Apple Crisp “Cookies”

[donotprint]I need to make these again sometime soon because I might have eaten most of them myself and my kids might not have really gotten a chance to taste them. Poor little souls.

The key with these, unless you enjoy running the oven all day, is to create a uniform and consistant thickness as best you can. One little fat blob of apple can take up to an extra hour to dry out. Either that or you’ll be forced to eat it immediately because it won’t keep well if it’s not totally dried out.[/donotprint]

4 apples, coarsely grated (approximately 1 1/2 cup lightly packed)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional, especially if you have some sweet apples to work with)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 250 F.

In a medium bowl mix together the apple, brown sugar, wheat germ, butter, cinnamon, and salt. Place heaping tablespoon-sized scoops of the apple mixture onto parchment lined baking sheets. Make sure the scoops are 2- inches apart. With the back of a spoon, flatten the scoops until they are 1/4-inch (or less) thick. Pay careful attention to achieving a uniform thickness as the cookies will require more time in the oven if they are too thick.

Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the cookies are dry yet pliable. Allow to cool before serving. Once cool, the cookies should crisp up considerably. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 20 cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 1 1/2 hours

Note: These “cookies” will cook differently depending how thinly they are spread out on the baking sheets. So after an hour and a half, check in on them every ten minutes or so. They may brown a bit and that’s fine. They dry quite a bit after they cool down so if they’ve been in the oven for two hours and no longer feel squishy, they are most likely done.

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Walnut Wafers

Walnuts + Brown Sugar + Butter = Love

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1 cup unsalted walnut pieces
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place walnuts, oats, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processer. Run the processer for 15-20 seconds. Chop the cold butter into large pieces, add to the walnut mixture, and process 10 seconds more.

Remove the blade from the processer bowl. Squeeze the walnut mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls with your hands. Press the balls 1/4 to 1/8-inch flat on an ungreased cookie sheet. Space the flattened balls about 2-inches apart. There will be some crumbs, but for the most part the mixture should stick together with some good squeezing and the heat from your hands.

Bake for 15 mintues or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool on baking sheet. Remove very gently with a spatula. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Makes 18 wafers.

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Almond Bon Bons

[donotprint]This is recipe that might not belong among the “healthy” recipes that are supposed to grace the pages of this blog. But, at least it’s fresh and homemade. Much better to indulge with these when your sweet tooth can not be denied.

Some people have asked me if they can replace the rice syrup with honey or corn syrup, to which I resoundingly reply “No!”. I really try not to use unusual ingredients unless I feel they are truly necessary. The bon bons would probably turn out fine with another sweetener, but the rice syrup gives the bon bons an oh-so-lovely carmel-like flavor. It is not to be missed.[/donotprint]

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1 1/4 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup organic almond butter or peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
1 cup quality chocolate chips

Grind almonds in a blender until texture resembles a course meal. A few larger chunks are fine. Be sure not to grind too long or you will make almond butter. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm syrup and almond butter over low heat until well blended and smooth. Remove from heat and add ground almonds, salt and ground flaxseed. With a sturdy spoon, stir until well combined and mixture sticks together and begins to form a ball.

Make one inch balls by hand and place on wax paper. Your hands will get greasy.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using a microwave, use 20% power for 2 minutes and check. An additional minute at low power may be required. The chips will hold their shape. Stir with fork. If about half of the chips appear to have melted, keep stirring until all of the chips are melted. This may take a couple minutes. By keeping the chocolate’s heat low, the cocoa butter and chocolate solids are much less likely to separate and the chocolate will remain in temper.

If using a double boiler, be very careful not to let any water come into contact with the melting chocolate or it will sieze. Over low heat, stir constantly until 3/4 of the chips are melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth.

Using a fork, dip the balls in the chocolate one at a time until thoroughly covered. Place in airtight container on wax paper and allow to set for approximately one hour. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. These taste best when they are very fresh, but will keep for a week or more.

Makes approximately 30 balls.

