Tag Archives: chocolate

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed “No Nuts Nutella”

Might I tear you away from Pinterest for a few moments so you can read this post?  I know you are getting ready to french braid your hair (sideways) and need to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for those bacon and cinnamon roll muffins and are in the middle of building that new wrapping paper storage system, but take a few moments to look elsewhere.  No.  Don’t click “See More Pins.”   I realize you need to print out that 30 day training regimen — because who wouldn’t want an ass like that?  But trust me, you don’t know what a burpee is.  Nor do you want to.  I did them.

And the boots.  I need those boots and those jeans and that sweater. And I want to have only matching accessories that show a little pop of coordinated color.  I want to think about what I wear before I put it on, instead of throwing on jeans, a turtleneck, and clogs as I run out the door to pick up the children.

It’s like a dream world, isn’t it?  It’s the world without problems.  It’s all exotic vacations and beautiful food and lovely bodies without back fat.  It’s houses where the piles of school papers have a logical home that isn’t the front seat of your car.  It’s houses with style and matching interiors with themes — rather than a mishmash of your parents’ furniture and stuff you bought from IKEA.  It’s backyards with fireplaces, rather than snow or weeds or neighbors with annoying dogs.  It’s thinking about life using inspirational sayings and being strong in who you are, rather than being small and weak and petty and insecure.

And I guess that’s why it is a tremendous escape.  Life isn’t nearly as pretty.  It has bad weather and cancer diagnoses and health scares and employees who are inspired by the petty rather than the positive.  It has crime and moral failings and budget cuts and terrifying thoughts.  It has self destructive behavior and asses with cellulite.  And waistlines with stretch marks and closets that aren’t dedicated to crafting.   It has kids who puke in the car on those same school papers — that were supposed to be returned last week.

Can we all just cut the crap with the need to have perfection? None of us live it.  Even the people who you think do.  They don’t.  The “strongest” among us are insecure.  The most “beautiful” among us feel ugly. And those people who you think serve only beautiful food (maybe me?) also make instant Jell-O Pudding.  I did just last week.  And you know what? It’s freaking easy.

And sometimes the world around you requires easy in the times of ugly.

But yesterday I took a little time and made this homemade “Nutella” (driven mostly by the fact that I felt guilty that I haven’t posted anything here in a long time … and we can’t have the real stuff due to my daughter’s severe nut allergies).  While on my no carb eating plan, I had a big dollop on a piece of toast.  I licked the spatula multiple times and ate a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk.  It is as delicious as I remember it.  And then I served leftovers for dinner, had two glasses of wine, and passed out on the couch playing Words with Friends.  My husband and I talked for a long time about some intense situations he is dealing with.  We came up with no answers — but a lot more worry.  I later realized that we forgot to pay an important bill.  And my kids didn’t go to sleep until almost 9:30.  I woke up this morning feeling anxious for no good reason.

Or maybe it was for a lot of good reasons.  Reasons that come from not only the ugly of the world, but the ugly that we put upon ourselves.

Enjoy the “Nutella.”

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed “Nutella”

Makes about one pint

1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled (you could also use sunflower seeds, or a mix)
2 T vegetable oil
4 ounces dark chocolate
4 T butter
2 t vanilla extract
3-4 T sweetened condensed milk
1/8 cup of milk, warmed
1/2 salt

1.  Place toasted pumpkin seeds in the food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add 2 T vegetable oil in a steady stream while machine is still running.  Continue to process the seeds for about 3 or 4 minutes — until they become like a nut butter consistency.  You should scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything gets incorporated.

2.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together.  Add in the vanilla extract.

3.  Add the chocolate mixture to the pumpkin seed mixture along with 3 T condensed milk and salt.  Process for a few seconds.  Taste and add more condensed milk if you like it a little sweeter.  It may become very thick at this point.  That’s OK.

4.  Remove to a bowl and whisk in warmed milk, a tablespoon or so at a time until your “Nutella” is the desired consistency.  Store in the refrigerator.  Serve on toast, use for baking, or melt to top ice cream.

