Lemon Ricotta Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Thumbprint Coolies

I’ve been so incredibly busy. I’m still working at the hospital to finish the required clinical time for my Advanced EMT license. I’m also teaching 7 classes per week at the dance studio, building websites, and cooking up a storm. With the shorter days (whose bright idea was it to make it get dark at 4 pm in October???), I seem to be in hibernation mode. However, these bright and fruity cookies were enough to shake me out of the doldrums. They taste like a bite of Spring!

Ingredients
2 Sticks butter, softened
8 oz Ricotta cheese
1 tsp Lemon extract
2 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Granulated sugar
Jelly or Jam (I used raspberry and apricot, but I believe blueberry would be terrific)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Beat butter, ricotta and vanilla together until creamy. Mix in flour to form dough. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Form dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls and roll in granulated sugar. Use 1/2 tsp measure to create an indentation in each cookie. Fill each cookie with about 1/4 tsp of jelly or jam.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are golden on the bottom. Let cool completely.

Adapted from Ricotta Thumbprint Cookies.

Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (Wheat/grain and oil free)

Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
You might need to stage an intervention…or sign me up for chickpeas anonymous. I’m pretty sure Boyfriend has heard enough about chickpeas over the last month to last him forever. I suspect that the only reason he hasn’t taped my mouth shut yet is that he benefits from my delicious experiments. But even I must admit it…my chickpea addiction is becoming a problem. I’m baking so much now that I’m having to bribe friends and co-workers to take the resulting morsels off my hands. Chickpeas cakes and cookies may be relatively healthy, but even they will expand the waist-line if eaten too often. Oh well, I suppose I could be obsessed with worse things. At least I’m an EMT with lots of firefighter friends; firefighters will eat (almost) anything.

This week was a perfect storm of available ingredients and cooking inspiration. I cooked up an entire bag of dried chickpeas for the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies earlier this week, so I had quite a few left over. Our CSA bag has also been brimming with carrots for the last two weeks. I’ve been very interested in baking with chickpeas and I wanted to branch out beyond cookies. What better way to use up sweet carrots and delicious chickpeas than in a carrot cake?

I knew that it had to be possible, but I had no idea where to start. After a few days of searching through recipes, I figured out the magic ingredients from which a variety of delicious cakes could take shape: two cups of cooked chickpeas, 4 eggs, and one teaspoon of baking powder. With those three ingredients, magic happens. All of the reviews for chickpea cakes were positive, and quite a few said that the chickpeas were an all-but-invisible secret ingredient, so I was quite hopeful about this one. Then again, I had never done anything quite like this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, those three ingredients really are magical and the flavors of carrot and ginger shined in this moist and delicious cake! The frosting is mildly sweet with just a hint of lemony tang and compliments the cake without overwhelming it.

I’m always looking for new ways to cook things. What’s your favorite way to use fresh carrots?

Ingredients
2 Cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamon
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1-2 Cups grated carrot

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Add the eggs and chickpeas to a blender or food processor and process until smooth; this can be done in two batches if necessary. Spoon the puree into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients stirring until fully combined. The batter should be thin.

Grease an 8×8-inch cake pan*. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting.

*If using a 9×9-inch square pan, reduce baking time to 40 minutes.

8 oz Cream cheese
1/4 Cup Butter (if using salted butter, omit salt)
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Powdered sugar, sifted

Whip together the cream cheese, butter, extract, and salt until light and airy. Add the powdered sugar and whip until smooth. Keep this frosting (and anything you cover in it) refrigerated.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain, oil, and refined sugar free; vegan)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite season is Autumn. Even though it’s only August first, I’m already looking ahead to cooler weather, colorful leaves, and the tastes of spiced apple and pumpkin. The orchards are just starting to sell their summer apples, and I’m looking forward to the fall varieties that are barely a month away. I’ll be spending my fall days picking apples, making and canning applesauce and apple butter, and canning pumpkin for cookies and pies.

Autumn

While I wait longingly for apple and pumpkin season, I decided to pick up some canned pumpkin and create something fall-inspired. Boyfriend is kind of picky when it comes to my healthy cookies. He’ll never turn down a cookie, but he can usually tell that they contain something…non-traditional. These were not only well-received, he gave them 4 forks out of 5 (which he reserves for only the most spectacular of foods)!

