Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

My latest efforts at weight loss have been successful, which is fantastic. I won’t be bikini ready for my trip to Florida in a week, but hey – I’m in law school, I deserve cookies. Tonight after eating my healthy leftover soup I wanted a sweet treat. After perusing my Pinterest board, I decided that no bake cookies sounded perfect.

I’ve actually never made no bake cookies before, which is silly because they’re so easy. I was a little short on some of the ingredients that most recipes call for – I had no milk or chocolate chips. But I couldn’t resist the chance to improvise, so I looked at a few recipes and decided to wing it myself.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup half and half

1 cup Splenda or regular sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups of quick oats

Prep time: less than 10 minutes          Set time: 30 minutes

Calories: 217 per cookie*

What to do:

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the half and half, cocoa powder, and the Splenda and mix well. Turn the heat up and let the mixture boil for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, turn the heat off and add the peanut butter and vanilla, letting the peanut butter melt in, mixing well. Add the quick oats and stir well. Drop two tablespoons at a time onto wax paper, and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes.

* A note on the calorie count – I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, or even a super sophisticated foodie. I wanted to know the calorie count for my own purposes, so I calculated it all out based on the labels of my ingredients and the 2 tablespoon serving size per cookie that I used. So, know that this is an estimate, and may vary depending on what brand of ingredients you’re using. But, it’s an accurate ball-park for your informational purposes.

After seeing the calorie count per cookie, next time I will be cutting down the butter and maybe putting in less cocoa powder and peanut butter. But this evening, while I have about 40 pages to read for International Financial Regulation, I’ve decided that one 217 calorie cookie is fine by me.

Happy snacking!

A Week of Working With What We’ve Got

I’ve been on the road and away from home since Thursday. Between the traveling, the awful weather that dumped inches upon inches of snow in exactly the places I was driving, living out of other people’s houses for almost a week, and trying to cook and bake on the fly, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of adaptability.

Thursday morning I was off to school, got out of class at 8:30 pm, spend the night at a friends house, went back to class Friday morning at 8 am. Friday after class was done in the afternoon I drove up to my in-law’s home. Saturday morning I left for Connecticut to stay with my friend who was scheduled for surgery Monday morning. Boo, as I nicknamed her long ago (yes, it is a Monster’s Inc reference), has been having foot/leg/back problems for years, and some doctors finally got around to figuring out she’s been living with a bad disk in her back, and decided that surgery was necessary to fix it. So I thought I’d spend Saturday and Super Bowl Sunday with her, go to the hospital with her Monday, and stay until Wednesday morning to make sure she she has some cookies and some company during her first few days home.

Super Bowl Sunday, the plan was to make a Philly Cheesesteak Stromboli. I took Boo’s grocery list and my own grocery list and attempted to navigate the local grocery store. On Super Bowl Sunday. How do you think that went? Yes, yes, very well, thanks for asking. I COULD NOT find pizza dough. Anywhere. Looked up and down every aisle multiple times. It just wasn’t happening. So, my options were 1) puff pastry dough, or 2) pre-cooked pizza crust. I opted for the pre-cooked crust because I thought that the puff pastry dough would give the finished product a weird, not-pizza texture. Turns out, this was the wrong choice. The pizza crust wasn’t malleable enough to fold into a stromboli shape, so it ended up more like a philly cheesteak sandwich on pizza crust. But it was still yummy, and there were only three of us for our wild super bowl party, so, good enough!

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Then today’s project was cookies. I let the patient pick out the type of cookies she wanted, and she opted for Mocha Crinkle Cookies. While her parents were picking her up from the hospital, I was scrambling to clean her apartment and make the cookies. However, this involved a total of FOREVER looking around her pantry and kitchen trying to locate all the cleaning necessities/ ingredients/cookie sheets/baking utensils, ect. Not to mention, in my desperate need for coffee, I couldn’t find coffee filters. So I ended up using a paper towel as a coffee filter, only to stumble upon the coffee filters after said coffee was brewed. Then I proceeded to spill the whole cup of said brewed coffee all over the kitchen just as Boo arrived home. (I’m sure she would have appreciated the comedy in the situation had she not been in miserable pain – my poor girl). I really had my shit together, as you can tell. It also turns out that we didn’t have granulated sugar, just powdered sugar, and I couldn’t find the proper sized measuring cups, so I eyeballed most of the ingredients. The cookies weren’t done when she made it home, but she did get to lick the spoon, so she was happy. And the finished product turned out pretty good.

