Archive for Cookies

Better Breakfast Cookies

breakfast cookies

Vegan. Gluten free. No added fat. No added sugar. Sounds like a recipe for disaster…or the holy grail. I’ve tried many variations of nutritious cookies, and they’re either gummy door stops or no healthier than regular cookies. For a while, I thought these cookies were the best I could do. Then I found a much better recipe on Watching What I Eat, which I prefer over many traditional cookies. The ingredients don’t sound special, but give these a try, okay?

You may find that they replace your muffins, protein bars, and granola bars. These cookies have been lifesavers when I rush out the door in the morning. I time my commute by the minute; if I’m not at the train station by 9:06, there’s a good chance I’ll be late to work. So thank you, Cookies, for being my meal in my hand!

Feel free to make these cookies your own. I love coconut oil (it’s not as unhealthy as previously thought and may even be a superfood), and it gives a toasty texture and flavor. Keep in mind that they’re faintly sweet, so do adjust your tastebuds. While traditional cookies should come out of the oven just when the edges set, I bake these to the upper limit so the edges are crisp and insides aren’t gummy. Be sure to try them fresh from the oven!

Better Breakfast Cookies

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 16 cookies

Better Breakfast Cookies

These cookies are endlessly customizable and can take your favorite ingredients and spices. To make these gluten free, use oats that are certified gluten free (regular oats are cross-bread with wheat or may be contaminated through handling).

Ingredients

2 dark, speckled bananas, mashed until smooth and creamy
1/3 cup peanut butter (chunky, creamy, or natural)
1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil (optional)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled or quick-cooking oats
1/8 tsp fine salt
1/4 cup dried coconut or nuts
1/3 cup chocolate chips, dried fruit, or any combination

Instructions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil. Preheat oven to 350° F with the racks in the upper and lower thirds.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the mashed banana, peanut butter, and coconut oil (if using) with a wooden spoon. Then incorporate the applesauce and vanilla.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients: the oats, salt, coconut/nuts, and chocolate chips/dried fruit.
  4. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Drop the dough by hockey puck–sized spoonfuls and flatten to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.
  6. Bake for 20-30 min. (rotate cookie sheets after 10 min.), until golden brown on the edges. When completely cool, store in a cookie tin. The cookies attract moisture; you may need to store in the fridge after the second day.

Notes

Adapted from Watching What I Eat

http://www.sugoodsweets.com/blog/2013/03/better-breakfast-cookies-recipe/

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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Streusel Bars

chocolate peanut butter streusel bar cookies

Several years ago, I made these bar cookies as a farewell present for a colleague. Turns out these bars ushered in the end of an era. It started innocently on a crisp Friday evening, when I met my co-worker at a nouvelle French restaurant. Although it was her goodbye party, it was a reunion for me, since I left the company several months prior and got to see my work buddies again.

Our large party sampled a wide range of foods: delicately flavored head cheese, bold sausages, and three sundaes. I also took my first sip of a White Russian but didn’t go beyond that. Any more, and I would have been drunk. As we exchanged hugs, I gave my colleague chocolate and peanut butter streusel bars. She had impeccable manners and as such, I didn’t know whether she disliked any foods (I never heard her say one negative thing). But I figured chocolate and peanut butter was a safe combo.

The following Monday was business as usual, until I heard that the company I used to work at was shutting down, immediately. Little did we know, our dinner three days before was our last hurrah. By week’s end, everyone had left the company. Now, they’re scattered across several states and countries.

Although these bars represent the bittersweet, I hope they bring you nothing but good memories. They’re a riff on Ina Garten’s peanut butter and jelly bars. Instead of the jelly, I filled them with ganache. Naturally, I also reduced the fat in the dough and added whole grains (uh, all that extra chocolate probably cancels out the health benefits). Don’t be disturbed by the modest amount of chocolate in the picture; I adjusted the recipe so you’ll have enough filling.

