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#BetterGoodThings “Waste Not” Edition: Coffee Pudding

5 Jul Coffee Pudding

Coffee Pudding

When Evin (my Better Good Things buddy) and I first bonded via the interwebs it was over an instagram image I had posted of espresso powder while I was in my Mono fueled spiral of exhaustion.  It seemed that Evin and were both simultaneously contemplating ways to inject copious amounts of caffeine into our systems as a motherhood survival tactic.  Since I had been sans-caffeine for several years until my bout with mono, Evin and a few other insta-buddies became my espresso powder spirit guides.  So it was inevitable that espresso powder would one day be the heart of one of our Better Good Things Challenges.

A little disclaimer about this post:  Remember my April BGT post in which Evin was running a bit behind and didn’t have her link up when I posted?  Yeah…. so this was our MAY post that I started writing in APRIL after a race and I’m just now posting it in JULY.  Apparently, I’m the slacker in this pairing.  I would have never know that about myself had I never started a public facing blog that makes my sporadic task neglect so glaringly…. public.

Oh well… what I lack in perfection I make up for in hospitality and charm.  {bats eyelashes adorably}

I’m totally in love with this recipe because it was born from my interest to eliminate waste in our home!  After the final Chuy’s Hot to Trot 5k, The Hubs and I hosted some of our running buddies for breakfast, beer, and coffee…. lots and lots of coffee.  I’ve learned recently that there is very little change of having too much coffee on hand for people after a run, so we made sure we had LOTS of coffee.  As a coffee press family, having lots of coffee on hand necessitates a trip to Starbucks.

Coffee Pudding

Because we have to call in reinforcements for copious amounts of caffeine, having lots of coffee also meant that we also had lots and lots of coffee accoutrements provided by the good people at Starbucks with each carafe. One our gusts have left to go home and nap off thier impressive 5k times, we were left with tons of leftover half and half and sugar.  Knowing that Evin and I had an espresso powder challenge planned I felt inspired to put the Starbucks leftovers to good use.

And this recipe was seriously crafted with the leftovers.

Coffee Pudding

This is exactly how much sugar they gave me…

Coffee Pudding

And this is exactly how much half and half they gave me…

Coffee Pudding

…so that is exactly what I used!

I added in a little cornstarch, salt, and espresso powder (of course) and all of a sudden I had pudding all thanks to Starbuck’s overly-generous provisions!  I let them set in my adorable Le Cruset coffee cups and all of a sudden I had an elevated desert that totally betrayed its leftover status.

When Monday morning rolled around, I served it too my soul mama buddy who brings her little girl over for a standing playdate.  She bartends the night before so I always have an espresso ready for her when she arrives.  She quickly declared this deceptively simple pudding far superior to her regular Monday morning espresso.  Nothing like a little sugar, cream, and espresso to get you ready for toddler princess playtime.

Coffee Pudding

 

“Waste Not” Coffee Pudding

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs cornstarch

Directions: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the half and half with the cornstarch whisking as you add the cornstarch to prevent clumping.

Combine remaining half and half, sugar, salt, and espresso powder in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.  Remove from heat.

Whisk in cornstarch mixture and return to heat, continuing to whisk constantly to prevent clumping as pudding thickens.  When whisk leaves visible ribbons in the pudding, remove from heat and pour into coffee cups.

Cover the surface of each pudding with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Evin made Honey Espresso Skin brightener- check it out!

#FirstontheFirst- Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

1 May Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

It’s hard to believe that this is the final First on the First post!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to virtually cook with such fabulous ladies each month and I’ve definitely been inspired to try things in my kitchen I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  When we set our cooking calendar for this year, the crew agreed to do mille feuilles in May in honor of a little Parisian jaunt I was hoping to take this month- and how exciting that we have finally arrived at our grande finale de joie!

I have to admit that I am secretly also excited to have a momentary platform to address my second greatest pastry pet peeve (behind the “Macaroon” vs “Macaron” debacle… QUIT CALLING THE FRENCH COOKIE A MACAROOOOON!  A macaroon is a Southern ball of coconut.  Not close to the same thing.) and that is simply that a “Napoleon” is not a pastry.  It’s called a mille feuille.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the two- far easier even that deciphering a macaroon/macaron.  I’ve included a guide below:

This is a "Napoleon." *

This is a “Napoleon.” *

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille (Napoleon)

This is a “Mille Feuille”

I hope that helps.

As I set out on this months challenge, I wanted to stray away from the traditional mille feuille… I’ll enjoy the purist version in a proper Parisian patisserie soon enough.  Instead I set out to create a version that was a happy medium between a gussied up banana pudding married to my new favorite way to enjoy a banana- smeared with Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter.

As always, I cheated and bought pre-prepared puff pastry dough- Whole Foods and Durfour still do I better job than I do!  I also made my pastry cream with a combination of granulated white sugar and coconut palm sugar to give it a caramelized depth with no added work.  In the end, it turns out that mille feuilles are insanely simple.

