I'm not getting tired of my social media feeds being filled with holiday cookies...I love it. We've had our first snow falls recently, shopping is almost done (I think) and I can feel winter setting in. I know many people long for sunny days and beaches, but I truly am a four season person. I wouldn't want to live anywhere without those seasonal changes. Each season brings something different and then it changes just as I'm getting restless with the current weather. Last week's first snowfall reminded me of that winter quiet that sets in after it snows and I love it so I will take it even though I know it comes with clearing cars, messy driving and rushed mornings when we get the word on a school closure.
This week's recipe is one of my favorite flavor combinations with the tartness of cranberries and sweetness of white chocolate. If you love this flavor combo as much as I do, make sure to check out my recent biscotti recipe also. I love oatmeal cookies for their wholesome feel (and it adds a little nutritional punch too!). These are really easy to make and they came with the approval of my whole family, which is a challenge!
Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
(makes approximately 3 dozen cookies)
-1/2 cup butter at room temperature
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 cup flour
-1 cup oatmeal
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 package white chocolate chips
-1 cup fresh cranberries (chopped in halves)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in texture. Add in the teaspoon of vanilla, mix again, and add in the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly incorporate the bowl of dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/eggs/vanilla mixture until the batter forms. Turn off the mixture and fold in the white chocolate chips and the cranberries.
With a small cookie scooper or a teaspoon, scoop the batter onto a greased cookie tray or a tray lined with parchment paper. I placed 12 cookies on each tray. Bake for 12-14 minutes (I tested this recipe at both 12 and 14 minutes- I prefer a softer cookie at 12 minutes but others may prefer a crunchier cookie at 14). Remove from the oven, allow to rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Let's take a moment and talk about how the holidays up the ante on our schedules just a wee bit. I love the holiday season for its natural pause to reflect on our blessings, express gratitude and open our eyes a little bit wider as to where we can help out more when people are struggling. Beyond those heart warming thoughts, there's the snow (yay for first snow fall last night!), the music, the cookies and the gatherings. All amazing, right? They are...but somewhere around mid-December I realize that I've added the shopping, gatherings, and extra food prep without taking anything else out of the schedule. And that's why today's recipe is coming out during this holiday season.
I've been intrigued for a while about baking with lavender but I only recently took the plunge after getting out for lunch at Pickity Place in New Hampshire, which I would highly recommend! The gift shop is full of herbs (grown and dried on site) and I came across a container of culinary lavender that inspired me to begin this baking adventure. Although lavender typically brings thoughts of spring, this time of year leads me to thinking about ways to relax, which leads me to things like chamomile tea, dark chocolate and lavender. Hence, lavender brownies for the holidays!
I did a little bit of research as to options to incorporate the lavender flavor because I know it can be powerful and too much would not be a good thing. I tried this incorporation two ways. The first way was creating lavender sugar by storing a teaspoon of the dried lavender in an air tight jar with 1 cup of sugar for about one week. I found this flavor to be too subtle with the chocolate. I think it would be a nice option for other flavor combinations, but the rich chocolate of these brownies is a fierce competitor so I needed to strengthen the lavender to keep it noticeable. This brings me to the second option.. I ground 1 teaspoon of lavender in my Vitamix until it resembled a fine powder and then used the ground lavender with the sugar in the recipe. The result is a rich brownie with a hint of lavender in the chocolate. I hope you enjoy these and take a moment to slow down during this full month.
(makes 12 servings)
-1/2 cup butter at room temperature
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp culinary lavender ground into a fine powder
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking powder
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and lavender until creamy. Add in eggs one at a time and continue to mix on low/medium speed until incorporated. Pour in your vanilla extract and mix together. Keeping the speed on low, pour in the dry ingredients and continue mixing until the wet and dry ingredients are fully integrated. Spray an 8"x 8" baking pan with non-stick spray or butter the pan to prevent the brownies from sticking once baked. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan with a rubber spatula (this batter is thick). Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until you can see the middle of the brownies is set and an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean (I think that a little fudgy texture in a brownie is a good thing). Allow the brownies to cool in the pan, then slice and enjoy. Don't forget to brew that chamomile tea, sit by the window and watch the snow!