Recipe: Chocolate and Peanut Butter Streusel Bars
Inspired by Ina Garten
Servings: 48 bars

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces (about 2 cups) 60% chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (not “natural”)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or spelt flour (can substitute all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 11×14-inch cake pan.
  2. Bring cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl, and pour cream over chocolate. Mash any big pieces with a wooden spoon. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  3. With an electric beater on medium speed, cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
  5. Place 2/3 of the dough into the pan. Spread and press over the bottom with your fingers. Spread the ganache evenly over the dough. Form the remaining dough into pea-sized globs (it takes a while, but it ensures that the crumbs stay chunky). Drop the dough evenly over the ganache. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Variation: Reduce the fat by substituting water or milk for the cream. In my experience, water ganaches aren’t as rich as the traditional version, but it’s worth a try.

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Breakfast Cookies

breakfast cookies

I’ve always been enamored with eating cookies for breakfast. After all, muffins aren’t much better; they’re basically cake without the frosting. If people can make healthy muffins, could a cookie be far?

The trouble is, most breakfast cookies have all the butter and sugar, but the whole grains are an afterthought. And then healthy cookies are disappointingly doughy.

When I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, it sounded too good to be true. No added sugar? Vegan? 100% whole grain? No copout substitutes (like vegan buttery spread or Ener-G Egg Replacer)? It’s rare that a recipe with one of these attributes is delicious.

I’m happy to report that you can feel good eating these cookies for breakfast. Each cookie is crazy high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. There’s a macaroon-esque chewiness, crisp edges, and cakey interior. The heartiness of the oats, richness of the coconut, and brightness of the fruit play well off of each other. My only complaint is that these crumble easily. Oh well, just think of it as soft granola.

The recipe is also highly customizable. Feel free to clean out your cupboard. You can use raisins (because you went on a healthy shopping spree and to your dismay, they became hard pellets), flaxseed meal (because there’s only so much you can sprinkle on oatmeal every morning), and applesauce (because the jar’s starting to look lonely after you dabbled in low-fat baking a while ago), but feel free to use any dried fruit (or chocolate chips), nut meal, and puréed fruit (even mix in a little nut/seed butter, such as tahini).

Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from Nikki’s Healthy Cookie recipe on 101 Cookbooks

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup flaxseed meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded and unsweetened
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F, racks in the lower and top thirds. Line two baking sheets with foil and grease with oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine the applesauce, vanilla extract, and olive oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, flaxseed meal, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the raisins.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough.
  3. Drop firmly packed dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto the baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.

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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in New York

chocolate chip cookies

These are not from City Bakery (too crispy and marzipan-y). Nor Jacques Torres (too sweet). Not Bouchon (too buttery) either. After making Levain Bakery copycats, eating the real deal and amassing 310+ comments, those are close but no cigar.

My favorite chocolate chip cookies are not from a bakery per se. I’ve been telling people about them for years, but it hasn’t caught on. So now I’ll shout it out for everyone to hear.

First, some criteria. Chocolate chip cookies should not be the size of your face. Bouchon, you sophisticated French bakery, what were you thinking? Maybe you can take a page from French Women Don’t Get Fat about portion control. Second, CC cookies should not be crispy. Then they’re just like crackers and what’s the point? Lastly, CC cookies cannot have nuts. It totally disrupts the texture. Okay, I’ll let the nut people put nuts in their cookies, but not mine.

Times Square Hot Bagel

The magical place I speak of is Times Square Hot Bagels on W. 44 St. and 7 Ave. (Update: they closed in Nov. 2012. RIP!) They’re one of the few places in New York that makes traditional bagels, but never mind that, we’re talking cookies here. They’re pliable, toffee-esque (probably from brown sugar) and chock full of chocolate CHUNKS. One will set you back about 80 cents (they’re $12.50/pound). You can eat one or two and be satisfied without feeling gross afterwards. Since they’re at the crossroads of the world, you don’t have an excuse not to try them.

I first heard about these through church. After service, there was a huge table of humble-looking cookies. I was wowed and only had these clues: a checkerboard logo and some name with “Times Square.” Eventually, I tracked down the store.