That is… once you master the icing situation…

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Although I’m a total Salvador Dali fanatic, this wasn’t truly my intention. C’est pas mon trip!

This recipe makes two full sheets of mille feuille (the hot mess pictured above is one sheet) so just cut the recipe in half to reduce.

Or make both… so you can practice your pattern skills.  If not, c’est kif-kif- declare it le surrealiste and just dive right in with a fork!

 

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Banane Noisette Mille Feuille

  • 2 prepared puff pastry sheet
  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 large banana, cut into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk with the corn starch and set aside.

Combine the remaining milk and sugar in a saucepan.  Whisk to dissolve sugar and slowly bring to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent scalding.  Remove from heat.

Beat two eggs into the milk and cornstarch mixture.  Separate the remaining four egg yolks- reserving two egg whites for the icing- and beat the egg yolks into the mixture.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the heated milk and add to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from cooking.

Return the heated milk in the saucepan to the stove and return to a simmer.  Pour in the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.  Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and whisk pastry cream until smooth.  Whisk in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.

Pour into a glass bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and chill in fridge for at least six hours.

Once pastry cream has fully cooled and thickened, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out prepared puff pastry sheets  and cut each one into three equal portions.

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lay the first portion of pastry on the baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.  Cover with parchment and top with a glass baking dish to keep the pastry from rising.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden around the edges and remove to a cooling rack.

Repeat with the five other pieces.

Once pastry sheets have cooled, construct the mille feuille.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

Layer:

  1. Puff pastry sheet
  2. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  3. Sliced bananas
  4. Pastry cream
  5. Puff Pastry sheet
  6. Chocolate hazelnut butter
  7. Sliced bananas
  8. Pastry Cream
  9. Puff pastry sheet

Place mille feuille in the fridge as you prepare the icing.

Melt chocolate and 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut butter in a baine marie.  Once melting and thoroughly stirred, transfer to a piping bag and place in a cup until ready to use.

Whisk two egg whites with lemon juice until light and frothy.  Whisk in two cups of powdered sugar, adding more to reach desired consistency.

Pour royal icing over the mille feuille.  Working quickly, pipe stripes of chocolate across the top of the icing and use a toothpick to trace trails through the surface to provide a classic finish.

Banana Hazelnut Mille Feuille

 

More mille feuille madness:

*Napoleon image used under the Fair Use Doctrine from http://www.time.com

Crispy Farro Bars

16 Apr Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Yesterday evening as I was at the pharmacy picking up prescriptions I just may have purchased four Cadbury Eggs and two Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (vile I know… DON’T JUDGE ME!).  The pharmacist smiled, “Preparing for Sunday?”  I hung my head sheepishly.  I can’t and wont give Baby Bird chemical storm candy… but for me? Ugh… okay…

So they weren’t a tiny Easter stash for my child, they were for a full grown adult who knows better.

“I’ve got a toddler with hives… so they’re actually all for me.  Tonight.  Like, in the car,” I confessed, trying to shrink and disappear- digging in my purse for my sunglasses and any other suitable disguise items in case I ran into anyone on my way to the car (or as I sat in my car  binge eating candy eggs).

In lieu of judgement, he offered an earnest suggestion.  “Try making rice crispy treats!,” he said. “This started out as a rotten day.  I’ve had three rice crispy treat and somehow everything seems better!”

It didn’t prevent me from the impending Easter candy massacre, but is was a very sweet sentiment.

And I totally get it, because rice crispy treats are amazing!  Most of use grew up with them, they are inexpensive to make (even when subbing in the organic, non-GMO version of everything), and they will completely dominate a bake sale fundraiser.

Despite it’s lack of real nutritional value, the purist (organic, non-GMO) version of the rice crispy treat will always exist in my kitchen.  I’m an American.  I live in the South.  There will always be a place for it.

In our house, the humble rice crispy treat has also given birth to an elevated offspring- the crispy farrro bar!

It keeps its lineage’s simple gooey, square shaped goodness but gains depth and complexity thanks to the puffed farro and the addition of rich and slightly salty chocolate hazelnut butter.  I urge you to stay away from Nutella in this instance- eat it with a spoon and I wont judge you should you choose (remember the Easter candy debacle above) but it contains its fair share of unnecessary ingredients- including soy- which give it an unnatural smoothness and slightly mask the true flavors that make this bars a stand out.  Amidst the melty marshmallows, you want this fella to scream rich chocolate, sweet hazelnut, and malty farro.

And these will still clean up at a bake sale- even if, every once and awhile, you have to describe them as being “like eating a rice crispy treat with Nutella.”

And just like that, I have treat envy.  The pharmacist was right- I should have left the chocolate eggs and gone home to make some more crispy farro bars!

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

 

Crispy Farro Bars

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 12-15 oz marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 4- 4 1/2 cups puffed farro cereal, unsweetened

Directions: Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper

In a medium saucepan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium low heat until marshmallows are melted.  Stir in hazelnut butter until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in farro cereal.

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and press down evenly with oiled hands (Careful- it’s hot!) or with another sheet of parchment.

Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

Homemade Gummy Hearts

26 Jan Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

We’ve got a toddler in the household, so our home runs on the currency of stickers, kale chips, and fruit snacks.  The Hubs hates stickers.  They end up on everything and are a beast to peel off of the tile after he unknowingly grinds them in place on the way out the door for his 5 am run.  I have fingernails, so stickers aren’t my adversary.  I, on the other hand, am opposed to fruit snacks.  Even the organic, naturally flavored ones are just concentrated nuggets of sugar- and that’s not even visiting the food dyes and preservatives in  the supermarket variety.  (Why are these things called “fruit snacks” anyways?  Let’s be real.  Actual fruit- fresh or dried- should be called “fruit snacks” and everything else should be correctly labeled as gummy treats.)  But Baby Bird love both stickers and fruits snacks, so there aren’t getting eliminated- we just needed to find a way to make them better!  Happily, I discovered this homemade gummy bear recipe from Taralyn over at Undressed Skeleton and was eager to give it a try.

Since Baby Bird loves Valentine’s Day and we are on a heart shaped treats kick at our house (check out our amazingly healthy heart shaped cherry kale pops), I though it would be fun to make little gummy hearts that we could also use as better snacking options to give to friends in place of the go-to red dye 40 laden store bought treats (I’ve totally got my good friend Evin and her struggles with food dyes on the mind).  We stayed pretty true to Taralyn’s recipe and the results were fabulous- sugar free gummy treats packed with fresh fruit!

We had lots of great local citrus on hand thanks to our CSA box, and it was nice to intimately know the source of our ingredients!  We had lots of oranges, Meyer lemons, and lovely key limes so I opted for a citrus medley for the strawberry snacks (1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup key lime, 1/4 Meyer lemon) that would be delightfully tart next to the banana snacks (made with a bit of orange juice) with would naturally be very sweet.

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

The process is insanely simple- simmer the fruit, juice, and -in the case of the strawberry snacks- local honey until very soft.  We opted for local honey in place of the stevia in Taralyn’s recipe for two reasons: a) anything to help with Cedar Fever in the ATX, and b) the jury is still out on stevia in this household.

The simmer process was slightly longer with the strawberries than the bananas, of course.

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

Once the fruit is softened, you pop the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth.  Remove the blender cap to allow the mixture to cool slightly and then add the gelatin and process in the blender once again.

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

Pour the mixture into a pan and pop into the fridge to cool for an hour.  The size of the pan you use for cooling with dictate the width of your gummy treats.  I didn’t want ours to turn out too thin, so I chose containers that would give us thicker treats.  The strawberry recipe also makes roughly double the treats of the banana which I feel is an ideal balance of tart to sweet when tossed together!  Baby Bird strongly prefers the strawberry citrus flavor as she tends to enjoy more complex flavor profiles in her foods.

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

For nice tiny hearts, I used a fondant cutter to cut our shapes.  Once you cut the shape, you have to give it a little jiggle to detach it from the bottom of the pan and it will lift up easily as you remove the cutter.

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

Needless to say, they were a huge it!  It was tough to snatch pictures of them before they disappeared.  Baby Bird figured I had momentarily lost my mind because I was allowing fruit snack consumption without even the slightest frown on my face and she was determined to exploit what she assumed was a lapse in judgement as long as possible.

The simmer process was slightly longer with the strawberries than the bananas, of course.

The texture is nice a firm- far more similar to an actual gummy bear than a jello jiggler- which is awesome.  Before we tried these, I was a little afraid that they would be more like amped up jigglers.  They have also given me high hopes that I can tweak this recipe to make homemade energy gels for our long runs.  Heck, if I can figure that out I may be able to add another distance race to my schedule from all the savings!

Now if I can only figure out how to make homemade stickers that don’t require Mommy’s nails or a putty knife to remove them from the tile…

Homemade Gummy Hearts- sugar free and packed with fresh fruit from Go Running, Mama!

Strawberry Citrus Gummy Hearts

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh citrus juice (at least 1/2 cup orange juice + additional citrus juice of your choosing to create 1 cup)
  • 2 cups diced strawberries
  • 1 tbs local honey
  • 5 packets of unflavored gelatin

Directions: Combine juice, fruit, and honey in a small pan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until strawberries are very soft.

Pour mixture into blender and puree until smooth.  Remove lid from blender and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, add gelatin packets and process in blender once more.

Pour into a pan (the size of the pan you select with affect the thickness of your gummy treats- I chose 8×8) and place in fridge to set for at least one hour.

Remove from refrigerator and cut into shapes.

Makes 200+ gummy hearts (will vary based on size of pan and size of shapes)

Banana Gummy Hearts

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 packets of unflavored gelatin

Directions:

Combine juice and banana in a small bowl.  Mash banana with a fork and stir to combine with juice.  Add mixture to a small pan to simmer for 3-5 minutes until banana is very soft and slightly golden in color.

Pour mixture into blender and puree until smooth.  Remove lid from blender and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, add gelatin packets and process in blender once more.

