While Magic Tours provided all food and lodgings for the hike towards The Lost City, promising vegan eats for me, I came prepared. Just in case. Fresh fruits were a-plenty, that’s for sure. Prior to my trip, though, I had my dehydrator out in full force: I was making myself treats to keep me fuelled through this grueling hike.
I made an assortment of treats and not all made the cut.
Chickpea Granola Bars: A peanut butter-based granola bar stuffed with roasted chickpeas. Sounded great but these bars were too dry for me. They are supposed to be chilled for best eating (maybe that would have helped?), and dehydrating them did not make them more palatable. They stayed at home.
Caribbean Coconut Oat Bars: Looking for something tropical, I made these with fresh mango instead of banana. They combined oats, almonds, macadamia nuts and coconut with lime. These had promise but my bars were too thin to enjoy the fudgey/chewy texture I was hoping to duplicate. These stayed at home.
Gingerbread Cliff Bars: Hoping for a savoury energy bar without all the crap from real Cliff bars, this was a strong contender. However, these were unlike any Cliff bar I have ever tasted. The pumpkin pie spice treat tasted great but they were cakey more then dense and too fragile to bring on a hike. They stayed at home.
Chocolate Mint Protein Bars: A great good source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once). With a bit of dehydration, these were a nice portable option. Without the dehydration, they would not have survived. They came with me to the jungle, too.
However, the winner of all the snacks were these raw lemon barley energy cookies from Tess! Combining only a few ingredients, these are delicious snacks that withstood everything the jungle threw at it. Almonds. Dates. Sprouted barley. Lemon. Salt. The original recipe also had raisins, but I opted to omit it in favour of a tart lemony cookie instead. The lack of raisins (or decreased dried fruit) really helped these cookies keep their shape through all the backpack reshuffles and heat of the jungle. Furthermore, I do not like overly sweet things when exercising. I also made Tess’ Gooey Cinnamon Raisin version of these cookies which were incredibly delicious with a heavy hand of cinnamon, but the extra raisins made them a bit more gooey and sweet in the heat.
Some of my other favourite energy snacks from my cycling adventures:
What is your favourite energy bar?
Of all the cookies this week, the Ginger Oatmeal Raisin Cookies probably win for packing in tons of nutrient-dense foods.
I consider this an unhealthy cookie with zucchini as a bonus. There are not many nutrients to gain from white sugar, butter and white flour. But hey, if you are going to indulge, you may as well reap the benefits of some hidden veggies.
As you can tell, I am actually unearthing an older post that I had written up many moons ago, prior to my vegan days. I don’t why, but it takes me a while to post up my sweet treats. Last year, I posted about the Key Lime Meltaways I had made the year earlier! I suppose I like to post things in season.. and come January, cookies don’t seem so mouthwatering.
I made these during the fall, when zucchini was brimming from my friend’s garden. I was heading to a party and decided to have a bake-off of two different lemon zucchini cookies (I know, I couldn’t decide which one to make, so I made both!). I quizzed people at the party about the “secret ingredient”. Despite the hint with the little green flecks, no one could figure out zucchini was hidden in there. You really couldn’t taste it amongst the lemon and vanilla flavours. Instead, it adds moistness.
Despite both having similar ingredients, I preferred the recipe from Food52 (pictured above). It produced a cookie that was more airy but firm at the same time. Martha’s cookie from Everyday Food (September 2009) was more dense and the cornmeal added a different texture (pictured below). I also made bigger cookies with Martha’s recipe. Don’t get me wrong, they are both nice cookies, and a great alternative on a cookie platter. However, if you have a choice, shun Martha. I actually have no problems shunning Martha, because when I battled her Earl Grey Tea Shortbread cookies, her recipe was the loser. By a long shot.
PS. Since I made these in my pre-vegan days, I haven’t tested out the vegan alternatives with oil and chia eggs. There are vegan zucchini cookies that look similar, so I think the alternatives could work. Baker’s discretion, though!
Now for the cookies you’ve been waiting patiently for…
What’s your definition of a healthy dessert? Of a healthy cookie? Two years ago, I thought my (oh so gorgeous) apple banana cake was healthy because it had no oil or butter. Except, as a sweetener, it had sugar and honey in addition to the bananas. It used white flour.
Preferring whole unprocessed foods, I have currently shunned refined flours and sugars. It is not that I don’t enjoy my sweets. I do. In moderation. I just want to have some nutrients packaged with it, too. A healthier option. I simply adore raw desserts, but often they are nut-based or sport a heavy dose of agave or coconut oil/butter.
