Vegan Banana Nugget Cookies

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People fall into 2 categories when it comes to raw cookie dough- those that eat it and those that don’t. I fully understand why a person wouldn’t want to eat the dough if it contains raw egg. But personally, I’ve always lived life on the edge and ate the dough. In my head the delicious benefits far outweigh the possible negative side effects. Maybe I’m just really lucky, but I never once got sick from it. I will admit to always having a tiny smidgen of guilt/worry when sampling the raw dough though. Not enough to stop me from eating it, but just enough to remind me that it was a risk. It occurred to me when I was baking these Banana Nugget Cookies last night that I can eat all the dough I want without even a hint of worry. Vegan cookie dough = no eggs = guilt-free cookie dough! Ok, not guilt-free in the sugar/fat department, but still… this was an exciting revelation for me.

I’m still pretty new to plant-based baking and I’ve had some less than stellar results trying to convert some of my favorite recipes. This recipe is the exception. On my very first attempt I was able to successfully veganize this old family favorite. I passed them off to my extended family as the original and nobody even noticed the difference until my mom spilled the beans. That’s a huge compliment right there because no one in my family is even close to vegan and they’d most likely be squeamish if they’d have known the truth before they ate them.

Banana nugget cookies were always a staple of my grandma’s Christmas baking. I’m not entirely sure of the origin of the recipe, but I hope you enjoy them as much as we always have. They are kind of a homely looking cookie, so don’t let their lumpy looks fool you… they are delicious!

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These yummy banana nugget cookies get bonus points for having a few more health benefits than the original too. We still can’t call them health food, but I did cut down on the white flour and replace the eggs and butter with flaxseed and coconut oil. Enjoy!

Vegan Banana Nugget Cookies

Yield: approx. 3 dozen cookies
Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 bananas)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Directions:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the ground flaxseed with 3 Tablespoons of warm water to make a flax egg. Set aside for 5 minutes or so while you prepare the dry ingredients.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a medium bowl. 
  • In the large bowl with the flax egg in it, add the banana, brown sugar,  oil, and vanilla. Stir until combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together until no dry ingredients remain visible. 
  • Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets using a 2 Tbsp cookie scoop.
  • Bake for 10-11 minutes or until the edges just barely start to brown. Even if the tops seem soft at this point they will firm up as the cookies cool.
  • Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

 

Veggie Corn Chowder: 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook

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One of my biggest concerns about starting a family was the fact that I’d be responsible for shaping another person’s ideas about food along with their eating habits. Of course there were other worries, but this thing about food was stuck in the back of my mind because it’s something that I’ve personally struggled with throughout my life. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when very few people thought twice about processed food and healthy meant “fat-free” and “low-fat”. Despite all of the Diet Coke and sugar-free yogurt in my life I was still overweight and on a diet by age 12. Looking back, I shutter to think about all of the chemicals I’ve consumed in my quest to get healthy.

My food journey started long ago with the influence of my family and it continues to evolve today as I try to educate myself. After my daughter was born I really started to question everything I was consuming. It was around that time that I discovered the 100 Days of Real Food site. I was intrigued by Lisa’s story of how she and her family of four took a 100 day pledge to eat absolutely no highly processed or refined foods for 100 solid days. That means no white flour or sugar! For a girl with a passion for baking that sounded like a serious challenge. The rules did allow for wine and beer in moderation though so I figured I could survive for 100 days and I took the plunge. If I’m being honest, I didn’t completely follow the guidelines for a full 100 days, but I was strict about it for 2 months or so. The experience opened my eyes a little wider and I learned quite a few things that have stuck with me over the past few years.

I’m now religious about reading labels in the grocery store. Where I used to pay attention to calories and fat on food labels, my primary focus is now on the ingredients list. More times than not I end up having to put food back on the shelves after browsing the label and finding unpronounceable ingredients, unnecessary sugar, or processed food-like substances on the list. Another change I made was making more of my own food at home. This part wasn’t much of a sacrifice for me because I have always enjoyed cooking. Some of my favorite homemade versions of foods to make are almond milk, peanut butter, granola, taco seasoning, and this awesome recipe for Easy Slow Cooker Refried Beans. I love that I have control over the ingredients when I cook at home, and it almost always tastes better too!

