Cookie Dough Balls

I’ve been holding out on you.

I’ve been hoarding this recipe all to myself because it’s just too good.

Every Friday for a couple weeks now, it’s been a bit of a ritual.  I click on the Pandora app on my iPod (lately it’s been the City and Color playlist), and just start throwing ingredients into the food processor.  Coupled with banana soft serve (no really, it’s fantastic), it’s truly a great way to start the weekend.

I love that I can eat it without the worry of possible salmonella contamination, without the guilt of it being full of processed sugar, and that it actually tastes wholesome.  Yes, a cookie dough ball can taste wholesome.

How is this possible?

They’re…vegan.

Yes, I probably felt the same thing you are right now when I learned that they were vegan.  But you know what?  They’re good.  They’re really good.  And dare I quote Roo saying, “If these are vegan, I’ll gladly eat more vegan things.”

Really.

And they’re super easy to make!  It’s a one dish recipe, and you can make your own soft serve in the same food processor after.

A hint of salt, a creamy texture from the cashews, and plenty of dark chocolate, these cookie dough balls make me eager for Friday.  Or now.  I think I might dig into the back of my freezer and have them now.

Recipe adapted from, just a little bit, Oh She Glows

Ingredients

Half a cup of unsalted cashews (I’ve used both raw and roasted seeing no difference)

Quarter cup of old fashioned oats

Quarter cup of whole wheat flour

Quarter teaspoon of sea salt (I use Diamond)

1 tablespoon of cane sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Three squares of good dark chocolate broken up with your fingers (or a quarter cup of chips)

Equipment

A food processor

A spatula

Something to store the cookie dough balls in like a piece of aluminum foil, or a ziploc bag

Add the cashews and oats to the food process and pulse until it forms almost a crumbly consistency (almost flour like).  Then add the salt, sugar and flour.  Pulse a few times until combined.  Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup and pulse until combined.  The “dough” is going to be very sticky, but this is completely normal.

Add the chocolate.

Pulse until they break up a bit and combine into the rest of the “dough.”

Remove the “dough” from the food processor with a spatula, and roll into balls.

Store them in the freezer until it’s time to eat with your soft serve.  Or, eat one, then store one, as I do.

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Blueberry Cake with Oat and Almond Streusel

There have been blueberries from our CSA sitting in our fridge for over a week now.

There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

I’m obsessed with blueberries, a blue-mouthed (and handed) theme that goes all the way back to childhood.  One significant memory I have was when my family went blueberry picking one July in western Mass.  It was an incredibly hot day, with the sun beating down on our backs as we walked around the blueberry bushes; coffee cans hanging off our necks from long, shredding twine.  An hour later my mother found me underneath one of the bushes, coffee can in between my legs, grabbing berries by the fistful; some for me, some for the can.

The following weeks my mom would go through her rotation of blueberry recipes.  Pancakes, cobbler, and then there was coffee cake with streusel.  The streusel was my favorite part.  Buttery, crunchy, a bit of spice from cinnamon, piled on top of a blueberry coffee cake that wasn’t too sweet and had a bit of tang from the sour cream she would swear was “the secret.”

When I rediscovered our blueberry stash at the back of our fridge today, I knew what I had to make.  Unfortunately, a cake that normally is made with a stick of butter, was out of the question.

I’m always weary of substituting butter for olive oil, but lately I’ve been lucky.  I also lucked out in that my substitution for my mother’s “secret” sour cream addition, of greek yogurt, also worked.  I should just go to Mohegan and spin their roulette wheel, betting it all on 00.  No, maybe not.

I couldn’t take all the butter out of this recipe (the streusel needs it, there was no way around it), but I still got what I wanted: lots of crunch from the toasted, gooey pockets of cake from the batter being nestled up against the blueberries, and a lovely not too sweet taste, with tang from the yogurt I added.  It almost made me want it to be a rainy day; curled up on my kitchen chair with a cup of tea in hand and the cake cooling on the table by an open window.  Almost.

