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A Winter’s tale, part deux: Heart healthy chocolate chip cookies with olive oil and oat flour

18 Feb

Hello, gentle readers.

Hallelujah

Hallelujah

This is something of a continuation of the Winter’s lament from my last post. As previously mentioned, I’ve been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies lately. One day I made the mistake of doing the butter math in my head, and came to the conclusion that I’d consumed well over a pound of butter so far this season, in homemade cookies alone. Paula Deen would be proud, but me? Not so much. As a runner, I often excuse my sweet tooth because I run off a lot of those calories and try to eat balanced meals for the most part (sometimes “balance” means salad for lunch so I can have pizza for dinner, but you get the idea). While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with splurging on dessert if you have an otherwise healthy lifestyle, I think I’ve been taking it too far with my cookie game. Hence, this post.

I’ve always heard that olive oil is a more heart healthy fat because it’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol (for more science speak, read on here). Olive oil also has a pretty distinct taste, but I had seen it incorporated into cake recipes and other sweet treats, so I figured there had to be a chocolate chip cookie out there somewhere that used EVOO instead of butter. I also wanted a cookie that didn’t rely on AP flour, which doesn’t really provide any nutritional benefits. I often use whole wheat flour, but it can overwhelm the other ingredients with its hearty flavor and grittier texture. Enter, oat flour. Look for oat flour sold in bulk at specialty markets and Whole Foods and it’s super cheap and easily replaces AP flour in most recipes, with the added benefit of lots of fiber and protein (Bob’s Red Mill also sells it pre-packaged).

The final result? A cookie that is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, and leaves you feeling full and satisfied. For recipe, see below.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Chocolate chip cookies with olive oil

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:
2 ¼ cup oat flour (or flour of choice)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-2 cups chocolate chips*

*To each their own. I used a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chunks, they melt great. I think next time I will add almond slices and chia seeds.

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine sugars, vanilla, olive oil, salt, and baking soda. Beat in the eggs one a time. I strongly recommend a stand mixer as the dough is unusually dense/sticky and tough to work with by hand. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl, and around the bottom, to thoroughly combine. Gradually beat in the flour and stir in the chocolate chips.

*A note (novel) on resting the dough: I am a firm believer in the power of letting your cookie dough rest before baking (for more on the science behind this and other aspects of cookie baking, check this out). I found that to be especially beneficial here because of the distinct flavor of olive oil. In order to reconcile my gotta-have-it-now attitude toward CCCs, and the benefits of resting my dough, I’ve gotten into a habit of baking only one small tray right after I’ve made my dough, and then refrigerating or freezing the rest for at least a day. When I made my first tray of these cookies following this protocol, the results satisfied my craving, but I was not terribly impressed because they had a distinct aftertaste (probably exaggerated by the fact that I slightly overbaked them, leaving the crisp edges tasting slightly bitter). When I made the remaining batches a day or two later I was a complete convert. I couldn’t taste the olive oil at all, made sure not to overbake them, and they were the most perfect chewy texture and rich balanced flavor.

Place spoonfuls of dough a couple inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or greased sheet). Apologies for not having any photos of the dough before baking.

Bake for 8-11 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges and set. Watch carefully at the end of baking time as these overcook quickly, so it’s better to take them out a bit early if you’re unsure. Allow to cool for a bit to set up, and enjoy!

A Winter’s tale: Sweet potato brownies

13 Feb

Let’s pretend it hasn’t been almost a year since I did this…

Did someone say "yum"?

Did someone say “yum”?


If you are in the Northeast, you know we have been having a particularly brutal winter. As you might expect, this weather does not lend itself to healthy eating habits. For me this means that for the past couple months I have been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies. Seriously obsessed, I think about them all the time and about how I will get my next fix. If I wanted to right now I could share a recipe for the most delicious browned butter chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever eaten, but I can’t do it. I’ve made three batches of said cookie and have eaten 95% of the results myself. I have no portion control when it comes to CCCs. Which is why you’re getting this post instead, about a healthier alternative to a fudge brownie. With no butter/oil and only natural sweeteners, they are packed with nutrients and fiber that will leave you with little baker’s remorse. I will not lie and say that they are as rich/amazing as a brownie packed with real butter and sugar, but armed with the realistic expectations I just gave you, they are pretty damn good, and provide much less guilt if your Winter habits mirror my own.

