You Are What I Bake For You: The Granola Muncher

Perhaps you’re not familiar with the Granola Muncher. Usually, he or she can be found by following the signature crunching sounds of oats and nuts baked together with honey. Also, they can be spotted by their haphazard hair: a ponytail that slept the night in a tent on the ladies or a shaggy style that hasn’t been trimmed in months on the gentlemen. They sport Patagonia puffer jackets, Simple Shoes on their feet and The North Face thermal underwear (even though they’ll claim that brand just isn’t as hardcore as it used to be).

They take on all kinds of career pursuits–from rallying for environmental causes to toiling away in a “creative” industry. Some Granola Munchers believe that you don’t have to work for “the man” in order to sustain one’s lifestyle or have a meaningful experience. No matter what they do or do not do for a living, a Granola Muncher is never without a crunchy handful of granola.

So what do you bake for this personality? What is a Granola Muncher’s Inner Dessert? Easy, Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies. These treats are rich with sustaining fiber, berries, nuts and have a sensible level of sweetness thanks to the white chocolate. Most importantly, this dessert is a cookie, arguably the most transportable dessert. They’re perfect for stowing in a day pack or the cargo pocket on a pair of convertible hiking pants.

The Granola Muncher's Inner Dessert: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Granola Muncher’s Inner Dessert: Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from a recipe found on the back of a package of chocolate chip cookies. Sorry, I don’t know the brand because I got this recipe years and years ago.)

1 cup butter or margarine at room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups quick oats

White chocolate chips (Or if you really want to impress and make the Granola Muncher in your life happy, use carob chips. I personally think they’re a lame substitution for chocolate chips, but they have a spicier flavor that some people like.)

Dried cranberries

Walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F. Cream butter and sugars together. Mix in vanilla and eggs until well blended. Mix in flour, baking powder and oatmeal until combined. Fold in white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and walnuts. Roll into sensibly-sized balls. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Let cool 1 minute before removing from sheet.

Share them with a Granola Muncher, then stuff your pockets with them and go for a hike.

Enjoy!

You Are What I Bake For You: Ms. Claus

Folks, it’s the most wonderful time of the year–we’re hustling and bustling about getting decorations up. Presents purchased and wrapped. We’re cooking holiday feasts and baking holiday treats. Especially treats for the big guy up north. You know who I’m talking about: the Santa Claus. Sometimes kids are even nice enough to make a little something for the reindeer. But, who are we kidding? First, we all know that those reindeer are lady deer. And, behind every good man is an even better woman–Ms. Claus. So why don’t we give this lady credit where credit is due? We all know Ms. Claus is getting the short end of the North Pole, if you know what I mean. And, most people don’t even know her first name! (It’s Sandra. Sandy for short.)

This year, I think you should bake up a batch of Double Chocolate Mint Brownies, put a good dozen in a to-go container with a note saying, “Dear Santa, Here’s a little something for your lady back home. We know it’s not easy staying home year after year with those rowdy elves. Love, Me P.S. I’ve been extra good this year!”

Double Chocolate Mint Brownies are the perfect thing for Ms. Claus because they’re so rich, they’re absolutely sinful. (Something a wife needs after being on the nice list all year.) Ms. Claus doesn’t mess around with her desserts, either. Do you think she batted an eye when Hostess stopped it’s HoHo conveyor belts? Nope, because she knows a good dessert when she sees one. These brownies are moist with the iconic delicate flaky top. They’re chock-full of chunks of chocolate and thanks to Andes Mint Baking Chips, they have just the right amount of zing that keeps the spirit alive up there in the frozen tundra.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Double Chocolate Mint Brownies (You may want to make 2 batches!)

Double Chocolate Mint Brownies (Adapted from a brownie recipe found somewhere on the Internet–oops and sorry for not having the original link!)

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: brownies are all about the inclusions, so don’t get scroogey with the chocolate chips and Andes Mint Baking Chips!

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Chocolate chips to taste (I prefer semi-sweet or even darker)

1 package Andes Mint Baking Chips

It’s all about the inclusions.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Melt butter and chopped chocolate in a double boiler. (This is where I do what I want. I fill a sauce pan with water, put a stainless steel bowl with my chocolate and butter over it. I’ve also filled a frying pan with water and put a sauce pan with the chocolate and butter into that. Do what you can. No fancy equipment is needed.) Stir the chocolate and butter until it’s melted and smooth. Mmmmm!

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl and then pour in the chocolate mixture until well combined.

Whisk in the flour mixture. Then add the mint baking chips. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. I like to cover the edges of the pan with strips of aluminum foil that hang 1-2″ over the batter so my edges don’t dry out. It’s up to you–just make sure you give Ms. Claus good center pieces if your edges are too hard.

Bake until top is shiny and set and sides have begun to pull away. This is about 35 minutes and will make the most decadent fudgy brownies.

You know the drill: let them cool and cut up into portions you find reasonable. Ms. Claus will surely approve.

Enjoy!

You Are What I Bake For You: The Dieter

You’d think the Dieter is a difficult person to bake for, but not really. Despite the fact that they’re on a perpetual diet, trying the newest techniques and avoiding the latest buzzword ingredients (even though they may not actually know what it is or what it does to you), they’ll eventually come around to indulging in a baked treat.

Sure, they may decline the offer of a cookie at first, but leave those same treats in the office kitchen and you’ll come back to see a half cookie–the Dieter’s calling card. Because, half a cookie is more sensible than a whole cookie. At least, that’s how they justify it. Heck, isn’t that how we all justify it?

When baking for them, you must be sensitive to their dietary restrictions or at least the fact that they’re on a diet. You wouldn’t make peanut butter cookies for someone you know has a nut allergy, right? That’s why Better For You Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies are the way to go. The ingredients have amped-up perceived health benefits, the cookies still taste delicious and the Dieter will be able to justify eating a WHOLE cookie once you explain the healthful components.

Let’s get started!

Better For You Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Better For You Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (adapted from a recipe I got off the back of an off-brand bag of chocolate chips a long time ago)

1 cup real unsalted butter; Mention that this avoids chemicals and the general artificial status of margarine.

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour; Don’t forget fiber is good for you in more ways than one.

1 teaspoon baking soda

12 oz. 62% cacao chocolate chips; Remind the Dieter that the darker the chocolate, the healthier, right?

approximately 1 cup chopped walnuts; Call out all of the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla and egg and mix well. Mix in the flours and baking soda. When doughy, fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Roll dough into sensibly-sized balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes.

Enjoy and don’t forget to tell the Dieter the healthy “benefits” of these cookies!

You Are What I Bake For You: John, My Younger Brother

I’ll start out by saying that John is one hellava guy. I’m 5 years older than him, so I was was still pretty self-consumed throughout the first few years of his life. But, when he was just the cutest toddler you’d ever seen, all of us older siblings (he is the youngest) would ask each other, “Can you imagine John in middle school? What about in college?” We thought it was impossible for him to ever get old. Who knew he’d turn out like this?

Me and John

Or this?

Biking on Coastal Trail in Anchorage

John marches to the beat of his own drum–for the better. He studied philosophy in college, then forging a career, turned around to pursue a journalism/PR degree. He’s pretty much the only person I know who has such good persuasion skills that he actually got paid to write reviews of his campus’s public bathrooms for his college’s newspaper–he was the self-proclaimed “Latrine Dean.” (And, he did an upstanding job at it, too, even getting a female counterpart to check out the ladies room. How’s that for equality?)

He has a cat. He plays the guitar and piano. He’s even laid down a few tracks. He rides his bike to work in the summer because he can and it extends the life of his car that’s loaded with metaphors. He’ll take you up a mountain and when you fall, he’ll only laugh once he sees you’re not hurt that bad. He does things like grow his hair out for a whole year, despite the fact that at one point, from the back, he began to be mistaken for our mom.