I'm a chocoholic. I find a way to get chocolate into my diet daily and I have zero plans of changing this....ever. My littles have clearly inherited this trait too. I recently hid a small supply of my Irish chocolate from my fall trip in the freezer and I went to get it one night this week to find EMPTY WRAPPERS! My littles had found it, eaten it and then left the wrappers in the freezer as if they were still full. Heart breaking to find at 8PM after a long day. It's a good thing they're cute.
This week's recipe is a vegan chocolate truffle that has only a few ingredients and it's super rich and decadent. They feel like little rule breakers because they're just that cozy (I may or may not be eating one of these right now). Chocolate and orange has been one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations since I was a kid and the ginger adds a bit of a holiday twist. The recipe isn't complicated but it does require a little bit of time and planning ahead but I swear to you that they're worth it.
Vegan Orange Ginger Chocolate Truffles
(makes approximately 18 truffles)
-1 can full fat coconut milk (it's very important that you don't use light coconut milk- we need the fat for this recipe!)
-2 x 10z packages of vegan chocolate chips (I used Enjoylife Foods Chocolate Chunks)
- 1 1/2 tsp orange extract
-zest of 2 small oranges
-3/4 tsp ground ginger (I kept the ginger flavor subtle but feel free to kick it up a notch if you love your ginger)
-1/4 cup of ginger cubes (I find these in the section of the grocery store with nuts, dates etc.)
Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before you plan to make this recipe (I just put mine in the fridge when I get home from the grocery store and then it's ready to go when I need it because I will likely otherwise forget to do this step). The refrigeration of the full fat coconut milk causes the fat or cream to separate from the water in the can.
Open the refrigerated can of coconut milk and scoop out the thick cream. It's ok if you get a little bit of the water as well but try to minimize it as much as possible. Place the cream into a saucepan (it ends up being just slightly less than a full cup of cream) and place on medium heat on the stove and stir regularly as it heats up. The cream starts with a lumpy appearance and then smooths out as it heats evenly. Heat to the point that you can see steam coming off of it (you don't need to bring it to a boil). Remove the coconut milk from the heat and then pour in 1 x 10z package of vegan chocolate chips and stir immediately and continuously as the chocolate melts into the coconut milk. Once all of the chocolate is smoothly melted and stirred into the milk, add in the orange extract, the ground ginger and the zest of 1 of the small oranges. Stir until the extract, zest and ginger is all incorporated. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl, cover and chill for at least one hour. I give the chocolate mixture a stir every 15-20 minutes while it's in the fridge to even it out as it begins to set from the outside in.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You'll know the chocolate mixture is set as it will have the texture of really thick mud and feel difficult to stir a spoon through it. Once set, remove it from the fridge. With clean hands, scoop out a portion of the chocolate with a small spoon and roll into a ball by hand. Your hands will get very messy here...it's all good. Place the chocolate ball on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and repeat this step until all of the chocolate is rolled into small balls and lined up on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer to set for 15-20 minutes.
Roughly chop the ginger cubes into small pieces and ensure you have your zester and second small orange nearby. Using a double boiler or create your own by placing the chocolate into a heat safe bowl on top of a saucepan with boiling water, melt half of the second package of vegan chocolate chips by stirring frequently (I suggest using a rubber spatula). Note: I complete this step of the recipe in two batches as the dipped chocolate truffles will set very quickly.
Remove the chocolate balls from the freezer and remove the melted chocolate from the stove. Using a metal skewer, dip each chocolate ball into the melted chocolate, use the rubber spatula to help bring melted chocolate from underneath and cover the entire ball. Return the dipped truffle to the parchment paper. Repeat this step until you have used up this batch of melted chocolate (approximately half of the chocolate balls will be dipped). Immediately top the covered truffles with a piece of cubed ginger and zest some of the orange over top of the truffles as a garnish. Melt the second half of the package of vegan chocolate chips and repeat this entire section with the second batch of melted chocolate and the other half of the chocolate balls. If you have a small amount of melted chocolate left over, use a fork to drizzle a little bit over each piece of cubed ginger and place the tray of completed chocolates in the fridge to set.
Store these in the fridge in an air tight container. These make adorable little gifts in a tissue paper lined box or tin, or just pull one out and enjoy anytime you want a mini-luxury chocolate break.
Happy holidays everyone!
New England wife and mom. Faith, fitness, yoga, baking, cooking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.