Category Archives: My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things – Zeroing in on the Perfect (Healthy) Cookie Recipe

Last Wednesday I posted a recipe for “Almond Joy” gluten-free/low sugar cookies.  Upon tasting them, I was instantly sold on the nutty, cinnamon-y, chocolate-y taste of these cookies, but less so of the texture which ended up being rather spongy and cake-like.  In my online search this week for a crisper cookie, I came across Elana’s Pantry, a website dedicated to healthy, gluten-free, paleo recipes.  To be clear, I have no food issues and eat pretty much everything.  However, as I’ve grown older, I have noticed that I feel better if the bulk of my calories comes from fresh produce, lean meats, fish, and good quality dairy products.  Snacks are usually olives, pickles, nuts, nut butters and whole grain crackers.  My go-to dessert is fruit and a few squares of 72% or higher dark chocolate.

Every once in a while though I get a craving for a really GOOD cookie.

So when I read through the ingredients in Elana’s Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie recipe and saw that the list bore a lot of similarities to the Almond Joy cookies I made last week (hello healthy!) I figured I was headed in the right direction.   The most noticeable difference between the two recipes – beyond, of course, the addition of peanut butter –  is the lack of eggs in Elana’s recipe.  It made sense to me that an egg-less cookie would certainly make for a crisper cookie.   I followed Elana’s recipe substituting 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter since I didn’t have palm shortening and making the addition of (drumroll)…a bar of 72%  dark chocolate with almonds which I chopped.

If you’re too lazy to cook, you can feast vicariously through these step-by-step photos.

  1. The dry ingredients are mixed together, wet ingredients assembled and dark chocolate is chopped (and sampled for “quality control” purposes, of course!)

Ingredients for Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

2. The cookies are plopped on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, flattened with a fork and are ready to go into the oven. (Since it was hot again in our apartment, I actually popped the unbaked sheet of cookies into the freezer for a few minutes while I did the washing up.)

cookies dough on a cookie sheet ready to be baked

3. Fresh out of the oven and cooling…

Photo of cookies fresh out of the oven

4. Ready to sample…

photo of peanut butter chocolate cookies on a plate

(The verdict?  Sweet, salty, rich, crumbly and oh-so-good!)

D’ya wanna bite?

a bite of a peanut butter chocolate cookie

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
 Serves: 12 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter or sunbutter
  • ¼ cup agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons palm shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  2. In a medium bowl mix together peanut butter, agave, shortening and vanilla with a hand blender
  3. Blend dry ingredients into wet with hand blender until well combined
  4. Scoop dough 1 tablespoon at a time onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  5. Use a fork to flatten in a criss-cross pattern
  6. Bake at 350° for 6-12 minutes until golden around the edges
  7. Serve

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My Favorite Things – Stumbling on a (GOOD) Healthy Cookie Recipe!

My day today so far has been pretty much dedicated to food.  (Ah, the joys of summer and not having to rush off anywhere!)  After doing the grocery shopping with my husband (which also counted as weight-lifting since we lugged it all back on our shoulders from Whole Foods), we ate our lunch on the balcony.

bistro dining on our patio

Dessert was watermelon cubes, but before shopping I poked around on the internet and wrote down the ingredients for these Almond Joy Cookies by Holly Christine Leary at She Passed the Sugar.  I liked the ingredient list (simple) and that the cookies are gluten-free and also very low sugar.  While I have no allergies or special diet needs, I have found that I feel a lot better if I watch my sugar intake and limit simple carbs.

So, after lunch I got to work assembling the ingredients for the cookies.

ingredients for paleo almond chocolate cookies

The aroma of the almond and coconut flour together with the cinnamon was already intoxicating, so I figured the cookies were bound to turn out well.

My batter wasn’t quite as “sticky” as the recipe’s author described it would be.  My guesses for why this happened: I mixed the wet ingredients in my stand mixer instead of in a blender; I didn’t have the AC on in the apartment and it’s a hot day; the size of eggs I used might have been bigger than what she used.