Pour into a pan (the size of the pan you select with affect the thickness of your gummy treats- I chose 8×8) and place in fridge to set for at least one hour.

Remove from refrigerator and cut into shapes.

Makes 75+ gummy hearts (will vary based on size of pan and size of shapes)

*These can easily be toted as lunch bag or diaper bag snacks, but since these are made with fresh fruit and no preservatives, store in the fridge until you pack them up to send as a treat.

#BetterGoodThings: Healthy Kale Heart Pops

16 Jan Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama! A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

So there is this blogger in the Austin area that I’ve been following for about two years now who writes Food Good, Laundry Bad.  Her name is Evin.  And obviously you know right off the bat that she is pretty solid because, yes, food is really really good and frankly laundry stinks!

Evin and I are opposites.  The kind of opposites that matter for some reason before you have kids and you actually spend time neatly packaging “the sort of person” you are into a neat box as though it somehow makes life easier.  She’s a country gal; I’m about as urban as a Southern hippie can get y’all.  She swears openly in posts; I swear in the closet.  She hates pumpkins; I think pumpkin flavored everything is one of the best parts of fall (Plus, it’s nature’s appetite suppressant… good to know if you’re ever bitten by a Copperhead, prescribed Prednisone to fight your reaction, and are consumed by an unrighteous desire to eat all the things made from carbs.  All of them.  Ever.)  I’ve seen her rail against the perky, the matchy-patchy, the tragically hip, both the over and under informed, and the awkwardly cute (who rightfully need railing against at times because… seriously) and as a former NFL cheerleader turned yogini foodie yupster I’m pretty sure I fall pretty squarely within one of those categories… or many… but I probably deserve some railing against as well in my Moonbeamesque Causehead moments (PCU reference, for the win!)

Basically, as Evin managed to so simply express it via email to me, she is the Duck Dynasty to my Portlandia.

Verrry different programing.

But a funny thing happens when you become a parent.  All of those things that don’t really matter about who you really are start to not really matter when evaluating who someone else is as well.  As a mom, I have plenty in common with Evin.  The most important things.  Compassion.  Love.  Family.

And we both like to prepare and eat really great food.

More than that, we both feel convicted to feed our families the best quality food our budgets allow in the manner that best suits their individual needs.  (So I guess we are both railing against the FDA and Monsanto.)

Evin is dairy free for part of her family and has banished artificial food dyes from her home.  Additionally, as someone who has lost 180 lbs since 2006 (that’s hero worthy stuff right there) she is focused on trying to keep things healthy and unprocessed without having to drive into Austin for unconventional ingredients that are prohibitively costly compared to mass market processed junk that is readily available.  If you don’t know my story, I’m a vegetarian turned carnivore turned raw vegan turned accidental omnivore turned struggling locavore.  Our house is soy, peanut, GMO, and HFC free. We go organic when financially viable, and dye free as much as possible.  We strive to support our local farmers and ranchers.  And we keep things nutrient dense (because I’m feeding a future olympian and a future CEO- you decide which is which).

Together we made a plan to take a kitchen adventure each month to “better up” something our families found to be desirably good things in ways that better meet their nutritional needs without having to spend more than $5 on ingredients we don’t normally stock in our own kitchens. With that, Better Good Things was born.  We’ll be sharing our experiences the Third Thursday of every month which will seriously challenge my inconsistent habit of writing on whim.

This month, with health vacuum of Valentine’s Day celebrations looming ominously in the coming month, we decided to tackle sweetheart treats to provide some better options for our little ones to snack on and share this holiday.  Evin went with this Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothie

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothies- Better Good Things

and I created  Healthy Kale Heart Pops.

Pick your poison.

And enjoy!

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Here’s a little more about how I landed on making Healthy Kale Heart Pops…

About six months ago I discovered a cookbook filled with homemade energy bar recipes- Power Hungry by Camila Saulsbury. Camila also has a blog- by the same name- which is super awesome because fabulous food bloggers are really helping me to keep my cookbook purchasing in check by making their creations easily accessible online but when I find a cookbook that is really something special I like to own it to indulge in the cathartic experience of dogearring, thumbing, and page annotating.  And this one is certainly something special! It’s like someone followed my family around to see what we like doing and the sat down to make recipes that would specifically support our frequently snacking, high energy, healthy, on-to-go, gotta run tendencies with no complaints.

Just as any good home cook will do, I adapt even the finest tuned test kitchen recipe to better meet the specific taste of my family (oh the page annotations!) which is what I’ve don’t with the Crispy Kale Bars from Power Hungry that have morphed into my Healthy Kale Heart Pops.

One of the things I love about Power Hungry is that the recipes rely on ingredients that exist natively in my hippielala kitchen.  In sticking with mine and Evin’s pact, I knew I had to work with things I normally have on hand and spend $5 or under on special additions- I needed lollypop sticks ($1.50) and puffed millet  cereal (which I far prefer to puffed rice, $2.49)… $1.09 to spare!

Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Pretty basic stock ingredients for a yupster kitchen.

