Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Warning: these are rich!  They most definitely require a glass of milk alongside, especially when they're fresh from the oven.  I have a little food crush on a certain celebrity chef from whom I derived this recipe. Of course they needed some reworking to make them white sugar-free, but no flavor was lost in the process.  I don't know if PB choc chip cookies are a trend in Australia; I've never heard of combining peanut butter cookies with chocolate chip cookies, and now I've heard of them twice from chefs that are both Australian.  Anyway, although I would prefer either a peanut butter cookie or a chocolate chip cookie, the fact that I couldn't stop eating these means they must have been pretty good. 

If you want to keep with the sugar free theme you'll have to get chocolate chips that contain no white sugar.  It's easier than you think, and not budget-blowing.  Trader Joe's carries them!  Well, for me it's easy as TJ is close to home.  You'll see in the list of ingredients "evaporated cane juice" as the sweetener, and that's good.  It's less refined than white sugar.  It's still sugar, mind you, but with less nutrients stripped away, and I've found that my system takes less of a sugar hit than it does with white sugar.  Then there is a product called "grain sweetened" chocolate chips, which really is budget blowing, but if you feel more comfortable using those, by all means do.  If you can't find either of those you can more easily find a chocolate bar made with evaporated cane juice and chop it up to add to the cookies.  I know Walgreens, for one, carries Endangered Species brand chocolate bars (boy, do I LOVE their Dark Chocolate w/Raspberries) and a few others that may also be white sugar-free.  You just have to look at labels.

I replaced the white and brown sugars with honey and molasses.  If you don't like molasses, don't be alarmed.  You really can't taste it in the finished product. I used it to give that brown sugary taste without using actual brown sugar.  Look at the sloppy mix in the bowl!  I kind of like it.  Be sure to use room temperature eggs, however, or the liquids and butter will start to seize up with the coldness of a refrigerated egg.  This I learned from experience.  I just learned that to bring eggs to room temperature you can soak them in hot water for ten minutes.

I liked the texture of these cookies.  When using liquid sweeteners in place of white sugar I've found the baked goods can have something of a dryness to them, especially after a day or two.  It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  But here the cookies were firm in hand (but not too firm) and just a bit sandy in the mouth, and I found that agreeable.  It's also a subtly sweet cookie, and the chocolate chips are a nice burst of sweet, melty flavor. 

I ate these for breakfast for several days, in the vein of Bill Cosby's skit about chocolate cake: they have flour, peanut butter, eggs...they're kinda healthy!  The only thing I would do differently next time is to cut up a bar of milk chocolate in place of semi-sweet.  I bet that would be even better!  Or peanut butter cups.  Oh yes, I think that's what it will be.  I may allow the sugar rule to slip for that!

Makes about two dozen

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup flour (I mixed whole grain and white spelt flours, but use whatever you please)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter (natural works best, and creamy or chunky to taste)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In one bowl, mix dry ingredients.  In mixing bowl beat together peanut butter, butter, molasses, honey, egg, and vanilla until well blended and creamy.  Stir dry ingredients in, in two batches.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Scoop dough onto cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.  Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.  Bake for about 12 minutes, allow to cool.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Creamy Orange Juice Popsicles

My kids looooove popsicles.  But I don't love the corn syrup and artificial flavorings and colors they contain.  The colors are so strong they have been known to stain my kitchen table, not to mention clothing and anything else it gets on. 

I took the kids shopping and we found some popsicle molds so we can make our own more wholesome versions at home.  We went crazy the first couple of weeks trying out new flavors, and also learned what not to do.  Freezing straight up juice makes the popsicle into a block of ice.  Not that the kids care, but it's nicer to have something that you can bite into without breaking a tooth. 

I read that in order to have a softer popsicle you need at least some liquid sweetener and/or gelatin.  This recipe includes gelatin, and it had good results.  There is not too much cream in these, just enough to round out the acidity of the orange juice and make it a little more mouth watering, but you could change the ratios and add more so that it tastes more akin to a "dreamsicle".

Sugars are not all made equally, and I'm aware that pasteurized juices are not much better than white sugar, but for me and the kids it's a lesser of two evils kind of thing.  We'll take the juice!  This recipe was adapted from a popsicle made with fresh carrot juice.  Imagine that...  I don't have a juicer or I would have tried it myself.  

I think this one's a keeper.

Creamy Orange Popsicles

1 3/4 cup orange juice, divided
1/4 cream
2 tsp honey
1 tsp unflavored gelatin

Heat 1/2 cup of the OJ with the gelatin in a small saucepan, stirring until dissolved.  In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the remaining OJ, honey, and cream.  Add gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.  Pour into 4 popsicle molds and freeze for around 3 hours before unmolding under warm water.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream Sweetened with Agave Nectar

It's the height of summer and what is better on a hot day than ice cream?  But if you're on a sugar free or low sugar diet ice cream is on the avoid list.  Not anymore!  I came across a recipe on David Lebovitz's site for chocolate ice cream sweetened with agave nectar and I knew I had to try it.  My best friend has an ice cream maker attachment for the Kitchenaid Mixer, and I was so excited when she went out of town and let me borrow it.

Agave nectar is a relatively new "discovery", and it's made from the Mexican agave plant.  Its consistency is similar to that of honey, but runnier, and the flavor is more mild.  It makes an excellent sweetener and it's low on the glycemic index, so it won't spike your blood sugar like white sugar does (but remember that it's still a sugar and should still be limited).  I suppose you could label this ice cream "sugar free". 

Agave nectar can be pricey, but I've found it well within budget at Trader Joe's.  You can buy a darker agave nectar or a light; I used the light.

I found this recipe to be rich in flavor, and if I make it again I might cut back on some of the cocoa powder or even the chocolate.  It's a putsy recipe with several steps, but it melts like velvet in your mouth, so I'd say it's worth the effort.  I made the mistake of not letting the freezer bowl freeze long enough before I put the mixture in, so it didn't freeze correctly for me.  Just be aware of that. 

Here is where you can find the recipe.  Oh, and look at that, here's another recipe for strawberry ice cream that gives instructions for using agave nectar, and it's dairy free.  Enjoy and happy summer!