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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

Beef Jerky – Dad’s favorite, and the kids like it too

beef jerky - close-upMy husband loves beef jerky.  It is probalby one of his favorite snacks.  But, storebought beef jerky is expensive and has lots of unpleasant chemicals in it.  So, make your own. 

I bought a food dehydrator a year or so ago, a NESCO American Harvest one.  It is on the lower end of the dehydrator price spectrum and is available online from WalMart and other stores.  I have used it to make jerky and also to dry fruit.   You can apparently make it in the oven if your thermostat will allow you to barely heat your oven, but our old oven won’t.

The recipe I used is a cross between the one from Alton Brown on the Food Network site and the one in the recent issue of Clean Eating Magazine.

Dad’s Favorite Beef Jerkybeef jerky - marinade ingredients

  • 2  to 2.5 pounds beef roast or flank steak, trimmed of visible fat
  • 2/3 cup Worchestershire sauce (read the ingredients, Lea & Perrins original seems the most “real)
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce (use one that is actaully soy sauce, not brown colored salt water)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika 
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to suit your tastes)
  • Food Dehydrator
  1. Trim the beef of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order tobeef jerky - slicing meat firm up.
  2. Remove the beef from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.
  3. Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours or even overnight.beef jerky - marinading
  4. Remove the meat from the marinade. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto the trays of your food dehydrator.
  5. Close the dehydrator and set at 155 degrees F.   Allow the meat to dry for 6-8 hours.
  6. Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for up to 3 months. although it probably won’t last that long.

Mike and the kids all love it.  The girls even took a piece of it for snack yesterday at school along with a handful of fresh cherries.

 – Staceybeef jerky - happy kid beef jerky - finished drying
 

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad

Most folks wouldn’t admit to liking a gelatin salad.  And considering some of the weird combinations that people have come up with, especially during the 1950’s and 1960’s, I don’t blame them.  The recipes always seem to start with some bright artificially colored gelatin and then add things like vegetables, canned fruit cocktail, cooked seafood, mini-marshmallows, or cottage cheese.  The results looked something like this:

Weird Jello Salads

But, a gelatin salad doesn’t have to be yucky; it can be yummy.  You just have to use juice to flavor the plain gelatin and be very selective with the add-ins.

This recipe is really just a souped up version of the Juicy Gelatin Jigglers recipe that I posted awhile back.  I was inspired by the Citrus Berry Terrine that Dorie Greenspan has in her “French Fridays with Dorie” cookbook and that had been the featured recipe for the “French Fridays with Dorie” group where lots of folks make and photograph the same recipe from the book with their own variations.

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad
Serves 4-8 depending on your appetite

  • 2.5 cups of orange juice (I used refrigerated not-from-concentrate, but freshly squeezed is always better)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin, each envelope holds about 1 Tbls gelatin
  • 2 cups fresh fruit of your choice (strawberries, orange segments, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
  1. Place 1.5 cups of juice in a microwavable 2-cup measuring cup. Microwave juice for 60-75 seconds.
  2. Pour hot juice into a 5-cup container (I used a Rubbermaid plastic container with a lid). Stir in honey.
  3. Sprinkle gelatin powder on to hot juice and use a fork or small whisk to mix it in until it dissolves and there are no clumps.
  4. Pour in the other 1 cup of juice and mix well. Put the lid on your container and refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes while you prepare your fresh fruit.
  5. When the gelatin had slightly thickened but is not set, stir in the fruit.  Continue to refrigerate for 4+ hours.  Unmold and serve with additional fresh fruit as a garnish.  I unmolded mine by setting the mold in the sink filled about halfway up the mold with hot water for a few seconds.

I made this as a part of our Christmas meal to add something “fancy” that contained fresh fruit.  I used just strawberries and clementine orange segments.  The kids liked it so much they wanted me to make it again. So, I made it again for New Year’s Eve dinner with different fruit, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  I have since made it yet again with just blackberries and raspberries.  They really like it.

– Stacey

Two notes:

  1. Gelatin is made from animal parts, so it is not vegetarian or vegan.  If you want to make a veggie version of this recipe, I have been told that you can substitute agar-agar for the gelatin.
  2. If you want to use pineapple or pineapple juice in this recipe, you can’t use fresh of either and have it work.  Fresh pineapple has an enzyme in it called bromelain that will prevent the gelatin from jelling.  Apparently, papaya and kiwi also contain similar enzymes.  But don’t fret, canned pineapple and pineapple juice don’t contain bromelain. The canning process heats the pineapple to a temperature sufficient to break the enzyme down, making it gelatin friendly.
Fruity Terrine - Christmas

Fruity Terrine - Christmas

 Fruity Terrine - New Year

 

 

 

 

Green Smoothies

green smoothieHere is a quick post of a recipe that can be a healthy breakfast or snack and incorporates fruits, veggies, and dairy…GREEN Smoothies.  You even get your probiotics with the yogurt.

A green smoothie is made green not by adding some icky food coloring, but by adding some yummy and healthy greens.  You can use spinach, kale, chard, etc.  

We keep raw spinach on hand for salads so that is what we usually put in.  The ratios are up to you, feel free to experiment.  Sometimes I even replace part of the milk with carrot juice.  To make it really rich, you can use coconut milk in place of the milk.

The girls like it and so do I.