 

 

Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Sunbutter Mousse Frosting

I am having a hard time listening to my own voice lately.  The words are all the same … “Eat over your plate, please. Do not get in the pool until your sunscreen is on.  Why did you just get in the pool without sunscreen? It’s not too hot. It’s summer.  Don’t come back inside.  You are not bored.  No, we can’t get donuts.  Get along.  I have no idea what we’re having for dinner.  And I don’t know when it will be ready.  Clean up the Playmobil or I’m throwing it away. Hang up your towel.  Hang up your bathing suit.   No, we are not watching TV.  If that little asshole spraying us with the water cannon doesn’t stop, I’m going to lose my shit.”

Well maybe I just *thought* the last one.  OK, I actually said it out loud just yesterday, but it was under my breath.

But I’m doing this all without beer, people.  Because, once again, I am not eating/drinking gluten and wheat (with the exception of a few I couldn’t turn down).  And it’s working — miraculously, or perhaps, predictably — and my sinuses and ears have never felt better.  I won’t bore you with the boring details though.

I haven’t done much gluten-free baking and was a little overwhelmed with the combination of flours and ingredients that one must use in order to approximate wheat flour.  Sorghum, potato, corn, xanthan gum … just not your normal pantry ingredients.  I’m starting to stock up, but I really liked the idea of a one flour, whole grain solution when I saw a chocolate cupcake recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa Flour.  I’m sure I’ll get into the science experiments eventually (when I have  a huge pantry), but for now I’m going to try to keep it simple.

Beyond, I’d prefer to take a more whole foods approach to gluten-free.  As much as I like some of the substitute products, some of the ingredient lists are terrifying.   The cookies might be good, but I think we learned our lesson with Snackwells, didn’t we?  These cupcakes utilize only quinoa flour, which is a complete protein and closer to a vegetable than a grain.  I’ve modified the recipe to include chocolate chips and frosted them with a sunbutter mousse frosting.   The texture is great and I think the quinoa flavor (which can be somewhat stronger than normal flour) is tamed by the chocolate.

And I do appreciate the irony of discussing healthy foods as I type up a recipe for cupcakes with chocolate, butter, cream cheese, sunbutter, and sugar.  It’s still not every day food — but it’s an improvement. And forgive me, a girl needs a good chocolate treat when she’s not drinking beer.

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Sunbutter Mousse Frosting

Cupcake recipe modified from Bob’s Red Mill

Makes one dozen with some leftover frosting

Cupcakes:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups quinoa flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup of chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-8 ounce package of light cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
6 T butter, softened
1/2 cup Sunbutter (or other nut butter of your choice)
1 t vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin or cupcake tin with twelve paper liners (or grease well).

2.  In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and water over medium heat, stirring until melted together.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder.

3.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add in the cocoa mixture along with the two egg yolks, the vanilla, and the sour cream.  Mix batter until combined well.  Stir in chocolate chips.

4.  In a separate medium bowl, beat the two egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the cupcake batter with a rubber spatula.  You want it to be well combined, but you don’t want the egg whites to deflate too much.

5.  Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners, making each cupcake about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 15 minutes until nicely puffed and crackly on top.

6.  While cupcakes are baking and/or cooling, make the frosting by creaming together the butter, sunbutter, and cream cheese until well mixed using an electric mixer.  Add in the powdered sugar and mix slowly until incorporated and then turn up to high and mix until very light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

 

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

I remember being in about 3rd or 4th grade and getting a C in handwriting.  I was crushed.  The only grades that ever graced my report card were A’s.  But something about cursive writing wasn’t clicking with me.  My handwriting was ugly and awkward and certainly not the least bit artistic.  I received C’s in only two other courses during school:  1) Home Economics (during the sewing unit, which is not at all surprising considering I still can’t figure out how to thread my machine) and 2) Gym (during the basketball unit, which is not surprising considering I could only make 3 out of 10 free throws — a skill [or lack thereof] that thankfully hasn’t affected me in life . . . yet.)

