Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Clearing My Sweet Conscience

Today I thought I'd share a few recipes. It's really a way of clearing my guilt. My sugar addiction guilt, that is. These recipes are healthy sweets. No food coloring, no white sugar.
As long as we're clearing my guilt here, I might as well confess my love of sweets right now(like it isn't obvious.) I believe my Mom did a great job of keeping good food in our house growing up.  She grew up on a farm in Georgia which probably led to the fact that we were pretty lucky in the way that we always had a home made dinner.  She didn't cook with any pre-made mixes and even now she will never use a cake mix. The only sweets I remember in our house were gallon size containers of vanilla ice cream that lasted exactly 2 days (thanks Mike), vanilla sandwich cookies, and nutty bars. Maybe those were her favorites.  I still had my ways of getting sugar.  Whenever my mom or sister was making a cake or brownies I stuck around to lick the bowl.  Of course I used a spoon, until the "scrape, scrape" sound made it obvious that I needed to use my fingers.  Elbow deep I would get every last spot.  No fear of raw egg in my family.  I taste every batter even now.  Especially  Even if it's just chocolate chip cookies.  It's a good thing I do because just this last week I was testing a cake recipe that I was really excited about. It was a fairly fragile vanilla cake that used a reverse creaming method to change the structure of the cake. After carefully weighing all ingredients with my scale and mixing for the exact time that the recipe calls for, I excitedly reach for my spoon and taste it....blech, it's horrible! With no clue as to what happened I look around here and there. Directly behind my propped up ipad (which was so faithfully leading me through the recipe) there sits my bowl of sugar sparkling in the glow of the under-cabinet lights.  I guess I'll have to make the cake again to see if it's any better when the ingredients are added in the correct order.
Back to my sugar history.....I do have a distinct memory of scavenging for chocolate or anything sweet at all,  finding none it seemed that Nestle's chocolate chips would have to do.  My Mom must have been looking forward to her sweets too because the next time she pulled them out to bake something, there were quite a few missing.  I lied and lied when she accused me.  "No Mom, it wasn't me, it wasn't!!"  There was probably still chocolate on my face.
Fast forward to high school and there were plenty of days that I bought a $1 Honeybun and ate it for lunch.  That kind of went along with coming home from school and making a package of Ramen noodles. (Gross.)  I can just say right here that I never had to cook anything while living at home with my parents. I didn't learn to cook until I got married and moved out.  Poor Johnny, he was already living on his own, but good thing for me, he already knew how to cook.  I did start the oven on fire one time, but there was a fire fighter in the house at the time.  Before I got adventurous it was Hamburger Helper. After that, for the last 11 years of marriage I have grown to cook and bake almost every thing that goes into our mouths.
I think it's been maybe 3 years ago that I discovered a website called 100 Days of Real Food.  I learned a lot about what we are putting into our bodies just by eating a normal slice of bread or some "healthy" crackers. I will never walk the aisles of the grocery store with the same perspective.  After reading a few books on the subject of "Real Food,"  one being Food Rules by Michael Pollan, I decided to eat mostly organic for the food that I feel it's necessary, make my own granola bars, whole wheat waffles, pizza dough, bread (a lot of the time.) We do our best to eat "good" meat such as grass fed beef, raw cheese, organic milk and yogurt from grass fed cows. We stopped eating lunch meat slices, sugary yogurts, no soda, etc.  I take the time to read all ingredient lists to determine which box of crackers to purchase.  There were a lot of changes, it gets tiring and it's ongoing, but it's worth it because we just feel better. In my house I've tried to create an environment to keep us healthy and that allows me to indulge, including the pretty food-colored tinted icing on the cake.  Don't get me wrong, outside my house or at yours I will eat the store bought taco dip and brownies and I will probably eat more than you. These are just choices that we've made for OUR family in our home and I completely respect the way that others choose to define healthy in their diets too. I do hope that anyone who reads this will choose to check out the 100 days of Real Food website just to see what you think about it, because I believe that it can make an impact on how you feel every day. Also....check out THIS post specifically.

