Friday, April 30, 2010

Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies Loaded with Sneaky Healthy Ingredients

Seems like I've been writing about food a lot. It's not intentional, I just love food! And ever since I bought the sneaky chef recipe books, I've been able to bake again. I hadn't baked in ages because it was too unhealthy. But her sneaky recipes are healthy and delicious, and even more so with my modifications.

I know it seems like you have to buy a lot of specialty ingredients to make these, but I think it's worth it because they're so healthy. Also, they're useful in tons of other healthy, yummy recipes so it's just an investment in transforming your baking and cooking into a healthier routine. And last, you can buy whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oat bran, and almonds from the bulk bins at grocery stores like Raley's, so you could conceivably just buy the amount you need for this recipe, and it won't cost too much.

I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing the extra batter for later (or bake them all at once and freeze the extra cookies for later. You'll just end up making them again because they're sooooo yummy!)

Light Chocolate Chip cookies (makes 2-4 dozen, depending on how big you make them)

1 cup flour blend (1/3 white flour, 1/3 whole wheat flour, 1/3 wheat germ)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt (omit if using canned white beans, which are already sodium-laden)

1/4 cup oat bran

4 tblsp unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 egg whites (her recipe called for 2 egg yolks, but I don't eat egg yolks anymore since they're high in cholesterol. Of course, use whichever you want)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup white navy bean puree (either drain, thoroughly rinse, and puree canned white beans or soak, cook, and puree dried white beans)

1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt (I just used a whole 6 oz single serving container, which was a little more than 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup (or so) ground almonds (I pulsed slivered almonds in my mini food processor until they were crumbly little bits. Next time I would add even more. This was one of my modifications. Optional)

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli because it cost only slight more than Nestle [$2.69 vs. $2.04 at Target], but tastes so much better. Original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but that didn't seem like enough to me!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover 2 baking sheets with wax paper, then spray with cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (remember to omit the salt if using canned beans).

In a separate large bowl, beat together butter and sugars (easiest with an electric mixer). Then beat in everything except the chocolate. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mix until just combined. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls (or bigger, depending on your preference) onto the prepared baking sheets, and flatten with a fork. Bake 12-16 minutes (depending on size of cookies) until golden brown. Let cool on a rack (but make sure to eat one while they're still warm and gooey!)

Nutrition facts (original recipe) per 1 heaping teaspoon-sized cookie: 44 calories, 2g fat, 6g carbs, 3g sugar, 1g protein, 39g sodium, 10g cholesterol, 10mg calcium.

Not bad for home-baked chocolatey goodness!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Honey & Hay Fever

This is just folk medicine, and it's not backed by any science. But I've had encouraging results from it, so I wanted to share. If you do a search, you'll find other anecdotal accounts that say it's helpful.

Apparently if you eat a little local honey every day, the small amount of pollen present in the honey will strengthen your immune system against local allergens. I've tried a couple kinds of honey, bought from the local farmer's market and flea market, and I think they both helped me.

Even if it's a placebo effect, it still gives me some relief.

I know that now, especially, is the time when we allergy sufferers are suffering the most. And I feel better ingesting something natural for my allergies than taking little white processed pills made of who-knows-what.

The more local the honey is to where you live or spend most of your time, the better, because it will contain the pollens that are around you. Hope you can find some relief!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My very own craft space

What crafter doesn't dream of having a craft room devoted solely to creating? I'm years away from having that blissful paradise, but in the meanwhile, my industrious boyfriend built me a craft table/shelving unit so I could stop taking over the kitchen with my jewelry supplies.

His original plan was to build it with PVC piping because it's cheap and strong. But none of the hardware stores we scoured carried the right connectors for the project. So he decided to just built it out of wood, which was not as cheap but at least didn't require special parts. (He estimated the project would cost $50 using PVC, but because he used all wood it came out to well over $100. Budgeting is a tricky skill that requires a lot of leeway.)

It's six feet tall, four feet wide, and three feet deep. It's mammoth. It's on steel rollers and has five shelves. The middle one has two feet of space between it and the shelf above it, so it can act as a work space. All the wood doesn't fit perfectly together, but that's because the dude who cut the wood at the hardware store was sloppy and didn't cut everything in straight lines. At least it's close enough. (If I were a guy, I'd take the wood back and demand that they cut me some new wood in straight lines. Since I'm not a guy, I'm not going to go around loading and unloading wood.)

After building and sanding it, we set out to find wood stain/polyurethane to seal it and prevent splinters. He chose a very dark color, but hilariously enough there wasn't enough in the can to cover the whole unit. So he stained the most obvious parts, and a few areas unfinished unfinished. The end result is a little funny looking; an obvious amateur's first attempt. But it's functional. Or will be.

Now the last obstacle: we can't get it into the house. It's too big. He's going to have to disassemble it, bring it in in pieces, and reassemble it in our room. This project started weeks ago, and I don't know when I'll ever get to use my new craft table. It's sojourning in the garage until he gets around to breaking it down and rebuilding the monster inside. Then it'll all be worth it, right?

I don't know if he'd want me to post pictures of it, since it looks funny. But I might, since a visual will really help this story.

There really is no substitute for trying things for the first time!

Monday, April 26, 2010

books, books, books

I have a voracious appetite for the written word. I recently started the book Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers. The setting is a mildly dystopian future Chicago. The protagonist is a community college creative nonfiction prof with a haunted past. The object of his fascination is his student, an Algerian refugee who just radiates happiness. So far, an engaging read.

Before that, I read Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica. A partial amnesiac discovers a magical spring running through her fireplace, and harnesses its powers into lucky objects. Of course she can't control the magic she unleashed, especially as regards her best friend, who gets pretty crazy with the magic fluid. Told in partial flashbacks in an exciting, hyper, bewildering, narrative. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Insanely Addicting Healthy Low Fat Brownies/Blondies

I modified a recipe from the Sneaky Chef cook book to make these, and I can't stop eating them. Offer these to peeps and try to make them guess what healthy ingredients are hiding inside. They'll never know there are white beans, oat bran, wheat germ, & whole wheat flour in these goodies!

8 tblsp unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white bean puree (either drain & rinse canned beans, or soak & cook dried beans. Puree with 1-2 tblsp water)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp butterscotch flavoring, optional (I didn't have any)
3 eggs (Modification: I used 6 egg whites instead)
1/2 tsp salt (since I used canned beans, I omitted the salt. canned beans come packed in sodium already)
3/4 cup oat bran
1 cup flour blend (1/3 white flour, 1/3 whole wheat flour, 1/3 wheat germ. I keep a lot of this flour blend on hand)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, toffee bites, walnuts, pecans, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, or whatever you want (optional; I used toffee bites because that's what I had on hand)
Modification: I also added 1/2 cup cocoa powder, which made these a cross between a brownie & a blondie. Cocoa powder is highly recommended! I'd put in even more next time.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter or spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (I laid wax paper on it so I wouldn't have to use butter or cooking spray)

In a saucepan over medium0low heat, melt butter & sugar (stirring frequently). Remove from heat, let it cool a bit.

Then right into the saucepan whisk in white bean puree, vanilla, butterscotch (if using), eggs, & salt (omit if using canned beans). Add oat bran, flour blend, cocoa powder (if using), mix until just combined but don't overmix. Add in chocolate chips or whatever additional goodies you want. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan.

Bake 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool, then cut into squares (although I did that step while they were still warm, and was I ever glad I did! Warm blondies were so delicious...yummm.. .)

Keeps in the fridge, covered for a week. You can also freeze extras for later; they thaw quickly since they're small.