Kelly-Approved Treats

14 May

My cousin asked me for a healthy dessert that he could make when he was in the mood for something sweet.  My first response was, “don’t you read my blog?!” I was joking of course, but it actually made me realize that I don’t post my healthy recipes on here as much as I should.  When I bake for others and for special occasions, I make regular sweets full of butter and sugar.  However, these are not the recipes that I eat myself.  So I thought I’d put together a round up of the healthy treats I actually eat.

Date Truffles

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My first answer to my cousin was dates dates dates! I told him about the vegan rolos (pictured below) and also how good dates are just dipped in peanut or almond butter.  However, if you want something a little more sophisticated, I always love a good date “truffle.”

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There are many versions out there and I have yet to try a recipe I don’t like, but lately I’ve been enjoying these Super Seeded Protein Bites from Oh She Glows. The protein content and chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder make these a tasty treat I feel good about snacking on. For a more decadent dessert try the coconut pecan ones I’ve posted before. In my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with a recipe that has dates as the main ingredient!

Granola Bars

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I’ve mentioned before how much I love granola bars.  They are the perfect snack to have on hand and are great for breakfast or dessert as well.  I’ve tried so many different recipes and variations and am constantly trying new ones. Some of my recent favorites include:

Fruit & Nut Bars from the Daily Garnish – I really love the apricot and ginger in these. They are similar to the Copycat Kind Bars (pictured above) I’ve posted before but are softer and chewier, which I really enjoy.

Basic Glo Bars (similar recipe here) from the Oh She Glows cookbook. I used a little less sweetener than the recipe calls for and half peanut butter/ half PB2 (which is powdered de-fattened peanut butter) to make these a little healthier. However, they are already pretty nutritious and packed with nuts, seeds, gluten free oats and no refined sugar. Also, since they are no-bake bars, it’s quick and easy to whip up a batch.

Quick Breads

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Quick breads are probably my favorite sweet snack to have in the house.  Lately I’ve been baking about 1 a week to have with breakfast and for a small treat after dinner. I love banana bread, but have a hard time keeping bananas on hand for baking so I often make breads with pumpkin puree in them.  I typically try to keep these low in sugar (and often replace refined sugar with coconut palm sugar) since I eat them as part of my breakfast but if I want to make them more of a dessert I just throw in some chocolate chips!

Gluten Free, Vegan Banana Bread – This is the latest version of banana bread I’ve made.  To make it even healthier, I replaced the white sugar with coconut palm sugar, the brown sugar with sucanat, the oil with pumpkin puree and used a chia “egg” instead of one from a chicken. Next time I think I’ll use the coconut oil as I think it could use it, but overall this was great.

Paleo Cinnamon Raisin Bread – This bread is surprisingly delicious for only having 1/4 cup of honey and no sugar. I love that it’s full of protein from the eggs and almond flour. I leave the walnuts out since it’s made from mostly nut flour but I think the raisins are a must since they add a little bit of sweetness :)

Pumpkin Buckwheat Bread – I double the recipe for these buckwheat bakes to make it into a loaf.  This bread is barely sweet making it perfect for breakfast.  I usually spread some honey, jam or peanut butter on it too. Yum!

Baked

7 May

I may not have been blogging as much as I used to but I am certainly still baking plenty.  Here’s a few desserts I’ve baked up recently:

Mini No Bake Cheesecakes

adapted from Shutterbean

Almond with fresh Strawberries

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I’ve had this recipe for Shutterbean’s Almond Ginger Cheesecakes on my “to-make” list for quite some time.  I think it was the ginger snap cookie crust that got me as I love all things ginger! So when I was searching for dessert to bring to Easter dinner I was happy to finally try these out. However, I ended up making the crust with graham cracker crumbs (which Tracy also has a recipe for) and topping them with fresh strawberries since I knew my family would appreciate a more traditional cheesecake flavor.

Dulce De Leche

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I also made a dulce de leche version by adding 1/4 cup of caramel sauce to the cream cheese mixture. The filling was light and not too rich (as many cheesecakes can be) thanks to the addition of fresh whipped cream. I will definitely be making them again, most likely with the original ginger snap crust.

Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

from Joy the Baker

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Some of my friends at crossfit endured a 6 week paleo challenge where they had to give up all things sugar! (among many other things) When the challenge was over, one participant requested some white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and I was more than happy to bring a batch into the box. I turned to my trusty blogger/author/baker guru, Joy and made these delicious babies.  I got a little nervous once I stirred in the white chocolate chips as it seemed like there were way too many in the dough! Fortunately, it didn’t seem that way in the final product. One taster even said they were Mrs. Fields quality. I’ll take it!

