Unreal Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

March is always an interesting month because of the unpredictable weather (at least in the northeast US).  Yesterday was the first day of spring and today there’s a major snow storm, which caused my dietetic internship program to declare today yet another snow day (I’m not complaining, although I’m really enjoying my clinical rotation).

I always find snow days are the perfect opportunity to create new recipes in the kitchen.  I decided to make these delicious cookies using Unreal chocolate covered peanut gems.  They remind me of peanut m&m’s, but they’re free artificial colorings which delights me, considering I’m a health nut with a weakness for sweet treats.  Normally, I’m not a huge candy person (I’m more into baked goods and ice cream), but I felt intrigued because this brand has been showing up in my Instagram feed and seemed to win the approval of chocolate-lovers.  I was curious to see if these lived up to the hype and I can say that they definitely do.  If you’re craving something sweet, colorful, and a little crunchy, this cookie really hits the spot 🙂

Unreal Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 4 tbsp. chocolate chips (I used trader joe’s semi-sweet)
  • 32 (2 servings) of Unreal dark chocolate peanut gems

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Measure flour and sugars, combine in a large mixing bowl
  • Add baking soda, mix in with a fork
  • Measure and melt coconut oil in the microwave (30 seconds-1 minute)
  • Add oil to dry mixture
  • Measure and add apple sauce and vanilla extract
  • Add oats and mix everything together
  • Add chocolate chips and Unreal dark chocolate peanut gems
  • Using non-stick spray, coat a baking sheet with oil and use a spoon to scoop out the cookie dough into balls and place on the baking sheet (I made 18 cookies from this recipe)
  • Bake for 11-14 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy

Is it snowing where you are?  How do you like to spend your time when there weather affects your normal routine?

-Jess

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Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Happy Friday! This work week ended with a generous helping of delicious vegan chocolate chunk cookies for me and my coworkers. When I’m not writing about food or managing Vitamin Valentine, I’m working a full-time job as a community nutritionist for a nonprofit organization. At our office this week we celebrated the month of march (which also happens to be national nutrition month) with healthy baked goods. Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy baked good. Although I wouldn’t advise anyone to go on a diet consisting of only muffins, cookies, or cupcakes, baked goods can be made a little healthier with a few simple substitutions. I try to use whole wheat or whole grain pastry flour in place of white flour, which adds a little more fiber and b-vitamins. Using applesauce and almond milk in place of large amounts of oil or butter also helps cut down on calories and fat. There are many other ways to make ordinary cookies a little healthier with some creativity. These vegan chocolate chunk cookies were a big hit and I hope you enjoy them too! Each cookie clocks in at just under 150 calories and makes around 14-16 large, fluffy cookies.

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (unpacked)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup Earth Balance buttery spread (or, use 1/2 cup coconut oil)- softened
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life vegan semi-sweet chocolate mega chunks

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and then put a sheet of parchment paper on top
  • In a large bowl, mix softened earth balance or coconut oil with brown and white sugars, add vanilla extract. Mix with a spoon until uniform in consistency.
  • In a separate bowl, add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together until mixed
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then add the almond milk and apple sauce and mix
  • Add the chocolate chunks and mix well
  • Using your hands, mold the dough into balls and then flatten. This recipe will make about 14-16 medium-large cookies, or 20-24 smaller cookies
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. For larger cookies, time may be longer.
  • Allow to cool, share with your friends, family, or coworkers, and enjoy 🙂

-Jess

Chocolate Chip-Granola Compassion Cookies

Cookies in the morning sunlight

Cookies in the morning sunlight

Greetings and happy (almost) summer solstice! The recipe I’m sharing today has nothing to do with summer. After all, chocolate chip cookies can be eaten year-round and aren’t necessarily something I think of as a summer treat. Regardless, I’m sharing this recipe because of the reasons why I decided to wake up early this morning and create these cookies in the first place. Lately my schedule has been jam-packed due to taking an intensive summer class (microbiology and a microbiology lab) and the start of a new job. These two factors have led me to indulge in some not-so-healthy eating, in the form of coming home late at night and indulging in some of my favorite healthy, yet, junky foods. I realized this past week, that I keep buying foods that I tend to overeat (cereal, granola, chocolate chips, and trail mix, although healthy, are my weaknesses and I never eat just one serving). As I’ve written in previous posts, using food during stress is common, but it shouldn’t be your go-to way to relax. With this in mind (and after eating one too many bowls of granola in bed this past week), I decided to make it easier for myself to not over-do my granola + chocolate chip habit by baking cookies that I can share and give to others. If you find yourself eating the same foods during times of stress, or simply when you’re not actually physically hungry, one easy step to alleviate this problem is by getting rid of the “trigger food”. Instead of being wasteful, either make a dish for someone else or donate the food item to a food bank. If the food is already opened, see if you can contact any organizations that accept fresh yet opened food (many do) or if you live in an area with a visible homeless population, consider showing some kindness and giving your food to a homeless person directly. Kindness towards yourself (by not using food to cope with stress) and kindness towards others (by donating said food items) is a win-win. Here’s my recipe for chocolate-chip granola cookies, or as I’m calling them “Compassion Cookies”. Enjoy and share your food!