Now here’s the true true on this one… please don’t try to pass it off as a lollypop.  It just wont work.  These are totally delicious but they taste nothing like high fructose corn syrup laden bulk treats (thank goodness) and if you’re little one is used to that and you try to pass this off as “the same thing” then everyone is in for disappointment.  Healthy choices start with healthy conversations with honest and positive positioning!

Because, for goodness sake, they obviously contain a green veggie!  And that is a good thing.

Preparing the kale is one of the most important parts of getting this right.  You need to start with fresh, dry kale or else your kale chips end up wrinkled, wilted and sad.  I find that rinsing my kale the night before so it can dry thoroughly and then putting it in a vase the night before ensures it is properly hydrated and full- we’re going back to fourth grade biology, y’all… making sure those vacuoles are full so that the cell walls don’t collapse!

Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Kale is just gorgeous. In the background? Yep, those are my veggies that make up my “flower arrangements.”

Prepare the kale by cutting it off of the tough ribs and tear it into small pieces then arrange it on a baking sheet to dehydrate fully.  The baking/dehydrating is the second key kale step- you want it completely crisp but not terribly browned.  Kale chips are high art!  This method makes fool proof seasoned kale chips as well- just modify by adding the seasonings of your choice.

Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

While your amazingly perfect (seasoning free) kale chips are cooling, toast the grains and then mix with the dried sour cherries and millet cereal.  And here comes the fun part…

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

KALE HANDS!  It’s a great activity for the little ones if they aren’t running around in the nude banging cymbals and singing the Little Einsteins theme song.  Dehydrated kale basically crumbles into kale powder which allows you to easy pull out any remaining tough stems. Stir gently to combine.

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

After combining the liquid ingredients on the stove and mixing them with the dry, press them into a prepared baking pan and compact them very firmly.  Pop ’em in the fridge to set so that they hold their shape when you cut them.

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Remove from fridge and lift out of the pan, using the parchment liner, onto a cutting board.  Cutting the shapes with a cookie cutter uses some decent muscle if you’ve compressed the mixture well.  I like to place a small cutting board on top of my cookie cutter so I can really lay my weight on it without cutting hearts into my hands!

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Because the mixture is tightly compacted (as you’ll realize when you tackle the heart shapes), trying to insert  a lollypop stick would just cause it to crumble.  Using metal barbecue skewer gives you a solid starting point.

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

From that point, it’s super simple to add the lollypop sticks and wrap it all up!

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Et voila!  Eat your heart out, y’all!

 Better Good Things: Healthy Kale Heart Pops from Go Running, Mama!  A better Valentine's treat filled with kale, grains, and cherries!

Healthy Kale Heart Pops

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of curly leaf kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 tbs olive oil + more for pan
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raw pepitas
  • 3 tbs flax seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened puffed millet cereal
  • 1/3 cup dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup almond butter (I used Justin’s Maple Almond)
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • generous 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the kale to bake. Rinse and dry very well. Cut leaves from stem and tear into small pieces.  Toss kale pieces with with olive oil and spread into a single layer across a baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake the kale for 15 minutes.  Toss kale, rotate, and return to oven for 12 more minutes.  Check the kale for dehydrated crispness before removing from the oven.  Return from oven for one to two minutes if needed, watching carefully, to ensure they are crisp but not browned.  Gently remove to a bowl to cool completely.

Return oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper covering the bottom and sides and treat with olive oil.

Spread the oats, pepitas, and flax seeds on the baking sheet lined with new parchment or foil and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, shaking halfway through, until fragrant.  Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the cereal and cherries.

Using your bare hands, crumble the cooled kale leaves into the bowl, picking to remove any fibrous stems that may have remained.  Gently stir to combine ingredients.

Combine the almond butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla bean paste in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring frequently.  Heat 5-8 minutes until sugar has dissolved and mixture begins to bubble.  Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.

Immediately pour into the oat mixture and mix with a spatula until well coated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Press the mixture into the pan to spread into an even layer.  Flatten and firmly compact the mixture.

Refrigerate for at least an hour until firmly set.

Remove from fridge and lift out of the pan, using the parchment liner, onto a cutting board.  Using a 3-inch diameter heart cookie cutter, cut into heart shapes.

Using a metal barbecue skewer, poke a hole in the base of each heart.  Using the skewer hole as a guide, insert lollypop stick.

Makes approximately 15 heart pops.

Top 13 in 2013

2 Jan My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

This blog has been a new adventure for me and, even though it only covered the second half of the year, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my 13 most popular posts of 2013.

It’s been a lot of fun sharing, and I’m excited about another year with y’all!

Top 13 posts in 2013- Go Running, Mama!

13. Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick Me Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors (September)- Forgetting water during a high altitude half marathon, finding out I had mono, and the smoothies that got me through the ordeal!

12. Carrot Top Tacos (July)- Spiced carrots and beans with carrot top chimichurri.  Never, ever waste your carrot tops again.

