Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deliciously Healthier Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Let me start out by saying how excited I was with how these cookies turned out. I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and I have seen a number of recipes that played around with "healthy" ingredients, but wasn't sure I wanted to try to "healthify" my cookies.

Let's face it, if I'm eating a cookie I want it to taste like a cookie. I don't want to think, "Sure, it's good for a healthy cookie." I want it to just taste good. Because that's why I'm eating it. Well, I bit the bullet and gave it a whirl. I replaced half the butter with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, I reduced the amount of sugar by a little, and I used whole wheat flour instead of white flour. I never use whole wheat flour in my cookies. I love using it for banana bread, muffins, or other breakfast goods, but never in cookies because I don't want to risk ruining an entire batch of cookies.

Well, right before I was about to add the whole wheat flour to these cookies, I wavered. I thought, "Maybe I should just use half wheat and half white . . . " But, I stood my ground and added all whole wheat. I'm SO GLAD I did! Combined with the oats, the wheat flour adds a certain amount of nuttiness to the cookies without using actual nuts. Even the cookie dough is delicious, which was a pleasant surprise (not that I'm saying you should eat it . . .).

These cookies bake up nice and soft, have a slight crispiness around the edges, while staying gloriously chewy everywhere else. I love these. I think they might actually replace my other oatmeal cookie recipes - I love them that much. And while they're still cookies, so by no means healthy, they are certainly better for you than your average cookie, while not sacrificing in flavor or texture. Win-win! I hope you love these as much as I (and my hubby and kids) do!

There are probably similar recipes out there, but this one's from me. :) According to my calculations, each cookie has about 105 calories. Not too shabby!

Deliciously Healthier Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 c. softened butter
1/2 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 Tbls. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 c. quick-cooking oats
2 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet and milk chocolate)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Beat together butter, yogurt, and both sugars on medium speed, 2 minutes.
3. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, soda, and powder, and beat again for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in flour and oats until just combined.
5. Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Drop by Tbls. onto prepared baking sheets and bake approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. 
DEVOUR those delicious cookies, and feel good about it! 

Makes about 50 cookies.

Hugs and cookies,


Thursday, December 19, 2013

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles (Four Ingredients!)

Yep, you read that right. Four ingredients to creamy, heavenly, cheesecake-like deliciousness. This recipe was inspired by those Oreo balls - the ones where you mix cream cheese with Oreo crumbs and then dip them in chocolate. Well, I thought if I used graham cracker crumbs instead, it would give it more of a cheesecake-like flavor. Add some raspberry jam, dip them in chocolate, and you have a tasty, impressive treat!

These were really easy, too. I was nervous they would be really sticky to roll into balls, or that they might fall apart when dipping them in chocolate, but they were really easy to work with. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles
1 14 oz. box graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
1 1/2 pkgs (12 oz.) softened cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat kind and it worked great, but full fat is just fine, too)
1/4 c. seedless raspberry jam
1 pkg. white CandiQuik

1. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat cream cheese 1-2 minutes.
2. Add graham cracker crumbs and raspberry jam, and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Using a Tbls-size cookie scoop, roll mix into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.
4. Melt CandiQuik using whichever method you prefer - saucepan, microwave - I used a small crockpot set to low. Use a fork to dip balls individually. Tap off excess chocolate and place on waxed paper to cool/harden.
5. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Yield: approximately 50

Hugs and cookies,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meyer Lemon Meltaways

When I'm thinking of what to include on my cookie tray, I always remember a piece of advice my mom gave me. When putting together a variety of sweets, it's always nice to include something citrus-y to provide a contrast to the richer, more decadent treats. These Meyer Lemon Meltaways are absolutely perfect. Even if I wasn't looking specifically for a citrus cookie, I would use these again. They are so buttery, tender, and scrumptious, with the perfect amount of tartness from the lemons, and sweetness from the powdered sugar. Cookie perfection.

I ate three of them in a matter of minutes before I stopped myself and dutifully put the rest away. If you don't have Meyer lemons, just use regular lemons. Or, you can use limes, which would be delicious, too. I happened to have some Meyer lemons on hand, courtesy of my parents, so of course I put them to the best use possible - dessert! Just writing this post makes me want to pull them out of the freezer and devour some more. But, I won't . . . Or will I? If my family doesn't see these on their cookie trays, I guess they'll know why. :)

Meyer Lemon Meltaways (original recipe found here)
3/4 c. softened butter
1 c. powdered sugar, divided
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
2 T. fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 T. vanilla
1 3/4 c. + 2 T. flour
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
1. Cream together butter, and 1/3 c. powdered sugar until light and fluffy - 2-3 minutes.
2. Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, cornstarch, and salt.
3. Stir in flour until a stiff dough forms.
4. Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap, and form it into a 1 1/4 inch diameter log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 pans with parchment paper.
6. Slice the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices (I got 36 cookies out of mine) and place on the cookie sheets.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms are just slightly browned. Remove from the oven, allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then gently toss with the remaining 2/3 c. powdered sugar. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
**Before serving, you can dust them with powdered sugar again if you want.

