Sweet

Carrot Cake Raw Balls

Carrot Cake Raw Balls
makes 11 1 oz balls (weird, I know)
modified from Running with Spoons

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3 dried dates
4 dried apricots
3 T coconut oil, melted
2 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1 C oats
1/4 C almond flour
1 C shredded carrot, about 1 1/2 carrots
1/4 t ground cinnamon
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes

In a heavy duty (trust me, make sure it’s durable) food processor, blend the dates, apricots, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. You want a soft paste here.

Add almond flour, shredded carrot, and spices. Blend until all ingredients come together as a slightly sticky dough.

Measure out 1 oz balls and roll around in a shallow bowl filled with unsweetened coconut flake. Store in the fridge or freeze!

Paleo Almond Pancakes

I’m not totally in love in bananas. I only eat them if they are so ripe they are brown, or I put them in smoothies. Sometimes, I bake with them because who doesn’t love a classic banana bread? But overall…I don’t love bananas.

As I scoured the web for a Paleo pancake recipe, I repeatedly found that a key ingredient is mashed banana. Disappointing, at best. After days of patience, I came across The Roasted Root’s Almond Flour Pancakes. They are SO good. I made them this morning and will probably make them every morning for the rest of my life. Trust me, add raspberries.

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Almond Flour Pancakes
recipe hardly adapted from The Roasted Root
yields 9 pancakes

1 3/4 C almond flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
3/4 C almond milk

In a medium sized bowl, combine almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a liquid measuring  cup, measure out almond milk, add extracts, then add the eggs. Whisk very well until all wet ingredients are well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, gently combine, then set aside while you warm up your skillet.

This is essential: use oil to cook your pancakes. Don’t use butter. I would assume that coconut oil is your most Paleo option; however, I use olive oil for everything because why not? I’m not hardcore Paleo. Cook these over medium, medium-low heat. You want the pan hot enough to give the cakes a crust, but not so hot that the cakes don’t cook all the way through. It’s a delicate balance that I’m still working to figure out. Careful flipping these cakes! They’re delicate.

Serve hot off the skillet with maple syrup and fresh raspberries.

Homemade Holiday 2014

I need to be real with you about the holidays. The way many people act post-Thanksgiving right through the December holidays really bums me out. I feel embarrassed for those who are so holiday-crazy-brained that all of a sudden they forget how to be decent human beings. We already deal with enough rudeness the other eleven months of the year; the added indifference toward others around the holidays is truly unbearable for me. Isn’t is amazing how, in the midst of giving to others, we forget how to treat those present around us?

In order to avoid the box store chaos, I made all gifts homemade this year. My mom, as well as my closest friends, were gifted Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean extract. My dad was gifted caramel syrup, which he likes to put in his coffee every morning. Finally, my extended family of aunts, uncles, and grandparents were gifted packages of sausage and cheese and spinach and cheese ravioli as well as a jar of marinara sauce. Below are a few of my homemade holiday recipes for 2014.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract
makes six 9 oz bottles

Made with help from The Kitchn

25 vanilla beans (I ordered mine from Amazon)
1 handle of cheap vodka

It’s simple…slice your beans, or not. For every 9 oz of vodka you pour, use or so 4 beans. I found the bottles with white caps at Michaels; they are perfectly sized, but I wish they had pour spouts. Shake your bottles a little bit every day, and your extract will be ready in 2 months.

Homemade Caramel Syrup
makes 16 oz

Made with help from The Kitchn

1 1/2 C sugar
scant 1/2 C water, plus separate 3/4 C water
1 t corn syrup
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, scant 1/2 C water, and corn syrup. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium high. Continue to stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil until mixture turns a medium amber, or other desired color. Remove from heat.

Carefully, carefully pour in the separate 3/4 C water while stirring. When it splatters, it hurts, so be careful. Once the syrup appears to have come together, add vanilla extract and salt. Immediately pour into a clean canning jar and apply lid and ring; the jar will can itself. Let cool on the counter for a few hours before transferring to the fridge.

Banana Bread

This is your simple, basic banana bread. No bells and whistles here. Try adding nuts, or even better, mini chocolate chips!

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Banana Bread
Makes two loaves; serves 20 -24

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 C sugar
4 eggs, beaten
5 super ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
2 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans by laying a piece of parchment paper across each of them. You should have edges of parchment hanging over the long edges on both sides. Laying the parchment this way will allow you to easily pop! the bread out of the loaf pans. Grease the areas that are exposed, near the short edges on both ends.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg) until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip butter and sugar. Whip for many minutes in order to incorporate air into the mixture; you’ll want it to be almost white before you add the eggs. Remember to constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract and combine. Add the banana and blend the mixture for awhile. You really want to see it come together before adding the flour mixture. This should be the last time you mix thoroughly, as once the flour mixture is added, you don’t want to overwork your batter.

Add half the flour mixture. Give it a light mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake for 60 minutes, or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a loaf comes out dry.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before popping the loaves out of pans.

Monster Cookie Bars

I teach sixth grade at a middle school in Maine. This week, the student council is sponsoring a Food Drive. All the food collected will be donated to the local food pantry and will benefit members of our community. It’s a great cause, but sometimes, preteens and adolescents struggle to understand the potential magnitude of this kind of event. Food insecurity is a scary real issue, and it’s EVERYWHERE. If you want to know more, check out No Kid Hungry, the national campaign to end childhood hunger.

