New Year’s Resolutions and Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Just like the rest of the world, when the New Year begins I sit down and think about my new year’s resolutions… Or I think in the car, while taking a walk, during a boring show, etc. I now have a list of things I’d like to do, change, improve, learn, or quit; and whether I’ve written it down and taped it to my closet, typed it into my phone, or just thought about it over a long period of time until it is burned into my memory, the chances of me completing this list is as slim as ever.IMG_2200 (2)

But just for the heck of it, I will type them here for your viewing pleasure.

  1. Quit biting nails (this has been on my list since 1999… Has not changed. Sometimes after I get a manicure I manage to grow them out for a few weeks, but I rarely get manicures. Mostly because the old Asian woman who does my nails scolds me about bringing her bitten-down nubs to work with. It’s a vicious cycle.)
  2. Get in shape. (I know this is everyone else’s resolution as well, but since I’ve been living in Spain I’ve gained a significant amount of weight and can no longer wear my favorite jeans. So obviously something has to give. And that something is going to my waistline.)
  3. Bake more (This will probably cancel out all aforementioned efforts to get in shape.)
  4. Cook more while I am at home (that is, until mid-March. My mom works and while I am picking up a few babysitting jobs, I have 2 more months to kill while waiting for my visa to come through and I would like to spend it cooking in this kitchen. This resolution is off to a very good start, I might add. Mainly because my boyfriend and I became obsessed with Masterchef recently.)
  5. Don’t be so anxious about my health. (This is by far the most difficult thing for me. Since I was diagnosed with celiac disease over two years ago it has been hard for me to trust the medical community and have faith that they aren’t missing blatantly obvious symptoms of some other disease – like they did last time. But this is mostly on me and I need to start up yoga again and relax. This is why getting into shape is important for me this year – because it will help me get more in touch with my body as well.)
  6. Start being fiscally responsible and think like an adult (That is, have a plan, any plan, for my future and make one of my tedious google doc/excel spreadsheets about it.)
  7. Go to Italy (This kinda seems to cancel out number 6, I know, but my boyfriend and I cancelled a fabulous long weekend to Rome last year right after the Paris attacks. We’re still waiting until we both have the money and time off of work to go enjoy ourselves… So in a way, since I have to budget for this trip, it might actually reinforce my resolution to be more responsible with my money.)
  8. Throw things away. (This gets back to number 6 again, in a way. I never get rid of things – even if I know I’ll never use them again – because I paid money for them and I can’t bear to see it go to waste. What I need to do to avoid this is not only clean out and donate things, but also think more before buying new clothes, stationary, books, shoes, etc.)
  9. Write more. (Professionally, for myself, and on my blog.)

 

That’s it really. They’re simple enough and I have some down time these next few months to get my ducks in a row medically, financially, and mentally before heading back to Spain. For which I am grateful. This also means I have more time to bake and peruse the interwebs for inspiration, as well as my increasingly large library of cookbooks.

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(the dark spot in the center cookie is chocolate hazelnut butter. I wouldn’t recommend adding it.)

This recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies I got from the book Ovenly which is a gorgeous little book from a New York bakery that I found in the public library just the other week. I didn’t realize they had any gluten-free recipes, let alone this absolute gem. The upper corners of certain recipes are marker if they are gluten free or vegan, which is fantastic. (If you’re thinking about buying this book I should state that it is not their intention to bake only allergen-friendly goodies, they just happen to have some well-labeled, thoughtful recipes sprinkled through the book for us non-normal eaters.)

I was extremely skeptic about a flourless peanut butter cookie that literally has 4 ingredients and no chill time in the fridge, and was even more skeptical when I put the unappealing blobs into the oven. All I can say now is… Wow. This is one of the best cookies I’ve ever made and absolutely one of the easiest. The only downside is it takes almost a full jar of peanut butter to make, but it is worth it. The good thing about this though is that they suggest Skippy, so you don’t need to go out and buy an outrageously expensive jar of natural, organic, certified, vegan, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, refined-sugar free peanut butter made of ground up flowers and dirt. Yay! (*I would like to take this opportunity to say I am a big fan of Justin’s and Big Spoon natural and fresh ground nut-butters.)