Gratuitous gooey melted chocolate picture. You're welcome.

Gratuitous gooey melted chocolate picture. You’re welcome.

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cup Cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Pumpkin
1/4 Cup Honey or maple syrup
1 tsp Baking powder
a pinch of Cinnamon
a dash of Nutmeg
a pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Semi-sweet chocolate chips**

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

Form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Press down with fingertips or the back of a wooden spoon to flatten (about 1/2 inch thick). Bake for about 15-18 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape. They have a soft, slightly cake-like texture.

**These can be made vegan by using vegan chocolate chips.

Adapted from Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan; wheat, oil, and dairy free)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
I absolutely love to bake. I also love to eat the results. What I don’t love is the way most baked goods make me feel. Wheat brings on a major allergy attack reminiscent of the peak of pollen season and often starts an argument between my tummy and I. It is simply not worth it. When I first realized that I needed to cut out wheat, I thought that I would have to spend a ton of money and time learning to bake with exotic flours. I was beyond wrong.

My first clue that I was thinking about wheat-free baking in completely the wrong way was this recipe by Erin over at Texan Erin Baking. It didn’t contain flour of any kind and relied wholly on cooked chickpeas, a staple in my kitchen. Erin mentioned that she had tried an oatmeal variety, but they didn’t work at all. I kept researching and eventually came across this recipe on Carrots ‘n’ Cake. The recipe looked great, but I wasn’t thrilled with the ratio of oil and sugar to other ingredients.

Eventually, using the knowledge I gained from Erin’s cookie recipe and a few experimental variations, I came up with the recipe below. Thanks to both Tina and Erin for the inspiration!

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 Cup Oat flour
1/2 Cup Rolled or quick oats
1/2 Cup Brown sugar (or 3 Tbsp maple syrup; if using maple syrup, reduce applesauce to 3 Tbsp)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Chocolate chips (or raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place all ingredients, except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough by tablespoons onto a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. (I admit it…I can never wait. These are awesome straight from the oven!)

Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Snack Time
In my quest for the perfect granola bar, I had a few failures. My first attempt for chewy peanut butter granola bars was a melty, gooey mess. However, they turned into a delicious, crunchy, peanut butter candy bar. I store these in the freezer for a sweet treat! Best of all, with only a little honey as a sweetener, these are almost healthy.

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Peanut butter
1/3 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Coconut oil
1 Cup Oats
3/4 Cup Shredded coconut
1/2 Cup Rice crispies

Melt the peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in a medium sauce pan until fully combined. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Press into a parchment lined 9×9-inch baking pan and refrigerate for two hours. Cut into 12 bars, individually wrap with parchment paper or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites (PB and Nutella flavors)

Photo from www.texanerin.com

This photo by Erin of texanerin.com was all but irresistible!

I found an amazing recipe on Pinterest about two months ago for Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (flour, oil, and refined sugar free). These awesome cookies use chickpeas, and since I think chickpeas are pretty cool little beans, this recipe was definitely pin-worthy…but since I don’t bake often they fell off of my radar. Then, about a month later, friend after friend shared these on facebook and I figured it was time to take the plunge.

The original recipe calls for natural peanut butter, but Boyfriend is allergic so I made my own cashew butter to use instead because I had a ton of cashews in the pantry. I hear it’s cheaper to make your own too (BONUS!). For instructions for making your own peanut or cashew butter, Erin over at Texan Erin Baking has a great tutorial here.

Cookies

When I made them the first time, I was instantly in love…warm, gooey, chocolatey…heaven. They’re not perfectly healthy, but they sure beat my old Tollhouse recipe and I think they might be even more delicious! After one successful attempt, I started wondering about all of the ways that this recipe could be modified and remembered Nutella. I’m still working on an oatmeal chocolate chip variety, a cranberry white chocolate variety, and a cocoa peanut butter chip (Reese’s) variety. Both the original and Nutella versions are below. Scroll to the bottom for the Nutella version.

