Cookies

Almond Butter Cookies

February 1, 2012

Tomorrow I’m going for an allergy test, that I have been waiting over six months for. Isn’t that ridiculous? I called back in July, and was told by one doctor I would have to wait a YEAR to see them. The second referral I had was only about six months wait list. I couldn’t believe I would have to wait so long to find out what I was allergic to.

I had an allergy test about seven years ago, when I learned I was allergic to peanuts, and dairy (Milk, Cheese, Cream etc) and other various foods. I even think the test said I was allergic to raw carrots and celery..and maybe apples? I’m not sure how you can be allergic to these things, It seems pretty odd to be allergic to raw carrots. I already knew I had severe hay fever, and was allergic to most cats and dogs (dander). I would suffer greatly in the summer. I would be the kid who had red, watery eyes, unable to breathe and have to take an allergy pill every day. It was horrible. I remember wishing that I didn’t have allergies, that I was normal like my friends. It was especially hard when I played baseball all summer. We even had a cat! I think we got her way before my allergies really developed, but I basically adapted and got used to her. Anyone else’s pets though, was torture.

Now, I was good for about 5-6 months afterwards about not eating what I was allergic to. Some things made sense. My dad, the great chef, would make us ‘breakfast for dinner’ as a special treat. He would make a giant egg and cheese omelet, with toast and jam and most likely bacon or ham. I remember feeling quite sick after eating it, and now I understood why. It was loaded with dairy, and that makes me nauseous. Go figure. I also tried to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich a few weeks later, to see what the reaction was. My face did slightly break out in hives, so I decided to steer clear of it. Over the yeras I have been pretty good at avoiding things like ice cream, and switched to almond milk over a year ago after the small amount of skim milk in my morning cereal began to make me feel really quite sick. After years of not eating those foods though, I have to say my other allergies such as dander and hay fever really subsided, and I can enjoy being outside. I tried to eat peant butter again, after no signs of reaction, however, after months of eating it in my oatmeal I began to get stomache aches immediately after. So, that meant I had to switch that too.

Enter, Almond Butter.

I had only tried it a handful of times before, and never really quite liked it. It just wasn’t peanut butter, which I so loved. It had a much richer nuttier flavour than peanut butter, and it was a little more oily. I slowly began adding it to oatmeal, and then dipping apples and bananas in it. I converted to Almond-Butter and Jam sandwiches. Even Adam eats it now, if there is no meat for his lunches. I have even seen a few posts about how to make your own almond butter. Which looks delicious, and something that I might try soon. Over time it grew on me, and now I have almond butter cravings, instead of peanut butter ones. I even made my own almond buter cups, like a reese’s peanut butter cup. I really like Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted. There is no added sugar, and is natural.

There are so many people with a peanut allergy. I used to love peanut butter cookies, the way they slowly dissolve, and crumble into your mouth once you take a bite. I would let it sit on my tongue for just a minute for the peanutty flavours to develop. Adam was never a huge fan of peanut butter cookies apparently, but he did like these. They are perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the center. I based this recipe on my regular peanut butter recipe, switching up a few things and halfed it. It makes about two dozen cookies, so I wouldn’t suggest doubling it, unless you want a very large batch.

Almond Butter Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup + 2 heaping Tablespoons Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, Room Temperature
  • 3/4 Cup Almond Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • handful of almonds – optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the almond butter, mix on slow and add the sugars.
  4. Add the egg, mixing well. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula or wooden spoon, and on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. It will look smooth, and should not be crumbling.
  5. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to scoop dough and then roll the dough into smooth round 1 inch balls using the palm of your hand.
  6. Place on the backing sheet. Using a fork, press the tines into the top of the cookie, to make the signature criss cross pattern, flattening it just slightly. You can also top it with a single almond at this point.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, until slightly browned and just about set in the center.
  8. Carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Make sure they are fully cooled before storing them
  9. Note – You can make these in advance, and roll the cookie dough into the little balls, storing them in a container and freezing them until ready to use. When baking from frozen cookie, place them on the sheet and into the oven for a few minutes til they get soft, and then pull them out and make the criss cross pattern with the fork, and then stick em back in the oven to fully bake =) baking time may need to be increased by a minute or two since they are baking from frozen.
I stored them on the countertop, you can store in a container, and will last about 4-5 days. You can also freeze baked cookies.
Apples, Cakes