The final result is definitely chocolatey, though I would up the ante even more next time with additional cocoa powder, maybe a dash of espresso powder, and nuts or raw cacao nibs for texture (or chocolate chips if your desire for a healthy dessert only gets you so far). The texture is super moist and fudgy, and for me falls somewhere in between a fudge brownie and a chocolate bread pudding. Very yummy. Recipe below.

Sweet potatoes mixin'

Sweet potatoes mixin’


Adding the chocolate

Adding the chocolate


Sweet potato brownies
Adapted from Deliciously Ella

Ingredients:
2 medium to large sweet potatoes
2/3 of a cup of ground almonds (almond meal/almond flour)
1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour or flour of choice (I’ll try oat next time, and I might add another 1/4 cup)
1 egg
2 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used two Baker’s squares)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup + 1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Stevia extract (dropper-full)*
Chocolate chips for topping (optional)
*the original recipe calls for 14 pitted dates to sweeten the batter, which I didn’t have, though I think it would be great.

Instructions:
Heat up the maple syrup with the milk for about 20 seconds in the microwave to warm it, then add the chia seeds and stir. Leave out while you prepare the recipe so that the chia seeds have time to absorb some liquid.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then peel the sweet potatoes. I wrapped mine in foil and baked at 375 for an hour or so, but still had to zap them for a few minutes after that. You want them very soft so that they’ll mix into a creamy consistency, so next time I’ll probably chop them into large chucks and steam them instead of baking whole.

Once soft, add them to a stand mixer and beat on medium-high until it’s a smoooth consistency. Add the chopped chocolate while the sweet potatoes are still warm, so it melts and blends in. Add cocoa powder and mix. Add chia seed-syrup-milk mixture, 10 drops of stevia extract (or healthy sweetener of your choice, to taste), and the egg. Beat to incorporate. Mix in baking powder and salt. Lastly mix in flour. (This is the point where I forgot to add cacao nibs, so do so here if you’re so inclined).

Spread batter into a greased 9 x 9 baking dish and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until you can pierce with a fork bringing it out dry (or dry-ish, might take a bit longer). Allow it to cool for about ten minutes. If you still need a bit more richness, like I did, sprinkle dark chocolate chips on top, and press gently into the surface. Cut and enjoy!

Seasonal experiments: Cranberry caramels

11 Dec
Delightful.

Delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I recently bought myself a candy thermometer and have been pinning a bunch of ideas for caramels and other candies.  The apple cider caramels from Smitten Kitchen have been getting a lot of attention and look amazing, however the urge to make something came over suddenly the other day and I couldn’t find raw unpasteurized cider in my neighborhood.  Plus, I knew if I made them they would be perfect as-is and thus not really require a separate Hungry Bear blog post.  What I did have on hand were some frozen cranberries, which I decided was worth a try in adapting to the SK recipe.  Overall I think they were hugely successful.  The texture came out perfect, and the color is pleasantly surprising (kind of a mauve) for a caramel.  They also taste great, though less cranberry-y than I would have expected given how tart the syrup is.  If I make these again I might use less sugar to compensate for the sugar in the syrup.  The final product is rich, but subtle, and I think a great alternative to regular caramel or toffee, perfect for this time of year.  Enjoy! (Recipe to follow after the pics)

Strained syrup.

Strained syrup.

All the components, getting friendly.

All the components, getting friendly.

Heating up to boil.

Heating up to boil.

C'mon firm ball stage.

C’mon firm ball stage.

Can you say "yum"?

Can you say “yum”?

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry-infused caramels:

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen apple cider caramels.

