Why mess with perfection? Skillet cookies were introduced to us a long time ago. They bake perfectly in a large cast iron pan. Served straight from the oven and topped with vanilla ice cream, you can’t get a better blast of sweet and the flavors… chocolatel-y, carmel-y, vanilla-y. The cookie is gooey in the middle and crispy on the edges. As they say in our part of the world – it’s a dandy!
After consuming many of these cookies baked in a way-too-big, 10-inch cast iron pan, I converted the recipe to fit my more-modestly-sized 6-inch pans. The cookies are smaller, but following the original recipe, all the sugar and fat was still a bit much. So I’d been thinking about how to transform this favorite yet again. While I won’t throw out the original recipe (it is too yummy), what about recreating this treat with a lot less sugar? And more fiber? Maybe an extra kick of protein? Less fat? Could I make a delicious version that was heathy?
It was a dark and stormy day. Cold rain was pelting the window from a nearly horizontal angle. This was the day it was going to happen. As I headed to the kitchen, I already had an idea. I have been experimenting with puréed beans in baking recipes for quite some time. They are a good flour replacement and do the trick of adding more nutrition by way of fiber and protein. Small white beans cook up nice and soft and have no discernible flavor in baked goods. For the sweetness, I had been reading about using puréed dates as a sugar substitute. They have a wonderful caramel flavor and they are powerfully sweet. I still planned to use semi-sweet chocolate chips because… chocolate!
With the first batch out of the oven and cooled, I set a piece before Jack – my expert taster – and took another piece for myself. I told him it was a healthy version of a skillet cookie. He frowned. Since I needed him to have at least some semblance of an open mind, I did not tell him the cookie was actually gluten free and had virtually no sugar. While we agreed that the cookie was not nearly as decadent as the original, it was still full of the satisfying flavors you want in a skillet cookie – it turned out surprisingly sweet and quite tasty. The next day, Jack suggested we put a warm vanilla custard on it. Oh Jack, that kind of kills the healthy factor…but now he’s got me thinking. We did enjoy one topped with raspberry preserves, which was excellent!
The Other Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
- 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in 1/3 cup hot water to soften
- 1 ½ cups cooked small white beans, or 1 15 oz can white beans rinsed and drained
- 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, or light olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- ½ cup quick oats
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 6-inch cast iron pans or a 12-muffin pan.
- Smooth dates and water into a paste using a stick blender or food processor.
- Add beans, applesauce, oil, egg and vanilla into date mixture. Continue to process until all are incorporated and smooth.
- Stir baking soda, baking powder, salt, and oats into mixture.
- Fold in chocolate chips.
- Divide mixture evenly into prepared pans.
- If using cast iron pans bake for about 25 minutes. If using a muffin tin, bake for about 15 minutes. Cookies should be brown and firm when done.
- Let cookies cool for about 20 minutes before serving.
I was curious about all the nutritional details. Thanks to an online nutrition analyzer, I can easily share what I’ve found with you.
Fueling up with fudge. These tasty snacks helped us through today’s 3½ hour bicycle training ride. Sixteen days till we arrive in Hokkaido!
We are beginning to wrap up the preparation for our 3-month bicycle adventure in Hokkaido, Japan. Our home looks like an outdoor store that has barely survived a tornado attack. Bicycles with halfway-packed panniers are leaned up against walls, an assortment of bags are strewn about having either passed or failed packing tests, and there are a number of items that have not quite yet found a home in our portable summer transportation scheme. If anyone were to peek into on our home, they would surely worry for us. Will we really be ready to start sending our gear on this Wednesday’s flight out of Chignik Lake? In reality, this light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel mess is absolutely normal for us right before everything comes together.
Along with the flurry of final packing, we still are relentlessly adhering to our fitness-training schedule. We both have a lot of experience with preparing for running events, but a bicycle adventure is new. It turns out that prepping is not as simple as setting up a beginner, intermediate or advanced program as we would for a running event. We’ve had to take into account that we need enough “seat time” to avoid sore rear ends. We also factored in our ages and an overall goal that emphasizes endurance over speed. Our Hokkaido schedule will be very flexible. Free from the pressure of reservations (we’ll be tent camping throughout the summer), we’ll be able to ride very short days if we want to stay in a particular location – but we also want to be in shape to put some serious mileage behind us when we want to get somewhere.
After doing quite a bit of research, we settled on a training program called “Sofa to 50k.” With an 8-week schedule culminating today with a 3½ ride, this program is set up similarly to a marathon running schedule. Yikes! Did I say 3½ hours? OK, saddle up!