Skillet Apple Cake

January 27, 2012

Adam and I are lucky to live in the same condo building as our friends. It sometimes feels as if we are living in a FRIENDS episode, bumping into them in the hallways and elevator, borrowing clothing, ingredients, pots and pans when needed and other miscellanious items such as muffin liners, glue guns, and staplers etc. It’s nice to know if you run out of something, or need to run out quickly someone is home to watch a little one, like we have done for our friends with a toddler. We’ve even relieved them of the little guy when they aren’t feeling well, taking the baby and the dogs out for a walk so they can get some rest. It’s nice to know people in the building, other than just a neighbor whom you pass by in the hallway with a nod. One of our friends lives only a few doors down, while the other live on the opposite side of the building. We get together for dinners as often as possible, knowing its only a short commute between houses, without worrying who is driving or what the weather outside looks like. It’s also nice that one of them is a Vancouver Police Officer, so if anything happens I know where to go! Haha. I was originally going to make another type of apple cake, to bring to Adam’s parents, that required eggs. Having only one egg left, and not wanting to get dressed to go to the store, I called our friend to borrow an egg. We were all still in our PJs. Afterwards, I found this recipe which I wanted to try instead, and of course, it did not require any eggs. Bonus for me, since I have a slight allergy.

Later that afternoon, we were waiting to go to dinner when all of a sudden the fire alarm in our building began to go off. We have had problems in the past of pipes bursting after cold weather, as they did last winter. Again, knowing people in the building really pays off, as our friends apartment was unfortunately flooded with water when the pipe burst, and luckily I was home along with our other friend who had a key to their place, and we were able to get in and try to control the water damage before the Firefighters got there. We figured this was the same instance, and got our jackets on to go outside and wait. However, when we entered our hallway we smelled smoke. This was an actual fire. Other neighbours told us there was a lot of smoke at the end of the hallway, and to call 911. We went back in, grabbed a couple items,  like my computer (my life!) and went outside. Our friend, the police officer, was waiting for us to look after the little guy, so he could go inside and see what was happening, as his wife had just gone to the store when it happened. Our other friend had to wrangle their two cats into a carrier, much to their dismay, but humorous for us watching them trying to push their way out of it, met us outside. Luckily it was not a large fire, but rather someone had not watched a pot on the stove that caused it to smoke and sound the alarm in their apartment, to which they did not turn off, and then it caused the entire buildings fire alarm to set off. There was quite a lot of smoke, but luckily no one was hurt and no further damage was caused.

We went back in, got dressed and left for dinner, apple cake in hand. Adam is part of the strata committe, and had to attend a scheduled meeting that night. I’m sure they had more to talk about after the ‘fire’ incident. I sent the rest of the cake down with him to share with the other members. Another reason you should get to know your neighbours – they might bake you something!

This cake is subtley sweet, studded with tart chopped apples. You can bake it in a skillet, I decided to finally break mine in. Or, bake it in a cake dish, 8” or 9”.

Unfortunately I don’t think I can use our skillet for cooking on our stove, as we have a glass top stove and I’ve read some stories online of the cast iron causing it to break and crack. So, for now it will only be used in the oven.

Apple Cake
Slighlty adapted from: Joy Of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition 

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk, with a squirt of lemon)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 medium green or tart apples

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly season/grease your cast iron skillet. Alternatively, you can use an 8 or 9” cake pan.

Cut apples into segments, chopping up into smaller pieces, reserving some slices, leaving the peel on.

Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl thoroughly to remove any large lumps.

Add, the milk, oil and vanilla.

Add the chopped apples and mix until incorporated into the batter.

Scrape the batter into your prepared baking dish, and spread evenly. Arrange reserved apples slices ontop of batter in a pattern.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on the counter on a cooling rack.

Once cooled, you can sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Serve warm or cold, with whipped cream or maybe a scoop of ice cream.

This would also be good with a crumb topping, a mixture of brown sugar and buter with oats.






