Cranberry Pecan Christmas Cookies

Here’s to a new baking hybrid! I call them “Cookie-roons” because they are a cross between cookie and macaroon. I developed these with the holiday season in mind. Cranberries and pecans were a staple at our Thanksgiving table (4 kinds of cranberry sauces —including agrodulce chutney and cran-orange relish —  and part of our traditional tri-bread, pecan, apple, sausage stuffing) and definitely common seasonal additions to holiday eats & treats. So here are my Cranberry Pecan Christmas Cookies (recipe below). Enjoy!NS fruit logo 3

Cran Pecan Christmas Cookies

A delicious twist between cookie and macaroon.

Makes approx. 22 cookies

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt plain nonfat
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened finely ground coconut (I used Bobs Red Mill)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cream sugars, butter and yogurt, add egg and blend well. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour and baking soda and pinch of salt). Then blend in coconut, dried cranberries and pecans. Scoop into a 1# mini scoop or a Leveled Tablespoonful 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet. Bake until lightly golden brown for about 10 minutes. Optional: Dust with powdered sugar. Note: The coconut makes this goldenly delicious.

MMMmmm Chocolate Chip Cookies (and a bit healthier, too!)

What makes a great Chocolate Chip cookie? Well, it’s having a bit of chocolate and nuts in every bite. The nutty, chocolatey combination makes my taste-buds sing! With Christmas around the corner, a baked treat is a must — and when it comes to baking, I aim to keep the great flavor and texture using half the butter and a lot less of the sugar. And always try to sneak in a secret, healthy ingredient.

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These cookies are dense, chewy with plenty of chocolate and nuttiness to keep your taste-buds singing. Half the butter, half the sugar and yet, still truly delish!!

 

A while ago a friend of mine gave me this no-brainer, no-fail chocolate chip cookie recipe – the base is basically 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup butter, an egg, 1/2 tsp baking soda and a cup of flour.

Her key to a successful chocolate chip cookie was adding  in a bunch of chocolate chips and walnuts (as much as you could possibly cram in the mixture) and baking it for just 10 minutes (no more because it continues to cook even out of the oven). Always delish and always a hit at every potluck. : )

A Healthier Chocolate Chip CookieNS fruit logo 3

Today I like to keep my treats lower in fat and/or sugar and add in ingredients that will have health value. My secret ingredient for this chocolate chip cookie recipe is wheat germ. It replaces 1/2 cup white sugar well as it helps with the texture and has a natural mild sweetness – and only 4 g sugar per 1/2 cup. It is also is a great source of Vitamin E and Folic acid.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, nutty, all natural (no additives – just peanuts & salt) – YES, crunchy (not smooth) because it adds some textural nuttiness in addition to the flavor (check out the nutritional benefits of natural peanut butter by clicking on the link)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cream the brown sugar, wheat sugar, butter and peanut butter. Mix in the egg until well blended. Add flour and baking soda. Then mix in water. Lastly mix in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonful 2″ apart on a lined or lightly greased (use cooking spray) cookie sheet. Slightly flatten each (and pinch a little to create chunkier surface for visual appeal, if you like). Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown and deliciously chewy. Enjoy!!

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For another healthier holiday treat:
Check out my Sugar Plum Pears recipe in The Times Union

 

Pumpkin Molasses Cranberry Pancakes

Okay I was dabbling in the kitchen again. While I’ve always loved the simplicity of basic pancakes, especially the ones I make from Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking Pancake Mix (and know one knows they are gluten-free, but me), I thought I’d try something festive as the holidays are upon us.

pumpkin molasses cran pancakes

Ingredients:

  • Egg
  • Pamela’s gluten-free artisan flour (this is 1:1 substitution for all-purpose flour and works great in recipes)
  • baking powder
  • organic canned  pumpkin
  • molasses
  • brown sugar (just a wee bit)
  • butter
  • soy milk
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

I started with 3 Tbsp molasses, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, poured in some pumpkin and added the egg soy milk and lastly the dry ingredients (a cup of the flour and 1 tsp of baking powder). While I don’t have exact measurements for the pumpkin, soy milk…  here I do have to say my intuition worked well and these pancakes were delish! Next time I’ll see if I can re-create this recipe, but for now I’m just enjoying these.

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

Cheers!

 

 

Just Cookies — Go ahead — Enjoy… #ChocolateChipCookies

Chocolate Chip cookies arrived on my doorstep in dry ice. Well, the cookie dough, that is. Frozen/solid, I thawed them in the fridge and later that evening I scooped them out onto my Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Lucky for me they arrived just in time, I had a pre-Thanksgiving potluck and had been so busy this week, I hadn’t even thought about what to bring.