-One batch of cranberry syrup, via Smitten Kitchen. *Optional: add 1 tsp of vanilla while simmering for a subtle added flavor.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or apple pie spice, alternatively)
1 teaspoons flaky sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Vegetable oil for knife and parchment

First whip up a batch of the cranberry syrup.  I followed the SK recipe (plus 1 tsp vanilla), strained it through a small metal strainer, and was left with just shy of a half cup of syrup (if you get more than half cup I would discard the extra or even cook it down a little further). *Bonus: the cranberry bits you strain out make about 1/3 cup of yummy cranberry relish that would be great to save and use on pancakes, in oatmeal, with turkey, etc.

Before starting the caramel, prep the ingredients and assembly.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, and brush with oil.  *Warning: do NOT use aluminum foil, as I did, or you will spend an hour picking out the bits that stick to the finished product (even if you butter/oil it). Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Get your butter, sugars, and cream ready.  Now you can pour the cranberry syrup back into the pot you used to make it (just make sure there are no chunks left), and heat it on low for a few minutes to warm it up again.  Stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream.  Heat on medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 250 degrees.  *This should only take 5-10 minutes, but I strongly advise you don’t guesstimate if you are lacking a thermometer.  It’s worth the $10 to have one around.  If you do go ahead without a thermometer, you can test it by dropping a spoonful into cold water.  If it is firm, but malleable, it’s ready.  But be warned, the process goes fast, and if you leave your mixture boiling while testing, it may get to hot and become hard when it cools.

At 250 degrees, immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm.  This takes a few hours, or you can speed things up in the refrigerator (if left too long it will be hard, but softens up again in room temperature). Once cool, lift the caramel by the parchment paper onto a cutting board. Use an oiled knife, re-oiling as needed, to cut the caramel into a size/shape of your choice (I used a pizza cutter to finish up). Wrap each one in waxed paper or plastic wrap, twisting the sides to close.

Gift idea: I used some decorative paper to make little folded boxes to put these candies in as stocking stuffers/party handouts.  I used this video tutorial , adjusting size to a 25x25cm paper, for a 5x5x5 cm box.  Also, in the last steps, instead of closing both ends, I closed the bottom side, and pinched the top together, punched a hole, and tied a bow.  The fit about half dozen candies in each.  So cute!

Hale and hearty: Sausage, kale, and white-bean stew

5 Nov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to be straight with you.  Of all the soups/stews I’ve made, this is probably my favorite.  It’s been one of my go-to Fall comfort meals since I first tried the recipe several years ago.  It’s a mix of fresh and canned ingredients, and while in general I try to stick to fresh, part of the reason this recipe is a winner is that it is so simple and quick to put together.

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It’s also fun to experiment with adding different ingredients and proportions.  For example, this time around I added a cubed beet (that’s why the color of the broth in these photos is so concentrated, without the beet your broth will be more clear).  This addition didn’t make it to the recipe since the flavor doesn’t really improve on anything (but if you don’t mind, hey, why not add a few more vitamins and minerals).  Now let’s get on with it.

Sausage, kale, and white-bean stew

Adapted from this Food & Wine recipe.

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound hot sausages, casings removed (turkey sausage works well as a lower fat option)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound kale, tough stems removed, leaves washed well and shredded (I usually just use a whole bunch as it’s sold to me, or about half a large bag of pre-cut kale)
3 1/3 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice (two 15-ounce cans)
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
4 cups drained and rinsed canned cannellini beans (two 19-ounce cans), or equivalent quantity of other white beans (I like a mix of cannellini and butter beans)

Directions:

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat up with a fork, until the it loses its pink color, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan (if needed, but sometimes the remaining oil is sufficient) and then stir in the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add crated carrots and stir.

Add the garlic and kale to the pot and cook, stirring, until the kale wilts, about 2 minutes (the amount of kale will look overwhelming at first, but it definitely wilts down significantly when cooking). Stir in the tomatoes (with juices), and pepper; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the kale is tender, about 15 minutes.  Sometimes I add an extra can-full of water and simmer a little longer (for example if I’ve used even more kale and it needs more moisture).

Stir the beans into the stew and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. If you like, mash some of the beans with a fork to thicken the sauce.  Eat and enjoy!  This stew also freezes pretty well, so I recommend saving some for a rainy day.

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