Thursday, March 19, 2015

Energy Bites: Healthy & Delicious (For Real!)

I don't know if you have made energy bites of some sort, but I have become a fan of these yummy and healthy snacks.   A while back, my friend Connie gave me a few of these she had made to sample.  After I had one, I immediately texted her, "YUM! I tried them and I need the recipe!"  Then, a few weeks ago it was my snack-bringing week for church and I felt the need to make something a little more substantially nutritious than the biscuits and coffee cake I had made the previous months.  I looked on my Pinterest breakfast board and found this recipe that was pretty much Connie's recipe but with peanut butter instead of almond butter. I had forgotten about the recipe! 

I made a double batch- which yielded 40 something balls.  They were all gone within a few minutes of serving them.  I don't know if people were desperately hungry or they really liked them.  We have lots of kids that congregate around our snack table at church, so I think we can call these delicious when kids and adults ate them, and we can call them healthy since they are chock full of flax seed, chia and oats! 

I made them again for my family this week and we have enjoyed having them for a quick snack or for a breakfast on the go.  I even had one for dessert the other night (though my son believes that despite that fact that they are laced with chocolate chips, they do not qualify for dessert) !

I'm trying to have things on hand that are protein-rich, as my kids tend to reach for crackers, chips, and starches for snacks.  Lately, I've made Hummus and Texas Caviar to have in the refrigerator and try to always keep yogurt and smoothie-making supplies on hand.  If I get my act together to have the good stuff within reach, and prep a couple of things for the week, they have good, tasty, healthy things within reach.  


Energy Bites
Makes about 20

1 cup (dry) old fashioned oatmeal
2/3 cup coconut flakes
½ cup peanut butter (or almond butter- take your pick)
½ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.  Let set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  
Form into small balls (about golf ball size).  
Put in an air tight container and keep in refrigerator. 

If this inspires you to get into healthy oatey bar/bite making, I have two granola bar recipes I love that I wrote about HERE and HERE and my favorite go-to granola recipe HERE, oh and the lovely chewy peanut butter granola HERE.  If you are short on time, these simple but nutritionally dense bites are super easy and quick to put together.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Turtle Back Cookies

Our friends, the McCulloughs, started a tradition several years ago of bringing our family pizza dinner, from Pizza Perfect (a yummy local Pizza shop) on the night of my first day of class each year.  What a gift to have someone else take care of dinner after day 1 of class.  How thoughtful is that?  I love this tradition for many reasons, including that they stay and eat with us and that Lindsey usually brings homemade cookies!  A couple of years ago, she brought these incredible Turtle Back Cookies.  I love good cookies, and I am tempted to eat more than I should.  However, these were on an entirely other level.  They were like cookies meets spice cake with caramel frosting! Trouble!  I loved them…maybe too much!

I asked Lindsey for the recipe.  She said she was still trying to find the right recipe.  She is attempting to recreate a favorite cookie from a bakery (Traeger's Bakery) in Demopolis, Alabama.  Visiting the bakery was a tradition in her family.  When visiting their grandparents, they would always go get these Turtleback cookies, as would many people in that community.  (She also shared that her grandmother would always get Easter Egg Cake there at Easter time. Fun!)

The bakery has since closed and the Turtle Back Cookie fans are left scrambling to recreate these special treats at home.  Unfortunately the owners haven't shared their secret recipe. If you google "Traeger's Bakery Turtle Back Cookies" you will find many attempts at the recipe. This is Lindsey's favorite recipe thus far.  I told her she can stop the search!  I have never had the originals, so I can't compare them, but I can say that they are one of my favorite cookies/desserts!  The texture of the cookie is lovely. It is chewy, with a good cinnamon/brown sugar/nutty flavor and a nice crunchy edge.  The thick caramel frosting on top makes them more of a dessert than just a cookie.

From Lindsey McCullough

Spice Cookies
2 cup shortening (I used 1 cup butter & 1 cup Crisco- since that’s what Lindsey did)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

5 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup pecans (plus additional ¼ cup to press on bottom)

Sift together flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; set aside.
Cream together shortening/butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Stir in other dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, soda and salt).  Add pecans.  Chill dough several hours or overnight.
Drop with 1 5/8 inch cookie scoop onto foil or parchment paper, which has a layer of chopped pecans.  Press bottom of cookies onto pecans.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes or until fully cooked when touched.  Cool before icing.

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 box (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 to 5 Tbsp. evaporated milk (or cow’s milk if you don’t have evaporated)
Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Alternately add sifted sugar and milk.  Add cinnamon to some of the sugar as it is sifted.  Beat with wire whisk or mixer.  Adjust sugar and milk to spreading consistency. (It might not take all the sugar or all of the milk.) You want it spreadable but thick.  You can put it back on the burner if it starts to solidify   

I have made them twice and one time the dough felt dry and crumbly.  They turned out thick and puffy, which looked good, but they were drier and crumblier.  If this happens to your dough for some reason, add a little milk or water to your batter to soften it up a bit.  

toasted coarsely chopped pecans
pecans are pressed into the bottom of the cookie
as well as stirred into the dough
the carmel frosting that is quite addictive

This is a with and without frosting photo.  If you don't love the richness of the thick caramel frosting,
the cookie itself is an an excellent spice cookie!  
Make someone's day by baking them some of these lovelies.  It makes a nice big batch, so there are plenty to keep and share.  And while you're at it, maybe offer to bring a pizza over too and sit down and enjoy it with them.  And make their entire week brighter!