I can distinctly recall bringing home that report card while my grandmother, Grace, was visiting.  We talked about it and she quickly told me that it didn’t matter.  This was crazy talk, from my vantage point.  She told me how her father once said to her that everyone develops their own unique brand of handwriting, and that making it perfectly beautiful according to one person’s definition was not only impossible, but not the least bit interesting.  I am blessed to still have my grandmother in my life at 96 years old.  Arthritis has crippled her imperfectly beautiful, but truly unique, handwriting — but I still get a chance to talk with her and that it something I treasure.

My mom recently gave me a stack of her recipe cards and I studied them for nearly an hour.  There were clues in that handwriting somewhere.  I could imagine any one of those cards being out on the counter when I was visiting her as a toddler. I could imagine her writing recipes down in her old house.  I could imagine her pulling them all out in anticipation of Christmas, or just a weekend visit.

And I didn’t have to imagine the memories of her making many of the recipes — I can remember coming into her kitchen at breakfast time as she was pulling her special meringue cookies out of a cold oven — a cold oven with a heavy door.  They were like a magic trick — you put them in a hot oven, turn it off, go to bed, and wake up to beautifully crusty meringues with a somewhat creamy interior, loaded with chocolate chips.

When I see in the recipe that she says to line a baking “tin” with wax paper, I remember she had the coolest wall mounted wrap dispenser that had three (I think) covered segments that held paper towels, foil, and wax paper.  Each one had its own little door and cutting edge.  I remember her glass jars (some of which I have on top of my cabinets now) filled with spices, and especially cinnamon heart candies.  I remember her geranium out front and the seemingly mile-long hallway to her bedroom.  I remember making paper dolls to count the days down until my parents would return from a trip.  I remember her making trip activity books with cryptoquips and crossword puzzles (that she would make herself) and riddles for me to solve.  I remember going to painting class with her and trying to be an artist — a skill she had, that I did not.  And I remember sitting with her at the piano and getting giddy with excitement as she would play Scott Joplin.

But mostly, I remember her telling me that I was me and that was the only person I ever had to be.  Eventually, my handwriting went from awful, to beautiful, and back to awful again — it seems now I am always too rushed to make perfectly formed letters.  But I think about those physical artifacts and wonder if reading a blog post will ever substitute for holding a grandmother’s recipe in your hands, studying the words that she wrote, and seeing yourself in her life.

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

A few notes:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, but I found 1/2 cup to be plenty.  Also, she always used regular chocolate chips, but I used white chocolate for a nice all white appearance.  Both are delicious.  And one food safety note, I am not a food scientist so I am not sure if these get cooked hard enough to eliminate Salmonella.  As with any dish where eggs are gently cooked, please only use the freshest eggs from responsible farms and take care to not serve to those who might be very young/old or immune-suppressed if Salmonella is a concern.

Makes about two dozen

2 egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet, mini chips are nice too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gradually beat in sugar until the mixture is very glossy and holding nice, stiff peaks.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips.

4.  Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place into hot oven.  Immediately turn the oven off and leave overnight, or at least 6 hours.  Remove and store in a tightly sealed container.

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.

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.)

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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Black Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I have a hypothesis about cookies.  No one hates them.  Sure, we all love certain types better than others — but in a land without back fat, would you ever *really* want to turn down a cookie?  I am thinking no.  And I have come to realize that I can use this fact to make my children eat just about anything.  Things they would never normally eat can be put in a cookie and (to them) taste like a french fried chicken nugget dipped in chocolate sauce with a side of cotton candy.

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So my daughter hates black beans.  And white beans.  And kidney beans.  She has declared that she hates beans in general, but I have had to remind her that she loves lima beans, green beans, soy beans, and cocoa beans.  As I have mentioned before, there is always crying if I she finds out we are having a bean-based dinner.  So when a friend mentioned she had a recipe for a lentil cookie, I started thinking about the concept.  We recently had a free afternoon and I decided to give it a try.  I didn’t have any lentils in the house, so I decided to do a black bean chocolate cookie.

