WTAF Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

There’s no such thing as a reimagined-to-be-healthy recipe that’s as good as the original. Anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or magic. That’s my long-held belief, anyway–which is why I’m naming my recipe WTAF Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies. If we’re in need of a bit of decoding, WTAF stands for “What The Actual F***,” a fitting exclamation of surprise at how perfect these cookies are. Why was I so surprised? Because, after months of experimenting with healthier cookie recipes, I had resigned myself to the fact that without AP flour, butter, sugar, and other highly-processed ingredients, healthier cookies would just never compare. Then I made these (!!!), drawing from a recipe I saw on Whole and Heavenly Oven. Maybe the trick is the making my own cashew butter (easier than it may sound), or that I’ve left in just enough brown sugar to be a *little* bad. But the first bite from my first batch was so damn good, these cookies earned their name and then some. If my mom’s chocolate chips are an 11 on a 1-to-10 cookie rating scale, I’m awarding these guys a solid 9.5. They meet all my cookie requirements: golden color, chewy texture, good chip distribution, and they taste pretty much perfect. PLEASE make them soon, and know true healthy dessert joy.

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INGREDIENTS

1 heaping cup raw cashews
1 heaping cup honey roasted cashews (or, cut out all the cashews completely and replace with 1 cup store-bought cashew butter, WITHOUT the oil layer on top stirred in, as this will likely make the cashew butter too liquidy)
scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I like to go lighter on chips (…I know…) so feel free to add more)

*Note on replacements: This recipe doesn’t turn out anywhere near as good if you omit the raw cashews and replace them with another cup of roasted cashews. For whatever reason, it throws the texture off. Stick with 1 cup raw and 1 cup roasted.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper.

In a food processor or bender, add both types of cashews and grind them into nut butter. It takes my food processor about 5 minutes to get to the right stage: completely pulverized and able to hold together as a ball (read: a thick, just-barely-spreadable nut butter), but not liquidy.

Measure out 1 cup of the cashew butter (you should have just about that amount in your food processor, with maybe a little left over) and transfer it to a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt, and stir until combined. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips. Your batter will be sticky.

Scoop the dough into small balls and press them flat onto the baking sheet–not too close, as they do spread just a little bit. Then, pop them in the oven.

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After about 6 minutes, bang the bottom of the cookie sheet onto the oven door a few times to deflate the cookies (this step will help result in cookies that are more chewy than cakey–I HATE cake-y). Continue to bake for 4-6 more minutes, til the cookies have turned a gorgeous golden brown color. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

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Like all chocolate chip cookies, they’re at their most amazing while still warm, right out of the oven. If you do have any leftovers, keep them sealed and they’ll last up to a week.

IMPORTANT SERVING NOTE: I have also successfully baked these pressed into mini-skillets with a scoop of ice cream on top. Highly recommended.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

Pretzels: hands-down, a top-5 snack food. So simple, so good, so surprisingly versatile (just ask Auntie Anne). For me, pretzels get really interesting when you think of them as an ingredient, as the start of something, rather than the end of it. I’ve posted a pretzel-transformation recipe before, and I wasn’t surprised to discover that other bloggers had the same idea. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen has got a real knack with pretzels, as evidenced by these insane pancakes.  And Molly from My Name is Yeh‘s pretzel shortbread cookies looked so good, I barely changed anything in the riff I’m sharing with you today–just a slight tweak in ingredients and process. But it’s an important change, where I sub in one of my all-time favorite ingredients besides pretzels: brown sugar. Damn. Enjoy.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

INGREDIENTS

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
200 g pretzels (any kind)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Start by making the “pretzel flour.” Using a food processor (or a plastic bag and a rolling pin, if you’re very patient), pulverize the pretzels until they are utterly dusted. It should look like light brown flour. **Don’t underestimate this step; it took me at least 20 minutes to process the pretzels, pass the flour through a sifter to catch the bigger crumbs, process those crumbs again, and repeat the whole thing. And don’t skip this step – if you have big crunchy crumbs in your batter, it will make for weirdly crunchy, sandy-textured cookies. If it doesn’t take you as long to get to the flour stage, then you’ve got a better food processor than I do.**

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Stir the pretzel flour and all-purpose flour into the butter mixture. Eat a tiny bite of the batter, because it’s sooooo good.

Press the somewhat crumbly batter into whatever pan you’re using (I used what I think of as a “brownie pan”) so that it’s evenly packed. Then, use a knife to cut the batter into bars. Do this before you bake, because if you try to cut them after baking, you’ll probably end up with a pan full of crumbs. Poke a few holes in the tops of the bars with a fork (make a pattern if you’re feeling cute).

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until just starting to brown. Savor the scent of your kitchen…it will smell divine.

When the bars are done baking, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to retrace the lines you cut before the bars baked; it should be easy to do. Let cool completely in the pan.

