Tag Archives: Chocolate chip

Cheer Up with Maple Syrup – and a Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hi everyone! I hope that you are enjoying (or at least tolerating) the snowy and cold winter weather. Sensitive Husband and I have been busy stimulating the economy by purchasing real estate and a number of various services that go along with it. I must say, based on our recent house-buying experience, that the housing market is beginning to pick up, although slowly. The number of buyers is increasing, although some service providers are still clambering for work. For example, mortgage brokers, real estate appraisers, painters, and repairmen are more than happy to hear about a new house sale, and are available to help at a moment’s notice, which is not the case when the housing market is strong. Needless to say, most of my free time lately has been focused on choosing paint colors instead of trying new recipes. However, spring is almost here, and I am looking forward to more cooking and baking in a new kitchen!

If you have been down in the dumps because of the cold winter, cheer up because spring is a mere three weeks away. Late winter is also a wonderful time of year because the maple sugaring season is typically in February and March. Once the temperature reaches above freezing, pressure develops in the tree and causes the sap to flow out of the taps created by the sugar makers. Then with colder temperatures below freezing, suction inside the tree pulls in water to make more sap. When the fluctuations in temperature lessen, the sap stops flowing. This period of sap flow usually falls within early March to mid April. This year the maple sugaring season will be on the later side because the temperatures have been so cold.

According to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, sap is boiled to evaporate water and to concentrate sugar. The quality of syrup is affected by the particular season, time of season the sap is collected, and how it is processed. The top quality syrups contain about 66% sugar.

Since we received a sampler of maple syrups as a gift, Sensitive Husband and I decided to conduct a taste test of all of the grades since we did not know much about the differences among them. The Grade B maple syrup was the darkest in color and had a rich, smoky taste. The Grade A Medium Amber variety was also quite good, and had slightly smoky and slightly buttery flavors. Grade A Dark Amber was also delicious, with buttery and maple flavors. And the Fancy grade was excellent with even stronger butter and maple flavors. Our taste experiment yielded positive results, in that we enjoyed all of the options! I think Grade B would be best for baking, and the Grades A and Fancy would be good for both baking and pouring over breakfast treats. The trick is to make sure that the maple syrup you purchase is pure, with no added sugars or preservatives, to get the best taste.

So now that we finally familiarized ourselves with various grades of maple syrup, the labels of the grades are about to change. The Grade B label will be eliminated, and the grades will explain more about the taste. Maple syrup producers will be required to use them starting in 2015, although consumers will probably start seeing them this year:

Golden Maple Syrup with a Delicate Taste: light to more pronounced golden colour and a delicate or mild taste

Amber Maple Syrup with a Rich Taste: light amber colour and a rich or full-bodied taste

Dark Maple Syrup with Robust Taste: dark color and a robust or strong taste

Very Dark Maple Syrup with a Strong Taste: very strong taste, generally recommended for cooking

According to the International Maple Syrup Institute, 2013 produced a bumper crop of maple syrup in most areas with the production of lighter syrups being most common. Total production of maple syrup for 2013 in Canada and the U.S. combined was estimated at 170 million pounds, with about 120 million pounds being produced in Quebec.

Skillet Chocolate Chip CookieMaple syrup is a fabulous natural sweetener, and can be substituted for cane sugar in most recipes as a 1:1 swap. I substituted maple syrup for the sugar in this recipe for a skillet chocolate chip cookie in the October 2013 Everyday Food magazine. This cookie is delicious and can be made in just a few minutes. I hope that you enjoy finding many ways to use this delicious natural sweetener.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or maple sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter, maple syrup, and sugar with a spoon. Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flours, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chips. Transfer to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; smooth top.

Bake until cookie is golden brown and just set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

Sugar and Gluten Free PB&J Cookies

PB&J CookiesHappy Labor Day weekend everyone! The U.S. Census has posted a range of statistics to celebrate the holiday. For instance, in 2012 the largest occupation was retail salesperson; while in 1910 the largest occupation was farmer. The first observance of Labor Day was in 1882 when about 10,000 workers gathered in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the U.S., and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.”

