Monday, April 30, 2012

Cookie Heaven! Peanut Butter and Nutella Swirl Cookies

I found these cookies when I was doing a little Pinning the other night.  If you are not on Pinterest yet, then you are missing out on the most amazing new  time-suck social media on the internet!

I knew I had to to make these cookies.  And I knew they were not going to be low fat or low sugar or in any way Weight Watchers friendly. 

But, actually, that is the beauty of the Weight Watchers Points Plus program.  There is always a way to fit in whatever strikes your fancy... for me, these cookies;  perhaps for you it is a glass of wine, or a slice of carrot cake, or extra butter on your baked potato.  Even though there are guidelines for healthy eating, we can also have our treats if we are willing to use the points they cost.

These cookies work out to 3 Points Plus each... and for me, they are worth it.  The combination of peanut butter and Nutella is unbeatable when it comes to a rich and sweet treat.  The Captain loves them too, and ordinarily, he is not even that much of a Nutella fan. It is the combination that gets you. 

The peanut butter I used for these cookies is salted so I left out the 1/4 tsp of salt that the recipe's creator called for when she posted them in 2008 on her blog called The Sweetest Kitchen.  And I did use crunchy peanut butter, cause I love it the most.

If you are really not a Nutella lover, and I am pretty sure that doesn't apply to You, you could leave it out and toss in a handful of chocolate chips.  I think that would be good... just not THIS good!

Do try them, and let me know what you think.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Swirl Cookies
Makes 40 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Nutella 
  1. In a large bowl, combine soft butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.
  2. Add flour and baking soda to the mixture, and blend well.
  3. Put the Nutella in a small microwave safe bowl and heat slightly to soften. (I used the THAW setting for 30 seconds.)
  4. Drizzle the Nutell over top of the dough, then swirl it through the dough with a butter knife.  You do not want to mix it in very much.
  5. Chill the dough 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F, and prepare cookie sheet by placing a piece of parchment paper on it.  Otherwise, use a greased cookie sheet.
  7. When dough has finished chillling roughly divide it into 4 sections in the bowl.  Each section should make 10 cookies.
  8. Remove enough dough for one cookie with a spoon (approx. 1 Tbs) and roll it into a ball with your hands. Set it on the prepared pan.
  9. Fill the cookie sheet up with dough balls, leaving about an inch between them.
  10. Using a fork, press lightly down on the balls and create a criss-cross pattern.
  11. Bake until edges are very lightly browned (about 7 to 9 minutes). Don’t overbake.
  12. Remove from the oven and let cool on sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  They will be soft and will break easily until they cool.

Per serving of 1 cookie.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 101; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 11g; Fat 5g; Fibre 1g.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

Add the flour and baking soda and blend well.

Drizzle the Nutella over the batter.

Drag a knife through the Nutella and cut into the batter to distribute it.  Do not mix it into the batter.

Roll into balls and set on prepared pan.

Use a fork to make a criss cross pattern in each cookie and flatten it slightly.

Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes, till the edges are just golden.  Do not overbake.
Leave them to cool for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven.  They will be very soft and will break easily until cooled.

Serve with a big glass of cold milk...

Or your favorite tea or coffee.

And because the recipe makes 40 cookies, you will have some to share with a friend.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Low Calorie Lemon Bars

I came across these lemon bars a couple of years ago on a blog called Cooking Done Light, bookmarked the recipe, and then completely forgot about it.  I found it today when I was looking for something lemony to make for The Captain.  He has been doing lots of little things for me lately and I wanted to make him something new and lemony to say Thank You.  Lemon is his favorite flavor, and I think caramel is a close second.

This lemon bar recipe did the trick... as soon as I started to zest the lemons, he commented on how good that smelled, so I knew he would be happy with the results.  And he was.  Win win.  Gotta love that.