Once the bars are cool, melt the chocolate chips and oil together in a small bowl. I popped them in the microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring halfway through, but you can use a double boiler if you’re fancy. Take a spoon and drizzle the chocolate in whatever pattern you want. I went for free-form marble and I’m pretty happy with it.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Let the chocolate set. That’s it! Enjoy the salty-savory-sweetness.

Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart.

Whenever I visit my cousins in Denver, we do A LOT of cooking and baking together. I’ve been here for 3 days and we’ve already made so many good things. I wish I had photographed our dinner a few nights ago, elote chicken salad, but I spaced. I did manage to write down the recipe, though, so it’ll make it up on the blog someday. This afternoon, we wanted something sweet and tart, and lemon curd came to mind right away. This recipe is a team effort between my cousin Summit and me; she made the shortbread crust and I made the curd. The curd is exactly what you’d expect: tart, sweet, deliciously lemony. And the crust was a nice surprise, a bit denser than we thought it would be but still a really nice shortbread (it was everyone’s favorite part!). A warning for those who try this recipe themselves: as soon as our tart came out of the fridge, a feeding frenzy ensued. Be prepared.

Lemon Curd Tart | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, ground almonds, flour, water, parchment paper

INGREDIENTS

for the curd:
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) softened butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, and 4 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice

for the tart shell:
1/2 cup finely ground almonds (or use almond flour)
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp cold butter
3-5 tbsp cold water

DIRECTIONS

Start with the curd. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs and then the yolks, stirring to incorporate between each addition. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir another minute or two until creamy and smooth. Then, add the lemon juice and stir. Don’t freak if everything is separated and curdled-looking! You’re doing it right.

At this point, I started the tart shell. Stir together the ground almonds, flour, and sugar. Then, use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles slightly clumpy sand. Add the water one tablespoon at a time–you want to use as little water as possible to hold the dough together. Once it holds without crumbling too much, transfer it to whatever you’re using to bake the tart. We used a cake pan lined with parchment paper, but this would be adorable in a traditional tart pan, too. Press the dough into the pan and then refrigerate for at least an hour.

While the tart shell refrigerates, cook the curd. Pour the lemony mixture into a saucepan and heat over low, stirring occasionally, until the curd is heated through and the mixture is uniform (i.e., no separation). Now, turn the heat up to medium and stir constantly for about 10 minutes, until the curd is thickened and beautifully glossy.

Lemon Curd Tart | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, ground almonds, flour, water, parchment paper

Turn off the heat and transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap right onto the top of the curd (this prevents a gross skin from forming on top) and let it cool to room temperature. Then, move it to the fridge to cool all the way.

Back to the tart shell. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 F and use a fork to poke a few holes in the base. Ideally, you’d set baking weights or dry beans inside the shell on a layer or parchment, to weight it down while it cooks and keep its nice shape, but we didn’t have this and obviously everyone survived. If you’re using weights, bake with weights for 8 minutes, remove the weights, and finish for about 10 minutes. If you’re going naked (without weights) like we did, just bake for about 15 or so minutes until the shell is set and browning. Let it cool.

Okay, the final step is assembly. Take your cooled tart shell and your beautiful cooled lemon curd. Pour the lemon curd into the shell. Smooth the top. And if you can bear to wait, it’s probably a good idea to refrigerate for another hour or so, now that everything’s assembled. But if you can’t wait to dig in, that’s okay, no one’s judging.

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Once it’s cooled and fully set, you’re good to go. I definitely recommend serving this with whipped cream or ice cream. Keep refrigerated so the curd holds together nicely. Yum. And thanks for being my co-baker, Summit!

Sugar & Spice Cookies.

Crazy to think it’s been over 4 months since I’ve posted a recipe. I still cook and bake all the time, but my weekend days (when I tend to test out new recipes, and when there’s nice daylight for photos) are not about the blog right now. Instead, I now spend at least one day of my weekend volunteering at a local dog shelter. I started volunteering last spring, but lately it’s become a huge priority for me. It’s so rewarding and special – I encourage anyone who’s interested to start volunteering at an animal shelter near you, because I can promise you they need the help!!

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Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from work travel this week, so I decided to take the day off from the shelter and bake these cookies. Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker, they smell amazing and taste even better. And I’ll still get my pup time in – it’s a three-day weekend for MLK Day, so I’ll get to spend all of Monday with them!

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

INGREDIENTS

12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 egg
scant 1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other sugar with large crystals)

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg until the mixture is fluffy in texture and light brown in color. Add the egg and molasses and stir just evenly combined. Then sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until combined – don’t overstir, or the cookies could become tough. You can advance to the next step here if you like, but I like to put the batter in the fridge for about 30 minutes, just to tighten up a bit.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or baking mats. Set up a little station with your baking sheets, your cookie dough with spoons or a cookie dropper, and a little bowl full of the turbinado sugar. Scoop a small amount of dough, form it into a ball, and roll it in the turbinado sugar so that it’s completely coated. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set but the very tops are still soft to the touch. Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Put them on a plate and bring them to a friend before you eat all of them yourself.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Strawberry “Nutri-grain” Snack Bars.

I was traveling for work this week. That meant four nights in a hotel, with – dun dun DUN – no access to a kitchen! And as nice as it is to have the hotel make you breakfast every morning, I am now sick to death of *other people’s* food. I want Kelly food again! After all, who is Kelly if she isn’t in the Kitchen? So to celebrate being home again, I made these snack bars. Snacks might be the worst part of travel food – the standard options are almost always processed, over-salted, and packed with sugar. Gross. These are the opposite of the airport convenience store snacks I ate this week. Strawberry Nurtri-grain-esque snack bars – yay, I’m home!

Strawberry "Nutri-grain" Snack Bars | KellyintheKitchen | 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 2 tbsp butter, melted (or coconut oil), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 1/4 cups almond meal, 1 tbsp coconut flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 10 medium-sized strawberries, 1 tbsp honey, pinch salt

INGREDIENTS

for crust:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp butter, melted (or go for coconut oil if you want)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups almond meal
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp salt

for filling*:
10 medium-sized strawberries, washed, dried, stems removed
1 tbsp honey
pinch salt
*if you don’t want to make the filling, just skip this step and use use 1/2 cup pre-made jam.

DIRECTIONS

First, make the crust. Combine maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in almond meal and salt until dough comes together. Refrigerate 1 hour.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Use a food processor to totally blitz the strawberries and honey. Transfer the puree to a pan, add salt, and heat over medium low. Bring to a low bubble and stir occasionally. Cook about 15 minutes, until reduced and thickened. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of cooked filling. Put it in the fridge to cool down.

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Preheat oven to 350 F. Then take the chilled dough out of the fridge and split it into quarters. Put one quarter on a sheet of parchment paper and put the rest back in the fridge. Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper, into a long rectangle. Trim the sides so that it’s actually a rectangle and not a free-form wavy-edge shape. Then spread one quarter of the strawberry filling over half of the rectangle.

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Use the parchment paper to gently fold the non-filling half over the filling half, creating a long seam. Cut into bars and use your fingers to pinch the sides closed, so the filling doesn’t leak out (mine did leak out a bit and it really wasn’t a big deal). Carefully move the bars to a baking sheet and put them in the fridge to keep cool while you repeat the process with the rest of the dough.

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Bake for about 10 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the edges are darkened.

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That’s it! These are good right out of the oven, but they’re also super good at room temperature. Make sure to cool them completely before storing in a sealed container; they’re best when eaten within 2-3 days.

Superfood Berry Crisp.

I loved the blueberry almond crisp recipe I posted last time SO MUCH that I’ve made it twice since then. It has that great balance of nutty, buttery, and sweet that I’ve found pretty addicting lately. And after a few tweaks and additions, I have another crisp recipe to share. It’s the nutritionally-amplified fruit dessert of my health food dreams, packing in tons of superfoods: almonds and walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds, and any mixture of berries your heart desires (I used blueberries, but Trader Joe’s frozen section has a nice mixed berry medley that I bought for next time!). This superfood berry crisp works overtime to give your body what it needs, in terms of both nutrition and sweet tooth satisfaction. And while these healthy ingredients are totally awesome, I think I may start a petition to give butter and brown sugar their own superfood status (their kind of “super” is slightly different, however). Then there would be no stopping this thing!

Superfood Berry Crisp | KellyintheKitchen

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped
1/2 cup whole walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp chia seed
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp cold butter, cubed
splash of vanilla
2 cups frozen berries
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp granulated sugar
optional: 1 heaping tbsp turbinado sugar (or another large-crystal sugar like demerara)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a mixing bowl, stir together ground almonds, chopped almonds, chopped walnuts, flax seed, chia seed, salt, and brown sugar. Use a fork to work the cold butter into the dry mixture until there are no more chunks of butter. Then add the vanilla and stir.

In a pie pan or other baking dish, stir together the berries and lemon juice. Then add the corn starch and sugar and stir to coat.

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Starting at the outside and working your way to the middle, sprinkle the nut mixture over the top of the berries. Then finish with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar for an extra bit of sweetness and crunch.

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Lightly lay a sheet of tinfoil over the pan, but don’t tuck the ends around the pan. This keeps the nuts from browning too quickly as the fruit bakes. Bake until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is fragrant and browned, about 15-25 minutes.

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Let the crisp cool slightly and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or frozen Greek yogurt. Another superfood, look at that!

I forget – what did I say about how to serve this? Was it, “use a spoon and eat it right out of the pan even if it’s too hot”? Because that’s a pretty good way, too.

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