The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies


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Linda’s Sugar Cookies – In Memory of My Mother in Law

DSCF0591Linda, my mother-in-law, always made homemade sugar cookies. Super yummy sugar cookies. Cookies so yummy that her ex husband, my father-in-law actually still asked her to make some for him. Those cookies were kinda her thing. My husband has memories of her burning out hand mixers making these cookies. He also remembers the ball of dough in the fridge, wrapped in wax paper, and how he and his sister would sneak bites of dough and then his sister would smooth out the evidence. Linda passed away this summer. And among the many sad losses was that she wouldn’t be making those cookies this year. The cookies she made every year with her kids and then with the grandkids.

I’ve always made holiday sugar cookies with my boys, but in the past these have always come from a mix and then the only thing we really did to them was shape and decorate. And let’s face it, that mix is full of chemicals and scary ingredients.

So this year I made Linda’s sugar cookies. And you should too! They’re yummy and good and it’s Christmas and they’re a treat, so skip the whole wheat flour and embrace the real sugar. And bake these cookies. And tell everyone who asks that they’re Linda’s sugar cookies.

Linda’s Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 Tb milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well. Wrap dough in wax paper and place in refrigerator for at least an hour (Linda always did it overnight). Roll cookies out on a flat surface dusted lightly with flour. You can also dust the rolling pin to help keep it from sticking. Cut with cookie cutters and place on cookie sheets at least an inch apart. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes on the pan before transferring to cooling rack. Frost and decorate as desired, or even just eat them as is.

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Zucchini Brownie Bites – Yummy

Since I started doing the less processed thing, in a very public way, I sometimes find myself in the very frustrating situation where I feel like I have to publicly be less processed. To be honest, this is almost entirely self-imposed. I doubt that any of my family and friends would really scoff if I showed up with store-bought cookies for an event, but I feel like I can’t do that. So when I recently needed to bring a dessert to a family reunion, I found myself struggling to figure out what to bring as I felt like I couldn’t just run out and get a commercial brownie mix and call it good.

What I ended up with was zucchini brownie bites. These are very yummy, despite being relatively nutritious. One note though, unlike those commercial brownie mixes, these actually do rise a fair amount. So the batch I quickly made for the family reunion ended up rising out over the muffin tins and turning into some pretty ugly (yet yummy) lumps of brownies by the time I managed to get them out of the pan. The second batch I made where I adjusted for this turned out to be much prettier.
Zucchini Brownie Bites
Zucchini Brownie Bites (makes 48 – about 75 calories each)
2 cups shredded peeled zucchini
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used cane sugar similar to sugar in the raw, but plain white sugar would also work)
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped walnuts (optional)

Put zucchini, sugar and oil in blender or food processor and briefly process until mixed well (doesn’t take more than a few seconds in my blender). In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips or nuts if you’re using them. Using an olive oil sprayer or paper towel, grease two 24 spot mini muffin pans (or use mini cupcake liners). Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. (If you fill them more, you will end up with the blob I mention above). Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. (Mine turned out perfect at 10 minutes). Once these have cooled, you may need to use a plastic spoon to just loosen the edges prior to taking the brownie bites out of the pan.

If these aren’t going to be eaten within a day, they are best stored in the fridge or freezer since the zucchini makes them more prone to spoiling. Also, the whole wheat flour and flax do give these a little nutty – whole grain texture (which I personally think helps make them yummy) but if you prefer a more traditional brownie texture, you can use all unbleached flour and leave out the flax.


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Yummy Whole Wheat and Flax Banana Muffins – Buttery, Caramelly Goodness…

I love banana bread. My mom made it when I was growing up and I’ve been making it since I was a teenager. When I was a sophomore in college I lived in a rental house with 5 other people. Come finals time, it seemed we all procrastinated studying and the house ended up extra clean, and filled with banana bread. At one point I think there were nearly a dozen pans of varying sizes and shapes (picture the typical college house’s hodgepodge kitchen fare) filled with banana bread.

So, since even college kids can manage it, there obviously isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about turning your overripe bananas into muffins. But since I’m doing things a little differently now that we’re being less processed, I decided to make my already very good banana bread recipe into something a little healthier. The result was actually very yummy and doesn’t scream “healthy” or “whole grain”. The recipe uses brown sugar and butter, so you get a caramelly (probably not a real word, but it totally works) salty sweet banana bread that is just as yummy cold as is straight from the oven or warmed up. In fact, my youngest boys scarfed down 3 mini muffins for breakfast and would have had more had I let them.

So here it is… the recipe for my Whole Wheat and Flax Banana Muffins

Whole Wheat Banana Flax Muffins

4 TB butter, softened (I used regular salted butter)
1/4 cup applesauce
2 TB ground flax seed mixed with 6 TB water (or 2 eggs)
2 TB milk (I use 2%)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
1 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (I use the Trader Joe’s brand)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Beat the butter, applesauce, flax and water (or eggs), milk and brown sugar with your mixer until it’s smooth, then add bananas and beat on high for 1-2 minutes. (I’ve found that beating it longer leads to less dense banana bread as it adds air into the mixture – since you’re using whole grain flour, this air really helps).

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Use a fork to fluff these up a bit (again to add some more air). Then combine the dry ingredients into the wet and stir well. This batter works equally well for banana bread, muffins or mini muffins – all baked at 350. For muffins, use the little paper wrappers or grease your pan. Bread (in a bread pan) bakes for 55-60 minutes. In a cake pan, it would be more like 25 minutes. Regular size muffins are 15-20 minutes and mini muffins bake for 12-15. whatever you turn the batter into, you can tell it’s done when a toothpick comes out clean and you can see it starting to brown just a little bit around the edges.