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I wanted to make something that could legitimately be considered an after school snack — including some protein, lower in sugar and fat, and whole grain — but in cookie form so the kiddos felt like they were having something special. What we ended up with was quite good, and the bean hater had no clue what the secret ingredient was until she asked for her second helping.  I am going to continue to play around with the recipe and plan to try some other basic cookies with white bean or lentil puree in them.  Give it a try and let me know if you come up with some good combinations or proportions.

Black Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 2-3 dozen

1-15 oz. can of black beans, drained, rinsed, and pureed with 1/8 cup of water
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
6 T butter, softened
1/2 cup of honey (or agave nectar or sugar of your choice)
1 egg
2 t vanilla extract
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Mix together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream together butter and honey for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add egg and incorporate well.  Mix in vanilla extract.

3.  Add black bean puree and cooled melted chocolate to butter mixture and mix well.

4.  Mix dry ingredients into the chocolate/black bean mixture in about three additions until cookie dough just comes together.  Finish mixing with a wooden spoon.

5.  Stir in chocolate chunks and drop by tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake at 375 F for about 8-10 minutes.  (Don’t overbake or they will get dry.)

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Whole Grain Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Ganache

I often say that my first born daughter made me realize I was destined to be a mother — but my second born son made me delight in the role.  As with most women, I suppose, I had a hard time adjusting to motherhood.  You know the drill — the nursing, the lack of sleep, the caring, the balancing with working, the cleaning.  But also, the solitary confinement.  The worry.  The feeling of being solely responsible for so much.  The desire to go and do — but the struggle to actually go and do whatever it is you used to go and do.  The anger and resentment toward my husband who went and did.

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When they say that becoming a mother is like having your heart walk around outside of your body, they do not lie.  I felt that way about my daughter from the minute she showed up in my world.  My love for her was like nothing I ever knew.  But for the first few years, I was stressed in my new role as a mother.  It was difficult and I was not prepared for anything other than unicorns and rainbows.

Things eased up a bit when I was thankfully able to quit my job (my baby girl was 3).  Being able to focus solely on her was a huge blessing and a major relief.  It made me feel like I was actually able to be a good mother. And please don’t go all “mommy wars” on me here — this is only my experience and there are many tremendous working mothers.  But for me, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.  When I was working, I felt like I couldn’t do anything well because my attention was so divided.  When I became a full time mom, I finally felt like I could be good at something again — and my personality thrives on feeling proud of the job that I am doing, regardless of what it is.

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And I think this confidence made me feel like I could have a second baby.  When I became pregnant, I felt like I was prepared for it all.  I knew the drill.  And in some ways, I did.  But, I was wholly unprepared for how my second baby would make me feel as a mother.  He made my feel like we had a complete family.  My baby boy made me delight in my role as a mother.  It felt natural.  And rather than stressing about how much work it all was, I found a way to enjoy the little moments — by now knowing how fleeting they all were.

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So, last week my baby boy turned three.  Maxy, my Star Wars loving, chocolate eating-dare devil, you have made our family complete and we love you so much.  Thank you for making me a better mother.  I hope you liked your chocolate birthday cake.

Here’s the recipe. It’s whole grain, light on sugar, and even the ganache is relatively healthy — not that you should really care about these things on a birthday.

Whole Grain Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Ganache

Makes a two layer cake and enough ganache to glaze the cake (with some leftover for ice cream)

Cake:

5 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar (can use up to 2 cups if you want)
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream (not low fat)
1 cup boiling water

Ganache:

18 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%, but use whatever you like — even cream if you want)
4 T butter
Pinch of salt
1/8 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  Line with parchment cut to fit the bottom of the cake pans.  Butter the parchment paper.

2.  Melt the 5 oz. of chopped chocolate and allow to cool slightly.

3.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4.  In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.  Add brown sugar and cream for 1-2 minutes.