We usually start our Sundays – the day of our long rides – with steel cut oatmeal. We like to add homemade yogurt and homemade jam for extra flavor and calories. As the long ride days grew longer, we’ve needed to add additional mid-ride calories. Trail mix, nuts, or Figgy-pops have been our go-to snacks. But with a 3½ hour ride looming, I wanted some kind of a nutrition-packed snack that we would look forward to. We couldn’t be more sick of Figgy-pops! With half a jar of tahini left over from a previous recipe, I had an idea for a fudge-like confection packed with protein and energy. After sharing an entire batch today on our longest ride, we both agreed these little treats were fantastic! One tip: You’ll want to keep these in the fridge till you’re ready to eat them. They get sticky at room temperature.
Coconut Chocolate Chip Tahini Fudge
- ½ cup tahini
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
- ¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips, chopped
- pinch salt
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
- Place tablespoon-sized scoops in a silicon ice cube tray.
- Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
- Pop frozen confections out of tray and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tart and sweet, just like a lemon tart is supposed to be. Bites to remind of us of Spring in the middle of Winter.
I’ve noticed that lemon tart recipes are showing up on some of my feeds. Deep in the heart of Winter (a low of negative 30-something Fahrenheit in Ulaanbaatar today) , I think many of us are longing for Spring. The bright yellow zest and the taste of fresh lemon does seem to bring the feeling of Spring into the house, even if only momentarily.
Last summer, I found some four-inch baking dishes that are the perfect size for the two of us to share. And if I happen to eat the whole thing (ahem), I shouldn’t feel too guilty. Tiny tart – tiny guilt. As a nod to my friends who can’t eat gluten, or eggs, or milk, I created this recipe without any animal products or wheat. I really wanted to see if I could make a tasty crust with a nut and oat combination. The tart filling turned out nice and custard-like with a lovely sweet and tart lemony flavor. The crust had a nice nutty crunch to it which paired perfectly with the filling. This dessert turned out delicious!
Lemon Tart for Two
- 1 1/2 tbsp oats
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped pecans
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- tiny pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tbsp applesauce
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- tiny pinch salt
- ¼ cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 2 tbsp water
- juice of one lemon juice (about 3 tbsp)
- zest of one lemon
- Preheat oven to 375 F (190C). Grease a 4-inch tart pan.
- Put the oats, pecans, and sugar into a food processor or blender and process until finely ground.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and blend well. Transfer to a bowl and add the vanilla and apple sauce. Stir well until completely combined.
- Put the mixture into the tart pan. Press mixture with moistened fingers until it evenly covers the bottom and extends up the sides of the pan as far as possible.
- Put it in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, until it is crisp but not overdone. Set aside to cool before filling.
- Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan.
- Stir in the soy milk and water until completely combined.
- Heat until thickens over medium heat stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and zest (reserve a tiny amount of zest for garnish).
- Return to heat and continue whisking over heat for 2-3 minutes. Mixture should be smooth and lump-free.
- Pour mixture into the tart crust. Sprinkle reserved lemon zest on top of tart. Chill until set, about an hour.
Unbelievably meaty flavor for a delicious vegan pâté. Serve it on crispy bread, crunchy crackers, or a leaf of fresh romaine lettuce as an appetizer to please friends of all eating persuasions.
Jack and I are intrigued with all foods. Confirmed omnivores, we never pass up an opportunity to try something new. A visit to my sister, who is a devout vegan (and gluten free) inspired us to walk in her culinary shoes for a bit.
Growing up in a household flavored with Swiss and Jewish heritage, my sister and I were exposed to world flavors from a very young age. Both of us have fond food memories from this period in our lives. One of our favorites was chopped chicken liver which is a rich pâté featuring the flavors of chicken fat and caramelized onions. We loved this spread on toast or crackers along with a slice of tomato and a sprinkle of salt.
This mushroom and lentil pâté has a surprisingly similar flavor and texture to chopped chicken liver or even duck liver pâté. My sister and I made this recipe together last week and couldn’t stop eating it. For the benefit of her current diet, we served the pâté on crisp pieces of romaine lettuce instead of crackers. A healthy smear of the pâté on the lettuce layered with a slice of heirloom tomato and a dash of salt brought us right back to a childhood favorite.
We made this recipe a second time substituting the agave nectar with honey and substituting two tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil with unsalted butter for an even richer flavor. These changes take the recipe from vegan status to vegetarian.
Mushroom and Lentil Pâté
- 2 cups cooked lentils
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms, shiitake or crimini work well
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 cup toasted and ground almonds
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp agave nectar
- pinch cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra olive oil, needed
- In a large sauté pan, heat 4 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and sauté until translucent.
- Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine almonds, lemon juice, soy sauce, rosemary, thyme, sage, honey, and chipotle.
- Stir in mushroom mixture.
- Using a stick blender (or food processor), purée the mixture.
- Add in cooked lentils.
- Purée the mixture.
- If the mixture feels too thick, thin it with additional olive oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste.