The Crunchy Cookie

Equal parts deliciousness and hippiness

When I read this article on NPR.org by my friend Eve, I immediately started salivating.  She discovered five delicious cupcake recipes that incorporate such non-traditional baking ingredients as black beans and whole oranges… three are even gluten-free!  These recipes are really what the Crunchy Cookie is all about: balancing indulgence (a tasty treat) with caring for yourself (swapping high fat and low nutrition ingredients for nutritious, whole foods).  I’m reposting Eve’s recipes for orange cardamom cupcakes with orange yogurt icing and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting below but I encourage you to check out the original article for her insights and more recipes.  Enjoy!

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes With Orange Yogurt Icing
Eve Turow for NPR

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes With Orange Yogurt Icing

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For Cake

2 medium-size, thin-skinned oranges, preferably seedless*

6 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (approximately 8 green cardamom pods)

For Frosting

1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons orange zest, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Candied orange peel, optional

* This recipe would also work with 4 to 5 clementines, or 15 to 20 kumquats; or, if you skip the cardamom, 3 lemons

  1. Scrub the oranges and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut the fruit in half and remove all of the seeds (otherwise the cake will be bitter).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Put the oranges, peel and all, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or blender and puree. Measure out 1 1/4 cups.
  4. Then, with a food processor, beat the eggs with the sugar and baking powder at medium-high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Add the ground almonds and cardamom and mix well. Slowly mix in the pulped orange. Spray or add liners to your cupcake pan and pour the batter in, about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the top begins to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Place cakes on a rack to cool.
  6. Combine all frosting ingredients in a bowl, mixing with a spoon until smooth and thoroughly mixed.  Spread frosting on top of cooled cupcakes with knife or spatula. Top with extra orange zest or candied orange peel. For children, orange jelly beans or sprinkles can be fun garnishes.
Close-up of a red-velvet cupcake before frosting

Eve Turow for NPR

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

For Cake

15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Red sprinkles, optional

For Frosting

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon honey

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Add beans to a strainer and rinse well. Puree beans, vanilla extract and eggs in a blender or food processor. Add yogurt and continue to blend until all lumps are removed. Pour into a bowl and add cocoa powder, food coloring and sugar. In another bowl, mix together baking powder, baking soda and vinegar. The mixture should begin to fizz. Add to batter and mix in.
  3. Grease cupcake pan or add cupcake holders and pour the batter in, about 4/5 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Place cakes onto a rack and cool.
  4. For frosting, mix cream cheese, sugar and honey until smooth in a food processor, mixer or blender. Spread on top of cupcakes with a knife or spatula, adding red sprinkles if desired.

Hello from the Windy City!  DG and I have made the trek from the Bay Area to Chicago all in one piece!  We did a straight shot from Marin in less than 40 hours and only stopped for gas, which I do not recommend.  Next time I do a road trip, I would like to enjoy the journey and maybe even stop to see the nation’s largest ball of twine.

So now that we’ve arrived, first thing’s first: I needed to find my local farmers’ market.  Luckily, I knew just where to go: LocalHarvest.org, an online community that helps locate organic farms, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSAs), and more!  They have an online store, links to blogs and forums (great for seasonal recipes), events, and a newsletter you can subscribe to or peruse online.  LocalHarvest.org helped me find Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand: easy walking distance from my new digs and open six days a week!  Here are my favorite tips for “farming the market” right:

  • Use durable, reusable bags (like cotton totes or Chicobags) to transport your fresh produce and keep it protected.
  • Chat up vendors about their growing process–learning how the food is raised and delivered to you can be quite enlightening!
  • Ask for hidden treasures: you never know when you might find organic farmers who simply haven’t paid for the certification (passing the savings on to you!), a great family recipe, or a deal if you stock up!
  • Do the ‘once-around’– scope out all the stalls once before deciding on what you’ll be eating, especially if you’re purchasing eats for a meal you’ll be preparing later.
  • Don’t hesitate to come towards closing time: the goods are mostly likely just as good but the prices may drop as vendors try to unload their wares before closing time.

Happy shopping!

Do you want to spread the word on your local farmers’ market?  Have great shopping tips?  Share in the comments section below!

My 14th birthday stands out in my memory for a simple reason: chocolate.  A few of my friends (hi Holly, Brooke, Jacque, etc.!), aware of my love for all things cocoa, pitched in and bought me a 10 lb chocolate bar from Costco.  I arrived to my freshman homeroom to find this behemoth of a chocolate bar on my desk and was completely thrilled and stunned.  It lasted quite a while, I might add: my parents finally resorted to giving bricks away to dinner guests as they left.

A dozen years later, I’m thrilled for another reason:  research has shown that dark chocolate has a myriad of health benefits, including antioxidants and heart-healthy cocoa phenols that lower blood pressure.   But there is a downside, and I’m not simply talking about the extra calories that come from overindulgence in dessert.  It appears that my love for chocolate helps perpetuate child labor and slavery in the Ivory Coast, the country responsible for 43% of the world’s chocolate supply. It’s estimated that as many as 15,000 children are enslaved on chocolate plantations in the Ivory Coast. That’s pretty disgusting.

Luckily, TransFair USA, the only third-party certifier of fair trade products in the US, has a handy tool that helps you find fair trade products near you. And not only does it help me feed my chocolate addiction responsibly, but it has information on how to order fair trade-certified coffee at Starbucks and even on where to buy fair trade flowers for special occasions. Makes things more palatable for everyone.

My favorites are Dagoba’s Conacado Organic Chocolate Bar (73% cacao; $3.45 per 2 oz bar) and Endangered Species Chocolate’s Organic Dark Chocolate Bar, which has the added bonus of supporting conservation efforts (70% cacao; $3.99 per 3 oz bar).

What are your thoughts on fair trade? Do you have any favorite brands or companies that sell fair trade products? Is there a better alternative out there? Let me know in the comments section or email me at sarah@thecrunchycookie.com!

All year, I look forward to summer berry season.  I grew up in Oregon (the nation’s leading producer of berries, woot!) where you could buy flats of strawberries at a stand in my high school parking lot for ridiculously low prices.  I would come downstairs every morning to find that my dad had left a colander filled with berries in the sink for the family to add to cereals or just snack on.  Ah, memories…

For two years now, I’ve made this recipe most summer mornings and it’s made me look forward to breakfast.  It has a great blend of fiber, protein, and carbs to start my day off right.  It’s also quick to make and easy to tailor to your tastes.  Enjoy!

Sarah’s Summer Parfait

Ingredients

-2-4 tablespoons ground flaxseed (I like Bob’s Red Mill Ground Flaxseed)

-1 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I like Nancy’s Organic Nonfat Yogurt)

-3/4 cup berries

-Honey or agave nectar to taste

Directions

Spoon flaxseed and yogurt into a bowl and stir.  Add berries on top and drizzle with your preferred sweetener (if desired).  Enjoy!

Notes and Variations

Ground flaxseed is a good source of fiber (two-thirds of the fiber is insoluble fiber and one third is dietary), so feel free to add more to enhance the dish’s nutty flavor and to up the fiber content.  Dietary fiber helps you feel full while insoluble fiber keeps food moving in your digestive system.

On occasion, I’ll mix in a tablespoon of matcha green tea or a half-teaspoon of powdered cardamom for a different flavor.

Interestingly, the two companies I recommend in this post are both from Oregon.  Coincidence or do Oregonians just make good food?  I’m leaning towards the latter in a completely unbiased way.  :)

Have you created your own summer breakfast staple?  Let me know about it in the comments or by emailing me at sarah@thecrunchycookie.com!

In my hometown of Eugene, Oregon, there is a place called Café Yumm!  Café Yumm! serves delicious bowls of rice, beans, and assorted toppings with something called Yumm! Sauce™, which is like liquid crack if crack were made from deliciousness and not, you know, ammonia.  How much do I love Yumm! Sauce?  I love it so much that my best friend overnighted me a bottle for my birthday (love you, Liz!) and it was the best gift ever.  But now, I’m out and longing for a fix.  So I perused the Web and found this great recipe.  As you read through it, notice how many things in here are actually good for you: chickpeas are a good source of fiber, almonds are a heart-healthy source of protein, etc.  Yumm! Sauce is egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free.  It liberates pretty much everything (ba-dum shee!).  I’ve made some minor changes to the recipe, and I owe a great debt to MalySheff on Recipezaar.  Enjoy!

Yummy Sauce

Yields 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canola oil (preferably cold pressed)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (for a creamier sauce, use almond flour)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (available at Whole Foods and other health food stores)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas or garbanzo beans, cooked
  • 1/4 cup soybeans, cooked
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend the oil and almonds or almond flour until smooth.
  2. Add all other ingredients and puree until smooth and creamy.
  3. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, but at least one hour.
  4. Serve on brown rice and black beans with salsa, avocado, and sour cream for a delicious, Café Yumm!-like experience!