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Without further ado, here is my first attempt at New Year’s Resolution #3: Bake More! (And win the powerball tomorrow night.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ c. light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I always add a bit more)
  • 1 ¾ c. peanut butter (again, the NON-natural works better to help cookie maintain its shape)
  • Course sea salt for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until they make a homogenous mixture. Mix in the vanilla extract. Now add the peanut butter and mix with a spatula until you cannot see ribbons or clumps of peanut butter. It will make a thick dough.
  3. Scoop out the cookies into balls and drop on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the balls with course sea salt.
  4. Bake for 20-22 minutes (turning the pan halfway through this time) or until the cookies are lightly browned and crackled a bit on top.
  5. Let cookies cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to a week. (They won’t last that long. My mom and I got through 5 days but only because we rationed them like it was 1944.)

 

ENJOY!

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Peanut Butter & Banana Cupcakes

banana cupcakes

This wayward traveler finally made it home! And while I am slowly plotting my return to the beautiful Spain, I have a little free time to bake again. One thing I found myself missing a lot of in Spain were sweet breads – zucchini, banana, pumpkin, chocolate chip, etc. so I decided I would make myself a nice batch of banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (because if bread is good, cupcakes are better). I was helped along in this tedious decision-making process when I saw 2 over-ripe bananas sitting on the counter and remembered a recipe I had tried years ago that was simply divine and from Glamour magazine of all place! (While I love Glamour and other fashion rags it must be said this is no Bon Appetit, amiright?)

I would also like to take this opportunity to get back to my blogging ways and slowly incorporate more posts from my time abroad this spring. I’m afraid I trickled out a bit there at the end of the fall due to trips, school, and trying to cram 36 hours into every 24 I had in Barcelona. So every once in a while there be a post about traveling gluten-free now, but rest assured I am most definitely writing it in my pajamas from the US. Sigh.

banana cupcakes

Anyway! That’s enough chit chat, who’s ready for a recipe? Just for the record, these are called “Propose to Him Banana Cupcakes” which is pretty dumb in my opinion but then I tasted them and was like…. Yeah, I’d marry me with cupcakes like this. As far as adaptation for a gluten-free recipe, I used the original recipe only substituting AP flour for glutey-free flour blend (in this case I tested out Pillsbury’s new gf blend and was pleasantly surprised! Give it a whirl if you see it in your supermarket.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour (gluten-free or otherwise)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 c. ripe mashed bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line tins with paper liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients and mix in 3 parts; alternate with buttermilk. Fold in bananas gently.
  5. Fill tins 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Let cool in tins before frosting, then hide from family.

Buttercream: Mix 2 c. powdered sugar, 1 stick softened butter, 1 cup peanut butter, 3 Tbsp. milk and 1 tsp. vanilla. Blend ingredients with hand mixer until consistency desired.

banana cupcakes

Peanut Butter & Cinnamon Cookies

peanut butter & cinnamon cookies

Everyone – and I mean everyone – loves a good peanut butter cookie (unless you’re allergic…. to which all I can say is, I understand and I’m deeply sorry…. but you can use another nut butter or sunbutter if you so choose!!). This recipe came from the book Lick the Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts with a Twist by Monica Holland and like all the cookbooks I take for a test drive, this one came from my local library. Seriously, your public library is the best resource for all you aspiring chefs and bakers. I love having hard copies of books on hand when I’m baking because there is nothing worse than trying to scroll down on my computer screen and getting butter/sugar/egg yolks all over my laptops mouse pad. There’s probably an entire recipes worth of ingredients under the keyboard of my computer by now and having book save me such a hassle. (Obviously I could also clean my hands before touching my laptop but…. I’m a messy baker and sometimes I need to run and make sure I didn’t just dump in the wrong amount of ingredient.

Anyway! That was my brief rant/rave of libraries and the downfalls of using electronic devices while you bake but I got away from the main topic here which is peanut butter. I’m a big fan. When I came across this recipe that includes cinnamon though I was perplexed. It sounds like a fantastic combination but I’d never put the two together, and certainly not in cookie form. But my friends as it turns out it is a FABULOUS combination and well worth it. I replaced the AP flour in the recipe with my own gluten-free flour blend and voila! Perfectly soft, cinnamon-sugary peanut butter cookies came out of my oven smelling incredible. My family loved these and I sent some with my older brother on a trip to visit his friends in our nation’s capital and they loved them. When I baked some chewy lime sugar cookies (recipe to come shortly!) the other week my brother came home and was like, “What?!? No more peanut butter cinnamon cookies?!” And those chewy lime suga’s are nothing to turn your nose up either, let me tell you.