Because Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food had been such an inspiration to me, you can imagine my excitement when she announced that she was working on writing a cookbook. She was kind enough to send me a copy of the book ahead of its release to read and share my thoughts with you guys. The book is beautiful! I love that in addition to all the wonderful whole food recipes it also includes tips about making the change to a real food diet, meal planning, and budget-friendly grocery shopping. My party-loving heart adores the section about entertaining and ideas for “make your own” food bars (pizza, crepes, etc.) that your guests will love. This book will be an awesome reference for me and I’m so happy to have it as part of my cookbook collection now.

100 Days of Real Food cookbook

Veggie Corn Chowder is one of the first recipes I’ve made from the book and I’m sharing it with you two different ways. I have been trying out a vegan diet recently, so I made some substitutions to the original recipe to eliminate meat and dairy. I’m also including the recipe as written in the book for those of you without my dietary restrictions. The soup was simple to put together and it’s delicious!

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Veggie Corn Chowder recipe

Vegan Veggie Corn Chowder

Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons flax oil
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large celery stalks, diced
3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon sea salt
cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 cups light coconut milk (only ingredients should be coconut milk and water)

Directions:
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir until the mixture darkens in color (about 4-5 minutes). 
  • Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the veggies start to soften (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the corn, salt, and cayenne pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the vegetable broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes or until you notice that it has thickened a bit.
  • Use an immersion blender to partially puree the soup. You want to have some diced veggies and corn still intact, so don’t go overboard with the blender. Alternatively, you can transfer half of the soup to your blender to puree and then add it back into the pot.
  • Garnish with chives if desired and serve immediately.

adapted from the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook

 

Roasted Fruit and Vanilla Yogurt Popsicles

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Did you know that it’s Popsicle Week? Did you know there even was such a thing as Popsicle week? I did some quick research and determined that Popsicle Week originated in 2013 when Billy of Wit & Vinegar declared that the first week of summer was worthy of this title. I think it’s brilliant. The popsicle definitely deserves its own week! I love being part of a blogging community that gets to acknowledge and even celebrate “holidays” like this one.

My typical popsicle routine consists of making my usual fruit/veggie/yogurt smoothies and pouring the leftovers into a popsicle mold. In honor of Popsicle Week 2014 I decided to get a little fancy. I roasted fruit with olive oil and sugar. I mixed some agave and vanilla into plain yogurt. It wasn’t complicated, but my extra efforts were definitely rewarded. These somehow managed to be refreshing, creamy, fruity, and decadent all at the same time. Yum!

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Roasted Fruit and Vanilla Yogurt Popsicles

Yield: approx. 10 pops (will depend on the size and shape of your popsicle mold)
Ingredients:

2 cups plain, whole-milk yogurt
3 Tablespoons agave nectar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups of roughly chopped fruit (I used nectarines, strawberries, and raspberries)
2 teaspoons oil (coconut, canola, or olive would work well)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the fruit on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with sugar. Gently toss to combine and then spread everything out into a single layer.
  • Roast the fruit in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. You’ll notice the juice from the fruit start to thicken when it’s done… don’t let it blacken or burn. Remove the fruit from the oven and let it cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl combine the yogurt, agave, and vanilla. Give it a taste and see if you want it to be sweeter… if you do, add more agave a little at a time until you reach the desired sweetness.
  • Now fill your popsicle mold- spoon a little fruit into the bottom of each well, top it with a little yogurt, and repeat. You should end up with 2 layers of fruit, and 2 layers of yogurt in each well of your popsicle mold. 
  • Freeze according to the directions that came with your popsicle mold.

adapted from Dessert for Two

Note: The popsicle mold I used was this one from World Market.

 

Frozen Treats for the 4th of July

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When I think of the 4th of July my mind always drifts to ice cream. Of course my childhood memories of the holiday also include the usual parades, flags, and fireworks… but in my mind the Fourth is synonymous with my grandma’s homemade ice cream. It was always the highly anticipated star of our backyard celebration.

