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Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies! – but at least they are made with real ingredients

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

I shop at a variety of places for our food, the locally-owned natural food store (Native Roots), a regional chain natural grocery store (Natural Grocers), the local farmer’s market, the local regular grocery store (Homeland), and even Wal-Mart.  The bakery at my local Wal-Mart is right next to the produce section and so I end up walking by all the cakes and cookies on my way to get the healthy fruits and veggies.  🙂 

The last few times, the packaged bakery “Peanut butter fudge no bakes” cookies have definitely been tempting me.  But, I know that they put lots of unnecessary and kind of scary things in packaged cookies.  The Wal-mart ingredients are: Granulated Sugar, Oats, Water, Peanut Butter (Roasted Peanuts, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil), Margarine (Vegetable Monodiglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Artificial Butter Flavor), Cocoa, Non-Fat Dry Milk Solids, Vanilla.   Actually, not too horrible compared to other packaged cookies, except the peanut butter has hydrogenated oils in it and we don’t use margarine because of all the crap in it.

So, I dug out my recipe for no-bake cookies and decided to make my own.  These cookies are a bit addictive.  This recipe makes about 28-30 cookies.  Luckily, I have 6 people in the house to eat these things so that is only 4 or 5 cookies each and we stretched them out over 3 days.  I did cut the sugar a bit and upped the peanut butter from the original recipe and they were still just great.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen depending on how big you make them

  • 6 Tbsp (that is 3/4 of a stick) real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Demerara sugar (or other unrefined sugar such as “sugar in the raw”) 
  • 1/2 cup organic milk 
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mix, I used Hershey’s)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups quick cooking oats (I used organic, the only ingredient on the package should be OATS)
  • 3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter  (made with just peanuts or peanuts and a bit of salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Add the butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa  to a large saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil for at least one minute, but two is better.  Note: To make sure cookies set up properly wait until mixture comes to a complete FULL boil and then start the timer for one minute.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla and mix well with a whisk until smooth and the peanut butter is fully melted in.  Add the oats and stir well.
  3. Drop by heaping Tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheets (I used my silpats). Let them set up and cool for at least one hour.  If you can’t wait, you can put a few in the freezer to speed thing up. 

Some folks like to add a bit of coconut flakes to the mix, but we like ours traditional.  We managed to ration these out over 3 days, but it was hard.

Note for those with special diets:

  • These are naturally gluten-free as long as you are sure about the source of your oats.  I understand that some oats are grown in the same fields as or near wheat and can become contaminated.
  • If you wanted to make these vegetarian, you could probably substitute coconut oil for the butter since it is also a solid a room temp. 
  • If you have a peanut allergy, I am sure that almond butter or sunflower butter or any other nut butter would work just as well.

 

– Stacey

Need to eat more fruits and vegetables? If so, have some Cabbage and Apple Salad

Cabbage and Apple Salad - finishedEveryone needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, not just kids, but adults also.  According to the CDC, in the U.S., only 32% of adults eat 2 or more servings of fruit a day and only 26% of adults eat 3 or more servings of vegetables.  

The rates where we live, Oklahoma, are even worse, just 18% for fruit and 23% for veggies.  I wonder why we are so bad at eating fruit around here?  I have NO PROBLEM getting my girls to eat fruit, as that is our go-to snack of choice, but with veggies I have to be a bit more creative.

So, this simple recipe gives you both a vegetable and a fruit in one dish.  I gave you a choice on the dried fruit and the nuts.  I used dried cranberries and walnuts for mine.  I recommend dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, but don’t fret if you don’t have those on-hand; just use regular yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar instead.

This salad is crunchy and just a bit sweet.  I will be serving it tonight with some grilled chicken, but it should go with just about any protein of your choice.

Cabbage and Apple SaladCabbage and Apple Salad - in process

  • 3 cups shredded cabbage (you can usethe pre-cut bagged coleslaw mix for this)
  • 3 apples, seeded and chopped, any color
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup nuts, sliced almonds or chopped walnuts or chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard or yellow mustard
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh minced onion (not dried)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Mix all ingredients together, store in fridge. Serve chilled.