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

For the streusel

Half cup oats (I used old fashioned)

Quarter cup brown sugar, packed

Half cup slivered almonds, toasted

Quarter cup all purpose flour

Half teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cake

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Half teaspoon baking soda

Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

Three quarters of a cup of sugar

2 egg whites

2 cups yogurt (I used 2% Chobani)

Quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 cups fresh blueberries

Equipment

Two medium mixing bowls

One large mixing bowl

A spatula

A whisk

A 9 inch cake pan

Parchment paper or butter and flour to grease down the pan

Place the oven rack to the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Place all streusel ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir well to combine.  Make sure that the melted butter has covered all the ingredients.  Set aside.

In the larger mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, yogurt, olive oil, and sugar.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl (and underneath the ingredients) to ensure that all ingredients have been well combined.

In the second medium mixing bowl, add the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together until combined.

Line the cake pan with parchment paper (or butter and flour it).  Pour half of the cake batter into the pan.  Smooth it out so that it’s evenly distributed in the pan.  Spread out half a cup of blueberries on this cake batter layer.  Pour in the second half of the cake batter into the pan, and smooth it over the blueberry layer so that it’s evenly distributed.  Cover this top layer with the rest of the blueberries, and then the streusel.

Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for one hour.

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

I think I’m the only female on earth that doesn’t like Jack Johnson’s song, Banana Pancakes.  I like Jack Johnson, and some of my male friends – even some I’ve dated – have an eerily strong love for the man that loves to repeatedly tell me “we’re better together.”

No Jack, no, we are not.

I do love actual banana pancakes.  (I also love the concept of eating breakfast for dinner, also known as “Brinner.”)  I came across this recipe one Saturday morning when I was craving a warm breakfast, but with minimal effort.  This recipe is great as the ingredients can put together in five minutes and within a half an hour, we were sitting down at our kitchen table to eat breakfast.

Not listening to Jack Johnson.

I also love that everything about it seems healthy but it tastes indulgent.  If there’s anything I can suggest is please, please, use the bananas.  Sure, blueberry pancakes are also delicious, but the bananas.  The bananas caramelize.  How can you go wrong with a somewhat slightly crunchy on the outside, sweet – hey, maybe that could be creme brulee in my mouth, if I really think about, wait, why is he staring at me? –  incredibly creamy, caramelized banana slice?  You just can’t.

Adapted, a little, from Gina’s Skinny Recipes

Makes about 9 pancakes

Ingredients

Dry

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt (I used Diamond fine sea salt)

Wet

3 large egg whites

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste this time as I ran out of extract)

2 teaspoons olive oil (I use a very mild flavored one, such as Filippo Berio)

Other

3 ripe bananas sliced quite thin, for about 6 – 9 slices per pancake (I love caramelized bananas on the bottom of my pancake.  If you think that may be overwhelming, cut up one banana, and decorate your pancake from there.)

Set aside some olive oil to coat your pan

Equipment

2 small – medium mixing bowls

A whisk (maybe a spatula as well)

A medium saute pan

*Save your 1/4 cup measuring cup to ladle out pancake batter

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl with a whisk.  I don’t use a sifter as I feel whisking the components together evenly distributes them as well as gets rid of any possible lumps.  Also, I don’t own a sifter.

Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  I do this in two increments.  Mix together till combined.  Using your whisk to do this is fine, but if you’re worried about over mixing and can’t bear doing this without a spatula (my mother is one of those people), then grab a spatula.

Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your medium saute pan, just enough to coat the surface.  Today I used my “super huge,” (yes, that’s an official term) fry pan, and perhaps overdid it with 5 tablespoons (I was singing along to Coldplay, I can’t be held accountable with the turmoils of multi-tasking).  But you know what?  It was still delicious.  So do what you want.

Heat the saute pan on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, scoop up a 1/4 cup of pancake batter.  Trying not to overcrowd the pan (I have “Martha” moments and don’t like to see my pancakes touching/fusing), scoop out as many 1/4 cup portions that will fit.  (In the “super huge,” this is three, in my medium sized saute pan, it’s only two.)  When the pancake batter starts to bubble, add the slices of banana.  I can fit about 6 – 9 slices per pancake.