I recently asked grandma about the recipe and process and learned that it was much more labor intensive than I remember. Her old ice cream maker was the kind that required layering ice and rock salt in a tub that surrounded the canister of ingredients. No wonder we really only had it once a year on the Fourth! I have a modern Cusinart ice cream maker and I do occasionally make homemade ice cream. The truth is though, that nothing I’ve ever made can compete with those delicious memories. I think some of the magic had to have been in the slower, more hands-on process. So, instead of even trying to compete this year, I’m using a couple of semi-homemade ideas for frozen 4th of July treats.

Create memories with your family this year with red, white, and blue Waffle Cone Ice Cream Sandwiches and festive single-serve Ice Cream Cups. Use the best store-bought ice cream you can find in your favorite flavors.

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This idea is as simple as it is adorable! These single serving ice cream cups can easily be done in a variety of flavors and they are a great make-ahead option as well. Just portion out scoops of your chosen flavors and place them in these navy striped paper baking cups from Paper Eskimo. I used red and white striped paper straws to make a cute little flag decoration for the ice cream cups. Each straw is cut in half and then a 2-2.5″ length of gold glitter ribbon is attached to the top using double stick tape. Then I just trimmed the ends of the ribbon with scissors to resemble a flag. The red sparkly party picks are another perfect addition… I think they look like little fireworks!

If you scoop out and decorate your ice cream cups ahead of time you can store them in the freezer (cover them with plastic wrap to ensure freshness) until it’s time to break out dessert. Your family and/or guests are sure to love this festive frozen treat!

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Who doesn’t love ice cream sandwiches? Add sprinkles and a pair of cookies that taste like a buttery version of a waffle cone and this frozen treat is sure to please. I used Trader Joe’s Belgian Butter Waffle Cookies, premium vanilla ice cream, and red, white & blue jimmies to create my sandwiches. You can find my ice cream sandwich method at the bottom of this post. The cookies I used are oval shaped so I used a football cookie cutter this time. After each sandwich is assembled I rolled the edges in the sprinkles before wrapping them up tight and storing them back in the freezer. Again, these are perfect to pull out of the freezer after the BBQ when everyone is craving something sweet. Enjoy!

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Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!!

p.s. That scalloped July 4th party banner in the photos is from The Tulle Box. Such a cute bunting for parties or holiday home decor!

Carrot Banana Bread

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I haven’t made banana bread without carrots in it since stumbling upon this recipe for Carrot Banana Bread. It’s just that good! It also doesn’t hurt that you’re adding a vegetable… so now you have a fruit and a vegetables in a baked good. That means it’s an anytime food, right? My preschooler thinks so anyway. She loves to help me make this recipe and then the begging ensues before it even comes out of the oven. Imagine the incessant soundtrack of “Can I have some banana bread?” playing in the background to your every thought. Ok, maybe don’t imagine that. Just feel sorry for me and know that this quick bread is worthy of begging and pleading.

It’s come to the point that I no longer make a single batch of this carrot banana bread. We always double the recipe and give the second loaf to a lucky friend or grandparent. And, let’s be honest, sometimes we keep both loaves to ourselves so that we can satisfy my begging child that would gladly eat this bread for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert.

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Brunch is probably my favorite meal and this recipe would be a great addition to a brunch menu. It’s also flexible if you want to make a healthier version. I often substitute whole wheat pastry flour for all or half of the all purpose flour, swap honey for the sugar, or use apple sauce for some or all of the vegetable oil. I’ve even added in grated zucchini when I ran out of carrots. Of course those changes will slightly affect the texture and flavor, but I haven’t made a version we didn’t like yet. I’ll also tell you my Vitamix method that helps eliminate some of the effort and cuts down on dishes.

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Yes, the carrots from our garden were a little short and stumpy this year. Still delicious though. I hope you love this recipe as much as my family does!