11. Maple Bacon Biscuits (September)-  Maple.  Bacon. Biscuit.  Trifecta.

10. Gifts from the Heart: Apple Cinnamon Ornaments (December)- An ultra non-toxic clay that makes heavenly scented ornaments or an amazing material for sensory play.

9.  #FirstontheFirst Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Penuche Frosting (October)- We were supposed to make candy, but I cheated and frosted a very yummy cake with this praline-esque frosting.

8. #FirstontheFirst Gateau Larsson (September)- My Scandinavian twist on a traditional Basque dessert.

7.  Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments (December)- These smooth ornaments are an inexpensive (and toddler friendly) alternative to a trip to a ceramics studio.

6. Creamy Garlic Kefir Pasta (July)- A probiotic packed easy meal.

5. Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars (August)- Lunchbox snacks don’t get much healthier.

4. Meeska… Mooska… Mouseka Cakes: Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties (August)- Healthy food tastes even better in Mickey Mouse form.

3. #FirstontheFirst Candy Canes for Cheaters (December)- Once again, we were supposed to make candy.  And I didn’t.  But I think you’ll forgive me when you taste these cookies.

2. Frosty the Cheese Man: Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Tortilla Chips (December)- The most adorable, toddler friendly appetizer you’ll ever bring to a gathering.

1. Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments– Salt dough ornaments are a classic go-to holiday activity.

Looking for even more fun?  Here are my five favorite posts you may have missed this year…

My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

Leftover Bubbly: Strawberry Chiffon Bread with Champagne Glaze

1 Jan Go Running, Mama!-Strawberry Chiffon Bread with Champagne Glaze

It’s the first day of a new year.  Hooray for a new start!  Chances are if you’re an early to bed, no driving on NYE sort of mama like myself, you woke up with a partially used bottle of bubbly on your counter.  I hate waste, especially when it means wasting something like champagne so there is a tinge of guilt associated with those leftovers.

Now, if you’re a Diana Vreeland devotee you’re completely unconcerned about that bottle at the moment because you’ve already committed to washing your blonde child’s hair in dead champagne… you know, as they do in France. (Note to self: ask the French parents about the accuracy of this DV assertion next year when Baby Bird starts international school)  But if you subscribe to Ms. Vreeland’s line of thinking, you also keep a furry elk hide trunk in the back of your car and own twelve diamond roses of varying sizes.  And you possibly believe that every little girl should have geisha training.  So we probably have very little in common and you won’t end up reading my blog.

For those of you who aren’t queueing up your blonde children for a dead champagne hair washing (and haven’t scheduled geisha training for your nine year old), might I recommend a two yummy uses for your leftover bubbles?  I’m head over heels in love with Kate’s  champagne bread recipe over at Food Babbles.  It’s ever so slightly sweet, and makes a simple, beautiful loaf.  I’ve been known to open a bottle of prosecco just to make it… which left me with the same half abandoned bubble bottle dilemma each time and is how Strawberry Chiffon Bread with Boozy Champagne Glaze came to exist.

I realize that strawberries are out of season right now but, because this recipe relies on mashed strawberries, the frozen variety will stand in nicely.  Thanks to the whipped egg whites this bread stays nice and light so long as you keep a light hand when folding them into the batter.  It’s champagne and strawberries in breakfast form!

Cheers, y’all!

Go Running, Mama!-Strawberry Chiffon Bread with Champagne Glaze

Strawberry Chiffon Bread with Boozy Champagne Glaze

Ingredients for bread:

3 eggs, separated + 2 additional egg whites
1 c olive oil (plus additional if needed)
1 ½  c sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 generous cups mashed strawberries, washed & hulled, do not drain
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4  tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Ingredients for glaze:

½ c butter
¼ c water
1 c granulated sugar
½ c champagne

Directions: Preheat oven to 325.

Combine egg yolks, oil, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix until well blended.  Add strawberries (including liquid).

In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and gradually add to strawberry mixture.  At this point the batter will be a little thick, but should be smoothly incorporated and not dry.  If batter seems too dry, slowly add more olive oil or mashed strawberry.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until still peaks form.  Carefully fold egg whites into batter until well incorporated but not deflated egg whites.

Pour into two loaf pans fully lined in parchment paper.  Bake 50-55 minutes.

Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan.  Stir in water and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes on med-high, stirring constantly.  Mixture will become bubbly and thick.

Remove from heat and add champagne, whisking until smooth.

Remove warm bread from loaf pan still wrapped in parchment and place on a cooling rack.  Using a toothpick, poke holes in bread being careful not to pierce through the bottom of the parchment.

Slowly pour glaze over loaves, allowing it to seep into the toothpick holes.  Loosen parchment from the sides of the bread in order to coat the sides of the loaves, but do not remove parchment yet.

Let bread soak to absorb glaze for at least 30 minutes before removing the parchment paper.

#FirstontheFirst: Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 Jan Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

It’s a new year, y’all!  And thanks to our First on the First subject du jour, I’m kicking the year off by baking with an entire twelve months worth of richness- Sticky Toffee Pudding!