Hugs and cookies,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Salted Nut Roll Bars

Decorating's done. Shopping's almost done. Baking . . . not quite there yet. :) There are still a few things left on my list to make, but I'm steadily chipping away. And, at least it's fun! The recipe I'm sharing today is a family favorite, both in my family and Dusty's. Actually, it seems to be a favorite everywhere!

If you make these, you'll be a rock star. Seriously. Every time I've made these, people have fallen in love with them. They're crunchy, chewy, salty and sweet. I love everything about them - especially the fact that they're super easy! I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet - it's a staple around here, especially at Christmas. It's one of those out-of-the-ordinary additions to your cookie tray that people will love.

I found the recipe in my home church's cookbook years ago. I know there are others floating around on the internet that have slight differences, but I've never bothered trying them because this one turns out perfectly every time! Hope you and yours enjoy them as much as we do!

Salted Nut Roll Bars
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 c. softened butter or margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 c. mini marshmallows
12 oz pkg (2 c.) peanut butter chips
1/4 c. butter or margarine
2/3 c. light corn syrup
2 t. vanilla
2 c. rice krispies
2 c. peanuts (I prefer dry roasted)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x13 pan.
2. Stir together dry cake mix and egg. With a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in 1/2 c. softened butter until a crumbly, sand-like mixture forms. Press firmly into prepared pan and bake about 12 minutes.
3. Sprinkle crust with marshmallows, and bake 3-5 more minutes, or until marshmallows are puffed. (They should still be white, not browned.) Allow to cool while you make the topping.
4. In a medium-large saucepan, melt the peanut butter chips, 1/4 c. butter, and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in vanilla, rice krispies, and peanuts.
5. Carefully spread over marshmallow layer, and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Hugs and cookies,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Triple Chocolate-Mint Cookies

Before I get to the cookies, I have to share a hilarious "Aiden'ism" (he's our second, and is almost 3). His big brother, Asher, is in pre-school and is really into titles and authors. Some of his favorite books right now are Curious George, and we always go through the title and author before we start reading: Curious George's Dinosaur Discovery by Margaret and H.A. Rey. Well, Aiden, Mr. Mimic-er, always says: "Curious George's Dinosaur Discovery by Nugget and H.A. Rey." I find it so hilarious, and I'm not quite sure why! I laugh every single time he says it, and sometimes at random times during the day when it pops into my head. What a goober. On to the cookies . . .

This recipe came from my head - it's similar to a chocolate chocolate chip cookie, but with a number of mix-ins to make it extra special for the holidays. I love chocolate and mint together and could eat a whole plate of these. Something about the mint makes them almost refreshing so in my head I'm thinking "These aren't really cookies, right?" Ha - wrong. They're decadent and delicious and a fun change of pace from what I usually make.

These cookies have triple the chocolate and triple the mint! Yumm-o. The chocolate comes from chocolate chips, mint chocolate chips, and cocoa powder - and also Andes mints, so I guess it's quadruple the chocolate-i-ness! The mint comes from the mint chips, Andes, and peppermint extract. The Andes mints aren't absolutely necessary, but they add an extra layer of flavor, and look so pretty on top of the cookies. If you don't want to buy them especially, you can replace them with some extra holiday chocolate chips. These are a great addition to your cookie round-up this year.

Triple Chocolate-Mint Cookies

1 c. softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/2-1 tsp. peppermint extract (depending on how mint-y you like it; I used 3/4 tsp.)
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. holiday chocolate chips (the ones with chocolate chips combined with red and green ones; or just regular chocolate chips)
3/4 c. mint chocolate chips
1 c. chopped Andes mints

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Cream together butter and sugars on medium speed, 2-3 minutes.
3. Add eggs, peppermint extract, soda, and salt. Beat again, 2 minutes.
4. Add cocoa powder and mix slowly until combined.
5. Stir in flour until just combined.
6. Stir in holiday chips and mint chips. Have chopped Andes mints set aside.
7. Drop dough by Tbls. onto prepared baking sheets, and bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are set and the tops of the cookies are no longer shiny.
8. After they come out of the oven and are still hot, sprinkle tops with chopped Andes, and lightly press into the tops. Allow to cool completely before storing.

*With all the mint going on in these, you might be thinking it would be too overwhelming. Don't worry about that - the chocolate and mint complement each other and blend perfectly. It's not an overwhelming mint flavor. And you can certainly cut back on the mint extract if you're feeling leery of it.
Yield: Approx. 36 cookies

Hugs and cookies,

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Holiday Baking How-To

The holiday season is upon us. There are a million things to do: shopping for gifts for family, friends, teachers; decorating the house and the tree; menu planning; travel planning; packing, unpacking, repacking; Christmas programs; wrapping presents; stuffing stockings . . . And there are probably many more things I didn't list! How on earth can you find time to bake goodies - it's just one extra thing that it's hard to find time to do in the hustle and bustle. I'm here to tell you it's doable!

I love holiday baking. I love putting together cookie trays and filling them with a variety of cookies and candies - trying out new recipes while including old favorites. It gives me a lot of joy - especially when I come across a recipe that I know a family member will love. All that said, I've come up with a list of 5 things that make my holiday baking smoother, less stressful, and enjoyable.