[donotprint]Note: To learn more about tempering chocolate, read Mark Bittman’s article Chocolate Gets Hot But Holds Its Temper. Bittman makes it look easy in the video. I’ve tried tempering a handful times and was successful once. That’s why I’ve avoided the tempering process in this recipe. But I’m still fascinated by it and will conquer it someday.[/donotprint]

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Crispy Rice Squares

For best results, the peanut butter in these squares needs to be homogenized. Minimumly processed nut butters that allow the oil to seperate and rise to the top of the jar don’t work as well. I’ve found a “natural” Smuckers brand peanut butter that works well and has a relatively short list of ingredients.

Brown rice syrup can be found at the health food store or in the health food section of the grocery store. It’s consistency works well here and it is much less sweet than honey or even agave nectar. I find the sweetness of honey overwhelming when it comes to rice crispy squares.

When the mood strikes, feel free to throw in a handful of sweetened dried cranberries or chocolate chips along with the cereal.

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1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
3 cups crispy brown rice cereal
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the peanut butter and syrup until smooth and warm, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add cereal and flaxseed. Mix gently with a rubber spatula until well combined.

Transfer cereal mixture to 8×8 baking pan. Flatten evenly and firmly press mixture into the bottom of the pan with rubber spatula. Cover pan with plastic film and cool in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Cut into squares and serve cold. The squares will hold together at room temperature, but not as well. Store remaining squares in airtight container in refrigerator for up to two days.

Makes 16 squares.

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Chocolate Cinnnamon Pudding

[donotprint]I’ve seen some extremely “picky” eaters gobble up this pudding. The pudding is very sweet even without the agave nectar. When in doubt, leave it out. Enjoy![/donotprint]

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1 lb silken tofu
1 heaping cup quality milk chocolate chips
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until chocolate has melted. The tofu will break up into bits and not look terribly appetizing, but have faith. Transfer to blender (or use a hand blender) and process mixture until smooth. Scoop into small bowls or ramkins. Cover and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Serve.

Yield: 5 (1/2 cup) servings

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Granola Bars

This is an extremely flexible snack recipe that is sweet and satisfying. Replacing the honey with apple butter brings the sugar content down to a buzz-free level. But I do love the sweet, moist goodness the honey imparts. These bars freeze very well (separate layers with wax paper) and keep for up to a couple months.

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup raisins or 1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey or apple butter
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F

Mix oats, sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, salt and raisins in medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add remaining ingredients. Mix well.Transfer to greased 9 x 13 pan and flatten mixture into pan with your hands.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are brown. The majority of the pan may look under done. As long as the edges are brown, it’s okay. Don’t over bake or it will be dry.

Allow to cool slightly in pan. Cut into squares and serve or store in airtight container.

Yield: 24 bars (on the smallish side)
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

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Heath Bar Cookies

[donotprint]This cookie recipe comes close to not being allowed on this blog because calling a healthy snack is just wrong. A lot of the time when I take a normal cookie recipe and reduce the sugar and fat it feels so much healthier than what I could have made and through some magical transformation it becomes “healthy” or a “healthier version”. Anything to justify heath bar. Yum![/donotprint]

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1 1/2 cup white whole wheat all purpose flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 1.4 ounce Heath Bars, chopped into small bits

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In medium bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter with rubber spatula. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until batter starts to stick together and form a ball. Add Heath Bar bits and mix into dough.

Scoop dough with a cookie scoop onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges just start to brown and the tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Inspired heavily by a beautiful recipe from Simply Recipes:
http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/005213heath_bar_cookies.php

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Pumpkin Molasses Muffins

[donotprint]I found some Grandma’s Robust Molasses at the supermarket. I have no idea what makes it “robust”, but 1 tablespoon has 20% RDA of Iron so I’m not asking questions! Try it in this recipe. They are very moist and delicious, if I do say so myself.[/donotprint]

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1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup oil
8 whole dried dates, pitted and chopped (optional, but tasty)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl with whisk – flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Cream softened butter and brown sugar in large bowl. Add molasses, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin, and oil and stir. Pour in the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Bake in greased mini muffin pan for 15 minutes (give or take). Roughly 20-25 minutes for regular sized muffins or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and serve warm or cooled.

(Inspired by a recipe from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/recipes/article.aspx?rid=1618)

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