Carrot Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf (8 thick slices)
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 bananas… a little more than a cup doesn’t hurt anything)
1/3 cup canola or coconut oil
1 cup grated carrots
2-3 teaspoons raw turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a large bowl. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, banana, and oil until combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the banana mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together until no dry ingredients remain visible. 
  • Fold the grated carrots into the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar. The raw sugar is optional, but it gives the baked loaf a sweet little crunch on the top.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out of the center clean. Bake time will depend on factors such as your oven temp, a glass/metal pan, etc. Start checking for doneness at 55 minutes.
  • Cool for 10-15 minutes before releasing the bread from the loaf pan. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Vitamix blender method: To save time and dirty dishes, I like to use my Vitamix blender to “shred” the carrots. Peel your carrots and cut them into 1-2″ chunks. Put the Vitamix on Variable and 7-8 on the speed dial and turn it on. Feed the carrot chunks one at a time through the opening at the top, covering the opening with your hand after each addition. To remove the carrots, turn the canister upside down over a flat surface and tap to release the them. Measure out one cup and reserve to fold into the batter later. Without washing the blender canister, add in your wet ingredients (whole bananas, oil, and eggs) and turn on the blender for a few seconds to mix/puree. Then your wet ingredients are ready to add to the dry. Congratulations… you just saved yourself from washing a cheese (carrot) grater, banana masher, and a medium mixing bowl!

adapted from Taste of Home

 

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

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Today feels like a comfort food kind of day, and Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake is definitely comfort food! I just baked a Banana Cream Pie and a double batch of Banana Carrot Bread for a few lucky recipients, but I’m still wishing I had some of this coffee cake to enjoy with my girl while we watch the rain and the wind swirl outside our windows. Unfortunately, my kitchen is a disaster and I don’t think I have the energy to clean it up and start baking again. Where is the dish washer (aka my husband) when you need him?!?

When I was a kid I would whip up Bisquick coffee cake whenever I (or someone in my family) was in need of something sweet. It was quick and easy and we almost always had the ingredients in the pantry. That childhood coffee cake was good, but it wasn’t great. This Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake is about 100x better than I remember the Bisquick version being. And now that we avoid processed foods as much as possible, this will be our go-to recipe. An indulgence? Yes! Worth it? Completely! You won’t regret making this moist, buttery cake. The cake itself is not terribly sweet, but with the crumb topping and mini chocolate chips it’s a perfect package. My almost 3 year old declared it was better than chocolate cupcakes… and that’s saying something!

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Make this delicious coffee cake recipe for brunch or a tea party…

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

Yield: 1 10″ Coffee Cake
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and room temp
1 large egg, room temperature
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the chocolate chip streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to warm
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:
  • Prepare the streusel: Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and mini chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Add the cooled butter and mix with a fork until it starts to form clumps. Let the prepared streusel sit while you make the cake batter.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line the bottom of a 10″ springform pan with parchment paper and butter or spray the sides of the pan. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). Toss in the cubed butter and use a pastry cutter or your hands to combine until small crumbs form.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla until combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together until smoothish (about 1 minute). The batter will be super thick… that’s ok!
  • Spread the batter evenly along the bottom of the prepared pan. Use your hands to squeeze the streusel mixture into large clumps and then break them up a little as you scatter them on top of the batter. Push down lightly on the streusel to press it into the cake batter.
  • Place the pan on a sheet of foil in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. I baked mine for a bit longer, but start checking at around 45 minutes.
  • Cool completely before releasing the cake from the springform pan. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk!

slightly adapted from A Little Zaftig. Original recipe from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Bun, Muffins, and More by Carole Walter

 

Strawberry Banana Fruit Leather

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Fruit leather is Nature’s candy! Unless, of course, it is made with corn syrup and food coloring… then it’s really just candy. It’s surprisingly pretty easy to make at home with nothing more than fruit and a little honey though. And the really good news is that this might as well have been candy as far as my 2 year old was concerned. She begged for it and even declared the homemade version was her favorite over a similar store bought product. There’s nothing like her approval to make me feel like I’ve had real recipe success!

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This recipe also makes a naturally sweet Valentine treat when wrapped in unbleached parchment paper and tied with baker’s twine. Download these free printable tags to complete the adorable packages pictured below.

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Strawberry Banana Fruit Leather

Yield: 8 rolls

1 pound of fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed
3 bananas
3 Tablespoons honey

Directions:
    • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
    • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat (I used my Silpat)
    • Place all ingredients in the blender (I used my Vitamix) and process until smooth
    • Pour the fruit puree onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it into an even layer.
    • Bake for 4 to 6 hours.  Start checking at 4 hours to see if the surface is sticky.  When it’s no longer sticky, try to peel it up to ensure that the underside is also dry.  When it starts to peel cleanly off of the parchment/silpat it’s done.  Mine took the full 6 hours, but times will vary depending on ovens and the moisture in your fruit.
    • When the fruit leather has fully cooled, line it with parchment if necessary and use kitchen scissors to cut it widthwise into 8 strips.  Roll each strip up and secure with a little piece of tape.  

adapted slightly from Food Family & Finds

No-Fail Cutout Sugar Cookies

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Christmas and cutout sugar cookies are practically synonymous in my little world. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without buttery stars, trees, and gingerbread men covered in frosting and sparkling sugar. Baking tops my list of childhood holiday memories and I always wanted to continue that tradition with my own children. So, even though it was sure to be a sugar-amped disaster, I invited a few of my daughter’s friends over to decorate Christmas cutout sugar cookies this year.

I provided naked cutout sugar cookies, colored icing, sprinkles, and a cute container for the kids to take their goodies home in. My observations about cookie decorating with toddlers are as follows: 1.) A lot of frosting will be consumed before it ever has a chance to make it onto a cookie.  2.) There is seemingly no limit to how many sprinkles can adorn a single cookie.  3.) Many cookies will be eaten so quickly that they will never make it home with the kids.  4.) Making memories will be worth all the mess and resulting sugar high!

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To create the blank canvases for decorating I used the same recipe that I’ve always used for my fancy fondant and royal icing covered cookies. It’s a fantastic basic recipe that has never given me any trouble and consistently produces great results. The cookies maintain their shape after baking and they taste great too! I used the icing recipe from my Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, but you can cover your cookies with your favorite buttercream, royal icing, or fondant. If you prefer a plain cookie, leave them naked.

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This makes a very stiff dough and a lot of it!  The cookie dough does freeze well or the recipe is easily halved if you want a smaller batch.

No-Fail Cutout Sugar Cookies

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:
    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    • Mix the first 4 ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a medium bowl.
    • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
    • Add vanilla and then add eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
    • Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions.  The dough will be a little crumbly… mix it until all the crumbs pull together into the dough.  Depending on the strength of your mixer, you may want to knead the dough by hand a few times to incorporate the last of the dry/crumbly dough.
    • Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour (or see my tips below).
    • Roll out to desired thickness on a floured surface.  Cut into shapes and transfer them to a cookie sheet (lightly greased or lined with parchment paper).
    • Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Times will vary due to thickness and shape of your cookies.  You want to look for the very first signs of browning along the edges to know when they are done baking. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack.
Tips and Tricks For Rolling Out Dough:
    • Want to chill your dough faster?  Roll out 1/3 of your freshly mixed dough between a non-stick baking mat (such as a Silpat) and a piece of parchment paper.  Place the sheet of dough onto a cookie sheet to keep it flat and place it into the fridge to chill.
    • Repeat twice with the remaining 2/3 of the cookie dough.  By the time you’ve finished the 3rd one, the first sheet of dough should be properly chilled and ready to cut!
    • Collect scraps and repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

adapted slightly from Cake Central

A printable recipe card can be found in this post.

Mini Apple Cheesecakes

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If I was the kind of person that wrote painfully descriptive Facebook posts about mundane daily details, I would have definitely written one yesterday.  It would have gone a little something like this:  “C was up crying every hour or so last night with some unknown toddler ailment that could only be relieved by mommy’s arms.  7 a.m. came way too early and it was raining, so naturally I really wanted to stay in bed and skip preschool altogether.  But then I remembered that the kids were having a Halloween costume parade, I was responsible for the classroom craft, AND I had to bring mini apple cheesecakes for the parent potluck.  We made it to school and then I realized my kid had a strange looking rash (insert mom guilt for not being more sympathetic during the sleepless night).  Oh, and we forgot our sharing.  Ugh!”