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

I can remember the first time I had sticky toffee pudding- I was at at Rose & Crown Pub at Epcot’s British Pavilion trying to hold custody of an amazing  waterfront table long enough to see Illuminations so I was slowly and systematically ordering my way down the appetizer menu when things looked appealing… which left me with limited options as Americanized traditional British pub grub just isn’t my cuppa tea. After exhausting all of my appetizer options, I decided to make friends with the dessert menu just in time for fireworks which is where I happened upon sticky toffee pudding.  By name it doesn’t seem very appealing but my patient yet slightly exasperated waitress recommended it so I decided to give it a go… and it was amazing!  Tender and moist, sweet but not cloying, with a depth of flavor I had never experienced in dessert.  Fireworks! An A+ to my young palate.

In the years since, I’ve tried sticky toffee pudding elsewhere and never really enjoyed it.  It always seems too sweet, excessively dense, and pointlessly rich.  I’ve not had it again at WDW though, so maybe there is a bit a ever present Disney magic in their recipe.  Or maybe it’s the fact that without the accompaniment of spectacular fireworks, sticky toffee pudding is just another dessert worthy of critique.

Either way, when I set out to make sticky toffee pudding my own I knew I wouldn’t be serving it next to fireworks and a spherical video display globe so I would probably notice if I produced a dessert with cloying sweetness- talk about pressure!

A little googling taught me that the cake portion of most sticky toffee pudding is usually made with Guiness.  First problem.  We aren’t Guiness drinkers outside of Ireland.  Just like we aren’t Pilsner Urquell drinkers outside of the Czech Republic.  We like our food at its best and freshest, so we apply the same rule to our beer in this household.  The Hubs seemed convinced that his current favorite beer, Founders Breakfast Stout, would be the ideal ingredient for sticky toffee pudding and I was inclined to agree.  It’s brewed with flaked oats, bitter chocolate, and Sumatra and Kona coffee.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Given that it’s my husband’s favorite beer right now I also decided I wanted it to have a decent presence in the toffee sauce, which would also help to temper the sweetness.  The flavor profile of the beer also seemed to be begging for an extra espresso kick in the sauce, and who am I to deny anyone a little extra caffeine?

As a final solution to the richness/sweetness/density overload I find in sticky toffee pudding, I decided to pour the sauce over the cake just as it is served.  But feel free to pour half of the toffee sauce on the cake immediately to let to soak in should you prefer.

Oats… coffee… maybe we should just call this Breakfast Sticky Toffee Pudding.  That works, right?

And yes, in case you are wondering, the toffee sauce is killer in a latte.

You’ve been warned.

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding- Go Running, Mama!

Breakfast Stout Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding Ingredients:

  • 6 large dates, pitted
  • 1 cup room temperature breakfast stout carefully poured
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour minus 1 tbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Espresso StoutToffee Sauce Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbs breakfast stout

Directions: Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper covering bottom and sides.

Place the pitted dates in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the beer to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. (It will fizz up a lot.) Pour the beer mixture over the dates. Let cool to room temperature.

Transfer the dates to a food processor using a slotted spoon. Add a little of the beer mixture and process until a paste forms. Continue to process, gradually adding the rest of the beer mixture, until the mixture is very smooth. Scrape the date paste into a bowl and keep it covered until ready to use.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half the date mixture and mix just until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining date mixture, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the batter is uniform in color and no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and continue to bake for another 12 to 18 minutes, until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. using the parchment, lift cake out of pan onto a cutting board.  Remove crusts and cut into 2×2 square slices to serve. Serve at once, smothered in Espresso Stour Toffee Sauce, or reheat for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven if serving later.

Bring sugar, cream, espresso powder, beer and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow boiling to subside before spooning over cake slices. Store in refrigerator and rewarm gently before using.

#FirstontheFirst: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Check out some other fabulous Sticky Toffee Pudding Options from our other First on the First bakers:

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hand Heart Cookies

15 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We’ve got hearts and hands on the brain at our house right now.  Baby Bird and I send lots of time talking about feelings and sharing affirmations, and it seems that hands and hearts are frequently in the rotation.

“I like your gentle hands… thank you for your caring heart… I’m glad I had your helping hands around… I appreciate your kind heart.”

These are good times, my friends.

It also makes it extra special to make our favorite cookie gifts for the helping hands in our lives since Baby Bird is becoming  hyper-aware of how kindness and helping affect her day and the lives of those around her.  Dance teachers, tutors, neighbors, and the nice ladies that give her big hugs at Daddy’s office- kindness deserves to be recognized and affirmed.

When making gifts I like Baby Bird to be as involved as possible in each step, and cookies are a pretty perfect way to engage her because she can contribute to each step.

I pre-measure all of our ingredients and let her add them to the bowl.  With a little help, she’s a great whisker too!  I even let her run the final pass of the rolling pin when rolling out our cookie dough.