You can imagine how giddy I was when I first saw this recipe for a chocolate cookie made with black beans without any grains or nuts. No refined sugars, either. The giddiness was mostly because these cookies were made with BLACK BEANS! Sarah had a chocolate chili cherry recipe but I decided to hedge my bets and split the dough for two versions: Mint Chocolate and a Mexican Chocolate Spiced version with Dried Cherries, modeled after my Spiced Brownies.
Trust me, no one will know these cookies are filled with beans. It is really unfair to quiz your guests about the secret ingredient because they taste like delicious cookies, beans or no beans. These are not fudgy cookies, but more dense than the airy banana-based cookies. A moist, fluffy cookie filled with chocolate. The chocolate mint version marries the quintessential holiday favourite flavours. You can’t go wrong with peppermint and chocolate.
For round two, the Mayan-Spiced cookies have a whiff of savoury spices including cinnamon, cardamom and smoked paprika with a bit of a zip from the chili flakes. I might try increasing the spices next round because they weren’t too dominant. The dried cherries offered a nice contrast to the dark chocolate.
What will round 3 entail? You tell me! I will have to whip up another batch if I want eat them over the holidays. Or maybe I will venture to finally try other bean-based desserts.
Other bean-based vegan desserts:
Black Bean Brownies from Patty Cake
Low Fat Black Bean Brownies from Happy Herbivore
Chocolate Chickpea Blondies from Delicious Vitality
Marathon Cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bean Balls from Purple Bird Blog
Butter Bean Cookies from Happy Herbivore
Black Bean Fudge from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Chocolate Bean Butter from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Faux Date Squares from Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Dessert Hummus from Never (home) Maker
Black Bean Cookie Dough Hummus from What Runs Lori
Enough with the cruciferous veggies, eh? It is December and I know what’s on your mind: COOKIES!
Trust me, I have a lot more recipes to share featuring cruciferous vegetables but I’ll take a detour this week to entice you to create healthy cookies this holiday season. The veggies shall return. Post-Christmas, most likely, when everyone starts their resolution to eat more healthy.
Healthy cookies are usually a misnomer, but I think Jenné hit the nail on the head when she called these “The World’s Healthiest Cookies“.
When you say healthy cookies, it could be synonymous with an unpleasant sub-par dessert. This is not the case. However, these are not your fudgy, wudgy, dense cookies, either. They reminded me a lot of the Dark Chocolate Banana Coconut Almond Cookies I’ve made before. Both are a light and fluffy cookie, more cake-like than cookie-like.
While I enjoy chocolate, coconut and almonds, I had a hankering for oatmeal raisin cookies recently. My mom nearly flipped when she heard I was making cookies. But they are healthy! These cookies were nice because you’d get bursts of ginger contrasting with the sweet dates and raisins. Plus, you get all the nutrients from bananas, flax seeds, chopped walnuts and rolled oats with limited oil. Definitely not your traditionally dense oatmeal-raisin cookie, but very addictive, nonetheless.
You see, I might walk in thinking I just want to buy spinach, or chickpeas, or what not, and casually glance at the eggplant on sale and walk home with that as well. It is not unusual for me to come home with 20 limes when they go on sale for $1. I have done this a few times. Without a plan, and they may not necessarily last long enough for me to use them either. My newest trick is to clean my copper-bottomed frypan with half a lime (or lemon) dusted with a bit of salt (my mom teaches me the most awesome things!).
In this case, though, I walked home with a small bag of key limes. They weren’t on sale, but they were just so cute! And definitely not worthy of withering on my counter.
Key limes are totally versatile, right? Hmm, no. But I already knew what I planned to make with them: Key Lime Meltaways.
This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted her recipe from Martha Stewart. Unlike Deb, I had to coax every last drop of lime juice from these suckers. We had to pull out all the tricks – microwaving the limes for a 10 seconds, rolling them on the counter and in the end, we also added a bit of pulp to the cookies as well.
Akin to shortbread, these cookies melt in your mouth. They have a hint of tart lime, kept in check with the dusting of icing sugar. Creamy, smooth, tart and sweet all in a cookie. A nice cookie for your holiday table.
I have nearly a week until I head home for the holidays and plan to eat out of my pantry/fridge/freezer. Wish me luck on not getting too distracted in the grocery store as I pick up more ingredients for holiday baking.
When I cook, I mostly take the easy route. I don’t consider my recipes to be that challenging. Once you have the ingredients, and possibly a few kitchen utensils (big and small), you are good to go! But sometimes, I get this inkling to try something beyond the easy. I could make traditional rugelach, a Jewish pastry with a cream cheese dough in the shape of a crescent, filled with nuts, raisins and apricot jam. Or I could make rugelach PINWHEELS filled walnuts, dried cranberries and cinnamon. Forget the crescents, the pinwheels had me smitten when I spotted them at Smitten Kitchen and Technicolor Kitchen. OK, OK. In truth, my (new) sister-in-law (back when I made this she was still my brother’s fiancee) makes fabulous traditional rugelach, so I knew I couldn’t compete – and I didn’t want to – so I wanted to try something different with my favourite ingredients (cranberries and cinnamon).