When the bubbles of the pancakes get quite large and the edges begin to set (or you can cheat and peak underneath to see how brown the pancake is getting in the oil), flip the pancake.  I have to say that the larger the bubbles get, the easier the flipping is.  Also, it takes me about 6 pancakes in (which is sad because this recipe only makes 9) for me to gain the confidence to flip the pancake quickly enough so that it doesn’t turn into a amoeboid-pancake (or worse, looks like Java the Hut’s cousin…it happens).  Thankfully Roo never judges and eats the ugly pancakes.  Yes, boys usually don’t care, especially when it comes to caramelized bananas (…and carbs).

I’ll admit that I’ve flipped the pancakes (in lack of patience) to get them to that right amount of doneness that I want.  I have yet to see the pancake deflate because of this.  If I really was Martha Stewart, I’d probably discourage you from this, emphasizing “must,” and cutting at the air with my spatula saying, “not,” but I’m not Martha.  Make these pancakes in your pre-coffee state the way you want them.

When your pancakes are fully cooked, repeat adding the pancake batter to the pan, with the rest of what’s in your bowl.

You may find that you’ll have to add a bit more olive oil with every batch.  That’s ok, whatever it takes to prevent your pancakes from sticking to the pan.

Lastly, Roo and I have found that these pancakes do not need maple syrup.  But, before you call me un-American, give it a try.

Olive Oil Banana Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate

I never want to move to Suburbia.

It’s one of the many statements I’ve made to Roo, in reaction to our progression as a couple.  Thankfully he feels the same way I do – we will not be living on the end of a cul de sac or within a family compound.

I love the city.  Which is strange because I remember growing up in the suburbs, absolutely loving that a mere ten minute drive from my house was a horseback riding farm where I spent more time there than at school or my parents’ house combined.  I loved that there was an apple orchard down the road from my house, and we could go ride our horses down those fields, grabbing a few snacks off of those trees whenever we cut through.  And on occasion, we’d see deer or wild turkeys in my parents’ backyard (one year the turkeys got so bold that they were attacking children in our neighborhood and the housewives banded together to get the local news to report on it).

So, what happened?

I honestly can’t say when I came to the decision that I would only live in two extremes, city or absolute rural life, but I have a feeling it had to do with a previous long term relationship.  Coming out of that, I was convinced I would remain single for the rest of my life; perhaps going mad enough to run around the house screaming about wire hangers or making my apartment into a cat zoo.  But I knew it would not be in the suburbs, where I was previously spending all my time with that ex, thinking of marriage, buying a house, having 2.5 children and a black lab named Boss, thus, wanting to keep up with the Joneses.

Unfortunately this weekend I realized that no matter where you go, there still may be a suburban mentality lurking around the very corner from where you live.

I moved in with Roo, about eight months ago, into an apartment on a main road in Boston.  Living in the city does have some cons, and one of them is on-street parking.  We, like the rest of the residents in our neighborhood, are lucky enough that we have free on-street parking (most require permits), but sometimes there aren’t enough spots available on our actual street.  A lot of the time I park on the side road next to us, as it also doesn’t require a permit.

About two weeks ago, my junky car that I’ve been debating donating to charity or not (because to fix it would be more than the car is actually worth) got a flat.  And, as I love procrastination, I left it in that spot until this past weekend.  Originally I was going to have the tow truck fix the tire and then take it back to my parents’ house as I finally decided to just donate it (yes, let it be the parents’ problem) last Friday, but it was nearly 100F outside. I felt guilty about having someone come over in that heat to work on my car.

The following morning, I woke up early to call AAA.  About an hour later the tow truck arrived.  After walking up the hill to meet up with him, I was surprised to find a neon green sticker affixed to my driver side window.  It read: Abandoned Vehicle Report.

At first I was confused.  My car was never “abandoned,’ as I lived less than five houses from where I parked it.  But as the tow truck driver got out, it all became clear.

One man ran over from the other side of the hill to ask if the tow truck driver was there to tow a car that he had reported, back on his side of the street.  The tow truck driver replied that I had called him myself, and that he was with AAA.  Then, as the driver started asking me what was wrong with my car, I saw people start to gather across the street.  Four, yes four adults, two of them senior men, another middle aged, and one housewife, had congregated across from where I stood and started to talk amongst each other, pointing at me, my car, and the tow truck.  It was obvious what had happened.

Boston’s version of suburbia had reported my car as abandoned.

All I could do was be happy that it wasn’t the city coming to tow my car away (much to the group’s disappointment, judging by the looks on their faces), but AAA.

