Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or so the story goes. The story of this recipe actually begins in a trash bin. You can read the inspiration for these yummy after-school cookies at The Meaning of Pie. After making several batches of these quick and easy treats, I am grateful the old Southern Living recipe was rescued from the recycling bin and lives on!

Like the game of Telephone, recipes get handed down, passed around and changed up along the way so that eventually the end result looks (and tastes) much different than the beginning. Sounds like this simple recipe has endured the test of time and I am happy to share the version I settled on.  I tried different peanut butters and played around with the sugar(s), added a little vanilla and think it’s a keeper.  I took a batch to school last week and the cookies disappeared so quick the only evidence of their being was a few chocolate covered finger tips. In a more civilized manner our sweet staff at church gave the cookies ‘thumbs up’ as Littlest and I passed them around the office this morning. And, church people tell it like it is y’all. 😉

Without further ado, here is our favorite after school cookie-du-jour. The good news is they are gluten and dairy free. The even better news is they are so tasty no one will know or care.

Sadly, however they are not calorie-free. I’m still working on that one.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (I use fresh ground honey roasted peanut butter from Whole Foods)**

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup + chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life allergy-free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix well. Add the chocolate chips. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto baking sheets lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Watch the cookies carefully. They are best slightly undercooked!

** I tried several peanut butters in various test batches. The bottom line is if you like your peanut butter, you’ll love these cookies. Use your favorite!


Rosemary Kind Bars

Trust me…

Rosemary Kind Bars

1 1/3 cups dates, chopped

1/3 cup raw almonds

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 sprig rosemary (I used a little more!)

generous dash of celtic sea salt (1/4 + tsp)

Process all ingredients in food processor. Don’t worry if you still have large pieces of almonds or dates, the mixture is hard to completely process. With wet hands roll into bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Makes 6 bars.

Forget back-to-school snacks for the Littles these healthy, raw bars are all kinds of yum for the mama! I’ll let you know what the Littles think if I decide to share, but for now Rosemary Kind Bars are my grab & go, carpool snack of choice. And just in time since school starts tomorrow! Oh my…

Quinoa Snack Bars

I’m so grateful for the abundance of information out there in the wide webby world.  My baptism into a gluten-free/dairy-free kitchen has been pretty smooth, so far.  Mostly because of the amazing bloggers who so generously share their talents and tricks for creating yummy treats without the not-so-yummy irritants.

Snacks for the Littles have been the most challenging part of the new regime.  Cranky, after-school Littles need snacks.  And I need something to fill the Clif Kid ZBar and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies void that so often filled their tummies on the way home from school.

This weekend I did a little spring cleaning and gave away all my baking and cooking supplies that contained wheat, gluten, and dairy.  The cupboard was bare, but quickly filled up with some suspicious looking characters.

Toto, something tells me we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Seriously?!?  I have sorghum flour and xanthan gum in my pantry.  (P.S. Spell check doesn’t even recognize the word xanthan).  With the goal of creating yummy, healthy snacks, the Littles and I have been on a baking experimentation frenzy.  I bake. They taste.  So far? We have three delicious winners — all scoring four thumbs up!

Hands down, Quinoa Snack Bars are our new favorite on-the-go snack.  I found the recipe at The Gluten-Free Goddess.  Heaven help us if the rest of her recipes are as divine as this one.  She is already a goddess in my book.  My version is not egg-free, but check out her original masterpiece if you and eggs are not currently seeing each other.  I made a couple tweaks, but really these bars leave little room for improvement.  Even if you aren’t intolerant, allergic, or sensitive (really what is the pc term?) to gluten or dairy, you must try these bars.  They are loaded with goodness from the quinoa flakes and flaxseed.  And if my picky Littles love them, chances are yours will too.

I cut the bars into small 2-inch squares, individually wrap them, and keep them in the snack drawer of the fridge.  They freeze really well, too,  and only take about 20 minutes to defrost at room temperature. These bars are perfect to toss into backpacks, lunch boxes, and gym bags.  For the record, we are on our third batch of Quinoa Snack Bars in one week.  And to think, only one short month ago, I would have let spell check auto correct xanthan to Xanadu.

Quinoa Snack Bars

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup organic quinoa flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 cup quinoa flakes

2 Tbs flaxseed

1 tsp xanthan gum

3/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 2/3 cups organic light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup oil (I used canola)

3 Tbs organic maple syrup

1 Tbs vanilla

2 – 4 Tbs of water or almond milk (as needed for proper dough consistency)

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 11 x 9 – inch baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and add oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Combine wet ingredients into dry and mix well.  If dough seems too dry add water (or almond milk) one tablespoon at a time, until it is a thick and sticky consistency.

Fold in raisins and chocolate chips.

Press dough into lined baking pan with your fingers to form a smooth surface.  Bake for 22 minutes until firm and golden brown.  Cool on wire rack and slice into 2 -inch squares.  Make approximately 40 (2-in) bars.

Enjoy!

Amish Friendship Bread

amishbreadstarter

What  you see is Day #6 of my Amish Friendship Bread starter.  My friend Kristacular saved the day by watching the non-sick kiddos last Saturday and she surprised me with the bread starter.  It’s been ages since I’ve had friendship bread and I am anxiously awaiting Saturday so I can bake and share.

The concept behind Amish Friendship Bread is that you divide the starter into fourths keeping one for yourself and sharing the other three.  If you keep the starter active you’ll have starter to bake a fresh loaf of bread every 10 days.

Once you receive your starter you follow very simple instructions.  Most days you just gently mash the ingredients around in the baggie and let any air out.  On Day #6 (which is today for me) you add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.

Have you ever had Amish Friendship Bread?  I’ll have two starters on Saturday that are up for grabs.  If you would like one (and live within what you consider driving distance) share YOUR favorite bread recipe with us in the comments.  Even if you don’t live close by, please share a recipe so that we’ll all feel the Friendship Bread love.

And, don’t fret if you don’t get one this time…in another 10 days there will be more.

Homemade Croutons

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What do you do with the heel at the ends of the bread loaf?  Honestly? Do you reach right past secretly hoping someone else will use it? Do you try to conceal it from your children by placing it out of sight on the bottom of the sandwich?  Or do you simply toss it?

I don’t know about your household, but around The Schell Cafe no one will voluntarily eat the heel of the bread.  Husband will on occasion, but only as an act of frugality not because the heel is his chosen choice of bread slices.

Rather than torture the Littles by making them eat the heels, I’ve started making homemade croutons.  Which, as it turns out, is a double bonus as they started liking salads when I began garnishing their greens with homemade croutons.

You can get as fancy as you want making croutons.  It’s a great way to use flavored olive oils or tasty combinations of herbs and spices.  If I have just a tiny bit of chives or other herbs leftover, I toss ’em in.  Once you’ve made  your own croutons a few times you’ll start noticing all kinds of extras lying around the kitchen that will serve as great flavor boosters.

Homemade Croutons

Heels of bread loaf or slightly stale slices (anything destined for the trash!)

olive oil

salt

herbs or seasonings to your liking

First, cube the heels of the bread loaves.

crouton1

Next, toss the cubed bread with a splash of olive oil and desired herbs or seasonings.  I just used coarse sea salt for this batch of croutons.

crouton2

Spread the oil bathed croutons on a foil-lined baking sheet.  I use my toaster oven.  No sense heating up the kitchen for such a small task.

crouton3

Bake at 200 for twenty or thirty minutes, until the bread is dried and crunchy!  Store in a baggie or tupperware container for up to a week.

You can also put the croutons in a small food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs. I do this to make the Littles breaded chicken tenders…but I’ll save that for a Kids Cook posting soon.

*** Gluten Free Update: We now use the heels of our Udi’s bread for croutons and breadcrumbs! Freeze until you are ready to make.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

gingerchoccook

Last year, Mia took the two middle Littles and I to the Teddy Bear Christmas Tea at the Four Seasons.  It was very swank and festive, but the best part about the event was scarfing savoring the Chocolate Ginger Cookies.  I made quite a fuss over these cookies. In fact, I’m a tad embarrassed how I completely ignored Santa, raced past him no less, on my mission to track down the pastry chef. But, with a year to dull the memory of my over zealous behavior I realized the recipe was well worth the begging.

Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego was a saint to give me the Four Seasons’ very coveted (at least by me) Chocolate Ginger Cookie recipe.  It took me a few tries to reduce the original recipe down to a manageable quantity.  And, I had to experiment a bit with cooking time to achieve the perfect bite – a tiny bit crunchy with a chewy, soft center.

We’ll be making another batch of these next week just for Santa.  I feel certain he’ll forgive me for ignoring him at the Four Seasons Tea once he tastes these delicious cookies.  You, my dear reader, may never forgive me for tempting you with these perfect Christmas treats.

Somehow in my rush to make and bake these cookies, my molasses glazed fingers changed the setting on my camera.  Sadly, I have few unblurred photos to share.  I documented the whole process, really I did, but will not continue to embarrass myself any further over these cookies.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

From the Four Seasons Hotel

12 oz chocolate chips (I used a mix of Ghirardelli semi-sweet and 60% bittersweet)

3 cups + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

2 Tbs cocoa powder (I used ScharffenBerger)

2 sticks butter

2 Tbs crystallized ginger (Whole Foods in bulk!), chopped as tiny as you can

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup molasses

bowl of granulated sugar for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and the brown sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Slowly add molasses scraping well after each addition.

Sift all of the dry ingredients and add them along with the chocolate chips and crystalized ginger bits to the bowl and mix until just combined.

Store the dough in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, over night is better.

Scoop about a tablespoon full of dough and roll in the palms of your hands until perfectly round and compact.  This is super messy, but so worth it!

Roll the rounded dough balls in sugar to coat and place on baking sheet.

Bake until puffy.  These cookies are best when slightly under baked.  After several attempts to determine the perfect baking time, 5 minutes yielded the perfect cookie for my taste.

Allow cookies to cool and store in an airtight container.

Note: One of Mrs. Kravitz’s Littles was here the day I made a test batch of these cookies.  He says the dough is just as good as the cookie.  And, he had enough of both to be considered an expert.

georgecookie

Cranberry Oat Crumble Bars

cranberries

I can’t believe I’m going to do this.  I’m going to share my coveted Cranberry Oat Crumble Bar recipe.  Which is a double whammy because not only is it not my recipe (there I said it), but it comes from a source I’m a tad embarrassed to admit The Cake Mix Doctor.

Stop snubbing your noses.  I know you are all foodies but let’s just hold off judgement until you’ve made these bars.  Then we’ll see who’s laughing at cake mix.

I admit I cringe when I read the ingredients on the box label.  And, I realize that this recipe comes on the heels of my pecan pie which uses two evil, bad, naughty ingredients (corn syrup and shortening).  But it’s Thanksgiving and well, I’m done justifying.  Just don’t eat too much. Ok?

Cranberry Oat Crumble Bars

1 package (12 oz; 3 cups) whole cranberries (I use fresh)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup water (I use orange or pomegranate juice)

1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (I add 1/2 cup more)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Set aside an ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

cranoatboil

2. Pick over the cranberries, and discard any that are shriveled or discolored.  Place the remaining cranberries, granulated sugar and orange juice in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and all the cranberries pop, 10- 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, pour the cranberry filling into a shallow freezer-proof glass dish, and place it in the freezer to cool.

cranoatmix

3. Place the cake mix, melted butter, oatmeal, brown sugar, eggs, and ginger in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  The mixture will be thick.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups for topping.  Transfer the remaining crust mixture to the pan.  Using your fingertips, press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan so that it reaches all sides.

cranoatfreeze

4. Remove the chilled cranberry filling from the freezer and pour it over the crust, spreading it out with the rubber spatula.  Pinch off pieces of the reserved crust mixture and scatter them over the filling.  Place the pan in the oven.

cranoatbake

5. Bake the cake until it is light brown and bubbling, 35 – 40 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

6. Cut the cake into 24 bars.  Serve.

cranoatbite

These bars will store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  But I betcha don’t have them that long!

*** Gluten Free Update: I’m working on gluten-free substitutes for Thanksgiving ’10. Wanna help?