But if I posted that, maybe 20% of my Facebook friends would relate and the other 80% would just think to themselves that I’ve lost my mind.  Which wouldn’t be too far from the truth… losing your mind seems to be a very real symptom of parenting a 2 year old.  But the good news in all this is that there is cheesecake!  Mini Apple Cheesecakes to be exact… with caramel sauce and cinnamon whipped cream on top if you use your manners and say “please”.

Like many recipes I make, original inspiration came from a fellow blogger.  I just altered the recipe to make it preschool potluck friendly by removing the nuts and baking them in individual portions for easy serving. All reviews seemed to point to positive and I thought they were delicious. Definitely a perfect addition to an autumn dessert table.  I’m thinking about making them again for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

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Mini Apple Cheesecakes

yield: 21 mini cheesecakes

Apple Topping:

4 large Granny Smith apples,peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/3″ slices
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Crust:

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:

3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs, room temperature

Optional for Serving:

caramel sauce
cinnamon whipped cream

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare 2 cupcake pans by lining 21 wells with grease proof cupcake liners. Set aside.
  • Place all of the ingredients for the apple topping into a large saucepan or skillet.  Cook over medium heat until the apples begin to soften (about 10 min for me).  Set aside and cool completely.
  • Combine all crust ingredients in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until all of the crumbs are moistened.
  • Divide the crust mixture evenly among the 21 cupcake liners (about 2 Tbsp each) and press down on each of them with your fingers to form an even layer.
  • Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes or until you just start to notice browning along the edges.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees after you remove the crusts.
  • Place the softened cream cheese into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix quickly on low until creamy.
  • Add the vanilla and brown sugar (break up any lumps before it goes into the bowl). Mix on low until combined.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition.
  • Divide the filling evenly among your 21 prepared crusts.
  • Place 3-4 of your cooled apple slices in a fan pattern on top of each cheesecake.
  • Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the edges are set.
  • Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Then chill in the fridge overnight before serving.
  • To serve, remove the cupcake liners and plate with caramel sauce and cinnamon whipped cream.

Adapted from Live… Bake… Love. Check out their great tips for successful cheesecake baking.

 

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies

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I present to you, Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies! I will tell you that the shiny newness of pumpkin flavored everything has not worn thin for me yet.  If you follow my Instagram account, you may have noticed that my entire feed has been take over by pumpkin spice things. Cookies and doughnuts and playdough… oh my! Almost an entire jar of pumpkin pie spice seems to have disappeared from my pantry in the last couple of weeks. I think maybe the eternal summer here in San Diego is forcing me to cling to anything that even symbolizes the changing of the seasons. I may share one or two more delicious recipes that call for the orange puree in question… then I’ll make myself move on to other seasonal flavors like apples, persimmons, and pears.

These cookies are vegan but don’t call for any unusual ingredients, which is nice. The coffee icing drizzle makes their flavor reminiscent of the crazy-popular seasonal latte that everyone waits for in the Fall. They are moist and tasty and a little too easy to eat.  It’s possible that I may have convinced myself that they are healthy cookies and therefore ok to eat in (what some may call) large quantities. I mean, they do have whole wheat flour and a vegetable in them!

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies

Yield: 2.5 dozen cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut oil (or canola)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats.
  • Whisk the first 9 ingredient (flour through salt) together in a medium mixing bowl.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (brown sugar through vanilla).
  • Add about half of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients.
  • Scoop dough onto the cookie sheets. I used a 2 Tablespoon cookie scoop and put 12 on each pan. Using clean hands, press the top of each mound of dough down slightly to flatten them out a bit.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. You probably won’t see any noticeable browning, but the edges should be set when they are done baking. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack.
  • Drizzle the Coffee Icing onto the cooled cookies using a spoon or a squeeze bottle.  If you’re not a fan of coffee, feel free to omit the espresso powder from the icing and you’ll have plain ol’ Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cookies.

adapted slightly from Whisks and Whimsy

Coffee Icing

Yield: enough to drizzle 2.5 dozen cookies

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1-2 Tablespoons hot water
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in 1 Tablespoon hot water.
  • Stir in the powdered sugar.
  • Add more water a teaspoon at a time until a good drizzling consistency has been reached. It should flow freely, but not be too runny.