No butter. No eggs. Yet, the cookie dough tasted very familiar. Yes, I used to love to nibble on cookie dough. Usually an hour before the game, my friend and I used to nibble on ready-made chocolate chip cookie dough, before setting out to perform on the dance team squad — Oh those undergrad years!

I baked the cookies an extra minute to keep them crisp. Some people like them chewy, but I prefer a crisper texture. And I couldn’t resist taking that first bite right out of the oven. No butter, remember, yet they tasted rich and ‘buttery. They held together well, even without any eggs. Tasted just like the chocolate chip cookies I remember from childhood (and well, on occasion when the urge to enjoy a traditional chocolate chip cookie arises). And just look at the golden brown coloring. Mmmm….

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So here they are for your virtual taste. My friends will be enjoying these tomorrow.

Craving some cookies? Try Hampton Creeks – Just Cookie. You won’t miss the butter or eggs, heck you  won’t even know they are missing. :O)

And BTW, if you’d like the Nutrition Facts, just ask me (comment below – I’ve got the label).

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I wasn’t paid to write this piece, however I did receive this generous sample of Hampton Creek – Just Cookie Dough — Chocolate Chip for my review (makes 39 cookies – although I made mine with a slightly larger scoop, yielding 36). 

 

Cranberry Blogging is Fun! [Cran Fun Facts + a Delicious Recipe!]

Can you believe Thanksgving is around the corner?! Already.
(No Thanksgiving meal is complete without CRANBERRIES!)

The good news is that there are quite a few recipes that keep cooking to a minimum, while keeping flavor to the fullest – like this turkey stuffing I just made. Yep, sometimes it’s good to go ahead and start testing recipes for your holiday meal. And today, I received my Cranberry package so it was very easy to start.

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Here is the Yummy Cranberry & Turkey Stuffing Casserole I was able to prepare with the kit I received from the Cranberry Institute. As a Cranberry Blogger, I receive ideas, tidbits and recipes courtesy of The Cranberry Institute and it’s sister organization, the Cranberry Marketing Committee. Last month I prepared a delightful Cranberry Chicken Salad.

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Before I share this delicious Cran-stuffing  recipe, here are some fun-facts about the Cranberry and it’s benefits:

 

Tips: Four Tasty Tidbits about the Tiny, Tart Cranberry

 

·         All forms of cranberries contain proanthocyanidins or PACs, so whether you like them dried, fresh, frozen, in juice or in sauce, just eat them!

·         PACs are flavonoids that are unique to cranberries because they have a different structure than PACs found in other fruits. PACs prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from sticking to the cell walls.

·         Research has shown the cranberry may improve blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and the incidence of certain infections.

·         Cranberries are one of three commonly cultivated fruits native to North America. U.S.-grown cranberries are grown predominantly in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island.

Now for the recipe.

Okay, I have to admit, I didn’t have celery so I used parsley flakes and extra onions. And well, I’m not actually going to buy turkey until the actual holiday so I used Chicken thigh, boiled. And I used the resulting homemade chicken broth to make my own easy homemade gravy using olive oil, oat flour, sea salt, parsley flakes and poultry seasoning. So now that you know my adjustments, here’s the recipe courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee. And BTW: I halved it so it fit perfectly in my Ukonserve Glass Rectangle with Silicon Sleeve – a great kitchen tool because it’s goes from the oven to the table as it is an attractive serving dish as well.

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Cranberry & Turkey Stuffing Casserole

Yield: 6 – 1 cup servings

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

¾ cup minced yellow onion

¾ cup minced celery

½ tsp. poultry seasoning

⅛ tsp. ground black pepper

¾ cup low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth

3 cups whole grain bread (approx. 6 ounces), cut into 1-in. pieces

12 oz. cooked, diced turkey

1 cup prepared turkey gravy

1 ½ cups cranberry sauce

Directions

1.       In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions and celery and cook 2 minutes. Mix in poultry seasoning and pepper and continue to cook 30 seconds. Pour in hot broth and heat through.

2.       Stir in bread pieces and mix to combine. Cook until stuffing mixture is moist and heated through. Remove from heat and hold.

3.       Combine turkey and gravy and spread evenly in the bottom of a 2-qt casserole dish. Next, spoon half of the cranberry sauce (¾ cup) on top of the turkey-gravy layer. Gently spread the reserved stuffing mixture evenly on top of cranberry sauce.

4.       Bake in a 350°F oven for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and firm. Top will be slightly crunchy.

5.       Scoop a 1-cup portion of casserole onto a plate and serve with an additional 2 Tbsp. of cranberry sauce on the side.