I never have pastry flour on hand, so I just used whole wheat flour and hoped for the best.  And the two small lemons I had didn't yield  the 2 Tbs of zest that the original recipe calls for so I just used what they gave me.... but when I squeezed the juice from them, I did make sure to include some of the pulp too. I think it enhanced the flavor.  I squeezed the lemons into a 1/3 cup measure and then just topped it off from a bottle of lemon juice from concentrate.

Here is how I made them.  And I calculated my own Nutrition Information as the numbers given in the blog post just didn't make sense to me (unfortunately as they are about half of what I came up with).

I hope you will give them a try.

Low Calorie Lemon Bars
Makes 12 servings
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of additional icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and and lightly coat the bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Beat the 1/4 cup of icing sugar and butter on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Gradually add the 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly. Make sure not to overmix.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until just golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack and lower the oven temperature to 325° F.
  6. While the oven temperature reduces, whisk the eggs on medium speed until foamy.
  7. Add the white sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until combined.
  8. Pour the mixture over the baked crust and return to the oven until “set”, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Do not touch the filling with your fingers or it will stick to them and you will have a big dent in your bars!  
  10. Cool completely (about an hour at least) on a wire rack, then cut into 12 squares and dust with icing sugar.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 136 calories; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 22g; Fat  4g; Fibre 0g.

Mix butter and icing sugar together...

until creamy and light.

Add whole wheat flour a bit at a time and mix until crumbly.  Don't overmix.

With your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture into prepared baking pan.

Remove from oven after is is golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.

While crust and oven are cooling, beat eggs till frothy, the mix in the white sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.

Pour over the crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until it is 'set'.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

Allow to completely cool before trying to slice... Don't touch it!  It takes about an hour to cool enough to cut.  You can hold your hand above it, and when you no longer feel heat, it will be all right to cut.

It shrinks and cracks a bit when it is cool.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and cut into 12 pieces.

Just barely cooled.

A lovely, creamy, lemony filling on a light crust.

The Captain asked for a double slice!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sweet Potato Muffins... Now With a Gluten Free Option

When I think about making muffins, I recall my first every Home Economics Class assignment to make basic white muffins, when I was in grade 9.  I remember how we learned to make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, to pour the liquids into.  And I also remember the teacher admonishing us to gently fold the ingredients together, in big round movements that circled around the outer rim of the bowl.  And to not overmix so that it became gummy, or the resulting muffins would not rise evenly.

And I also recall being my muffins being graded on their color and shape.  The mark would be out of 5, and all my classmates compared notes and comments when we got our project results back from the teacher.  How I loved all those little kitchens that were in that huge classroom.  I even loved the laundry area and the ironing boards.

Now my niece is a high school Home Ec Teacher and I wonder what she would think of these muffins... So, dear C, if you read this post, please let me know how I did!

I love sweet potatoes, too.  I am always looking for new ways to eat them... this past week they were on sale at my favorite local produce market for 49 cents a pound so I stocked up.  

These are the dark orange-fleshed ones that I like to call yams, to distinguish them from the paler yellow-fleshed ones that my Mother cooked when I was a child. I never cared for those and still don't. The flesh is drier and just doesn't taste very good, to me.

But these orange sweet potatoes are like candy to me.  I will eagerly cook one in the microwave, and after it has cooled enough to handle, I will cut it in half and sit and eat the flesh out of the skin with a spoon.  Mmmmmm.

When I first saw this recipe a week or so ago on a blog I read regularly called Running Around My Kitchen, I thought I would like to try it.  Beth adapted her version from the original, which was published recently in Runner's World Magazine, and she used artificial sweetener in place of sugar.  Have a look at her post if that might appeal to you.

When I decided to make them, I wanted to use real sugar, but brown instead of white, and reduce the amount of fat they used.  So, I subbed 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for melted butter. This is a common and accepted substitute in heavier batters such as muffins and cakes... bananas work too if you want that flavor, and prunes work well when you are using chocolate.

