How Sweet It Is: Baking Treats for IOS Customer Appreciation Day

Steve’s store held its annual customer appreciation day on Saturday and I was asked (and paid!) to make a few different treats for the festivities.  They had a hotdog/hamburger cart (which had the best veggie burgers ever), as well as a bouncy house for the kids to go crazy in.

I usually experiment in the kitchen trying to make indulgent treats like cakes and cookies into something a little healthier, and the people at Steve’s store are always happy to taste test some on my creations.  So, when I was asked to make the treats, of course I knew that they had to be a healthier version of your average dessert.  I came up with a list of options for Steve’s boss to choose from, and she ended up picking out five things to be served on Saturday.  I was super excited because I was getting paid to play in the kitchen, but I was also incredibly nervous because my tiny little kitchen was supposed to turn out about 300 tasty treats in one night.

I got home around 5 o’clock on Friday and savored the sight of my clean kitchen for a few minutes before starting to work.  I knew that with all the stirring, whisking, and baking action that would be going on over the next six hours, my nice and sparkly kitchen would be replaced with something that looked like a tornado just spun through it.

And I was right.  I snapped this picture after I had loaded the dishwasher and cleaned up a little, so it definitly doesn’t do the extreme mess much justice.

Overall things went pretty smoothly and I was able to make delicious treats for 200ish people and thankfully everything was eaten by the end of the day.  I didn’t see anyone gag as they took a bite of my whole-wheat, semi-healthy treats, so that was a plus in my book.

I used recipes from some of my favorite blogs, but did a bit of healthy editing by using whole-wheat flour, reducing the amount of sugar called for, or adding a bunch of cinnamon because let’s face it, cinnamon makes everything better.  I normally replace refined sugar with honey or maple syrup in baked goods, but since I was making a ton of treats and on somewhat of a budget, that wasn’t really feasible.  I think my kitchen saw more sugar being used in a six hour period than it has in an entire year, but I tried to at least cut the amount of sugar the recipe called for in half so it didn’t make me feel too terribly.

So, here’s what I made!

Snickerdoodle Blondies (Vegan and made with pureed chickpeas instead of flour)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Peanut Butter Brown Rice Crispy Treats with Sunflower Seeds (Vegan)

Whole Wheat Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

Cinnamon Honey Popcorn

You can find the recipes here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Once I got everything set up on Saturday, I was happy to hang out with Socrates and secretly observe the people gathering around the food table.  Everything seemed to be a hit, and having a couple of vegan options proved to be much appreciated.

We went for dinner at Zucca Pizza, a new restaurant that opened up a couple weeks ago beside our regular farmer’s market.  They had a guy playing James Taylor and other relaxing music, so it was a pleasant surprise to dine outside and enjoy the music.  Later that night Steve watched a movie while Socrates and I crashed from our tiring day.

First solo baking gig = success!

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

We’ve been getting tons of carrots in our CSA the past few weeks, and I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to use them.  Carrots are probably one of my least favorite veggies, so I usually use them to bulk up a dish like veggie fried rice or spaghetti.  I’d love to be one of those people who just eat carrots raw or dipped in ranch, but that’s just not going to happen (and I have yet to perfect my homemade ranch recipe).  I can tolerate carrots dipped in peanut butter, but it’s still not my snack of choice.  I’ve heard that carrots can be used to help bad doggie breath, so I’m thinking of feeding Socrates about 20 pounds of carrots when I get home today (seriously, that’s how bad his breath is…).

My favorite way to incorporate carrots into my cooking is by using them in sweets.  Carrot cake pancakes have been a breakfast (and dinner) hit in our house, and I recently experimented with these carrot oatmeal cookies.  One of the only good things about carrots is that you can put them in baked goods, like pancakes and cookies, and justify eating a lot simply because it’s packed with nutritious veggie goodness. 🙂

These cookies are actually pretty healthy, but are also still delicious enough to be worthy of the cookie name.  I love that the recipe uses maple syrup, a natural sweetener, instead of refined sugar.  I’m constantly trying to find ways to substitute honey or maple syrup for white or brown sugar in my baking and a lot of times it is hit or miss since you’re dealing with substituting a dry ingredient for a liquid like honey or maple syrup.  Sugar is sugar though, and no matter if I’m using white sugar, honey, or maple syrup, I still try to be mindful of using them all in moderation.

Whole Wheat Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup oat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.)

1 cup shredded carrots (I had a lot of carrots so I used about 1.5 cups)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted until in liquid form)

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or Silpat)

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, oats, and nuts

3. Pat the carrots dry to remove some of the excess moisture, add to the dry ingredients, and mix together

4. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

5. Drop batter onto baking sheets (I used a tablespoon cookie scoop), leaving about 2 inches between each cookie

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are golden on top and bottom

Of course Socrates was waiting patiently to try these out.  He gobbled one up in about half a second, so I assume that he approved.

I did store these in a plastic container and they got really soft/soggy/somewhat inedible.  It may have been due to my impatience in waiting for them to cool completely which created condensation in the container.  I do find that baked goods I make using whole wheat pastry flour get a little soggy once stored, so I’ll be doing a little research to find out how to fix that.

Happy Baking!

Play Time With Jake + Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts Recipe

Steve was in Texas all last week/weekend so it was a perfect time for me to head back to Snow Hill to visit the cutest toddler on the planet (with some work mixed in, of course).  I had to help my mom cater a wedding, but I took the day off on Monday so that left plenty of time to play with Jake and bond with the fam.  I actually took a few pictures of the days adventures, and the pretty weather definitly helped to capture some good shots.

Needless to say, Socrates thoroughly enjoyed his play time outdoors.  It’s rare that he gets to run around freely in the city since he’s not smart enough to not run out in front of the oncoming traffic (silly puppy).  He’s slowly warming up to Jake after over two years of meet and greet sessions, but I still think he holds a slight grudge since Jake stole the love of his Grandma Doris and everything (who could blame him?) 🙂

I scrambled around in the kitchen before I left trying to use up all of my food that may spoil before I returned.  I ended up freezing a bunch of my almost too ripe bananas to make ice cream a little later on this week, but I also decided to try out a banana doughnut recipe that I’d been eyeing for a while (and to finally use the doughnut pan that has been sitting in my kitchen all lonely for the past 6 months).  These were really delicious right out of the oven, especially when coated in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts

recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Yields: 6-8 regular sized doughnuts

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons coconut oil (melted so that it’s liquid)

1 egg

1 banana

2 tbs maple syrup

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease the doughnut pan with butter

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, nuts)

3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana.  Whisk in the milk, oil, egg, and maple syrup.  Pour the liquid into the dry and stir until just combined

4. Using a pastry bag or ziplock bag with the corner cut off (I used a pancake pen), squeeze the batter in even circles around the doughnut pan

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until doughnuts spring back to the touch.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then flip onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the doughnuts were cooled, I sprayed them lightly with olive oil (butter would also work, I just didn’t have any) and then dunked them in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  These are sweet enough on their own but I think the cinnamon sugar topping really gave them an extra boost.  Either way, Socrates and I couldn’t keep our hands (paws) off of them!