John’s Inner Dessert is No Bake Cookies. There’s something undeniably wholesome about John (thus the oatmeal). Yet, there is a bit of undeniable quirkiness to him (thus the fact that you don’t bake these cookies). Plus, John once told me that my No Bakes were better than a particular sister’s. Ha!

No Bake Cookies

No Bake Cookies (Doesn’t everyone have this recipe? This particular one is from my brain because I committed it to memory by making these almost every single day during a summer or two as a kid.)

2 cups sugar

1 stick butter/margarine

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (or whatever looks good) peanut butter

3 cups (or however dry/moist you want them to be) oatmeal

Put the sugar, butter, cocoa and milk into a saucepan.

First few ingredients in pan.

Stir it up a bit, then turn on the heat to medium. Stir regularly until the butter is melted and the mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat. Splash in the vanilla. Scoop in the peanut butter. Give it a swirl or two.

I always eyeball my peanut butter. Why dirty up a measuring cup?

Pour in the oatmeal and stir it up. Cover a counter with plastic wrap. Spoon the “dough” onto the plastic wrap and let set. Or, if you’re like me and my siblings, “even out” the cookies by eating some of the hot gooey concoction.

It’s no fun waiting for them to cool.

Happy Birthday, Johnny!

You Are What I Bake For You: The Guy You Have a Crush On

Girlfriend, don’t ever, never ever, bake for this guy. Oh, I know, he’s cute–not like hot-hot, like an athlete, but he’s just soooo funny. And you find his undefined upperarms endearing. You may think there’s a spark between you, because there is. He laughs at your jokes. He smiles when he sees you walk into class or work. You flirt. You BOTH flirt. There was that time when you were just talking about the weekend and he mentioned how he really, really wanted to go see this movie and you told him that you wanted to see that movie, too, (because you really did want to see that movie) and he just kind of looked away like he was getting nervous and you thought he was going to ask you to go see the movie together, but he didn’t. On Monday, he told you he went to go see the movie over the weekend. (You should have, too–alone.) Then, there was the time after THAT when he was having a bunch of people over for the 4th of July and even though you already had plans you told him that in the evening you were free (because you would make yourself available if he wanted to do something) and he asked for your number so he could call you and give you the details. You made yourself available and you had your phone with you all night long waiting for him to call and you were ready to go out, but he never called.

This guy? Don’t bake for him. If he hasn’t asked you out on a real, bona fide date by now, no type of cookie will ever convince him. Even if they’re soft baked–the way he likes them. Instead, bake for yourself. Bake a Bad Decision Cake, invite over your girlfriends, sisters and your mom. Have a girls night and forget this impotent crush.

Bad Decision Cake–Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake has a rich chocolate flavor and a unique texture. It’ll come out of the oven looking high and mighty, but when it cools, it sinks down into a density that will satisfy any chocolate craving.

Bad Decision Cake (This recipe is from my younger sister. I don’t know where she got it, but she’s responsible for naming it this.)

1 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup heavy cream (I use “heavy whipping cream”)

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

5 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

Butter up a 9″ round cake pan and coat it with extra cocoa. Coat it well, because this is a very, very moist cake. Over low heat, melt the butter with the cream. Add the chocolate and stir until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and cocoa. Then, whisk in the chocolate-butter-cream mixture. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes (the cake will crackle a bit on top and go with your gut as far as the “jiggle factor” of the cake is concerned). Let it cool for an hour, remove from the pan. Sprinkle powder sugar on top.

One thing I like to do is to serve it with homemade whipped cream. Because you’ll never be able to buy a 1/4 cup-sized container of heavy whipping cream, you’ll have plenty leftover to make whipped cream. Do this: pour about a cup into a mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of sugar and maybe a teaspoon of vanilla. Whisk it and whisk it. (Best done with an electric mixer.) But, don’t whisk it too much or you’ll make sweet butter.

Enjoy!