A little caveat: sometimes the cookies from the shop are a bit hard. They can easily be fixed with a sprinkle of water and 10 seconds in the microwave. The only guarantee of getting a fresh cookie is to attend the evening service at Redeemer church. Try it: you might like the cookies. And the service. Senior pastor Tim Keller is like a modern day C.S. Lewis. He randomly speaks throughout the day, but he’s always at the 6:00 service at the Hunter College auditorium (69 St. between Park and Lex). Well actually he’s on vacation (no doubt reading more philosophical material) till Aug. 16, but you get the idea.

Times Square Hot Bagels
200 W. 44 St. (by 7 Ave.)
New York, NY 10036
212-997-7300

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Save Your Saltines for Chocolate-Caramel Cookies

chocolate-caramel cracker cookies

The last time I hoarded leftovers, everyone must have laughed their faces off.Some people bring home entrées; others take home french fries. I do both and then some, like the time I doggie bagged bread cubes that were meant for the fondue pot. I had the last laugh when I turned them into Nutella bread pudding and made everyone jealous.

It gets even better: the other day I used leftover saltine crackers (from Hill Country barbecue) for chocolate-caramel bars. I’m not one to relish in packaged foods and refined flour, but the saltines are key. I tried a similar recipe with homemade graham crackers, but you really do need a flimsy base to soak up the toffee. A fancy “crust” will only break your jaw. I haven’t gone crackers: these are even surpass the chocolate matzoh crunch that’s become popular of late.

chocolate-caramel cracker cookies

Bittersweet Chocolate-Caramel Cracker Cookies

Adapted from Deep Dark Chocolate by Sara Perry

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, divided
35 saltine crackers
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
10 ounces premium dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1 3/4 cups)

For topping:
1 cup toasted unsalted nuts, chopped medium coarse or
1/2 cup cacao nibs or
5 teaspoons fine salt (such as fleur de sel or gray sea salt), turbindado sugar, finely ground espresso, pepper, spice blends/rubs

Special equipment: a 10-by-15-inch pan

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). To make the cookies easy to remove, line a 10-by-15-inch pan with a sheet of foil, shiny side up, leaving a few inches hanging over the longer edges. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter onto the foil-lined pan, and brush to cover the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with the crackers (don’t worry if there are small gaps).

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 cup butter and the brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, until the mixture forms a thick syrup (248°F/120°C on a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the condensed milk until blended. Pour the mixture over the crackers, making sure all the crackers are covered.

3. Bake until the syrup layer bubbles, for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, scatter the chocolate over the topping, and allow them to melt for 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the surface and sprinkle with the nuts, cacao nibs, salt, spices, etc. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the nuts into the chocolate. Freeze until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

4. Remove from the freezer and invert the pan onto a clean surface (don’t worry if you lose some nuts from the surface; they’ll be great for topping an ice cream sundae or for adding to cookie dough). Carefully peel back the foil to reveal the soda-cracker underside of the cookies. Using a sharp knife, cut the cookies along the cracker outlines. This is easier to do when the cookies have begun to thaw slightly. Invert and cut the squares into quarters for bite-size pieces or thirds for finger-size pieces.

Buy Deep Dark Chocolate
Buy Deep Dark Chocolate by Sara Perry

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Bacon Cookies

The idea hit me like a stroke of genius. If everything tastes better with bacon, surely dessert does too. A handful of them get it right, like Roni-Sue’s bacon buttercrunch. (Save yourself from Vosges’ bacon bar though.) But I wanted to try something new: “double” bacon cookies.

A couple years ago, The NY Times ran a recipe for bacon-dripping cookies, but there was no bacon in them. Other recipes have bacon bits, but they make no mention of drippings. Why oh why would you waste pork fat?

