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!


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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…

Happy Birthday!

This my friends is the breakfast of  birthday champions. As soon as the light of day breaks through the windows, the Littles will enjoy a nutritious, hearty helping of birthday cake. All before 8 am. Cake for the Littles, coffee for the mama.

Nine years ago on my 33rd birthday, our second Little and first daughter made her way into the world. I can see you doing the math in your head, you know. I’m 42 today. My beloved Little is 9. So today we celebrate! Beginning with Birthday Cake for breakfast. Because, why not?

Here’s the birthday girl just moments ago opening her presents. She found the princess crown (from her 1st birthday) and somehow woke up with it already perfectly in place on her sweet birthday head. Clearly her mother’s daughter.

Bed head and dragon breath, the birthday girls pose for their first pic of the day. Y’all it’s still in the 7’s in these parts…very early.

Yesterday, the grand assembling of the cake occurred. Dubbing the occasion in this manner makes it seem more important because the truth is…

Our cake came straight out of the box. Both of them. I just didn’t have my wits to try all the new flours and sweeteners necessary to make a perfect gluten-free cake. So can I get an AMEN for Pamela’s gluten-free cake mixes? And icings too!

The birthday princess requested a double layer cake of vanilla and chocolate. She also requested a strawberry layer, but Pamela’s Baking Goods glory does not extend that far. Here is the cake at the ‘big fat oreo’ stage.

I love this photo and it will always remind me of Littlest who is ‘up the counter’ in her princess big girl panties. We are 10 days into successful potty training and this it the ultimate birthday gift in my book. I do wonder what I will think in years to come about the purple finger nail polish on my birthday girl? I hadn’t noticed her manicure until I took this photo. Nice.

About this time during the grand assembling of the cake, just as the finishing touches were settling into place, Littlest threatened to destroy the masterpiece by secretly pulling the cookies off the cake and leaving finger trails through the icing. The birthday princess extended grace and patience as she swiftly moved her younger sibling from the scene of the crime. I was proud. Then the birthday girl declared ‘I want a gluten-free, dairy-free, SISTER-FREE cake’.  And proceeded to bop her sister on the head. Again, my pride swells.

Gratefully, this  younger sister stopped short of removing cookies and left sprinkles in place. But, she gave it a long contemplative thought…

Neighbors joined us from a far (long blocks, really!) and distracted the Littles from completely eating the cake on the eve of the celebration. All was quiet during the night.

This is the live-real-time-blogging scene from my writing perch. Littlest is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to cake. She wise beyond her three years.

And I am powerless to keep this birthday Little waiting any longer. Excuse me, while we celebrate 9 and 42 with birthday cake. For breakfast!

The Best Granola

I’ve posted this recipe for homemade granola before, but it’s just so good I had to share it again! We’ve updated our original recipe since going gluten-free and are very grateful for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Oats.  With our without gluten, this granola is simply delicious.

Maple Vanilla Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix the oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In another small bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla.  Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix with your hands until well combined.  This is messy!

Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely and crumble granola into big chunks and small bits.  Store in an airtight container.

Don’t just take my word for it – make this granola for yourselves and let me know what you think! But, with thumbs up from all four Littles and Husband, the title of  Best Granola is secure at The Schell Cafe.

Kale Chips

Kale Chips hit the food blogging scene well over a year ago and seemingly everyone had their own version of the crispy uber-green. While the trend of making kale chips may be very 2009, I think kale is the new black and destined to be a classic.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have several friends participate in Food Naturally, a cooking class at The Schell Cafe. We spent the morning making simple recipes and discussing ideas to encourage  loved ones, especially Littles, to embrace real food. We all know processed food is unhealthy, but it’s so convenient! Convenience, however, comes with a hefty price tag — our health! We talked about ways to transition our palates & pantries from SAD (Standard American Diet) to WHOLE.

During our class we made kale chips, testing out three varieties of kale: curly, red and lacinato.  Curly kale is green and, well, curly. Sometimes labeled  simply green kale at grocery stores, I’ve never had a problem finding it nestled amongst the lettuces.  Red kale is also very curly, but has color much like red leaf lettuce. Lacinato kale is an Italian heirloom variety, and has long, hearty, flatter leaves. I’ve noticed lacinato kale less around town and generally only find it at Whole Foods. But, keep your eyes peeled it’s a great kale to try.

All three varieties of kale roasted into crispy, delicious chips that disappeared as quickly as we pulled them out of the oven. Experiment with your favorite spices and herbs, the possibilities are truly endless.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried

2 TBS olive oil

1-2 tsp mixture of your favorite herbs and/or spices (I love cayenne!)

1-2 tsp coarse sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and dry kale thoroughly – it’s very important the kale is dry. Wet, even damp, leaves will result in soggy chips. In a large bowl mix olive oil with herbs and seasoning. DON’T mix in salt yet. The salt draws out moisture and keeps kale from getting crispy.  Tear  kale into bite sized pieces and place in the bowl with olive oil.  Gently massage the kale leaves until the leaves are evenly coated.  Place kale on baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully, the kale can burn quickly. Once toasted to a crisp, remove from oven and generously sprinkle with salt.

We generally eat kale chips straight off the baking sheet. However, two of the Littles have yet to commit to the kale craze. I won’t give up and in the meantime, I sprinkle crumbled kale chips into bowls of popcorn for a healthy snack. And, everyone seems to enjoy the crispy addition to scrambled eggs. The crispy kale also adds a pleasant crunch to leafy green salads. See, I told you the possibilities were endless….

If you need more inspiration check out how to take your kale chips to a new level at The Sensitive Pantry. Nancy offers several ways to really kick your kale up a notch!

Have you joined the kale craze?

Spring Rolls

Welcome to my latest obsession.  These spring rolls are completely addicting, gratefully in a healthy and good kind of way.  I love spring rolls and have eaten them out on the town for years, but I only recently became a do-it-yourself-spring-roll-aficionado.  If you have not tried making spring rolls, I urge you wait no longer!  If you have made a tortilla roll up, burrito, or even a sandwich, you can master a veggie filled, protein packed spring roll on your very first try.

There are three components to the perfect spring roll: rice paper, julienned vegetables, and a fabulous dipping sauce.

Rice paper is available just about everywhere. And, by everywhere I mean all four five of the grocery stores I happen to frequent. Most grocery stores have an Asian aisle or imported food section.  You should be able to find spring roll/rice paper there.  I have found three brands consistently around the Austin area: Blue Dragon, Mekong Rice Paper, and Banh Trang Spring Rolls Skin.  They are inexpensive and will last through your impending spring roll obsession.

There really is no recipe for spring rolls, but for inspiration, I’ll tell you what I’ve been filling mine with lately.  And, if you aren’t in the mood to whip out  your mandoline or test your knife skills making perfectly julienned veggies, you can always buy pre-sliced and diced vegetables. I did a little of both.

Spring Roll filling inspiration

cucumbers (really a must for me!)

carrots

bell pepper

zucchini

broccoli slaw (I buy an organic package and toss it in salads too)

spring onions or red onions

purple cabbage

sprouts

cilantro (a must!)

mint (a must!)

shrimp

Chances are you have most of these ingredients already in your kitchen.  Promise me, you won’t leave out the cilantro and mint!  You will love, love the fresh flavor these handy herbs bring to the rolls.  I’ve been adding small slices of left-over meat to the rolls too. I’m on a grilled shrimp kick right now, but thinly sliced chicken or beef would be heavenly too. Whatever you have left over, be creative!

Here’s the kicker.  This sauce really should be outlawed.  I can’t even tell you what Husband dubbed it.  I found the recipe at My New Roots and am smitten with the flavor. Go ahead and double the recipe…you’ll thank me later.

Divine Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup almond butter

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp tamari

1 Tbs agave nectar

2 Tbs water

1 lime, juiced

crushed red pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Add more water if sauce is too thick, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Once you have the veggies prepped and the sauce made the assembly is a breeze.  Take one sheet of rice paper and place it in a pie pan or large plate filled with warm water.  Soak the paper for 5-10 seconds and place on a dry tea towel and blot dry.  Place rice paper on a cutting board or plate.  Spread a generous layer of Divine Dipping Sauce across the diameter (center) of the paper.  Add your julienned veggies and protein.  Fold the top side of the paper over the sauce and veggies, then bring the short sides of the paper up each side.  Then gently roll the folded parts over remaining rice paper until a nice neat (or not so neat!) wrap is made.

Voila! Spring Roll bliss.

Keep extra chopped up veggies and sauce in the fridge so you can make these delicious treats anytime.  They hold up well in lunch boxes – yes, two of the four Littles love spring rolls.  And I’ve sent Husband out the door with spring rolls in his lunch too.

What are your favorite spring roll ingredients?

Anna’s Guacamole

The night I found out I was preggo with Little numero dos, I ate an entire avocado. Maybe two.  It was a chilly December evening out at our friend’s ranch and for supper they served a gorgeous salad of avocados and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  I seriously ate every slice of avocado on the platter.

So it should come as no surprise that this particular Little inherited a passion for avocados.  Since she was nine months old, she’s been eating them straight from the skin. Gratefully her siblings appreciate the green goodness too, and woe be the day that mama doesn’t have avocados in the fruit basket.

The avocado-loving-littlest is now eight.  For the last two years, the guacamole making responsibility has rested squarely on her shoulders.  In fact, she’s down-right territorial about her method and ingredients.  I’m honored she’s letting me share her tried and true guacamole recipe with you today.

All measurements are approximate because, like her mother, she just adds and tastes as she goes.  You should do the same!

Anna’s Guacamole

2 large avocados, preferably organic

1 lime

coarse sea salt (generous teaspoon or two)

cumin (several shakes, probably 1 tsp)

red onion (2-3 tablespoons, chopped)

cilantro (1 -2 tsps, chopped)

In a large bowl, scoop out avocados.  Add the juice of 1/2 lime (reserve the other half for garnish or additional juice if needed), salt, cumin, red onion, and cilantro.  With a wire whisk blend all ingredients together until well blended with large segments of avocado remaining.  Taste until perfected (or gone!).