Sweets have been the one thing that I just didn't want to change.  When I want a dessert I want a dessert, not something that is supposed to taste like a dessert. And I feel as though I deserve it when I'm eating healthy otherwise.  Only now since I'm baking more and more for the celebrations in life when we can truly indulge, I am tempted more and more.  This past week and for the next few I'll be baking a lot of cookies and cakes and I know I'll need a way to satisfy my sweet tooth so I don't eat the sweets I'm intending to gift to others! It's a good thing I have a small stash of these health(ier) goodies to get me through. Oh - I'll eat my fair share of sugar cookies and decorated cakes but hopefully in the moderation that we should all practice.

I know this recipe is from a diet book that I just thumbed through for recipes, but I can't remember the name of it.

Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cream Frosting

10 oz baked sweet potato
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 cup extra light olive oil (I used coconut oil)
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup water

6 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line 12 muffins with liners.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice.
In a medium bowl mix with an electric mixer: oil, honey, add eggs and beat well after each one. Beat in sweet potatoes and water.  Fold in flour mixture.
Bake 15-17 minutes. (I had to bake 19 minutes.) Cool in the pan on wire rack for 10 minutes then transfer to the rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese with the honey and vanilla.
These freeze very well.

My mother-in-law passed along the following recipe to me and gave us these cookies so that Amelie could try one, minus the nuts and softened in the microwave. It's Amelie first and so far only cookie that she's had - that I know of. I do know that one day she will have her first sugar cookie and with my luck it will be with red #40 dyed icing, but that will be one special occasion.

Healthy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Banana Cookies

2 ripe bananas mashed
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash ground cloves
dash nutmeg
1 1/2 cups quick cook oats
1/4 cup chocolate chips plus a few more to sprinkle on top.
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Mix banana, peanut butter, applesauce, vanilla, and spices.  Add oats, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconuts.  The batter will be rather loose.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
This recipe doesn't make very many - about 12 slightly larger than a tablespoon size.


Since I'm new(er) to trying healthier sweets, I'm sharing these recipes with you in the hopes that you all will share some with me too. Leave a comment below with a link to your favorite healthy sweets website, or send me an email with a healthy sweet recipe.

Since I've cleared my conscience a little, here are some sugar cookies I made for Johnny's aunt to take to her great niece's 4th birthday.  Good thing I remembered to use the color violet to write Violet's name.

Friday, April 12, 2013

EEEwwwww there's a hair in my cookie!

Not really, but that would be pretty gross. I do make sure to tie back my hair when I'm baking.
I made some cookies for my hair girl, Kristin.  I've been seeing her for maybe 8 years or more?  That sentence sounded kind of personal. Do you ever notice that you tell your hair dresser more than you ever imagined you would?  I guess if you see them every 8-10 weeks they get to know a lot about you. I think they must have some sort of class on listening in hair cutting school because if you open your ears in a salon you hear an awful lot.
Ruffolo's in Kenosha is a great place to get yourself done. Hair, nails, makeup, ear candling, they do it all.  And no, I have never had my ears candled.

I didn't have a scissors cookie cutter so I made one out of two others that I have. A large heart and a party hat.

Of course there are cookie cutters that you absolutely can't do without such as Santa or the Easter bunny.  But I don't think I'll use the scissors shape very often. This is a great way to repurpose your existing cutters. If you look close at the second picture, you'll see how I shaped them together.  When they bake, they seal together - very easy!

I hope the girls at Ruffolo's enjoyed their cookies!

Occasionally when I'm baking or cooking Amelie has to entertain herself. She races for the refrigerator every chance she gets (and the garbage can, but we won't talk about that.)  If you can see that lemon she is gnawing on, you'll see that I have my doubts that she has inherited my sweet tooth.