The draw of bacon cookies is the balance of sweet and salty, and I know of no other recipe that epitomizes the two like olive shortbread. I love them so much that I used them as a base for these experimental cookies. Of course I substituted the olives with crumbled bacon, and instead of butter, I used the drippings. After all that work, I expected to hit the jackpot. But my flash of genius was more like a flash in the pan. The cookies were nauseatingly rich. The texture was literally like sand; they wouldn’t hold together. Maybe I didn’t render enough fat (more on that later), or maybe you can’t make all-lard cookies. I think the bacon-and-lard idea is better suited for savory crackers. Not so avant-garde, I know.

Why did I even bother sharing this idea then? Because I kick myself when someone beats me to it. Like the time I made the crispiest pizza without a wood-fired oven or a pizza stone. A cast iron skillet did the trick. By the time I made it known, it was too late: Heston Blumenthal was credited with the idea. Never mind that I did it more than a year before he documented it in his book, In Search of Perfection. See what procrastination does?

Or sometimes I do start a popular idea, and it gets passed down so much that people forget the source. More than three years ago, I created a knock-off recipe for Nutella. One that had cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate, just like Nutella itself. At the time, I couldn’t find any such recipes on the Internet, so I shared it here. This Feb., the L.A. Times ran a similar recipe, citing the same book that I did. Heck, even the title was similar. “Nuts for Nutella” vs. “Nutty for Nutella.” Perhaps I’m paranoid, but in the past people have copied my recipe word for word and passed it off as their own.

Let this serve as a marker. If three months or three years from now, someone comes up with a great bacon shortbread recipe, perhaps a seed was planted here. For those who are wondering, here’s the recipe I used. I didn’t like it though. Sorry, no pictures, as I only had a pile of crumbs. These would probably be better with butter instead of drippings. Too lazy to try it again though.

P.S. – this dough is also good with seaweed or furikake.

Bacon Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Susan Herrmann Loomis and The Traveler’s Lunchbox
Yield: about 34 cookies

1 to 1 1/2 lbs uncooked bacon, to yield 1/2 cup drippings and 1/2 cup bacon bits
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, whizzed in a food processor until fine
1 Tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (Don’t get smart and try olive oil, peanut oil, etc. Your tastebuds will go into shock)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cook the bacon. The cleanest, unfussiest way is to bake it at 400° F in a large foil-lined baking sheet for about 20 min. Turn the bacon over half way through cooking. Don’t put the bacon on racks. The little grates are a pain to clean. Also, don’t be like me and bake it at 200° F for 3 hours, no matter how good it sounds. The fat won’t render all the way.

Reserve 1/2 cup of bacon fat and let it cool to room temperature. Crumble 1/2 a cup of bacon, and save the rest. It keeps for a long time in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the bacon fat until it is soft. Mix in the sugar until blended, then drizzle in the oil and mix until combined. Add the flour and the salt, and mix gently but thoroughly until the dough is smooth, then add the bacon bits and mix until they are thoroughly incorporated into the dough.

With your hands, press the dough into the pan until it is 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours. Score the dough into rectangles with a knife.

Bake until the cookies are golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately cut the cookies while they are still hot. Cool on wire racks.

If you find that the middle pieces are still doughy, re-bake them in a preheated 300° F oven for about 10 minutes.

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Asian Oatmeal Cookies

five-spice-oatmeal cookies

Goji berries used to be one the best-kept secrets in Chinese herbal medicine. Oddly enough, they’re usually used in savory dishes; my mom drops a handful into chicken or abalone soup. You can also make fruit “tea” by steeping dried gojis, Asian red dates, and logans in hot water. As the fruits reconstitute, they also infuse the water with their sweetness.

Now that gojis have gone mainstream in energy bars, chocolate, and cereal, I look at them not so much as medicine, but as dessert. Since they’re like a cross between raisins and cranberries (but with a slight medicinal aftertaste), why not put them in oatmeal cookies? And while I’m on that route, why not replace cinnamon with Chinese five-spice powder (a mixture of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and cloves)?

Since I’m not fond of fennel and anise, I made a back-up batch of six-spice cookies (with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cayenne), just in case I couldn’t stomach the five-spice powder.