Compassion Cookies 

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Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour (it can be whole wheat, spelt flour, almond meal, gluten-free, whatever floats your boat)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (softened, I microwaved it in a bowl for 45 seconds)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (or almond milk)
  • 1.5 cups granola (I used Nature’s Path Cinnamon Raisin Granola)
  • approx. 8 oz. vegan chocolate chips (I used sunspire organic 65% cacao chocolate chips, but I know trader joe’s also makes vegan chocolate chips)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients and add applesauce, vanilla extract, and melted coconut oil.
  • Add the soy milk
  • Add the granola and chocolate chips.
  • Mix well.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with non-stick spray
  • Using a spoon, spoon cookie batter onto the sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes
  • Remove from the pan, allow to cool.
  • Share and enjoy!

 

-Jess

 

The Benefits of Quinoa and a Few Recipe Ideas

Since I’ve been writing about gluten-free diets, I’ve decided to devote an entire post to my favorite gluten-free grain, quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is technically not a grain, but a distant relative to spinach and beets? Here is some additional info quinoa.

Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a high-quality vegetarian source of protein that also has 3 grams of fiber per serving. In a ¼ cup dry serving, there are 160-175 calories (varies by brand). Quinoa is safe for people with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance because it is gluten free and can be used in recipes as a replacement for gluten-containing grains. Another benefit of quinoa is its vitamin and mineral content. Quinoa is rich in iron, phosphorus and magnesium. Iron is especially important for women and for those following a vegetarian diet.

How to Cook It

For a recipe that calls for quinoa, cooking is quite simple. The most important part of the cooking process (in my experience) is rinsing the quinoa prior to cooking. Rinsing eliminates any granules of sand and also decreases the naturally soapy, bitter taste that can sometimes be present. To cook quinoa, use a saucepan and a small amount of oil/fat. I usually spray coconut oil or olive oil. Add ¼ cup portion to the pan just enough to lightly heat the dry quinoa for a minute without water. Next add enough water to cover the quinoa. For a ¼ cup dry serving, you can use ¾ cup or 1 cup of water. Simmer on low-medium heat. The quinoa is ready when the grains have softened, are soft when tasted, and when all of the water has been absorbed (sometimes more water needs to be added if it was cooked at higher temperature and still appears undercooked). Each quinoa grain has an O-shaped particle that will sometimes separate from the rest of the grain and both parts are edible.  Quinoa does not require rinsing or draining once it’s done.

How to Use it

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Quinoa in a mexican-inspired dish. Instead of rice, I used quinoa and added black beans, onions, broccoli, and topped with a generous helping of salsa and a few olives.

Quinoa can be used in many dishes. My favorite ways to use quinoa are in place of rice or pasta. Instead of adding rice to a burrito or Asian-inspired stir-fry, use quinoa as the base. The same spices can be added to the quinoa as it is cooking or after it is fully cooked. Quinoa can also be used in ways similarly to oatmeal. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and other dried or fresh fruit to hot quinoa for breakfast. You can also use quinoa when making your own granola instead of using oats. The most interesting way I’ve used quinoa is in cookies (I’ve included the recipe below).

Other Quinoa Products

Quinoa is now on the market in a variety of food products, from quinoa pasta, quinoa flour, bread with added quinoa, and the list goes on. If you do follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to read the label of these products and make sure that wheat or other gluten-containing grains have not been added to the flour mixtures. Otherwise, enjoy quinoa in its many forms!

Quinoa Cookies

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Ingredients:

(makes about two dozen cookies)

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted) or other fat
  • 1 mashed banana
  • ¼ cup grade A Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dry measured quinoa (when cooked, will greatly expand)
  • Optional: Raisins, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and or brown rice cereal.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. You’ll want to cook the quinoa prior to adding to the rest of the ingredients, so use the cooking method listed above (stovetop, in a saucepan. Be sure to rinse the dry grain before cooking!)

  •  Measure the dry ingredients (brown rice flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda) and mix in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients (melted fat, mashed banana, maple syrup, vanilla)
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon or spatula to lightly mix the two together. Be careful not to overmix.
  • Once the quinoa is finished cooking, remove from heat, and mix in with the combined wet-dry mixture.
  • Add the rest of the optional ingredients
  • The mixture should now be the consistency of a chocolate-chip cookie dough. If not thickened due to the heat of the quinoa, allow to harden a little bit in the fridge.
  • Grease a baking pan (cooking spray does the trick for me), and use a spoon to scoop out dough onto the pan  I usually can fit  a dozen on the baking pan, but it depends on what size you like.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-14 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for a bit and enjoy!

-Jess