey and cow’s milk — which are clearly not vegan (although some vegans debate the use of honey).  However, you could easily substitute those ingredients with agave nectar or sugar for the honey and soy milk or your choice of milk substitute.

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And if you are in no mood to be healthy, you could reverse engineer them with butter.  Especially if you don’t have to put boots on to go get it.  I would say that the one thing you wouldn’t want to change is the freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg — you will not believe the difference.  I have a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for “sweet” spices and the end result is unlike anything you have ever tasted pre-ground.

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Almost Vegan Whole Grain Apple Dumplings

Serves 8-10

For the apple mixture:
4 apples (I used a softer baking apple, but any will do), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
3 T coconut oil, melted
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or 1 t pre-ground), freshly ground in a spice grinder
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the pastry:
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 cup coconut oil, at room temperature or chilled (in a hardened state)
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1 cup milk (can easily substitute with soy milk, etc.)

For the sauce:
1 3/4 cups apple cider
1 cup honey or agave nectar

Plus additional milk for brushing tops of dumplings

1.  Make the apple mixture by combining the 1/2 cup of honey and 3 T of melted coconut oil.  Toss with chopped apples and combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, and breadcrumbs.  Set aside.

2.  Make the pastry by placing pastry flour, baking powder, and salt in a a food processor.  Pulse a few times.  Add in 3/4 cup of coconut oil and process until it looks like a fine meal, with no large lumps of coconut oil remaining.  Add in honey and milk and pulse until just combined.  Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead a few times until it comes together as dough.  (It will feel a bit like cookie dough — it is somewhat fragile.)

3.  Make sauce by combining apple cider and 1 cup of honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let cook for about 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.

4.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Flatten pastry dough into a square shape and gently roll out (leaving it on the parchment paper) into about a 12 inch by 12 inch square.  It should be about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut that square into 9 smaller squares (a 3×3 matrix).

5.  To assemble a dumpling:  take one pastry square, flatten it a bit more, and place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture in the center of the square.  Bring each corner of the pastry square over top the apples to the center.  Place the dumpling into the palm of your hand to firm up any cracks on the bottom and seal the dough to the top of the apples.  Repeat with remaining dough and apples.

6.  Place dumplings into a greased baking pan (I used a 11×14 pyrex), leaving a little space between them.  Brush the tops of the dumplings with milk.  (Can refrigerate at this point until ready to bake and serve.)

7.  When ready to bake (you will want to serve them somewhat warm), pour apple cider sauce around the base of the dumplings.  Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes until golden and the sauce is bubbly and nicely absorbed into the dumplings.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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