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And just in case you were wondering, that plate has a picture of a bell pepper and an onion holding hands and it says “Lettuce Be Friends”

I guess being adaptable is really the key to minimizing stress. Boo wasn’t ever expecting to have the kinds of physical issues that she’s had over the past few years, but she’s handled every new twist and turn and development in a graceful, calm manner. Her attitude inspires me to take my problems as they come and stay calm and collected while evaluating my options and coming up with solutions. Just like her. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, remembering to take this attitude is very difficult. Thankfully I have people in my life like Boo, who are always there to lead by example.

So, that’s what I’m going to really focus on for the next few months, while J and I are buying our first house, while I’m interviewing for jobs, while I’m trying to get through my last semester of school  – working calmly with what I’ve got. No coffee filters? No problem, you can still get a cup of coffee with a paper towel. No granulated sugar or cookie sheets? No problem, powdered sugar and a pizza tray still get you cookies. Unexpected developments don’t have to send me into a depressed panic – I can always work happily with what I’ve got.

Two Batches of S’mores Happiness Versus One Bad Day

A law school girlfriend’s birthday was Sunday, so I wanted to make her a treat – I love spoiling people for their birthdays! I also was in one of my bad moods today, and was generally irritable, which isn’t nice because sometimes it comes out as snipping at J. Not that he doesn’t deserve some snipping on occasion, but today he truly was an innocent bystander. Baking has become a significant part of my evolving coping mechanisms, so tonight became the night to bake a birthday treat.

I have seen recipes for different variations of S’mores bars and cookies all over Pinterest, and what’s happier than a S’more! They immediately conjure up memories of campfires, summer, lounging at J’s parent’s camper at the lake, swimming, kayaking, and fireworks on the 4th. Happy stuff! And I need happy stuff! Yay S’mores!

The recipe I used is over on Chocolate, Chocolate, and More. And really, how can you not trust a lady with a blog name like that! Sounds like my kind of gal! I ended up using two smaller round pie dishes because I wanted to make two versions – one with the graham cracker crust, for my friend, and one without graham crackers, because I personally think that graham cracker crusts are a pain in the butt and after the first one I thought, “eh, no.”

Basically, it’s a chocolate chip cookie with mini marshmallows in it, which is one of those things that makes me say “why did I not think of this!” The batter ends up thick and chunky and delicious, but it spreads and rises nicely.

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If you remember my brownie disaster post, you’ll recall that I love batter. J shares that sentiment, so I had to keep chasing him away from the bowl. Threats of bodily harm with a wooden spoon didn’t deter him too much (although I do have a history of whacking him with Tupperware when he deserves it), but I was able to keep him at bay until I at least had everything in the oven, after which I surrendered the bowl and spoon with a dollop of batter as a peace offering and he willingly retreated to the living room.

After twenty minutes, my S’mores pies looked amazing and very campfire-ish, because the marshmallows puffed and browned slightly at the surface and it just looked like summer and put a huge smile on my face.

smores3

Then to top it off, literally, the recipe instructs you to smoosh pieces of a Hershey bar on top after it comes out of the oven. I used mini Hershey bars, and may or may not have made myself a mini s’more with my mini chocolate and mini marshmallows while lacing my s’mores pies with extra chocolate. Because, well, chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate!

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J and I dug into ours, and I think I can safely say that the birthday girl is going to be delighted! So are my other girlfriends who I have class with tomorrow, because our leftovers will be handed out as well in an effort to moderate the net caloric intake of my household. J was sure to remind me that I need to save him “at least one!” for tomorrow, but if one is going to use baking as a mood stabilizer, one must also make sure to stabilizer portion sizes, which in turn helps stabilize those scale numbers.

At the end of the night, I was in a much better mood. Baking works for me, I’ve figured out, because it’s time I have to do something I enjoy without THINKING. Because most of my THINKING turns into FRETTING, and the fretting is what turns into the snipping. While I’m baking instead of fretting, I think my brain starts subconsciously working things out on its own, and by the time I’m turning the oven off a solution or some reassurance seems to magically materialize along with dessert.

After many, many nights spent chasing away bad moods with baking over the course of the past six months, I’ve finally admitted to myself, as well as to a few select people whom I love and trust dearly, that I struggle with depression. That was a very scary thing for me. Mental illness runs on one side of my family, and I’ve always been petrified at the thought of that dark set of traits leaping out of my genetic closet and shoving me down a path of self-destruction, as I’ve seen happen to my mother and several others.

Baking appealed to me so much as a coping mechanism for those moments when depression grabs me because it’s a constructive activity. It makes people happy. It engages someone in a conversation and brightens their day. They express their appreciation for their treat, and in turn, for you. It is a way of connecting with someone and receiving their help without burdening the interaction with heavy conversation. It makes me happy, keeps my hands busy, and keeps my mind settled.

And best of all, who can be sad while eating a s’more?