All that said, I was still able to create nice mounds of dough on my prepared baking sheets.

cookies before baking

After 15 minutes in the oven, I pulled the cookies out of the oven and plunked a nugget of 72% dark chocolate on top of each cookie.

cookies with melted chocolate

Cookies must be had with milk…

two cookies and milk

(And shared with your husband.)

How are they?  Chewy, chocolate-y and “real” tasting.   A far cry from the sandy-textured, odd-flavored concoctions that are most “healthy” cookies…

Recipe

1 cup almond flour

1/4 cup of coconut flour

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 cup softened butter

3 Tbs of agave nectar (you could also use coconut palm sugar here)

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 chocolate bar broken up into chunks

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon and baking powder.  In a blender beat butter until fluffy.  Add nectar or sugar.  Blend.  Add 4 eggs and vanilla and blend, scraping sides as necessary. Add dry mixture, again scraping sides as necessary.  The end product will be very sticky.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Push down in the middle of each dough ball so that it’s easier to add the chocolate later.

Bake 12-15 minutes.

As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, press one chunk of chocolate into each cookie.  Cool on rack.

Makes 21 cookies. GL = 2.5 each

(Recipe from She Passed the Sugar)

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Filed under healthy eating, Influences, My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things – Colorful Dining

I’m flying solo this week since my husband is out of town again.  Generally when he’s away, I find that my habits become rather manic.   All of a sudden there are so many more hours in which to get things done…and eating and sleeping are usually the first to get shafted.   But I am trying to be somewhat more mindful this time around.  Case in point, yesterday, after my 4th day of  eating leftover pasta for dinner, I was inspired not only to do a BIG shopping trip (we New Yorkers all have our OWN handy-dandy, folding shopping carts, thank you very much) but to cook healthily as well.

old lady shopping

(Me, in a year or two…)

While I did plan the menus, I didn’t thoroughly read through the recipes (tsk, tsk), so at 9 p.m. I’m writing this blog post while my shrimp marinates and the cucumber salad rests overnight rests in the refrigerator ’til the shrimp is ready.  As I said, my sense of time does tend to go all wonky…

Every nice meal needs appetizers and a drink.  Here’s what I enjoyed as I did the chopping prep-work for the dinner:

appetizers

Mixed nuts, olives and a vodka-tonic “mock-tail” (my non-alcoholic version omits the vodka)

Although shrimp is the main feature of this meal, I needed a vegetable to accompany the shrimp.  Since it’s been so hot this week, steamed veggies really didn’t appeal.  I’m in love with beets, so this salad seemed perfect.

beet salad

Quick ‘N” Easy Beet Salad

1 cup coarsely chopped no-salt-added canned beets

1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons fat-free Italian dressing

2 lettuce leaves

1 hard-cooked egg, chopped

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour dressing over mixture; toss gently. Cover and chill 2 hours.  Serve on lettuce-lined salad plates; sprinkle with hard-cooked egg.  Yield: 2 servings (serving size: 1 cup beet mixture and 1/2 egg.)

And, for whatever reason I also felt like I should have a salad to go with my salad!

cucumber salad

Marinated Cucumber Salad 

2 English cucumbers, julienned

1 red bell pepper, seeded, julienned

1 yellow pepper, seeded, julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 cilantro chopped

In a large bowl combine cucumbers, peppers, salt and pepper.  In a small bowl whisk together remaining ingredients for dressing.  Pour mixture over vegetables; toss well.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days.

Ta-da!

my dinner

(Shrimp recipe follows)

Grilled Shrimp with Lemon Thyme

1 Tbs. minced fresh lemon thyme or thyme

3 Tbs. fresh lemon or lime juice

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Salt, to taste

16 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Vegetable oil for cooking

1 lemon cut into wedges

In a bowl, combine lemon thyme, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and salt.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.  Preheat a grill pan or prepare a fire in grill.  Coat grill pan with vegetable oil and lay shrimp on pan. Or, skewer shrimp and place on grill.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Turn shrimp and continue cooking until pink and opaque throughout.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Serves 4.  (Adapted from The Golden Door Cookbook, by Michel Stroot.  Broadway, 1977)

♦♦♦

Note:  I wish I could give credit for the beet and cucumber salad recipes.  Alas, I clipped these recipes years ago from magazines and didn’t think to include the authors when I pasted the recipes in my recipe folder.  My apologies to the chefs!