Cookie Close-up

The original recipe had lots of hints and tips, including the following (plus a few of my own):

  • Chickpea flour won’t work
  • This will burn out less powerful blenders (I’ve done it successfully, but it requires lots of scraping and it’s definitely at the upper limit of my blender’s capabilities)
  • Do not add eggs, dairy, or flour to this recipe; it will not work
  • These are best eaten warm; to reheat them, put them into the microwave on high for 10 seconds.
  • These can be made dairy free by using vegan chocolate chips and homemade Nutella (store bought contains milk)
  • They can be made grain free by substituting the baking powder with 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot
  • These can be made ahead, rolled into balls, and frozen for a quick treat later. Just place the desired number onto a cookie sheet and bake as described

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cups(230 grams) cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, cashew butter, or almond butter
1/4 Cup honey or agave syrup (or 30 drops Stevia)
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt if your peanut butter doesn’t have salt in it
1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse the food processor a few times. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

With wet hands, form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape.

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cups(230 grams) cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
3/4 Cup Nutella (to make your own, go here)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse the food processor a few times. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

With wet hands, form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape.

Microwave Pear Crisp in a Mug

Fresh, ripe, juicy pears are one of my favorite foods. To eat such a pear any way but fresh with the juice running down my chin and through my fingers is almost sacrilegious. However, I came across this wonderful recipe for pear crisp in a mug and decided it was worth sacrificing one juicy pear to try it.

Making Pear Crisp

Ingredients:
1 pear, sliced thin
1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 tsp brown sugar, divided
1 Tbsp oat flour
2 Tbsp rolled oats
1/2 tsp butter, melted (for dairy free, substitute canola or coconut oil)

In a small bowl, toss together pear slices, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar; pour into a microwave-safe ramekin or large coffee mug.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oat flour, oats, oil, and remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour this over the pear slices.

Microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1:30 minutes.

Adapted from Microwave Pear Crisp by Act like a Woman, Eat like a Man.

Easy Microwave Lemon Curd

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I've always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I’ve always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

In (slightly early) honor of Mother’s Day, this recipe is dedicated to my mom.

My mother is a wonderful woman, and I have her to thank for my cooking acumen. Growing up, I spent almost as much time sitting on the kitchen counter or perched on a chair helping her cook as I did playing outside with my friends. Despite the fact that we’re both getting older, I still see her as she was when I was small, happily teaching me everything there was to know about cooking and baking. I still call her with questions like how to cook her meatloaf; she keeps telling me that I should write down the instructions, but I like calling her to ask.

My mother made Lemon Meringue Pie every single summer. I remember cracking the eggs, learning how to separate them, stirring in the lemon juice and licking the thick curd off of the wooden spoon; I remember watching her whip the meringue, and using the spatula to form pretty peaks. Unlike most lemon meringue pies, hers had a mildly tangy lemon filling with a lightly sweetened meringue. Her pie tasted like summer. Sadly, her recipe was lost and I’ve never found another like it.

Microwave Lemon Curd

If I could choose one item that encompasses every good memory I have of my mother, this would be it. I found this recipe for Microwave Lemon Curd a few days ago, but I had to wait until I had a free moment to make it; tonight was the night. I’ve never tasted lemon curd before, but everything I’ve read about it suggests it tastes like Heaven in a jar. The moment I licked the spoon, I was transported back to those childhood summers, learning to cook and idolizing the woman who magically turned eggs, lemon, and sugar into one of my favorite treats. This curd isn’t quite as thick as Mom’s lemon filling, but the flavor is absolutely perfect. It might not be Heaven, but it’s close.

Mom, this one’s for you!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a large microwave-safe bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the sugar and whisk together until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for 3-5 minutes, stirring after each minute. The amount of time will vary based on the strength of your microwave**. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve and pour into sterile jar.

Notes: **Mine took 5 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave.
This recipe makes just under 3 cups.
Store lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Microwave Lemon Curd by My Baking Addiction.

Homemade Brownies (that taste like a mix!)

Brownies

I feel compelled to admit that I hate homemade brownies. I am usually at the front of the line when I hear the words “homemade” and “baked goods” together, but you couldn’t pay me to eat a homemade brownie! Those who grew up with homemade brownies don’t know any better; they have no idea what they’re missing. We who grew up with boxed mixes know better. We know the deep chocolatey flavor, the rich fudgy texture, the firm chewy edges. We know what a brownie can be, and poor homemade just can’t hold a candle to its deliciously sophisticated boxed cousin.