Lemon “Brownies”

lemonbrownies

Even though I’m not a huge lemon lover, I was actually really excited to try these since they looked so good. Unfortunately I wasn’t blown away with the results. They were a little too tart and lemony for my liking.

Re-bakes:

Oreo Truffles

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Peanut Butter Cookies with Reese’s Pieces

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These recipes have appeared on the blog before but are so good I re-made them for some recent special occasions.  I made the Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter cookies for my Dad’s b-day and the Oreo truffles to win over my new co-workers!  I’ve made the Oreo truffles too many times to count and they are always well received. Also, they happen to be one of the easiest desserts to whip up and people are always very impressed.  Definitely a great recipe to try and make (over and over again).  I still want to try some different variations with different cookies and coatings, but these are so good I have yet to stray from the original recipe!

Amazingly Delicious Pistachio Macarons!!

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I made another batch of pistachio macarons for a party my Aunt held this past weekend. And I am so happy to report they came out great (FINALLY!) – they looked good and tasted good! I think I’m finally getting into the groove with these delicate cookies.  Making only half of a batch definitely helped since it took less time and was less stressful. I’ll probably be halving the recipe from now on since it still makes plenty of macarons (35  to be exact!).

 

A Lesson in Macarons

3 Apr

IMG_3124I mentioned a while ago that I took a French Macaron class while I was in Paris last November.  And although I had made macarons multiple times before my trip, I ended up learning a lot during the class. Hands on experience with a professional French pastry chef is a great way to learn and I am so grateful for the experience!

Although I took the class in France, I was taught the Italian meringue method since it is typically more reliable then the French method. Having used both methods at home, I suggest the Italian method as well. Here are some additional tips that I picked up in class:

 

• Age your egg whites! A couple of days before you actually want to make your macarons, separate your egg whites and set them in the fridge to age.  This step really helps with your meringue.

• Sift your almond meal and powdered sugar. This is not my favorite tip as it takes a while and makes a mess!  A lot of recipes also call for sifting up to 3 times.  I only sift once but make sure that there are not large pieces of almond meal in the final batter.

• Only use powdered food coloring – I’ve made the mistake of using liquid food coloring as I mentioned in this post and it completely ruined my shells. Once I got back from Paris, I bought powdered food coloring and gel food coloring since both are recommended for coloring your shells.  However, the gel did not work well for me, so I’m sticking with powdered from now on and suggest that you do too!

IMG_3122• Macaronage – this is the term used for folding your meringue into your almond meal/sugar mixture.  I always thought it was a delicate process that had to be done a certain way. Some recipes even tell you a certain number of folds to do.  But in class, we whipped the heck out of the batter at this stage.  You’re just trying for the correct consistency. It should be shiny and run like a ribbon off the spatula. If it is the consistency of pancake batter, you’ve gone too far.  It it breaks off in clumps and doesn’t incorporate back into the batter you need to keep mixing.

• Once you’ve piped the macarons onto the baking sheet, let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This step creates a skin on the macaron which helps to produce the “feet”.

• Age your macarons – once your macs are baked, filled and sandwiched together, age them in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.  This is a very important step that makes a huge difference in the final outcome.  Macarons fresh out of the oven are crunchy.  They need time for the filling* to seep into the shell, creating the soft and chewy texture of macarons we all know and love.

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As you can see, French Macarons require a lot of time to make and take quite a bit of prep and planning. And with so many things that can go wrong, they are definitely not the easiest cookie to whip up.  However when executed correctly, they are delicious little treats that are well received by all.

*Something interesting I learned during the class is that typically macaron shells are not flavored at all (except for chocolate and espresso), which is actually a good thing since the slightest amount of liquid can ruin a batch.  Instead, the filling is used to flavor the macs, so make sure to use something tasty!

Kel-Beany Brownie Bites

9 Mar

IMG_3299I’ve been wanting to make brownies for a while but couldn’t decide on a recipe.  I don’t necessarily have a go-to brownie recipe as the last time I made the better than boxed recipe they didn’t come out that great.  I also couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with a lighter healthy recipe or a completely rich and indulgent one. Being the health enthusiast that I am, I went the less indulgent route and added some interesting, nutrient rich ingredients as well.