For the base cookie dough, I used a recipe from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Light Desserts (thanks to David Lebovitz for the find). As promised, they were chewy but not tough, cakey, or soggy (things that characterize most low-fat cookies). They obviously don’t taste as buttery as traditional cookies, but no one will know they’re “healthy.” BTW, my favorite low-fat oatmeal cookies are the florentines from Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich, but that’s another post. Now those taste buttery.

In the end, the six-spice cookies were good, but the five-spice ones were better. The latter reminded me of my childhood: dim sum with my grandparents and my mom’s home cooking. They had an earthy taste, and five-spice powder works so well in desserts that I’m going to keep substituting it for cinnamon. It’s really good in coffee fruitcake, for example. Next experiment? My morning oatmeal.

The six-spice cookies had a little bit of heat, and I like that concept too. The point isn’t to make dessert taste like hot sauce, but to give your mouth a little sensation. I have an idea for another cayenne pepper dessert (not with chocolate though; that combination’s been played out enough). Stay tuned for that, if I get a chance to bake more. :-)

P.S. I’m on Twitter. Come find me at twitter.com/sugoodsweets. It is Ruth Reichl‘s fault. I saw her there and realized how fun it is.

Asian Oatmeal Cookies

If the Chinese made oatmeal raisin cookies, these would be it. Goji berries have a sweet-tart flavor akin to raisins and cranberries, and they call out for Asian spices—in this case, Chinese five-spice powder.

For the best results, buy gojis from a reputable natural-foods store. They can cost $20/lb, which is sticker shock compared to the $6-lb bag in Chinese supermarkets, but we know better than to trust Chinese ingredients. I’ve heard horror stories of Chinese gojis that were dyed red. Besides, the better the berries, the more sweet (and less medicinal) they will taste. If you can’t find gojis, raisins or cranberries will work fine.

About 24 cookies

Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and More Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour, and Eggs

1 cup flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup goji berries

2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, greased foil, or silicone mats

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rack on the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and five-spice powder.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Mix in the brown sugar, then the egg, applesauce, and vanilla.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the oats and raisins.

5. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons 2-inches apart on the baking sheets and use a fork to gently flatten the dough.

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they “look dull on the surface but are moist and soft.” Rotate baking sheets during baking for even heating.

Storage: Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Six-Spice Variation: Substitute the five-spice powder with 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, plus a big pinch of cloves and cayenne pepper.

Tip: Dough can be refrigerated for several hours before baking, which should make the cookies even better.

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Winter Spice Cookies

leckerli cookies

Happy Thanksgiving! After a three-month absense, I have returned. I must warn you, updates will be infrequent (if at all) until 2009 at least. I’m in an awkward housing situation with an even more awkward kitchen. Actually, I haven’t baked anything since my many moves, and I’m riding on recipes that I did long ago.

Any person who cooks with Nutella (spreadable chocolate) is a genius, and judging from Pierre Hermé’s Nutella tart, the man is a kitchen god. He is such a master of contrasting flavors and textures that his leckerli recipe called out to me, even though it contains no chocolate. The combination of citrus, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg is haunting—and novel. Unfortunately, the texture is what you’d expect from a no-fat-added cookie: chewy and borderline stale.

So I kept the flavors but contrasted them with creamy white chocolate in my chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you’re craving warm, tingly spices this time of year but don’t want to resort to gingerbread, these cookies will turn heads.

Winter Spice Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Pierre Hermé’s leckerli and my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe

For an extra hit of flavor, these cookies are dusted with more spices when they’re hot out of the oven (a trick from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich). I made these so long ago that I can’t quite remember the proportion of spices/honey. Apologies if something goes wrong. If you run into trouble, please leave a comment here, and I’ll see if I can backtrack.

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch nutmeg
pinch ginger
pinch cloves
pinch freshly ground white pepper
3/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup finely diced candied lemon and orange rind
1/4 c chopped toasted almonds, preferably blanched
1 c white chocolate chips (with real cocoa butter)

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, white and black peppers, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, honey, butter, egg, and vanilla.