So I combined both recipes into something I could work well with, using an egg to help stick the final topping. The dough was easy to put together and easy to roll. And easy to spread the filling onto it. And even easy to roll it up. But cutting it became trickier. Maybe there is a reason people normally make crescents for rugelach. I kept trying to figure out how to keep everything together. In the end, I could cobble them together and they baked up nicely. When I baked them on their flat side, not standing perched up. A few of the soldiers fell over in the oven. More than a few.
The verdict? My mom raved about them. My grandmother raved more about the World Peace Cookies (and I side with her; it is hard to compete with cookies so good they invoke world peace!). For me, they were not as tasty as I had hoped, after fiddling with the pinwheels for an evening. I like the soft centre from traditional rugelach and the thin pinwheel makes it more crisp. I think I like my sister-in-law’s traditional rugelach better… thank goodness she is a part of the family now.
Undoubtedly, when you buy bananas regularly you can’t eat them fast enough and sometimes they turn brown a bit too fast. The question is what to do with those overripe bananas when you don’t really like banana bread? (Other than my delicious apple banana bread, of course!)
While I haven’t decided what to do with my current 2 bananas, I knew I had to share one of my favourite overripe banana recipes. I spotted them on 101cookbooks where they were dubbed “Nikki’s Healthy Cookies”. Let’s ignore the term healthy cookie, because I don’t really think they exist.. I mean, these are filled with many wholesome ingredients with no butter, no eggs, no flour and no added sugar. But let’s be honest, taste is what matters most. And these cookies deliver.
They have a slightly crunchy exterior with a soft and chewy centre. They don’t taste like your typical cookies, as they are lighter than most cookies but not exactly cake-like either. Straight from the oven, the melted chocolate dances on your tongue with the strong whiff of banana, which provides the soft texture. The ground almonds replace flour, making this a perfect treat for vegans and celiacs alike. I am not sure how long the cookies will last at room temperature because they never seem to last more than 2-3 days.
I am new to food blogging, if you haven’t already noticed. This blog is just over 6 months old (woohoo!) but sometimes I have questions. Like what should I do if I have a better version of something I already posted? I’ll write a new post, for sure, but I would hate to mislead people into trying a different sub-par recipe when I have a better one! What to do with the older post? Write a disclaimer with a redirect to the new revised recipe? I think that sounds best, but let me know if you have better ideas.
The recipe I recreated was for the quite popular Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies from Martha Stewart. Sorry, Martha, I have a better recipe. A hundred times better! They are subtly addictive, not overtly obvious with its prowess until you’ve munched on a few cookies.. or maybe that’s from the caffeine?
This recipe came from the George Brown College Chef School, through Tastes of Tomorrow, their student cooking club. This is why you pay the big bucks for culinary school! Or the small bucks to go to their student club – a wonderful bargain if you ask me and blogTO (sadly I missed the frozen pastry demo and the one with Chef David Lee of Nota Bene restaurant).
Anyways, I didn’t tackle this recipe originally because I didn’t have a scale but bakers will tell you that weighing your ingredients is the best way to consistent results. Plus, the recipe is just plain better than Martha’s. Definitely pick up a scale just for this cookie. They can be found fairly cheap ($20) at kitchen supply stores, amazon, etc. Just make sure it measures to the gram (not rounded to the closest 5 g) and can weigh at least 5 kg.
A few other tips for optimal earl grey cookies I picked up from my last batch: the quality of your Earl Grey tea matters. Instead of tea bags, I opted for Earl Grey Cream loose leaf tea from Tealish. Delicious as a tea with a hint of vanilla, and fabulous in the cookies. Plus, I loved the coarse sugar dancing on the outsides of the cookie. It added a burst of sweetness from an otherwise mild cookie.
When trying to figure out which food to make, I find food bloggers to be fairly reliable. But not when I only see one post; when I see lots of posts (because what good is an n of 1?). I originally spotted this recipe for World Peace Cookies at Smitten Kitchen (always a reliable source) who adapted them from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan, also found at Epicurious. My curiosity was piqued – cookies so good they would invoke world peace?! Wow, what a tall claim! They already had rounds and rounds of praise, surfacing many years through the blogging community – and this many people couldn’t be wrong, right?
Of course not! They were incredibly tasty – a chocolate cookie with chocolate chunks and a cross between a brownie and a shortbread. I used 70% dark chocolate for the chocolate chunks and they were delicious. They were a bit big, though, and the only hindrance in my chopping the cookies from the chilled roll. However, the cookies could be placed together nicely, even if crumbly from the chocolate chunks. Because you don’t mix it too much, and you don’t bake it too much either, these cookies are melt-in-your mouth soft and good for a couple of days at room temperature (if they last that long!). If you haven’t made these yet, I encourage you to join the world peace cookies loving.
This is my submission to this month’s Sugar High Friday featuring Comfort Sweets.
I debated whether I should put these cookies on the blog. I had high hopes for them, despite mixed reviews, but tackled them regardless. I was initially disappointed with the results. However, friends loved them and I agreed that they tasted better the next day.. so much so, that I couldn’t stop munching on them and there are none left… so they must be good as my tummy will attest.
This is a slice-and-bake shortbread-like cookie with a hint of Earl Grey tea and lemon. It is a pretty simple cookie with only a few ingredients. I found a sharp chef’s knife helped to cut the cookies without too much crumble (some cookies still needed to be sacrificed, though). I used the tea leaves from 5 bags of Earl grey tea but the next time I try it, I will buy some loose leaf tea. Since Earl Grey is the main flavour, it would be best not to use subprime tea. I also plan to coat the outside with sugar, as I am still on a quest for a better Earl Grey shortbread. I have a recipe I want to try, as we were served them at the tea event run by the George Brown cooking club (Tastes of Tomorrow). However, I need to find a scale first. UPDATE: That much better recipe has been posted here.
The task was to describe your favourite holiday cookie. To tantalize your taste buds with only a few sentences; to pique your curiosity; to share your holiday traditions. Everyone voted for those they wanted to make it to the bake off. From the top 3, they will be made and tasted and the ultimate winner chosen for this year’s Virtual Cookie Swap.
This was my submission for my tried-and-true Cinnamon Snaps:
I have made them for the past few years and they never last until Christmas! They are a lovely variation on a gingersnap, but instead of ginger it is filled with a strong cinnamon taste. The cookies are slightly crispy on the outside but inside soft, melt-in-your-mouth, covered with a cinnamon-sugar topping that sparkles in your mouth. They are best straight from the oven but try to leave some for others to try. And bonus, it is an easy recipe to make.
I originally found the recipe online, source unknown, but my google prowess shows a slightly modified version on the Taste of Home website (from Country Woman March/April 2001, p29).
I will definitely be making these shortly, but still devouring recipes to figure out which other cookies will be coming out this year. It will be a battle of the rugelach, for sure, so stayed tuned for the results of that.
Looking for the perfect year-end potluck offering? Nothing says “I need a holiday” more than more than these star-shaped cookies! I admit, these cookies took a bit more Martha Stewart than I had to give. I made them over two days, refrigerating the dough after the first, and rolling out and baking on the second. An extra set of hands went a long way as the rolling and baking happened on a Monday evening after work (i.e. prevented tears upon my realizing just how much dough the recipe actually produced). Despite the fuss, these cuties were as tasty as they are pretty and well worth the trouble.
Tip: Keep unrolled dough in fridge between rolling, and keep cut out shapes in freezer before cutting out smaller shapes. This recipe makes LOTS of cookies!
This recipe for Chocolate Orange Hearts came from the Complete Cookie Book by Elizabeth Wolf Cohen.
As I wrap up the last week of my culinary arts I course at George Brown College, it is nice to think of what I have learned. I am definitely more nimble with my chopping skills, which was helped by my new Santoku knife. Obviously the right knife for the proper job makes it a lot easier. Anyways, I digress… I had never even heard of mirepoix, or ever made an herb sachet or knew how to “properly” peel ginger (or that it could be frozen, too!). I learned not to be scared of the burnt brown stuff that accumulates at the bottom of the pan, because after you deglaze it, that is where all the flavour comes from. But those are just technicalities, as what I took away most from the courses was the confidence to be creative in the kitchen. At least a bit more than before… We actually didn’t do much baking, other than a quiche, but cooking is a more creative art. Baking (pastry specifically) is a bit more regimented but I tried my hand at being a bit more creative with these cookies, with a little help from my mom as she nudged me in the right direction.
We took the recipe for super soft pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies from Deelish Dish (who adapted them from Joy the Baker). We wanted something a bit healthier, not that we don’t love chocolate chips, but we subbed in dried cranberries for the chocolate, reduced the sugar and oil, and added in walnuts for crunch. The orange zest was added when we saw my lonely orange on my counter slowly weeping. The flavours worked incredibly well together and wasn’t too sweet. The spices married well within the big, soft, moist cookies. They were more of a cross between a cake and cookie, but within a smaller, portable packet. I only got 16 cookies when I used the 1/4 cup scoop and made huge cookies.