Bread, Sweet Buns/Rolls

Cinnamon Buns

January 22, 2012


I used to be afraid to use yeast in baking. I only really tried using it last summer for the first time, making pizza dough. I think after a few tries I have gotten the hang of it. The very first time I ‘killed’ the yeast because the water was too hot, you know they’re quite sensitive to heat. But after a few tries you get the hang of it, and realize how warm the water/milk should be for the little yeast granules to ‘live’ and foam up. I make pizza dough quite often now, and I don’t even think I have ever bought a pizza shell from the grocery store since Adam and I began living together last september. Or really any time before then. This month, we decided we wouldn’t spend any money eating out. November and December were both quite busy, and we seemed to be eating out quite a lot. While it is not only costly for the wallet, it’s also not healthy to always be eating at restaurants or fast food. While I don’t think I’ve eaten at a ‘fast food’ restaurant like McDonalds for quite a few years now, we did begin eating a lot of Tim Horton’s this past summer. We have never even ordered take out to our apartment, no pizza deliveries, no Chinese food. The only thing we really ever go out for, or bring back to our house is Sushi, because lets face it you cannot make it as well, or for as cheap as they can at a restaurant. There is no ‘take out menu’ drawer at our place. Only fresh ingredients in the cupboards and fridge.

Adam had to work on the island for three weeks in November, eating out every meal of the day. So when he would come home on the weekend he was happy to be eating healthy meals made at home. So far this month we have not spent any money going out to restaurants. We have however gone out twice now, once with Adam’s parents who took us out to dinner, and once this weekend to the Secret Supper Soiree which I won tickets to. It has been nice not going out to eat. While I do enjoy dining out, I also love to cook myself so it’s not a big deal to stay in. Many people think of going out as a convenience, but making a homemade meal is quite convenient, and there are always leftovers for the next day. We’ve been eating a lot of soups, such as the Italian Ribollita soup I made before, and chili. I have also found that there are many things we buy from a store that we can make ourselves. I even began making granola bars, instead of buying them, as Adam takes a couple with him for lunch every day. They are much healthier, and you can add things like pumpkin and flax seeds.

I remember when I was younger my mother would make pizza dough, and then use the extra to make my brother and I cinnamon buns, and of course my dad who was always wanting ‘something sweet’ for dessert. She would always add raisins and nuts, usually walnuts that we had on hand. It was a special treat when she did. I remember they would disappear quite fast. My mom came over today and got to taste them, I think they are as good as the ones she made us. There’s just something about warm cinnamon buns right from the oven. I had wanted to make these for a while now, but had yet to get around to it. They are worth the wait, and take about two hours from start to finish. We also brought a few over to Adam’s sister, who has a bun of her own in the oven. Adam could become an uncle any day! But for the sake of his sister, not too soon haha. These are perfectly fluffy, and just sweet enough. I didn’t use a large amount of sugar in the dough or in the filling, so you don’t feel too bad eating them ;) And the whole wheat dough makes them healthy..ish.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns
adapted from Cate’s World Kitchen 

Time: 1 1/2 hours to rise, 20 minutes to bake.

Recipe:
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Filling:
brown sugar
cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted
raisins (optional)
walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until it reaches 105 degrees. I suggest using a thermometer, I love mine since I bought it and it has come in very handy.
  2. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl, I used my kitchenaid bowl. Add to the milk 2 1/2 tsp. of active dry yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Let the mixture stand until it begins to look foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, 2 eggs, and flour. Using the paddle attachment mix for 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook, and continue for about four minutes until dough becomes smooth. Alternatively, you can knead dough by hand.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large bowl that is well greased, and cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  5. Once it has risen, sprinkle some flour on to the countertop and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough into a large rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick.
  6. Brush the dough with 1/3 cup melted butter using a pastry brush and sprinkle evenly with sugar and cinnamon. I just used a handful of sugar, and a lot of cinnamon. You can make them as sweet as you like. Cover with nuts and raisins evenly.
  7. Roll the dough up starting with the longer side and cut into approximately 12 rolls.
  8. Arrange the rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover again with a tea towel and let rise for about 30 minutes. I also used a muffin tin for the extras, and baked them in that. It worked really well for small cinammon bun/muffins.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

You can leave them plain, or mix cream cheese with icing sugar to make an icing.

Do you eat out quite often?

Do you prefer cooking at home than dining out?

Have you baked with yeast before? What are your favourite recipes?