Since I couldn’t find the perfect recipe, I pretty much just made my own, stealing some tips and tricks from brownies and bars I’ve made before. To decrease the fat content (and add some protein!) I substituted some black beans for the oil. I know this sounds weird and I definitely don’t tell people that the brownies are full of beans until after they’ve tried them but I promise the brownies don’t have a beany taste at all. I’ve had success baking with beans in the past and have seen many recipes using this technique so it’s really not that crazy.

IMG_3300To upgrade the nutritional profile of these babies I used almond meal and sweet brown rice flour instead of all-purpose (which also makes these gluten free!) and used half coconut palm sugar instead of all white. Lastly, instead of throwing more chocolate chips into the batter, I added some cocoa nibs which are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans. They are one of the best dietary sources of magnesium and a good source of calcium, iron, copper, zinc and potassium and add an interesting crunch to the brownies. Chocolatey and good for you? Sounds like my kind of treat!

Even though there are some odd and nutritious ingredients in these brownies, they still taste like a deliciously rich and chocolatey treat. I was very happy with the outcome and am excited to use these as well as other healthier ingredients in my future baking experiments. I encourage you to sneak some beans into your baked goods as well.  Chickpea blondies anyone?  Or perhaps some red bean red velvet cake?

Kel-Beany Brownie Bites

Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup black bean puree
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp almond meal
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup cocoa nibs

Directions:

  1. Grease a mini muffin tin.
  2. In a food processor, puree the black beans with the sugar. Add the coconut oil, and vanilla extract and process until smooth.
  3. Over very low heat, place the chocolate in a small pot on the stove — stirring constantly until melted. Add to the other wet ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop drop the brownie batter into your prepared mini muffin tin and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour.
  6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the middles are set, but not dry.
  8. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Les Recipes de Noel

25 Dec

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Merry Christmas! I hope you are all enjoying plenty of delicious treats and some quality time with family and friends.  Here’s a list of all the goods I baked up for gifts this year.

Cinna-chip Snickerdoodles – I made this recipe but added a bag of hershey’s cinnamon chips for an extra boost of cinnamon deliciousness.

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Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars - I’m not sure these were the biggest hit, but the dough looked amazing and I could definitely taste the browned butter in them.  I used half large milk chocolate chips and half semi-sweet.  Next time I think I’d add some toasted nuts and maybe a different flavored chip like peanut butter or butterscotch.

Cookies & Cream Peppermint Bark – This bark packs a powerhouse of peppermint.  It is definitely sweet, rich and minty, but I loved it.

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French Macarons – I’m going to do a whole post on these babies soon.  I made 2 batches using the recipes and tips from my class in Paris. Some came out pretty good and some just weren’t up to par. The flavors I made included chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies n’ cream, pistachio and chocolate raspberry. As usual, pistachio was my favorite but I’ve also been enjoying the left over chocolate raspberry jam from the raspberry ones.

Chocolate Mint Marshmallow Cookies – These aren’t the best looking cookies but they sure taste good. I followed the recipe but added about 2 cups of chopped up mint marshmallows. The marshmallows add a nice gooey sweetness to an already tasty and chocolatey cookie.

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Pumpkin Breads!

9 Nov

We are knee deep in pumpkin season and I have been busy baking up all kinds of pumpkin goodies.  So far I’ve made pumpkin chili, dinner rolls, lattes, oat bars, 2 kinds of cookies and lots of pumpkin bread. I’m surprised I haven’t turned orange! I think out of everything pumpkin I’ve consumed this past month, pumpkin bread has been my favorite.  It’s just so traditional and delicious.  I’ve made 3 different recipes so far (2 vegan and 1 paleo) and think I have settled on a favorite.  Here are the recipes:

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

by Joy the Baker

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Ingredients:
2 cups ap flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together, scraping the bottom of the bowl as you stir.
5. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes before placing on a rack to cool completely.

This is my favorite of the 3 recipes I made and was definitely well received by the many folks that got to try it.  The recipe makes 2 loaves which I’ve been splitting into 1 9×5 loaf and 2 mini loaves for sharing purposes. I’ve made the recipe twice and have been stashing the extra mini loaves in my freezer.  It’s been great having them on hand for get-togethers or to bring on a visit to my adorable nephews. The recipe is a little different in her cookbook as it is on her site and I’ve been actually been following the recipe exactly (minus the walnuts).  I would like to try replacing some of the oil with either more pumpkin puree or applesauce to make it a little lighter, however.