I also didn't have any buttermilk so I used a scant cup of skim milk, into which I had stirred 1 Tbs of lemon juice to sour and thicken it.  I normally make this substitution for buttermilk when I bake.

And one more thing... the original recipe didn't call for cinnamon, so I just sprinkled about 1 tsp of it into the dry ingredients.

They just came out of the oven and I think they look pretty good.  Here is how I made them.

Sweet Potato Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pureed or mashed cooked sweet potato
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (scant) fat free milk with 1Tbs lemon juice mixed in
  1. Wash and dry the sweet potato, and prick the skin in several places. Microwave till cooked and then allow to cool, before peeling and mashing.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease 12 muffin cups or add paper or silicone liners.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk applesauce, oil, sweet potato, egg, and soured milk.
  5. Fold wet mixture into the dry; stir until just combined. Don't overmix.
  6. Fill the muffin cups and bake 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 212; Protein 5g; Carbohydrate 36g; Fat 5g; Fibre 2g.

The cooked flesh will come out of the shell easily after cooled a bit.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the prepared wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Then pour into the well you made in the dry ingredients.

Fold gently until just combined and then spoon into muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven.

Remove and let cool. These silicone cups come away from the cooked muffins very easily.  

Lovely color, nice rounded domes, not too smooth.

The Captain sliced some cheese to go along with these, for our lunch.

Light and fluffy inside after breaking in half.

And he asked for butter on his!

I would have to agree that this recipe was a rousing success.  They are delicious and the house smelled lovely while they were baking.  That is always a bonus.

Update to this post - May 14th, 2012

This, from my lovely niece, the  high school home economics teacher: 

" So I made the muffins gluten free -- I used 2 1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour and because I didn't have enough I topped up the remaining 1/4 C with quinoa flour and also added 3/4 tsp of xanthan gum.  They turned out pretty well - a little dry so I may add a bit more apple sauce next time.  Although we were saying that the texture reminded us more of a scone or a bread so if we change what they are in our heads perhaps they were just perfect!! "

Thanks, C, for trying out the recipe and letting me know how you made it gluten-free for you and your Mother... for Mother's Day... great idea!  And I know many of my readers will be interested in this, too.  Really appreciate you sharing your experience with it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kale Chips, My Way

I used to be a little afraid of kale.  I never ate it at my Mother's table as a child, or an adult for that matter.

I did see some pretty purple and white kale in my sister's flower garden once, many years ago.  It was not until about 2 years ago, after reading about how healthy kale is that I first bought a bunch and tried it.  I used it in a bean and tomato soup and really liked it. I found I could substitute it for spinach in many of the recipes I liked. 

And then I read about making kale chips on a blog I used to read from time to time called Kath Eats Real Food. I quite enjoyed the salty crunch that these chips offer and I have made them many times since... but kale is usually quite expensive here and I don't splurge on it very often.

I was thrilled to find organic kale at my favorite local produce market this week, on sale!  I have had a craving for kale chips for a while now and seeing kale priced at 3 bunches for $5 made the decision to make some very easy.

I like to make up a whole bunch at a time, so I normally have these chips when I am going to make a meal of them.  The Captain doesn't care for them so I make a bunch and enjoy them all to myself.  There is oil and cheese in the recipe so it is fairly filling and quite satisfying.

If you like, you can omit the cheese and just use a bit of oil and salt.  The cheese makes them much saltier, so if you are not going to use it, you may need to add another sprinkle of salt after they come out of the oven.  The nutrition information will depend on how much you use, of course, but here is how I made them.

Kale Chips, Easy Cheesy
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1-1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dash of sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Untie the kale bundle and separate the leaves.
  3. Tear the curly leaves away from the thick middle stem, into bite size pieces.  Wash them and spin dry with a salad spinner.
  4. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and coat with non-stick spray.
  5. Put the kale pieces on the cookie sheet.
  6. Spritz with the oil and then sprinkle with salt and Parmesan Cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the edges are brown and cripsy.
  8. Remove and serve.
Per the whole serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 162; Protein 8g; Carbohydrate 12g; Fat 11g; Fibre 2g.