I hope that you are enjoying the long weekend. It’s always nice to have an extra day to relax and to enjoy a range of activities, which for me includes baking. For some of you it may mean back to school, which in my case includes memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Perhaps my thoughts around this time of year inspired me to try a version of Jack Deen’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies that I noticed in the September 2, 2013 edition of People Magazine.

I removed the two types of sugar and substituted with coconut palm sugar and honey. I used my cane sugar free brand of strawberry jam, and also tried some with chocolate chips, as the middle garnish. I hope you like this sugar free version of a very tasty cookie.

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tbs honey
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam* (or chocolate chips^)

*St. Dalfour is a great brand of jam without cane sugar
^Endangered Species makes chocolate bars that are gluten and refined sugar free that you can cut into chunks

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat peanut butter, sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of batter on a parchment paper-ined baking sheet. Flatten dough with a fork. Make a 1/2 inch indentation in the center of each cookie using your thumb. Spoon 1/2 tsp jam (or chocolate chips) into each thumbprint.
3. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Makes 12 cookies.

Continuing the Celebration with Chocolate Chip Cookie 2.0

This week I have been celebrating my blog’s one year anniversary. It has been fun to think about all of the new foods I have tried and shared, and my favorite recipes that I have revised. One year ago I posted my first recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It was a wonderful recipe that substituted the refined sugars with natural sweeteners. Since then I have made that recipe dozens of times because I like to have a steady supply of dessert in the house. There is something quite nice about kicking back at the end of the day with a homemade cookie.

At first I was only concerned with getting the refined sugars out of the cookies. Over the past year I have tinkered with the ingredients – how could I add nutrients? Reduce saturated fats? Reduce gluten? Make them fluffier? Well, I think I have managed to update last year’s version – I removed one stick of butter and added applesauce, used some oat flour to reduce the overall gluten amount, let the butter soften naturally for a lighter texture, used my own homemade vanilla extract for added flavor, and added some more chocolate chips (I really tested the last point thoroughly). I hope you enjoy this recipe. Have a nice day!

Mix Dry and Set Aside: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt

Mix Until Creamy: 1 stick softened butter, 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 cup agave nectar, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add to Creamy Mixture: 2 eggs

Then Add to Creamy Mixture: the dry mix (noted above)

Then Stir In: 1 bag grain-sweetened chocolate chips plus a “few extra” (I like Sunspire brand)

Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-11 minutes.

Enjoy!

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Food Trip Friday.

Quick! Make These Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Before Prices Increase!

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the prices for peanuts and peanut butter are on the rise. The peanut supply is lower than normal due to two factors: (1) fewer peanuts were planted because farmers opted to grow more profitable cotton and corn, and (2) the prolonged high temperatures this summer adversely affected the peanut crop.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia produce the majority of the nation’s peanuts. According to the USDA, an extreme drought in Texas and Oklahoma has reduced the peanuts harvested.

J.M. Smuckers, which makes JIF, has announced that the price of its peanut butter will increase 30% starting in November. Other peanut companies are likely to follow suit.

So what should we do? I say let’s bake, bake, bake…and fast before the prices rise. There are lots of peanut butter foods from which to choose – I have already shared recipes for Peanut Butter Cups, Honey Peanut Butter Frosting and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, and now I am happy to share a terrific recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies below. The recipe was inspired by Terry Walters’ Clean Food; I used whole wheat flour instead of teff and swapped grain-sweetened for semisweet chocolate chips. I plan on enjoying these delicious cookies often…and stocking up on peanut butter this month so I can keep baking them through the winter.

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chunky 100% organic peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and all wet ingredients in another. Pour wet ingredients over dry and blend until just combined – do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Place in oven and bake 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and place directly on wire rack to cool. Makes approximately 20 cookies.

I am sharing this recipe with Joy of Desserts, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Lady Behind the Curtain, This Chick Cooks, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Sweet as Sugar Cookies.