Okay I’m sure you’re totally sold by now on this cookie combo (right?!) so without further ado let me share the recipe!

peanut butter & cinnamon cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. AP GFree flour blend
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. of peanut butter (I use creamy Peter Pan brand… natural and crunchy options just don’t work as well baking)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

For rolling:

  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (my new favorite obsession. Spraying or greasing pans works well too, but parchment paper is just so easy to use and clean up)
  2. Sift together gluten-free flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. (*Side note: I always sift my dry ingredients together. It’s especially important I think when working with gluten-free flour blends of your own making just to be 100% sure all the components have mixed together properly. It also creates a lighter, fluffier texture in your baked goods that makes hauling out my specially designated “GF sifter” worth it.)
  3. In a stand mixer (or by hand, whatever floats your boat) cream the sugar, butter and peanut butter together until fluffy and well-blended. Add the egg and vanilla.
  4. Slowly mix in the flour blend and BECAUSE AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN’S NEW GFREE COOKBOOK TOLD ME TO DO THIS WITH PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES I put my dough in the fridge for 20ish minutes or so because it supposedly helps the peanut butter and gfree starches/grains in your flour get together. All I know, these cookies were a perfect texture so this step just might be worth it.
  5. In rounded teaspoons, drop the dough into the cinnamon sugar mixture and roll until completely covered. Place two inches apart and bake for 9 – 10 minutes until bottoms look golden brown and cookies are still soft to the touch.
  6. Let cool for five minutes on the pan, remove to cool and eat as many as you possibly can before everyone else in your family devours them!

peanut butter & cinnamon cookies

Girls Just Wanna Have Snacks!

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When it comes to eating gluten-free, I often find the hardest part isn’t actually the meals themselves (we eat a lot of rice and potato based foods at my house, so I don’t miss pasta. Other than toasted bagels for breakfast not much has changed) but the snacks (and don’t even get me started on eating out…). I like to snack a LOT and in some ways it’s a good thing I don’t have a ton of options available to me at all times. But when I want a snack… sometimes I just don’t want fruit. I want pita chips and hummus, I want cheese and crackers, I want cheez-its, I want pretzels and peanut butter… you get the picture.

I could just eat chips and granola bars (Kind bars, to be specific. Gotta be careful with your granola bar gluten!) indefinitely, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I have a sweet tooth and to kill two birds with one stone – my need for a snack and maybe some chocolate too – I like to whip up muddy buddies, or puppy chow, whatever you would like to call them.

These are such a good snack because sometimes I get sick of eating my gluten-free Chex cereal as is for breakfast and this recipe uses it all up! I like to use different flavor Chex, like chocolate or vanilla, to shake things up but any flavor is fine. For this recipe I used honey and while it worked (and was delicious!) the shiny honey coating on the cereal doesn’t make for easy mixins.

I also like to use Nutella AND peanut butter so I get that chocolate-y taste in there as well. Yummmmy. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. Chex cereal (make sure it’s gluten free! Wheat Chex can trick ya)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. Nutella
  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • roughly 1 c. powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Measure cereal and place in large bowl which you will be mixing everything in later.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt together the chocolate chips, butter, nutella, and peanut butter until smooth. Once removed from the heat, add vanilla extract.

3. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and start mixing! This part was trickier for me than I anticipated, so having a big wooden or bamboo spoon on hand to help stir helps a lot and avoids burnt hands.

4. Next, pour powdered sugar over the cereal and keep mixing everything until it looks fairly homogenous. Don’t forget to be gentle so you’re not crushing all the cereal too!

5. Refrigerate for at least an hour before moving into an airtight container. This mix is enough to last me for a week… But if my whole family knew where I hid it, it would be gone in 24 hours!

6. Enjoy! Muddy buddies are a simple fix for all your gluten-free snacking needs and keep me happy when I get an urge for chocolate. And feel free to experiment with flavors! I want to try to make some salted caramel chocolate batches and maybe even orange, rum, and dark chocolate. Who knows, my Chex could have a fabulously fancy future ahead….

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