Monday, October 22, 2012

Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

The turn to autumn is one of my favorite things about living in New England. The air turns crisp, the leaves turn beautiful orange, yellow, and red hues, football starts up (go Pats!), and I can finally use the oven again without complaints that it's too hot. My husband's sweet tooth has suddenly come alive, as he has recently requested both caramel brownies and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.
Life has been a little crazy (evident by the tumbleweeds rolling through this blog), but I jumped at the chance to make cookies. They are usually pretty quick to throw together and would curb my yearning to get back to baking. I went straight to my blog to pull up the cookie recipe, only to discover it wasn't there. When I thought about it, I could barely remember ever having made pumpkin cookies before.

I pulled up my trust excel spreadsheet of recipes, and right there was a recipe for soft pumpkin cookies, rated five stars - my highest rating. I'm not sure why I never blogged about them, but I'm so happy to have 'found' them again. I threw in a few tweaks and my usual substitutions, and the result was a soft, but sturdy, cookie that is perfect for fall!
Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker and Big Fat Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter, at room temperature**
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
**I actually make this with Earth Balance butter sticks and it worked well.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, mixing just until blended. Slowly add the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chocolate chips and cranberries.
  4. Scoop mounds of dough, roughly 2 tablespoons each, onto lined sheets.  Space cookies at least 2 1/2 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies about 14 minutes, until the edges are just lightly brown. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.  The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No-Bake Mint Brownies

Clean eating has changed my life in many ways, but one particular change was definitely unexpected. Growing up, I was never a huge fan of chocolate, and most certainly wanted nothing to do with dark chocolate. I viewed chocolate simply as a vehicle for delivery of other delicious things such as mint (my favorite) or peanut butter filling, almonds, raisins... you get the picture.
As clean eating adjusted my taste buds, I came to have an appreciation for a nice high quality piece of dark chocolate. While it still wouldn't be the first thing I reach for, I do enjoy the smooth, velvety texture and deep, complex flavors. (Just don't ask me to eat cacao nibs. I'm not THAT appreciative yet!)
Naturally, brownies were never something I would go nuts for, but when I stumbled on this recipe for no-bake mint brownies, I just had to try them. Clean dessert + mint + quick to prepare = a happy balanced baker who doesn't actually have to bake! I was so in love with these after making them, that I went out the next day for a jumbo bag of dates so I could make more. These brownies are super dense and fudgy, and I love the little crunch from the bits of walnut.

 I found that the amounts in the original recipe didn't fill an 8x8 pan without being paper thin, so I scaled up the whole recipe to yield a decent sized brownie.
No-Bake Mint Brownies
No-Bake Mint Brownies Source: Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie via Eva Bakes
Yield: 16 brownies

  • 2 cups walnuts 
  • 2 and 1/2 cups pitted dates (make sure to use whole, not chopped dates) 
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup cocoa powder 
  • 10 drops of pure peppermint extract (you can add more or less if you like, I felt like this was a good middle-of-the-road amount) 
  • Chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional) 
  • Dash of salt (optional but recommended)
  1. Combine all ingredients, using a food processor or blender. Press evenly into an 8x8 inch pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 min to help firm up the brownies for slicing. Slice into 16 squares and serve. I stored these in the refrigerator because I liked them chilled!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime

Stir-fry dinners are wonderful to have in your arsenal. They can be made quickly, and, if you ask me, are downright delicious for something that takes such  minimal effort. We've made other stir-fries before, but variation is key in our house so I'm always willing to try something new. IMG_0011c
This version was an easy choice because most of these ingredients are ones that I always have on hand - ginger is kept in the freezer wrapped in foil, scallions are chopped and bagged and kept in the freezer, and limes and cilantro are standby ingredients in our fridge.  Mirin, however, is something I don't keep on hand since I have trouble finding it.  I substituted some dry sherry cooking wine in place of the mirin and it worked well. We loved this dish for the depth of flavor and how quickly it came together.
Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime
Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime Source: Slightly adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
Yield: Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-bite pieces
  • Spices: 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp dried red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth 
  • small head of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • cooked brown rice, for serving
  1. Toss chicken with the spices and half of the lime juice.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat.
  3. Add the chicken and stir fry until almost cooked through.
  4. Lower the heat to medium high and add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute.
  5. Add broccoli, soy sauce, mirin, chicken broth, and the rest of the lime juice.  Bring to a low simmer, cooking until the broccoli is crisp-tender.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro.  Serve over brown rice.