When I get together with my closest friends, I often make brownies. They’ve become accustomed to eating slightly scalding, but deliciously gooey, cupcake brownies or the even more popular “pile-o-brownie” (too impatient to let them cool, we scoop them out of the pan in scrumptious piles of molten brownie fudge). This wondrous delight comes from a boxed mix…Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Fudge Brownies with Hershey’s Fudge and Melt-away Chips.

Once I decided to start eliminating processed foods from my life, my wondrous brownie mix was one of the first to go. Farewell my fudgy chocolate friend; I shall miss you. Then I realized that I wouldn’t be the only one losing out. How could I tell my friends that their favorite brownie goodness was gone forever? Well, frankly, I couldn’t. The only solution was to find a recipe for homemade brownies that could match everything I loved about that wonderful mix.

I searched and searched until I found several brownie recipes, like this one on Fake-It Frugal, claiming to replicate boxed mix brownies, so I decided to try them. The first step was to create my own fudge, which I did here in a dark chocolate variety. Then I started trying out the recipes. The first was a complete and total failure. The batter was more like oily cookie dough and the brownies were as hard as rocks when they finished baking. Fake-It Frugal’s mix came second, and it was almost perfect. You’d never know by tasting it that it wasn’t from a mix.

Hang out nights are saved!!!

And so, dear reader, if you are in love with boxed mixes like me but not with all of the additives, this will save your brownie-loving soul.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
**Prior to adding the wet ingredients, you can store your mix for quick baking later in a zip-loc bag or canning jar.
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Fudge sauce

Dry Ingredients Close-up

Batter and Tin

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.** Whisk to combine. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and fudge and stir until just moistened; do not overmix. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 9 pan.

Adapted from Fake Betty Crocker Brownie Mix.

Pina Colada Muffin in a Mug

I’m feeling a little bit sorry for my regular 12 cup muffin tin. It doesn’t get much use these days and I can’t help but picture it sitting forlornly in the drawer beneath the stove, sighing and lamenting its neglect. Someday soon, I’m going to have to pull it out and make a big batch of muffin or cupcake shaped somethings to give away, but today is not that day. Today, I have some left over shredded coconut sitting in the pantry and a new can of crushed pineapple just begging for a chance to shine.

I’m using this recipe as motivation. (I have the ingredients figured out, and I have enough faith in my microwave muffin instincts now that I’m sure it will work out.) I need to start exercising more, especially since the weather is warming up and I no longer need to make the drive to the gym to keep from turning into an icicle. (Oh how I love Maine winters!) I have all of the necessary workout gear, but I usually lack the motivation to get up and go.

Boyfriend has been talking about starting a couch to 5k, although he’s pretty fit so he’s not really starting at couch, and he’s been hinting that I should too. So, today marks the start of my couch to 5k. As soon as I get back, I’ll put one of these luscious muffins into the microwave! I’m not quite sure that rewarding myself with baked goods is the best way to go about this, but a muffin in a mug is certainly a better option than a whole pan of brownies, right?

Speaking of a whole pan of brownies, I have a wonderful recipe for homemade brownies that almost perfectly replicates my favorite boxed mix, (Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge Brownies). I’ll post that one this afternoon!

**After a two-mile walk, I came home to my pina colada muffin. It tasted just as amazing as I expected, although it had a slightly more custard-like texture, so I felt like I was eating dessert! All I needed was a bit of fresh whipped cream. I hope you enjoy it too! (Sadly, I just couldn’t seem to get a good picture.)

Ingredients:

2.5 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vinegar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp melted butter
4-5 drops vanilla extract
4 Tbsp flour
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp shredded coconut
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp crushed pineapple (drain if using canned)

In a mug, add the milk and vinegar together, and allow to stand 5 minutes. Add the egg, melted butter, and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Stir in the pineapple.

Microwave on high for up to 3 minutes, checking after 90 seconds. (Mine took exactly 2 minutes.)

Adapted from Pina Colada Muffins by Kitchen Confidante.