In a separate medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and spice mixture, reserving a couple pinches for later. Add the flour mixture, lemon zest, candied citrus rind, almonds, and white chocolate to the wet ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8-9 min, or JUST until the edges begin to brown.

While the cookies are still hot, sprinkle them with the reserved spice mixture.

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Pay it Forward Giveaway: Liz Lovely Cookies

Liz Lovely cookies

While it’s good to cut down on animal products for the environment (think of how many people you could feed with 14 trillion gallons of water, instead of giving it the cows), it’s also hard to refuse a buttery chocolate chip cookie. Vegan dessert options aren’t good; most taste and look like Birkenstocks. Ironically, some are junkier than their regular counterparts. I’ll take butter over Crisco any day.

Liz Lovely is an exception. They only use fair trade, organic, and natural products: flour, sugar, Spectrum sustainable palm oil, baking soda, and your typical flavorings (chocolate, peanut butter, ginger). They make some of my favorite cookies, vegan or not. They practice what they preach too; they ship the cookies with biodegradable corn “peanuts.” These aren’t the corn forks that actually fill up landfills; they dissolve in water.

The nice folks at Liz Lovely sent me a three-pack sample, and the Chocolate Moose Dragons are my favorite. Unless you make flourless chocolate cookies, you can’t get much richer than this. The chocolate chunks are top notch. I didn’t care for the spiciness of the Ginger Snapdragons, and it was heavy on the baking powder taste. Although I fantasize about raw cookie dough, the Cowgirl Cookies showed me that too much of a good thing is just too much (but I bet the dough would go well with vanilla ice cream).

Just be careful with these cookies. Each bag comes with two cookies the size of your hand. While the package brags that you can share it with a friend, you won’t want to. But you should, because each cookie contains two servings. Liz Lovely’s mission is to do good, but I hereby declare their cookies evil because they ruined my dinner…and breakfast.

They might ruin your appetite too, if you win a sampler containing two each of the Chocolate Moose Dragons, Snicker Dudes, Goats a’ Grazin’, and Macaroonies Sock-It-To-Me! To enter, please promise to do a good deed and give me your best vegan dessert recipe (either write it in or provide a link) in the comments below. No recipes with trans fatty shortening please. The entry with most delicious sounding recipe will win. Contest ends Sun., July 13 at 5:00 PM EST.

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Lazy Banana Pudding

banana pudding

Just because it’s hot and sticky outside, it doesn’t mean you can’t make dessert. Especially one that doesn’t require the oven or stove.

This dish is as much a function of the weather as it is the economy. Sure, stone fruits and berries are in season, but my local supermarket was selling cherries for $6.99 per quarter pound. So I’ve been buying bananas instead. When I found free organic vanilla wafers at a street fair, I immediately thought of banana pudding. Instead of making custard though, why not use yogurt?

The result was a little tangy, but it was entirely worth the two-minute effort. You really don’t need a recipe (Layer yogurt with cookies and sliced bananas. Refrigerate. Eat.), but here’s approximate amounts.

Effortless Banana Pudding

4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt (see note)
60 to 70 vanilla wafers
4 to 5 organic bananas, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie pan or a wide 1 1/2- to 2-quart dish with wafers.

Layer with half the yogurt and bananas. Put another layer of wafers on top, and repeat with the yogurt and bananas. Save a little yogurt and cover the top of the bananas completely, to prevent browning.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Note: Because the bananas and wafers are sweet, you don’t want the yogurt to be loaded with sugar. I prefer plain yogurt and flavor it to taste (1-2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract). Seek out a high-quality plain yogurt, or else it will be grainy and very sour. I don’t like Dannon, Axelrod, La Yogurt, Stonyfield (the low-fat variety), and Trader Joe’s. Wallaby and Brown Cow are more mild.

Although conventional bananas are safe to eat, they contain far more pesticides than American-grown fruit, and are possibly killing off songbirds.

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