 

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 320, Calories from Fat 45, Saturated Fat 1g, Trans Fat 0g, Total Fat 5g, Cholesterol 45mg, Sodium 460mg, Total Carbohydrate 43g, Sugars 26g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 22g, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 8%, Iron 8%

 

Recipe courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee, uscranberries.com

 

Lunch Box Builders: PART 2 (and great food storage ideas for the home & on-the-go)

You want your kids to eat healthy. And you try your best. But along the way you find your child’s lunchbox has remained un-opened (food UN-eaten!) and Instead he/she has been eating from the school cafeteria. Where did you go wrong? Or better yet, what made the cafeteria so appealing?

First of all – if your child has just started school, this is new, and exciting. Just the idea of selecting their food from the counter. Secondly, have you noticed how everything is so neatly packaged into small, easy to open containers. ***[Light Bulb]: the packaging! Kids enjoy opening containers – in various sizes, shapes, textures. A package is fun to open. So give it a try. Select some durable, easy-to-open containers to divide their lunch box  items. Think bento or a variety of separate “packages” to contain their healthy, yummy options.

And speaking of packing: How do you pack your kids food items? (Do you have any small, medium and varied shaped containers – that SEAL well?) If your preparation is great, then why did it end up soggy by the time your kid sat down for lunch? Well perhaps it wasn’t sealed well and in a container that is too large or not accommodating. And likely your child has dragged his/her backpack up and down the hallways, turned or dropped it sideways and thus, what do you know — the nicely packed lunch you thought it was – becomes a sack of mush. (The same is true for your on-the-go snack/meal options – you want your food to stay fresh and remain appealing).

Don’t feel you have to pack everything in. Better to keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm. As long as you a food item: one of each category PVFV. Many lunch containers keep things within reasonable portions. Remember you can always serve up a healthy snack to get in more healthy nutrients.

If you haven’t read Lunch Box Builders: Part 1, you can read it here.

Check out some of my favorite containers for packing in their lunch boxes and storing meals/snacks for the week ahead. Some great Ukonserve products are available at www.kidskonserve.com

Ukonserve is a brand I can trust:

• Seals tightly for freshness

• Attractive containers – both in metal (kid-friendly) and glass storage – even suitable for serving

• Comes in kid-friendly sizes

• Convenient tupperware for food prep/storage – love this Glass rectangular with Silicon sleeve.

ukon small rounds

These tight-sealing, leak-proof containers are great for packing fresh fruit, veggies, dips, yogurt, side salads, crackers & cheese!

 

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This butternut squash salad fits nicely into any size Ukonserve container, whether it is a snack size portion or a dish for a party (choose from small rounds snack/lunch tote-able sizes to square/rectangular metal or glass).

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One of the many items I’ve packed in the small metal rounds Ukonserves for myself on-the-go and my kids lunch boxes.

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Wanna tip for cutting up kiwi (although you really can eat the skin): Simply use a spoon to scoop out of skin and then chop as desired.

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This is a great container for storing salads, stews or even sweet treats such as these homemade spiced muffins (8 fit nicely).

kale in ukon

This square metal, tight-sealing containing is also great for storing hearty kale salads (the leaves are strong enough not to wilt or degrade overnight – in fact some kale salads are much better the next day as they absorb all the great marinade) and showcasing them at the dinner table!!

Skinny 5-Layer-Dip (well, actually 6, but somehow the odd numbers sound better)

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Need something quick and easy (and healthy) to bring to a party?! Your answer is here. Try this “Skinny 5-layer Dip” — it’s great with toasted Pita chips (and while it’s satisfying and tasty, it won’t add to your waistline). Here are the layers:

Bean Layer:

  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup salsa, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  White Layer:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, non-fat (+ ½ cup whipped cream cheese optional)

  Salsa Layer:

  • 1 cup salsa, low sodium

  Guacamole Layer:

  • 3 medium avocados, pitted & skin removed
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • lemon juice
  • sea salt

  Lettuce & Cheese layer:

  • 3 cups Romaine lettuce, finely shredded or chopped well
  • 1 cup low fat (Jack or Cheddar) cheese shredded

Directions

  • Bean layer: Mash beans with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Spread into 8 x 11 baking dish (or use x Ukonserve glass square Tupperware)
  • Spread Yogurt Layer over the beans then add the Salsa Layer
  • Guacamole layer: Smash avocados with a fork and add remaining ingredients. Mix and spread on top of Salsa Layer.

Layer Chopped Romaine over Guacamole Layer and top with the cheese. Tip: Ukonserve containers keep it fresh for travel — easy portability. I’d choose the clear rectangular one with the silicon, not only stores it fresh, seals tightly, but will make a nice presentation. Serve with your favorite baked Tortilla chips or Pita chips (or make them yourself).