Originally I was going to make 2 bunches of chips but decided I couldn't eat them all!  Good decision.

The thick tough stem in the centre of the leaf is inedible. 

Tear the curly leaves away from the centre stem in bite size pieces.

Then wash and spin dry the pieces as well as you can, and then discard the stems.

Put them on a foil-lined cookie sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray, for easy cleanup.

The drier the pieces are, the better, as you don't want to steam them you want to bake them and make them crisp.  If you see some water spots at this point, dab them dry with a paper towel.

Sprtiz them with oil and then sprinkle with salt and Parmesan Cheese.  The oil will make the salt and cheese stick to the kale pieces, and also helps your body absorb all the great vitamins it contains!

Place the tray in the preheated oven for 15 minutes...

until they are crispy and the edges are brown.

The cheese gets crispy too!  And I like mine with ketchup.

Printable Recipe

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baked Pancakes with Berries and Cinnamon

I am always on the lookout for new pancake recipes.  This is one I found at Women's Health and I decided to try it on Sunday morning.  It takes almost an hour and a half from the time you start it to the time you can sit down to enjoy it, as the batter has to rest for an hour before it bakes, so it isn't something I would have time for on a busy weekday morning.

But it is very easy and we really liked it. It is also filling and satisfying as each serving has one whole egg in it.  As a matter of fact, it is almost more like an omelette than a pancake.

I can see all kinds of possibitities here for variations. You could use any fruit spread or jam you like for this recipe. You could also arrange a thinly sliced banana over the fruit spread before folding. Or you could use sliced peaches or fresh berries too.  Glazed peaches or apples in butter and sugar would also be really nice if you wanted to extend it to brunch and use the extra P+.

I think peach jam and sliced fresh peaches would be delicious.. or canned and drained sliced peaches would be a very good second choice.

The recipe calls for oat flour, and I didn't have any in the cupboard, so I put 1/3 cup of quick oats in the bottom of the blender jar and pureed them, before adding the rest of the ingredients.  It seemed to work just fine.  I might not bother buying oat flour now that I have tried this.

I topped each serving with a dollop of fat free vanilla yogurt and another sprinkle of cinnamon.

I am offering the recipe as I made it up, and with my own nutrition information calculations as well.

Baked Pancakes with Berries and Cinnamon
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk
  • 4 eggs
  • Dash of Salt
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 tps ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs berry fruit spread, warmed
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, and salt. Process until smooth, about 15 seconds.
  3. Remove to a medium bowl, cover, and let rest for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 9" oven-safe skillet over MEDIUM heat and cook until frothy.
  5. Pour in the egg-flour mixture.
  6. Place in the oven and bake until puffy and set, 14 to 16 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the cinnamon.
  8. Spread the warmed fruit spread over the pancake and any other fruit you are using. 
  9. Using a spatula, fold the pancake in half (or roll it up) and slide it onto a platter.
  10. Slice into 4 pieces and serve.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 183; Protein 8g; Carbohydrate 12g; Fat 11g; Fibre 1g.

Grind quick oats in the blender to  make oat flour.

Add the milk, eggs, and salt to the oat flour and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, cover, and set aside on counter for one hour.

Melt the butter in an oven-safe skillet.

Use a high-enough heat that the butter will become frothy, but be careful not to burn it.

Pour the batter into the pan and put it into a hot oven for 16 minutes.

While the cake bakes, gently melt the fruit spread.

It will be puffy when it comes out of the oven.

But may fall a bit after it comes out.  Sprinkle with cinnamon....

And cover with fruit spread.  If you are adding other fruit, place it on half the cake at this point.

Run your spatula around the edges to loosen and then fold in half.

Cut into 4 slices.

Serve with yogurt and a bit more cinnamon. 

Printable Recipe