Chocolate Catastrophe Almost Averted

This was a tough week for J and I. My grandmother died on Monday. She was 89 and ill, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still sucks. We had to drive a state over for the funeral, so I’ve been away from my kitchen for a few days. We got home late last night, and close friends of ours were scheduled to come up from down south to visit us today on their way to another destination. Since its so hard to plan these kind of cross-country visits and we really needed some lighthearted company anyways, we told them to keep our date.

After they got here, the boys took off for the garage to go play with man-toys, and my gal A and I decided that we needed to spend the afternoon making brownies! Because, BROWNIES!!!!! Now, I’ve been on the hunt for The Perfect Brownie Recipe. I have found The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, but those perfect brownies have eluded me. This time, we decided to try this recipe that I found on Pinterest, and the original recipe is over on Life Made Simple – http://lifemadesimplebakes.com/2014/06/thick-chewy-better-boxed-brownies/. 

Things started off well.

To me, the proportions of flour to cocoa powder and wet ingredients seemed a little off, but hey, I like my brownies chewy, so I’ll go with it.

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A and I, of course, managed to get chocolate ALL OVER my kitchen as we “tested” the batter, which we had to clean up quickly so A’s sweet little girls, Chloe and Delilah, wouldn’t get an unhealthy dose of theobromine.

puppies

The batter came out fairly thick (and was incredibly tasty, salmonella be damned). The recipe says cook time approximately 25 minutes, give or take one or two minutes. At the 25 minute point, they were looking fully cooked and delectable.

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And then we cut into them. And they were raw. Now, as much as we loved licking the spoon, the goal was fully baked brownies. So we put them back in the oven for five minutes. And then another five. And then another ten….Finally, after another almost 25 minutes in the oven, we came to the conclusion that they were as done as they were going to get. And

they STILL looked like a big, goopy, chocolate catastrophe.brownies4bronwies8

I like chewy brownies, but this was a little ridiculous. You couldn’t even pick one up in a brownie square, they just fell apart in a big chocolate lava puddle.

Ok then, if they’re only edible with a spoon…….

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Chocolate mud a la mode!!!!!!!

A and I snuggled up on the couch to watch the Cooking Channel with our brownies and ice cream, and as each of us got about 1/3rd of the way through our bowl, looked at each other, and went………”oohhffffff TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE”. Which, I know, is blasphemous in some circles….but…….ugh. I feel like I swallowed a chocolate brick. Luckily the husbands stepped in and cleaned up the scene.

Soooooo A and I decided that we need to make our own brownie recipe. Brownies that are edible without a spoon and a stomach pump. But we still had fun! And got some girl time love in, which is much more important than chocolate.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

So last night I was in a downer of a mood. My challenge to myself lately is to learn how to deal with those moods in a constructive manner. Easier said than done, of course, but baking usually works! Especially when I bake something intended to give away to someone. Its the best of both worlds – I get to have fun baking and eat one or two sweet treats, but then I get to give the rest away and avoid having a delicious temptation sit on the counter.

Then I thought, I haven’t been over to my neighbor’s in a while, I should bake something for her! We live next door to our landlord’s parents, very lovely, retirement-age people. They have somewhat adopted J and I, and love to good-naturedly worry over us and check in on us. Often I’ll bake something and walk it over to their house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and spend an hour or two in her cozy kitchen, drinking coffee and indulging in my latest baked good.

The other advantage of baking for someone other than J is that I can make stuff that he doesn’t like (not that there are too many things in that category). Peppermint is a flavor that I am absolutely crazy over, and J doesn’t care for. I also happened to have almost a whole box of leftover candy canes that didn’t get eaten off the Christmas tree this year. So, Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies it was!

I can’t take credit for this recipe – I found it on Pinterest, and the original recipe is over at A Pumpkin and a Princess:

http://apumpkinandaprincess.com/2013/11/double-chocolate-peppermint-cookies.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+APumpkinAndAPrincess+(A+Pumpkin+And+A+Princess)&crlt.pid=camp.rpB4fNCsyoIz

The only change I made was that instead of pressing the candy cane pieces into the top of the cookies, I put them directly into the dough. I thought the candy inside the cookie would be fun, and the candy pieces ended up taking on a delightful chewy texture. I was extremely pleased with them – hopefully my neighbor will like them too!

On a related note, apparently I need to do some googling on food photography. How do all you wonderful food bloggers make your stuff look so pretty?! Do you have special food staging areas? Special lighting? Probably something better to take a picture with than an iPhone. But I could barely keep The Senor off the counter long enough to take a picture of my cookies – he’s very investigative, and apparently really likes the smell of peppermint.

Tomorrow I start my last semester of law school, so I suppose that for the rest of the day I should do all the homework I need to do in preparation for tomorrow, instead of continuing to cook and bake. But then again, I’m planning on putting chicken fajitas in the crockpot …….