Tip #1: Use parchment paper
Maybe you've never used it before, or maybe you just don't use it in your everyday baking (I often don't). Use it now! Line your cookie sheets with it and you won't have to be worried or concerned that your cookies will stick to the pan and you'll have wasted time/effort/money making them. And it makes clean-up a cinch!

Tip #2: Bake ahead and freeze
When it comes down to the last few days before a get-together or family gathering, you usually don't have extra time to bake 6 dozen cookies or bars to make your cookie tray fabulous. Most cookies and bars hold up great when frozen, with little to no difference in taste or texture. With cookies, bake them and allow them to cool completely. Put them in ziplock bags, or plastic storage containers with waxed paper between layers. If they're decorated cookies, it's a bit trickier, but you can always freeze the cookies and pull them out to decorate the day before or the day you need them
For bars, line your pan with parchment paper so there's a bit of overhang. When they've baked and cooled, use the parchment paper to lift them out of the pan. Wrap the entire thing (carefully) in plastic wrap, then tinfoil. Then, you can place them in a larger container, or back in the pan you used and into the freezer. By freezing it as a whole instead of individual bars, you help maintain freshness. Pull them out when you need them, and allow them to defrost until you are able to cut them. (When cutting bars for my tray, I cut off the edges for a nicer-looking edge. You can also cut them diagonally to make diamonds instead of squares for a little variety.)

Tip #3: Include non-traditional favorites
I'm all for using peppermint, ginger, eggnog, and any other seasonal flavors in my Christmas baking. But, I often find that people enjoy things that are outside the box, too. If you have a recipe that's always a hit, don't be afraid to put in on your cookie tray! They don't have to be fancy. Do you love peanut butter cookies? Or maybe you have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe? Use it! People love when there are options they weren't expecting. And often those are the ones that go first and fastest.

Tip #4: Invest in a small cookie scoop
Cookie scoops in general are a huge time-saver. I have a larger one, and a smaller one that's about 1 Tbls. I always use the smaller one for Christmas baking. If you have 5-10 different cookies on your tray, you don't want people to get full after only tasting one! Make them smaller so your family and friends can enjoy a few without feeling guilty or overly-stuffed. (I usually say "who cares" and sample them all . . . How else will I know which is my favorite?) This cookie scoop is similar to the one I have (although the spring in mine broke after last Christmas - bummer), and I think it's the perfect size. You can also find something similar in most stores (i.e. Target, Walmart, etc.).

Tip #5: Looks aren't everything
Your cookies aren't all perfectly round? Your chocolate drizzles looks like chocolate blobs? The edges got a teensy bit too brown? Doesn't matter. People will eat them. People will love them. Unless you're selling them and people are basing their purchase on their looks, I think the "You eat with your eyes first" phrase is overrated. Don't get me wrong - pretty food is initially more appetizing; but, keep in mind you're bringing these as a treat. People are eating them for free - they won't mind if they don't look quite as fancy as the bakeries' treats. Don't be afraid to try new decorating techniques, but don't get bummed out if they don't look picture perfect. Just enjoy the process, and take pride in your accomplishment! (And hey, if people don't eat them, you get to eat the leftovers . . . Ain't nothin' wrong with that!)

So, there you go. Hopefully you found something helpful in there. I'll be posting some new recipes later, but for now, here's a list of some past goody favorites that will be making their appearance on my cookie tray again this year:

Cranberry Bliss Bars - Seriously, I think these should be on everyone's baking list. Even if you think you don't like cranberries, I think you'll love these. White chocolate and cream cheese? Heck yeah!

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies - Delicious combo, and so pretty.

Better-Than-Mounds Bars - I always have to include something coconutty for the coconut lovers on both sides of my family and these never disappoint!

Stay tuned for recipes to come!

Hugs and cookies,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pinterest Projects: DIY Candy Container

Oh Pinterest, what would I do without you and your crafty ideas? Every time my mom sees something semi-creative in my house she says, "Oh that's so cute! Did you see it on Pinterest?" :) I'm not sure why she bothers to ask that anymore. I pretty much have zero creativity when it comes to crafts, but if I see something simple I can duplicate it. So, if you're ever at my house and you see something creative and handmade . . . Yes, I got the idea from Pinterest!

Well, I intended to make this crafty little thing for Christmas . . . That didn't happen. Then, I meant to make it before Brynna was born so I could have it ready for Valentine's day. That didn't happen either, even though I had all the supplies. So, last weekend I buckled down and made this adorable candy container!

You can find the directions for this little project over here. I only made a couple changes:

1) I used chalkboard paint - that way I can change what it says depending on the occasion. (I thought the "Merry 'Kiss-mas'" idea was adorable, but then I could only use it for Christmas)

2) I used my hot glue gun to glue everything together instead of E6000 adhesive - worked great for me!

Anyway, let me know if you've made this little craft, or how it turns out if you make it now! I have a feeling it'll be a hit with my boys. Who doesn't love chocolate in a fun container?