And of course, her hand print creates the cookie shape for this gift.  I create a stencil of her hand and then hand cut the cookies from the dough with a knife.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

I also create a heart outline stencil.  Once I’ve cut the cookies I lay the stencil over each one, paint the interior of the stencil with an egg wash, and let Baby Bird sprinkle the stencil with colored sugar.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We let the cookies cool completely on a rack… which is normally when Baby Bird volunteers to “help” taste them.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Once they are cool, Baby Bird gets to decorate the cookies with cookie markers all by herself!  She is always so proud of this part because she gets complete creative control.  And she always snaps a few “fingers” along the way, so I’ve learned to make about half a dozen more cookies than we need.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

The end result is beautiful in a way that only gifts made by a toddler can be- so sweet!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Then we bundle up a pair of hands (right and left!) and attach a note thanking our special friends for their helping hands!  It makes a great gift for people who aren’t close enough to us to truly want a toddler made craft to hang on the tree or display in their home- but who would probably do so out of politeness- but who deserve a heartfelt gift for the way they contribute to our lives.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Helping Hand Sugar Cookies with Sanding Sugar Hearts

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some additional for rolling)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk for egg wash
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • colored sanding sugar

Directions:  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 whole egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide dough in half and flatten into disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze for about 20 minutes to firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove one disk of dough and let stand 5 minutes.  Roll dough 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut handprints by hand or using a cookie cutter.  Carefully transfer handprints to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in freezer for 8-12minutes.

Combine egg yolk with 1 tbs water to make an egg wash.

Remove from freezer, place heart stencil over each cookie, paint with egg wash, and sprinkle on colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 8-15 minutes depending on handprint size and thickness.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack using a spatula.

Repeat with remaining dough.

#FirstontheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters

1 Dec

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Wow… It’s been exactly two months since I managed a post.  Yikes!

In my defense, it’s been a busy period.  One of the drawbacks of being a “just for fun” mommy blogger is that- regardless of how awesome a post idea is in you mind- ideas don’t always make it to the blog when things get busy or hectic or busy or fun or busy or scary or busy or deliberately relaxed.  So in the past two months half-started blogs about why ACL is far more awesome with a toddler, a child-free NYC trip, turning 33, letting mono dominate my training schedule (or lack thereof), incredibly amazing two ingredient (for real) cookies, great uses for leftover champagne (yes… sometimes there are leftovers!), and what to do should your child have a febrile seizure have stacked up in the queue.  And each one seemed like a weird place to pick back up after a hiatus, so I abandoned them one by one with plans to “get back to them when things calm down.”

So be anxiously awaiting my post about why ACL is better with a toddler when Baby Bird goes off to college.

Sometimes it’s hard to just pick back up with a project that you’ve stepped away from- it feels a little foreign at first.  Where to begin…

With a First on the First post, right!?

It seems like the perfect place.

Except I’m totally cheating this round.  You know, because of the holiday season and toddler life and that whole febrile seizure thing mentioned above.

We were supposed to make candy canes.  Real ones.  Candy.  Copper pans, thermometers, and such.

My patience has been worn to the minimum over the past two weeks- I’m using my carefully rationed daily dose for my toddler and husband and NOT for a candy experiment that would undoubtedly mock me relentlessly on the first three trials in my last minute attempts at perfection.  So in the true spirit of First on the First pushing us to pursue something we haven’t before tried in the kitchen, I’m making my candy canes in the form of a cookie.

Not just cookies shaped to look like candy canes, but designed to taste like them as well.  Peppermint… or chocolate peppermint should you so desire.  Plus, they are far more conducive to tiny helping hands then boiling hot sugar (little hands might make them less “pretty” than they would be if just Mama made them, but I’ll take a happy toddler over flawless cookies any day!).

My first on the first buddies will forgive me.  I just know it.  We’re connected by the compassionate spirit of all holiday bakers.

We know that sometimes kitchen adventures just aren’t meant to pan out on that attempt.  The kitchen gods can be cruel.

And we know the healing power of a good cookie.

Cheers to that, dear friends!

*clink*

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Canes for Cheaters- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

For these cookies, you only need to pick two dough options to pair together.  Mix and match to suit your fancy!

Red Peppermint Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  • red food coloring

White Almond Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Dough:

  • 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup + 4 tsp powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp beaten egg (roughly 1/2 of an egg)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Start with your first dough option.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Add eggs and extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture while mixing on low speed.  If making peppermint dough, once mixed slowly add red food coloring to achieve desired color intensity.

Roll dough into a ball, cover with a damp towel and set aside.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Pick two… or go all out and double up on the peppermint so you can make both kinds!

Prepare your second dough option following the same procedures.

Portion both doughs into 24 balls of each color.  Roll each ball into a rope about 6 inches in length.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Place two ropes of differing colors together and press together gently without altering the shape.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Carefully twist and transfer to a baking sheet or cutting board, shaping into a hooked candy cane shape.  Place in the freezer for ten minutes to firm while working with the remaining dough.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Bake for about 9 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Makes two dozen cookies.

#FirstotheFirst: Candy Canes for Cheaters-Peppermint Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Eager to try your hand at legitimate candy canes?  Check out the other #FirstontheFirst posts this month: