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.

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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.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Sorbet.

Raaaaaspberry sorbet. The kind you find in a secondhand store. For me, raspberries are about as good as berries get. I rank them at the very berry top, the pinnacle of berry perfection. So, of course, my first use of my ice cream maker this season had to be raspberry. Their vibrant fruity flavor is the star here, and they’re so sweet on their own that this recipe doesn’t need much added sugar. Which is exactly how I like it. I mean, if you add minimal sugar, that gives you free rein to add all the chocolate chunks you want!

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Sorbet | KellyintheKitchen| Ingredients: water, sugar, raspberries, lemon juice, vanilla extract, chocolate

INGREDIENTS

2 cups water
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or substitute half a cup agave nectar if you want to skip a step, see below)
1 lb. (about 4 cups) raspberries (I used fresh, but frozen will work, too)
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate, chopped (I used milk chocolate chips. Dark chocolate would also be a great decision.)

DIRECTIONS

If you’re using sugar and not agave nectar, start by combining the water and sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes. In a food processor or blender, blitz the raspberries, lemon juice, and vanilla. Pour mixture through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar syrup or the agave nctar and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (the longer the better).

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When the mixture has cooled, churn it according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. I didn’t actually keep track of how long I churned the sorbet for – it was less than one full episode of LOST…around 25 minutes, probably.

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When the sorbet is thick and churned, it will have a “soft serve” consistency. Pour it into the container you’ll be freezing it in, and stir in the chocolate chunks. Freeze a few hours or overnight.

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When your sorbet is set and frozen, it’s ready to go! Scoop it into pretty cups and tell yourself “This is fruit, it’s fine to have seconds.”

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Sorbet | KellyintheKitchen| Ingredients: water, sugar, raspberries, lemon juice, vanilla extract, chocolate

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

S’mores with Homemade Spiced Graham Crackers.

Ohmygod these are the best s’mores ever. I don’t even give ’em the ol’ campfire treatment and they’re still the best ever—even in the oven, they’re toasty and good. I’m eating my way through my current batch very very quickly. The crackers have just a bit of ginger and cinnamon—enough to make things interesting—and their texture is different from your average light and crispy graham cracker. They’re a little more crumbly and a little more substantial. Makes for a really nice batch of s’mores! The only problem is keeping enough of the graham crackers around so that I can have one whenever I want. I think this means I have to up my graham cracker production…

S'mores with Homemade Spiced Graham Crackers | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: 1 cup plus 2 tbsp almond meal (or grind up about 1 cup of whole almonds), 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 tsp potato starch (or use arrowroot powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, pinch of salt, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp room temperature butter, 1 1/2 tbsp molasses, 1 tbsp milk, splash of vanilla, jumbo marshmallows, chocolate

INGREDIENTS

for graham crackers:
1 cup plus 3 tbsp almond meal (or grind up 1 heaping cup of whole almonds)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp potato starch (or use arrowroot powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp room temperature butter
1 1/2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp milk
splash of vanilla

to assemble:
jumbo marshmallows
chocolate (I only had chocolate chips in the house, so that’s what I used)

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, pulse together the almond meal, coconut flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Then add the maple syrup, molasses, butter, milk, and vanilla and pulse just until the dough comes together. If it’s looking too wet, add a bit of coconut flour and pulse again.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper, press into a flat disc, and wrap in the parchment. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a few days.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into squares (or whatever shape you want) and lay flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you like, use a fork to make some kind of cute little design. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges just start to brown.

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That’s it for the graham crackers! When you’re ready to make the s’mores (which, for me, was immediately), turn the oven up to 400 F. While it preheats, top the graham crackers with chocolate and add a marshmallow to each. I tried sandwich s’mores and the open-faced kind, and open-faced is the way to go. You get double the s’mores goods that way, and still all that toasty marshmallow on top. Pop them in the oven just for a minute or two, until the chocolate has melted and the marshmallows are lightly browned.

S'mores with Homemade Spiced Graham Crackers | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: 1 cup plus 2 tbsp almond meal (or grind up about 1 cup of whole almonds), 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 tsp potato starch (or use arrowroot powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, pinch of salt, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp room temperature butter, 1 1/2 tbsp molasses, 1 tbsp milk, splash of vanilla, jumbo marshmallows, chocolate

That’s it! Keep the rest of the graham crackers in a sealed container and just repeat the melting process when you’re ready for another s’more. I put them in my cast iron skillet to toast in the oven, and maybe I’m imagining it, but they seem to toast up just perfectly this way.

S'mores with Homemade Spiced Graham Crackers | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: 1 cup plus 2 tbsp almond meal (or grind up about 1 cup of whole almonds), 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 tsp potato starch (or use arrowroot powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, pinch of salt, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp room temperature butter, 1 1/2 tbsp molasses, 1 tbsp milk, splash of vanilla, jumbo marshmallows, chocolate