5.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix for 1-2 minutes more.  Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract.

6.  Mix in one third of the flour mixture, followed by one third of the sour cream.  Repeat with additional flour and sour cream (adding in one thirds).  Do not overmix at this point.

7.  Stir in boiling water and mix until smooth.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 24-26 minutes until a tester comes out just barely done.  Do not overbake.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes on a rack and then remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on rack.

8.  For ganache:  In a large sauce pan over low heat, melt together the 18 oz. chocolate, milk, butter, salt, and cinnamon.  When completely smooth, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Let cool until almost room temperature and slightly thickened, but still pourable.  Pour over cake layers when cake is completely cool, allowing it to fall over edge to glaze sides.  Let ganache cool and harden before serving.

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Whole Grain Dark Chocolate and Dried Cherry Biscotti

If I were to make a list of things that change when you have kids, trips to the coffee shop wouldn’t even make the top 25. Because pretty much every thing you do as a human being during the course of a day is impacted by children.  Eating, sleeping, working, cooking, going to the bathroom, vacations, cleaning, driving, restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, shopping, exercising … the list could go on for, umm, days.  I really wish someone would have told me that children change everything.  Oh wait, they did.

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But I do think back to those unencumbered trips for a cup of coffee when I could read the newspaper or think about a project without breaking up fights and cleaning up spilled hot chocolate.  And I have come to realize that your fellow coffee shop patrons will dread the sight of you walking in with children because their blissful, quiet newspaper reading is about to come to an end.  And so, you have four options:  1) Say “I don’t effin’ care” and take the kids anyway, 2) Give up trips to the coffee shop, 3) Only patronize coffee shops with drive thrus (I’m a big fan of coffee shops with drive thrus), or 4) Bring the coffee shop home.

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Number four makes sense, actually.  At home, the cost of the coffee is actually in line with, umm, the price of coffee — as opposed to some sort of liquid golden petroleum that cures cancer.  Your kids can run free around the house and watch Dora or color on your walls — so no dirty looks from the kidless crowd.  You can use fair trade, organic coffees with local or organic milk.  You can use your own wireless for free.  You don’t have to pretend to enjoy that random Latin Jazz artist.  And you can make your own biscotti where you control the ingredients!

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So, while I still have no ability to make a heart in my foamed milk, I can make a pretty decent biscotti.  This one is whole grain with additional wheat germ and ground flax, lightly sweetened with honey, and studded with dark chocolate and dried cherries.  I don’t like my biscotti to make me feel like I am going to break a tooth, so I keep mine more on the tender side.  But if you like them harder, you can cut them thinner and/or bake them longer.

I can’t promise you that the coffee experience will be the same as the days before kids, but the biscotti will be a lot better.

Whole Grain Dark Chocolate and Dried Cherry Biscotti

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (from about 6 oz. of chocolate)
3-4 oz. additional dark chocolate, melted (optional for dipping after biscotti are cooked)

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, ground flax, wheat germ, salt, and baking powder.

3.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together butter and honey for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one a time and mix until incorporated.  Add vanilla extract and mix.

4.  Mix dry ingredients (flour, etc.) into butter mixture in about three separate additions.  Mix until just combined and then switch to a wooden spoon or spatula.  Stir in cherries and dark chocolate.

5.  Shape cookie dough into a flattened 4 inch by 12 inch log.  Try to square it off on the ends and keep it uniform in thickness.

6.  Bake the log for 30 minutes until just golden.  Remove from oven, slide log (on parchment) onto a cooling rack, and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

7.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.  Carefully transfer the log to a cutting board (Man, I wish I could come up with a better term than log.  It is starting to seem obscene.).  Using a very sharp knife, slice into 3/4 inch biscotti and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Arrange on baking sheet with the cut side up. (You should end up with about 16-18 biscotti).  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  (Slightly longer baking times will produce crunchier biscotti.)

8.  Remove from oven and transfer biscotti to cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely and drizzle with melted dark chocolate (if desired).

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