Needless to say, after my car was taken away, I came stomping back down the hill in a sort of a rage.  Well, maybe not a rage, but definitely wanting to pull my own hair out.

It was nearly lunchtime when I came back to the apartment, half starved and half, let’s say, crazed.  Not wanting a sandwich, I flipped open my laptop and scanned through some of the blogs that I subscribe to.  I wanted cake.  But not a sugar filled, frosting laden, birthday type, but an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.  You know, “breakfast cake.”  Thankfully Melissa Clark’s website had a recipe made with both bittersweet chocolate, bananas, and olive oil.  A little sweet, and supposedly healthy, to make me feel better for surviving my first urban-suburbia experience.

Adapted, a little, from Melissa Clark

As you can see in this photo I went overboard with the bittersweet chocolate (1 cup).  The following recipe has been toned down a bit.  Also, I’ve tried making this with just dried cranberries (1/2 cup) and it was fantastic, and may try it next time with even more.

Ingredients

Wet

2 egg whites (or you can use 2 whole large eggs)

2 cups very (VERY) ripe bananas (I used four practically black large bananas)

1/3 cup olive oil

heaping 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (I used 2%)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I like to push the limits of whole wheat in my recipes.  If you would like a less “wheaty” flavor, I would suggest using 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour as Melissa Clark dictates.)

1/2 cup cane sugar (I used practically black bananas.  If you like a very sweet cake, feel free to use more sugar)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% chips)

Equipment

1 large mixing bowl

1 small mixing bowl (can hold up to 3 cups of ingredients)

whisk

spatula

parchment paper (optional, but useful)

9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan

Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour your loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites (or eggs) with the olive oil, yogurt and vanilla extract.  It’s going to look like an oily mess, but keep going until it all comes together.

In a small mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (all purpose, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) together with a whisk till combined.  There is no need to sift, well, at least I didn’t find a need to.  Add the bittersweet chocolate to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, in at least two increments.  After each increment, mix till just combined with a spatula, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Pour, or more like, scoop with a spatula (the batter is quite thick), the batter into the loaf pan.  Spread the top out evenly with a spatula, and then tap the pan against a table to knock the air bubbles out.  Put the loaf pan in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  Because ovens vary, I would say use a cake tester (knife, toothpick, whatever) to see if the cake is done at the 45 minute mark.  There should be some crumbs hanging onto the tester, but definitely not wet batter.  If you see wet batter, when you pull the tester out from the middle, put the cake back in the oven and wait another 3 – 5 minutes.

I will say that this cake is definitely not as good out of the oven versus being cooled completely.  You will (probably) only hear me say that once, as I can (as I’ve stated multiple times) never wait for the cake to cool before eating.  What I absolutely love about this cake is that it tastes even better the next day.  To me it tasted even more bananaie.  Yes, I’m making that a word.

Zucchini Cake with Dried Cranberries and Dark Chocolate

It finally happened.

I turned 30 over the weekend.

In all fairness it was probably one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.  Roo planned the entire evening in advance; letting me know that there was going to be a party, but who was coming, and where we’d be going, was going to be a surprise.

At first I thought this would drive me crazy as I’m a total control freak, but you know what?  It was lovely to have someone other than myself plan my birthday party.  No one else had ever done that for me before (except my mother, when I was a child), and it was kind of great.

We spent most of the actual day in bed.  We watched the sparrows who have taken over our front porch, come back and forth with bits of twine, flying up into the cracks of wood, making nests for future generations of home invaders.

I made a lazy breakfast around noon – eggs over easy, fried bacon, and toasted everything bagels with chive and bacon cream cheese.  It was exactly what I needed.  In fact, Roo commented that we hadn’t had a “fatty breakfast” like that in ages.  And it’s true.  When he told me his cholesterol results months ago, I went into “heart healthy” overdrive.  Cakes were to be made with eggs whites and olive oil.  Steak was no longer allowed in our household.  And butter went into permanent hibernation in our freezer.  I don’t know exactly how much damage I did to his arteries from that breakfast this weekend, but it was my 30th.  I think I was allowed to be a little selfish, and Roo never argued.  Killing with kindness indeed.