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My Favorite Things – Dotting the i’s and Crossing the t’s (beautifully)

Years before we were married, my husband wrote me a thank you note with such stunning handwriting that after my initial, “Wow!” I next wondered if there was something wrong with him.  There isn’t, but for whatever reason, when he was young and learning penmanship in school, he decided that beautiful cursive handwriting was the hallmark of being an adult and so applied himself diligently to mastering the skill.  Not only have I saved every card and little note he’s written me over the years, but I also have drafted him into helping with some of my marketing images for my card business.

(His handwriting, my photography…)

Simply Put thank you written note2

Unfortunately, my husband is too busy to be my regular scribe, and since I own a gorgeous vintage Carter’s fountain pen, I decided yesterday to make a conscious effort to improve my own handwriting.  Online research brought me to this helpful cursive script practice page.  Did you know that this sentence contains every letter in the alphabet?  I must have been absent that day in school…

In any case, here’s my “normal” quick handwriting.

my bad handwriting sample

Although tracing the letters in the cursive script practice page did help, my first attempt at recreating the script didn’t send me over the moon.

1st attempt cursive redo

One of the keys to beautiful handwriting and to making the best use of a flexible nib fountain pen like the one I have, is to make most of the stroke as a pulling rather than pushing motion.  I felt like I needed even more basic information on how to form each letter.  The lower and upper case cursive examples on this site contain directional instructions for each letter.

Before I started, I downloaded and printed several sheets of free blank cursive practice paper, then took a deep breath and tried to make multiple copies of each letter on my practice sheet.

Laborious, perhaps, but as you can see from my attempts on the right page in the photo, I was beginning to feel more confident.

cursive lower letters practice

Even better, the capabilities in variety of line from my nib pen started to be much more apparent (I starred letters that are still giving me problems so that I can revisit them in further practice sessions.)

close up of cursive practice

And, since I’m always eager to learn and chart my progress, I went back to “The quick brown fox…” sentence writing practice on another sheet of cursive practice paper.

cursive sentence writing

What’s next?

Lots more daily practice…and then maybe a love letter or two to my husband!

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My Favorite Things – Postcards from Nantucket

My husband and I just got back from visiting Nantucket where my mother-in-law is now living.  It’s only my second time on the island, but I’m now getting a feel for the place.  After much walking (hello blisters!), and yes, getting lost (with street names like Surfside, South Shore, and Old South who wouldn’t get confused?!), we’ve concluded that the next time we visit it will be more prudent to go exploring on bikes.

In the meantime, here’s a series of virtual “postcards” from our (very picturesque) stay…

hydrangeas against a grey fence

yellow vespa

seagull

blue striped beach umbrella

hydrangea

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My Favorite Things – My Spanish Soap

watching velvet

But I’m not talking actual soap, (although I AM partial to this fragrant Spanish soap.)  No, by “soap” I’m referring to the TV show Velvet which has now entered into its 2nd season.  In fact, last night after making up a batch of popcorn, I watched two episodes back-to-back…and crawled into bed at 2 a.m.  Which I could do since my husband was out of town and I had the apartment (and remote) all to myself.  Velvet is a girly pleasure…filled with complicated love affairs, misunderstandings and lots of fashion.  Oh, and did I mention that several of the leading men are easy on the eyes, too?  Of course, I justify it all by telling myself that it’s part of my Spanish study and immersion.

Por supuesto!

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My Favorite Things – Lake Living in New Hampshire

Though I love living in New York City, getting to escape to my mom’s cabin on Goose Pond is heaven on earth.

This is the place to sit and unwind…

looking at the lake

To take long walks…

Goose Pond Road

Smell the flowers…

blue hydrangea

And commune with nature.

orange butterfly on purple flowers

“Pick your own blueberries” are as close as the backyard…

single blueberry

(And local farm stands are just a short drive away.)

vegetable stand in Lebanon NH

In the evenings the entertainment consists of loon spotting…

two loons on Goose Pond

Loon kicking out its leg

And taking in the sunset.

Sunset on Goose Pond

My idea of paradise!

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