Just an FYI – in case you don’t already know it – preteens and adolescents are kind of all about themselves. Us adults call this egocentricity. It’s totally alright because it’s the way these big kids/young adults are SUPPOSED to be! So, why not celebrate our kids being exactly the way they are supposed to be by tempting them with tasty treats?

Tonight I baked peanut butter free (too many allergies!) Monster Cookie Bars. They will be used to reward the homeroom students who donate the most food items to the Food Drive tomorrow. Here’s my recipe.

*Disclaimer: Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, choose to bake this recipe on any day when you have low patience, no energy, a bad attitude, or anything else negative going on with you. The dough spreading and M&M dropping process requires time and attention to detail. 🙂

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Monster Cookie Bars (peanut allergy friendly)
recipe makes 24 large triangles; 48 mini triangles

This recipe is pretty much Nestle’s original Tollhouse, but with a twist or two.

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 C quick oats
1 t baking soda
1/4 t plus a pinch more kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract (trust me, do it)
1 regular sized bag of milk chocolate chips
1 large bag of plain M&Ms (you won’t use them all, but plenty will end up in your mouth throughout the prep and baking process)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper so that you have excess hanging over both long sides.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients (flour, oats, soda, salt) until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip butter and both sugars. Whip for many minutes in order to incorporate air into the mixture; you’ll want it to be almost white before you add the eggs. Remember to constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing very well after each addition. Add both extracts with the second egg. Whip the mixture for awhile. This should be the last time you mix thoroughly, as once the flour mixture is added, you don’t want to overwork your dough.

Add half the flour mixture. Give it a light mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl. You’ll notice that the dough is particularly sticky from all the whipping. This is good. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips with your favorite wooden spoon.

This is where the going gets tough. Spreading this sticky cookie dough onto your sheet pan must be a labor of love; otherwise, you may possibly throw it all out the window…literally. I may have gotten that frustrated baking once, but only once, before. Make sure you have clean hands, because from this point on, you’ll need them. Using a combination of a spatula, your hands, and a knife, spread that cookie dough. You may get fearful that you won’t have enough dough to fill your pan. You’ll be fine. Just be patient, love the dough, and carefully, carefully spread. I make five piles of dough – one in each corner of the pan, and one in the middle. I make the one in the middle extra large so that I can pull from it when I’m having a hard time building my edges. Once I think I’ve succeeded and all my dough is spread, I do a double-check. Is the surface of the dough even? Are there any gaping holes? If you miss either of things, you’ll regret it when your baked product comes out of the oven.

Once you have a sheet pan full of beautifully spread cookie dough, grab the other half of that bag of M&Ms you’ve been devouring. Pour them on! I take my time doing this because I like when my bars are pretty. You can do what you want! My only suggestion is that you take the time to press each M&M gently into the dough so they may bake right in!

Bake your bars in the preheated oven for 21-22 minutes. The edges will be golden, and when you press into the middle, the dough will not bounce back. Let the pan cool on wire racks for an hour; then, carefully remove the bars by pulling up on the excess parchment on both sides of the pan. Let the bars continue to cool on wire racks for another hour. Then, creatively cut on your x-large cutting board.

I hope the kids enjoy these tomorrow!

Ginger Snap Cookie Sandwiches

I struggle to maintain a blog. Let’s be honest, we’re all too busy to regularly exercise, meet up with friends, and maintain a blog. We all suck at those things…right? Here’s my most recent recipe. I was so proud of it that I just had to start blogging again. I won’t always be funny or witty, but I do promise to always provide you with a ‘certifiably yummy’ something.

Ginger Snap Cookie Sandwiches

Ginger Snap Cookie Sandwiches
recipe makes 12
Cookies recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda, slightly overflowing
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t cinnamon, also slightly overflowing
1/2 t ground ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C molasses
1 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger) until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip butter and sugar. Whip for many minutes in order to incorporate air into the mixture; you’ll want it to be almost white before you add the molasses. Add molasses and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Remember to constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla and mix very well. This should be the last time you mix thoroughly, as once the flour mixture is added, you don’t want to overwork your dough. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Using a 1.5″ scoop, drop dough in rounded mounds onto prepared cookie sheets. You should scoop a total of 24, 12 per sheet. Bake cookies in a preheated oven for 10 minutes (my oven) to 12 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be slightly browned, and if gently poked, the dough will collapse, not bounce back.

Let cookies cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool all the way.

Maple Cinnamon Cream

1/2 C shortening
1/2 t King Arthur Flour maple extract
1 t vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 C powdered sugar
1/4 – 1/3 C whole milk

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, whip shortening, cinnamon, and extracts for a long time. I let mine go for 7 minutes. Again, constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add half the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Then add another 1/2 C. If the mixture begins to stiffen, start adding milk 1 T at a time. Alternate between adding the remaining powdered sugar and the milk until you reach a desired consistency. Then, whip the hell out of it! The more air you incorporate, the fluffier your cream. Keep out the remaining powdered sugar and milk in case you want to tweak the cream’s texture after the whipping process.

Sandwich that spicy, mapley cream between two completely cooled ginger snaps and enjoy. As far as seasonal treats go, throw the apples and pumpkins out the window; a ginger snap cookie sandwich will do just fine.