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake – and it is even gluten-free

Sarah and I were watcOrange Almond Cake - slice with whole cake in backgroundhing Laura Calder’s “French Food at Home” show last weekend and she made this as part of her “French Africa” episode.  There are very few ingredients and it looked yummy, so Sarah wanted to make it.  She and Emma helped me in the kitchen today.

This deliciously moist cake really has just four ingredients: oranges, eggs, sugar, and almonds.  Three out of the four are wonderfully healthy. The eggs and almond meal give you some protein and allow you to make a Orange Almond Cake - admiring the cakelight flourless cake.  The oranges provide an intense taste, sweetness, and some Vitamin C.  Sugar… well, it is sugar.  I used a less refined version, but it is still sugar.  Based on 12 servings, each piece will have 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of sugar in it.  Just plan on it being your treat for the day.

I used packaged almond flour, but you could always just grind up some raw unsalted almonds in your food processor instead.  The reason I specify organic oranges it that you are using the zest and you don’t want there to be pesticides on the skin.

The girls described this cake as: juicy, sweet, orangey, tangy and yummy.

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake
Yield: 12 slices
Variation on Laura Calder’s recipe
 
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided, (3/4 cup goes in cake & 1/2 cup in the syrup)
  • 3 ORGANIC oranges, separate zest and juice (FYI, my 3 oranges yielded 1 cup juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds AKA almond mealOrange Almond Cake - Preparing the ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, optional (I used peach schnapps, what I had in the cabinet)
  • Candied orange zest or rind, optional for garnish (I pulled a few bits of orange rind out of some orange marmalade)
  • Whipped cream, optional for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line with parchment a 9-to-10-inch springform pan.
  2. Separate the eggs into two bowls.  Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cups of the sugar, and the orange zest until bright yellow.  Then, stir in the ground almonds.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.Orange Almond Cake - ready to go into the oven
  4. Stir a few spoonfuls of whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest, gently.  Keep it light and fluffy.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set, about 40-45 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.  Heat the orange juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar together in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the optional liqueur.
  7. When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven and spoon the syrup evenly over the cake, letting the syrup soak in as you go; it will absorb all of it.
  8. Let cool, then unmold onto a serving platter. Serve the cake with candied orange zest on top and whipped cream on the side.

Orange Almond Cake - finished cake

Visions of Sugar Plums danced in their heads…

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Did you always wonder what a sugar plum was at Christmas when you read that famous poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” ?  I guess I always assumed it was some kind of candied plum similar to the yucky candied fruits you stick in a fruit cake and so I certainly never dreamed about them.  But, it turns out they are not; they are actually more like a homemade Lara Bar.

Remember that not so long ago, before the days of cheap HFCS and flying fresh fruit across the world, sweet things, especially during the winter were a rare treat.  Think back to when you got an orange in your stocking and you were excited about it.  So, some dried fruits and nuts rolled in a bit of sugar or exotic coconut was something special…one might even have visions about it.  🙂

Sugar Plums are a combination of dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, apricots or dates finely chopped and mixed with chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds, and once exotic spices like coriander, anise, fennel, caraway, or cardamom.  This mixture is rolled into balls and often coated with sugar or shredded coconut.

The girls all love these and help me make them.  Their job is to form the balls with well washed hands. 

The first time I tried these, I used powdered sugar to roll them in.  I don’t recommend that as by the next morning, the powdered sugar layer had turned into a clear sticky layer on the sugar plums.  It was also VERY messy. The next time, I used Sugar in the Raw, a coarse minimally refined sugar and that worked a lot better.

We find them plenty sweet with all that dried fruit, but if you want them sweeter, then add a bit of honey.  Oh, they are really fast to make and require no baking.  Last Christmas, I made a “Figgy Pudding” for the first and last time.  This was a LOT easier.

Old-Fashioned Sugar PlumsMaking Sugar Plums
Based on the recipe from Nourished Kitchen
Yield: 40 sugar plums

  • 1 cup shelled walnuts (or pecans or almonds)
  • zest of 1 orange or ½ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes (prunes are just dried plums), roughly chopped
  • Coarse granulated sugar or dried coconut, optional

Toss the nuts into a food processor with the zest of one orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, coriander as well as chopped dates, apricots and prunes.  Pulse the mixture three to four times to combine, then process the dried fruit, nuts and spices until a paste forms – about four or five minutes.  Depending on your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches.  My Kitchenaid food processor likes doing only half of a recipe at a time.

Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and form the sugar plums by rolling about 1/2 tablespoon of the paste in the palms of your hands until a round ball forms.

Rolling the sugar plums in sugarDredge the Sugar Plums in either coarse granulated sugar (Sugar in the Raw works great because of its large crystals) or dried coconut.  Sugar Plums can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 1 month. If you layer the Sugar Plums, place a sheet of waxed paper between each layer.

Variations: You can substitute any nut or seed for the walnuts such as pecans or almonds or pistachios, you can useSugar Plums close-up different dried fruits such as dried apples, figs or raisins to replace some of the fruits and you can use the spices of your choice such as anise, cloves, or ground cardamom to replace the coriander.  You could even add a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder.

– Stacey

Sugar Plums in Bowl

Buckwheat Granola – with my kitchen helper Julia

Finished Buckwheat GranolaI have wanted to try making granola for a while now.  We try to have hot breakfasts most mornings, either oatmeal or eggs.  So, we only have cold cereal about once a week, but it would be better if it was homemade, instead of store-bought granola.

I have filed away different granola recipes as I came across them, but this one caught my eye because it included buckwheat, which I had wanted to try in a recipe.  This recipe does still have the standard oats as a base, but I saw some store-bought buckwheat-based granola without oats, so maybe I will adjust this recipe to try that next time. 

The recipe I used was this one at the “Kath Eats Real Food” blog.  She got the recipe from the South Street Inn in Charlottesville, VA. It is not a strict recipe since there are lots of options for nuts and fruits. So, each person that makes it will probably get a “different” granola.

Some ideas for making the granola your own are to personalize the grains, nuts and dried fruits you use.  To get you started, here are some options:

  • Grains: substitute part of the rolled oats with quinoa, wheat germ, sesame seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or steel-cut oats; use all buckwheat and no oats; or use all oats and no buckwheat.
  • Nuts (whole, sliced, slivered or chopped) (preferably raw and unsalted): almonds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, or pine nuts.
  • Dried fruit (chopped if large pieces): dark or golden raisins, figs, papaya, candied ginger, pineapple, mango, apricots, dates, cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, prunes, bananas, unsweetened flake coconut, or cranberries. 
  • Try adding some fruit purée in before you bake it, such as pumpkin, pear, peach, or apple sauce.
  • Try substituting other spices/extracts for the cinnamon/vanilla, such as cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, chinese 5-spice, allspice, cardamom, almond extract, lemon extract, orange extract.  Or, add some cocoa powder for chocolate granola.  Or, substitute part of the honey with molasses. Have fun!

My primary helper for this recipe was Julia, who will be in some of the pictures.  She helped with measuring, dumping, and stirring.  I handled anything that involved knives, the oven and hot pans.

Buckwheat Granola

Mix together in large bowl:

  • 2 cups raw rolled oats (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 1/4 cup whole or coarsely chopped raw nuts (what you like, I used cashews and pumpkin seeds)
  • 3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

Add:

  • 1/4 cup oil of your choice (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used 1/8 cup honey and 1/8 cup real maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp real vanilla

Granola Ingredients

Spreading Granola into Pans

Stir well. Put into metal or glass baking pan.  I used metal pans with silpat liners for easy clean-up.  Julia helped spread it into the pans with clean hands.

Bake at 300 degrees F for one hour stirring every 15 minutes. Color should be light golden brown when finished. Remove from oven.

Immediately, stir in:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups any combination of dried coconut and/or dried fruit of your choice (I used chopped, dried apples and figs)

Dried Fruit for Granola

These will toast a little from being with the other warm ingredients. Let cool completely and put in an airtight container to store. This recipe makes about 5-6 cups.  Enough for at least two breakfasts for our family of six, as Mike is not a breakfast eater.

Finished Buckwheat Granola

I thought it came out great and the kids liked it too.  I had mine as a cold cereal with just milk added as did Leah. Sarah ate hers plain and dry by the handful. Emma and

Buckwheat Granola on plain yogurt

Buckwheat Granola on plain yogurt

Julia put theirs on top of plain yogurt. 

By the way, this granola made the house smell heavenly of cinnamon, honey, vanilla, and coconut while it baked, unlike last week’s kale chips.  🙂

– Stacey

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