Banumpkin Bread

by neverhomemaker

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Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 large, extremely ripe bananas
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
1/4 cup almond plus 1 teaspoon beer (or lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:
1.    Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, mash the bananas until they are gooey and have as little chunks as possible.
3.    Whisk in the pumpkin puree, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add almond milk and beer.
4.    In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. Add to the wet and mix with a spatula until just combined.
5.    Stir in the coconut flakes.
6.    Pour into the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.
7.    Preheat your oven to 350 and place a rack in the center of the oven.
8.    Bake for 1 hour until your loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9.    Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

This bread is more of a hybrid of banana and pumpkin bread than a pure pumpkin bread, but it’s definitely one of my most made breads (and the origin of one of my nicknames).  I make this bread anytime I’m in the mood for banana bread because I like the use of whole wheat flour and the low fat content.  I’ve tried reducing the sugar before too but didn’t like the outcome quite as much as the original  I now use coconut palm sugar for at least part or all of the white sugar to make things a tad healthier.

Paleo Pumpkin Streusel Bread

by runningtothekitchen

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Ingredients:
1 cup almond flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup ground pepitas (to make a flour)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted coconut oil
4 eggs

Streusel Topping:

½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
1 /8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsps unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well.
4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
5. In a small bowl, combine all the streusel ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
6. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I made this paleo pumpkin bread for a breast cancer event at my crossfit gym. It was extremely moist due to the pumpkin and coconut oil. I thought it came out pretty good but it wasn’t very sweet or pumpkiny.  I would definitely add more honey and more pumpkin pie spice next time around.  The streusel topping is definitely necessary and adds a nice, sweet crunch.

I hope you’ve all been baking and enjoying many pumpkin goodies as well. There’s less than a month before christmasy flavors like gingerbread, eggnog and peppermint take over, so enjoy the fall flavors while you can. :) I must admit I’ve already been thinking of the xmas cookies and treats I’ll be baking up this year and am very much looking forward to it.

Apple Pie Cookies

21 Oct

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I spent an enjoyable afternoon in my kitchen baking up these cute apple pie cookies.  I got the idea from one of my crossfit instructors via this recipe. As I’ve said before, I actually appreciate getting recipe requests from others as it takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to try new things. Otherwise I’d just make batch after batch of cookies! Plus, I have been wanting to try a lattice top pie for a while and figured this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to make the pie dough and apple filling from scratch (instead of store bought) which made the process a bit more labor intensive and time consuming. However, I really enjoyed the many hours it took to create these babies. I think it was mostly due to the challenge of baking something new as well as the the fact that I was baking for others. It was fun putting these pie cookies together knowing that my friends and family would be enjoying them soon. Also, I really do just love baking!

Since I’m not a big pie fan, I didn’t even sample the final product, but I heard they were delicious! :) So if you have a free afternoon and are looking for a baking challenge, I recommend giving these apple pie cookies a try.

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Here is the breakdown of the recipe:

Pie Dough

adapted from allrecipes

Ingredients:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbls sugar
- 1 scant tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 3/4 shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 egg

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, shortening, sugar, and salt. Blend together with a pastry cutter until crumbly. In a separate bowl, mix egg with water. Blend into flour mixture. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

I’ve used this pie dough recipe many times before, usually opting for all shortening.  However I decided to use part butter this time around to enhance the flavor.

Apple Filling

copied from smittenkitchen

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Ingredients:
- 4 granny smith apples
- 2 McIntosh apples
- 1 tbls lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3/4 sugar
- 2 tbls all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice

Directions: Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4 cubes.  Toss with lemon juice and zest. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flour, salt and spices. Mix dry ingredients with apple mixture. Set aside.

Putting it all together:

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Ingredients:

1 cup caramel sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg

Directions:

1. Roll out half of the pie dough.
2. Spread a thin layer of caramel sauce over the dough
3. Top the caramel layer with your apple pie filling
4. Roll out the second half of the dough the same size and shape as your first half and cut into thin strips
5. Create a lattice on top of apple pie filling with the dough strips (I used the tutorial found here)
6. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out pie cookies
7. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush the tops with egg wash and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

I’m happy to report the lattice top was much easier than I thought it would be and the cookies stayed together much better than I thought they would.  I was partly expecting the filling bust out of the pie dough once they went in the oven but luckily everything stayed in tact.  I do want to make these again someday as I think they make great little gifts, but I think I’ll wait for a nice rainy day when I don’t feel like going outside anyway…

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a blog dedicated to a sweet, savory, and stylish lifestyle.

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