The day after my birthday however, was probably one of the worst “day afters” I’ve had since I’ve lived in Ireland.  I again spent most of the day in bed, but it was to spoon my pillow and vow that I would never let my so-called-friends order shots for me called, “blueberry pancake” or “the homecoming” ever again.  And what’s really strange is that when you’re feeling like that, you want nothing but the fattiest, greasiest meal to “cure” you.

When I was finally able to sit upright, Roo asked me what I wanted for dinner.  I replied, “A Whopper, with cheese.”  Thankfully he convinced me to come up with something better.  We ended up ordering steak and cheese subs from Moogy’s.  Oh, and there were curly fries. And chive fries. Oh, chive fries.

But with that weekend of utter indulgence, I needed to get us back on track with food items that weren’t deep fried or may have been named “Bessie” the week before.  We went back to our normal routine, having oven roasted fish and lots of braised kale this evening.  And like clockwork, when House came on – which I always insist we watch – I grew antsy and went back to the kitchen to work on something to make for tea when I would come home after work this week.

This cake is one of my favorites.  It’s made with egg whites and olive oil and we haven’t missed all that butter that’s traditionally made with its cousin, banana bread.  It’s also easy to substitute a lot of the mix-ins for whatever you like. I’ve even thrown in shredded coconut.  Dried cranberries and dark chocolate are my favorites, but you could go with chopped nuts, or maybe some dried cherries.  If you try something else, please let me know!

Adapted From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3 egg whites (you can also use 3 large eggs)

1 1/2 cups of sugar (this yields a not too sweet cake, if you’d a sweeter cake use 2 cups)

1 cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups of grated zucchini (you can use 2 cups, I just tend to grab two large zucchini and grate it all, which usually comes to about 3 cups)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (if you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can use 3 cups all purpose for the total flour used)

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups dried cranberries (I love dried cranberries that plump up in cake, if you’re not that much of a fan, use a cup)

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60% cacao)

Equipment

9″ cake pan

Food processor or hand grater

Two large bowls

Spatula

Whisk

Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your cake pan

Place the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the cake pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the cake pan.  I highly recommend the parchment paper as it’s easy clean up.  I have not made this recipe using butter and flour, so I can’t say whether or not the cake will get stuck in the pan.  With parchment, it’s lifts right out.

With a food processor or a hand grater, grate the zucchini until you have 2 -3 cups worth.  If you have two giant zucchini, and end up with 3 cups, it’s safe to use all 3, as I have in the past.  If you only end up with 2 cups, it’ll be just as delicious.  Set aside.

Mix the egg whites and sugar.  Add the oil and then the vanilla extract.  It will look like an oily mess at first, but keep going, it’ll eventually come together.  Take your spatula and be sure the scrape the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour(s), cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt with a whisk.  Add the cranberries and dark chocolate.  Stir to combine.

Add the zucchini to the wet ingredients.  If it freaks you out to not squeeze out the excess liquid from the zucchini, then by all means, squeeze away.  If there’s anything to be learned from me, is that I’m lazy.  And thankfully lucky because the cake always turns out great without doing anything to the zucchini after grating.  Stir the zucchini in to combine.  Take your spatula and scrape the bowl.

In increments, add the dry ingredients to the wet.  I usually add the dry to the wet in two parts, but go with what you’re comfortable with.  I add the dry ingredients, then stir until they’re just combined, and then add the second half, and stir till combined again.  Again, take your spatula and scrape the bowl to ensure that all ingredients (ie there isn’t a wet pool underneath everything else at the bottom of your bowl) are combined.

Fill the cake pan with the batter.  Place into the oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes.  For me, the cake is fully baked at the 50 minute marker.  But our oven is a bit small and runs rather hot.  Around 45 minutes, check with a chopstick, toothpick, or even a knife, to see if the cake is done.  There should be a little bit of crumb hanging on, but not actual wet batter when you remove it from the cake.  Check every three – five minutes until the cake is done as you do not want to over bake this cake.

As usual, I can never wait for the cake to cool for me to eat it.  I’ve cut into it when it’s hot, and it’s delicious.  It’s also delicious the next day.  And the next.  If you’re a purist and must wait till it’s cooled, do so on a wire rack.  Or devour immediately.  Those who do, never judge.