Green Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh fruit (we like bananas)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit (such as peaches, mangos, pineapple)
  • 1 cup raw spinach (packed into measuring cup) or 2 big handfuls
  • 1  cup milk
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Serve.

– Stacey

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

Our local FOOD DAY event was GREAT!

Food Day BagI posted a few weeks ago about our PTA’s plans for celebrating Food Day at our local elementary school.  Our school if from Pre-K to 5th grade and has just over 530 students.  Well, I wanted to let you know that it went great.

Fruits and veggies prepped for Food Day

Fruits & veggies prepped for one grade for Food Day

We had a lot of support from the community and from other PTA parents, as well at the teachers.  Our speakers included: Matt Runkle of Native Roots Market, Becky Black from the OSU Extension Office, a local farmer William Edgar, Wanda Danley from the Norman Farmer’s Market, Prof. Deborah Dalton from OU’s Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment program, and one of our PTA moms that did double duty, Laura Vaughn, who is an enthusiastic home gardener.  We are very thankful to all our speakers, especially considering the short timeline in planning the event.

We had gotten produce donations from Native Roots Market, Natural Grocers, and our local Homeland store.  That was supplemented with some extra veggies funded by the PTA and then several parents sent enough of their kids favorite fruit or veggie for that child’s class.  All the kids got to taste broccoli, apples, celery, spinach, grapes, bananas, summer squash, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers.  We also had samples of fresh ginger and basil to try.

Volunteers from OU’s OUr Earth student organization helped throughout the day.  They guided the speakers from class to class and helped the teachers serve the fruits and vegetables during the tasting.

Prior to Food Day, we put posters up around the school announcing it and we also included a flyer in the kids’ “Thursday Folder” that goes home to parents each week.  That is where we invited parents to send additional fruits and veggies for their child’s class.

Teacher Food Day Tasting

Blindfolded Teacher Fruit & Veggie Tasting

The morning of Food Day, the school started the day with their regular Monday Morning Assembly, but it included an introduction to Food Day and a blindfolded fruit and veggie tasting with three of the teachers.  The kids loved that part.  We had the teachers taste all of the fruits and veggies that the students would be trying later that day.

Then, during the class’ regular “snacktime” the speakers talked for about 10 minutes about where your food comes from and making healthy food choices including eating more fruits and vegetables.

The cafeteria also joined in during lunchtime by highlighting the Sodexo “Fruit of the Month” for October which was grapes.

– Stacey

Here are some pictures of our Food Day speakers in the classrooms:

Food Day - Pre-K

Matt Runkle of Native Roots talking to the Pre-K kids

 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
Food Day - 2nd grade

Matt Runkle of Native roots talking to a 2nd grade class

 
Food Day - 4th grade

Wanda Danley of the Norman Farmers Market talking to 4th graders

  
 

 

More beany treats – Garbanzo Bean Blondies

I hope you all liked the recent Black Bean Brownies post and recipe.  I decided to try making blondies using garbanzo beans, AKA chickpeas. But, you probably could use just about any white bean for this.

I went to lots of sources for white bean blondies recipes and some of the recipes that inspired mine are at Meal Makover Moms, Struggle Muffins, The Blissful Baker, The Runny Egg, Peanut Butter Lover, and Professional Palate.  So, I came up with a recipe I had planned to make using peanut butter, chocolate chips and nuts.

But, I was chatting last night with one of the other soccer moms at the soccer skills camp our girls were attending and she mentioned that she likes to add lemon zest and dried cranberries to her sugar cookies.  I had been thinking of using some dried fruit in the blondies so I went with that flavor combination of lemon and cranberry instead.  This may not be the traditional butterscotchy blondie, but it is good.

When I first thought of making blondies, I had planned to just used chocolate chips and nuts, but when I changed to cranberries, I decided to use the white chocolate chips again and for my nut butter in the recipe, I used almond butter.  So, I am going to give you two recipes…the one I made and the one I planned to make, but didn’t.  I will probably try it in the future.

Garbanzo Bean Blondies – with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and nuts
(makes 16 2″x2″ blondies)

  • 1 can chickpeas AKA garbanzos, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed or oat flour
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Garbanzo Bean Blondies – with almond butter, white chocolate chips, and dried cranberries
(makes 16 2″x2″ blondies)

  • 1 can chickpeas AKA garbanzos, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 4 Tbsp natural creamy almond butter
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp lemon oil (use lemon zest instead, if you have it)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (I used Craisins brand since I had it on had, but it is sweetened)

Directions for both  versions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan; I use my MISTO oil sprayer.  Place drained chickpeas in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the banana and eggs and process until smooth again.  Add all the rest of the ingredients (except chocolate chips and nuts) to the food processor and process until completely smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Do not overbake.

The girls all liked these Craisin blondies, but I don’t think they are quite as decadent as the previous chocolatey brownies, but it has nothing to do with the beans, just the lack of lots of chocolate.  🙂  I used 1/2 cup of Craisins, but that may have actually been too much, the cranberry taste was a little stronger than I would have like, so will probably reduce the cranberries to 1/3 or even 1/4 cup next time.  If you are going to make it with a less assertive dried fruit such as apricots or raisins then you may want to use the full 1/2 cup.  Also, I actually used more like 1.5 bananas in mine because that is what I had leftover from dinner, but it made the batter a little wetter than I liked, so if it looks too moist in the pictures, that is why.

– Stacey

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