Well, I've got a case of the Monday blahs. It all started with health insurance. Dealing with health insurance is never a great way to start off the day, especially a Monday. And, dealing with the totally incompetent, utterly useless health insurance policy marketplace of the state in which I currently reside is just a really, really, really bad way to start off the day. It's been like, okay, you're approved. Congratulations! You have health insurance (only after a totally frustrating and confusing few days of trying to figure out the whole enrollment process). Oh no, wait, now you need to re-enroll. Okay, you're re-enrolled, but, wait -- we're canceling your health insurance because you're not a US citizen. Oh, you are a US citizen. Okay, you're enrolled again. Oh, wait, we need your proof of income again.
*bangs head against wall*
Seriously?! This should not be this difficult, yet somehow it is.
And it's a gray, icky day out, so totally not helping out the case of the Monday blahs.
BUT, I have the new summer issue of BHG's Do It Yourself magazine and these delicious cookie bars. Oh man, these cookie bars are SO. GOOD. And so easy to make! I love cookies, but sometimes I'm lazy and I don't feel like spooning individual balls of dough onto a baking sheet. Enter the cookie bar. Just dump the batter into a baking dish, spread it out, and VOILA! Cookie bars. They're a genius idea. Plus, with cookie bars, you can cut yourself any size you'd like. You want a small piece? Sure, no problem. Personally, I like to cut as big a piece as what seems decent. Colossal cookies -- that's my thing.
I can't eat peanuts, hence the sunbutter, but feel free to swap out the sunbutter for peanut butter if you like. They'll still be delicious. There is something magical about the combination of chocolate and nuts. Or, chocolate, nuts and sunflower seeds in this case. The cookie itself is nice and dense, spiked with a combination of semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate pieces. And the cashews add a nice crunch and an added nutty flavor. A like a lot of different textures going on in my cookies. When I was younger, I hated nuts in my cookies, or any baked good for that matter. Brownies with walnuts?? No way. Pecans in my chocolate chip cookies?? An atrocity. But now, I can't get enough of them. I put them in oatmeal, in brownies, in quick breads, and yes -- in cookie bars. If you're not a fan of nuts, you can leave them out and these bars will still be tasty. But, seriously, the cashews are amazing in these cookie bars.
Between these cookie bars and this summer's DIY magazine, my Monday blahs will surely be banished!
SUNBUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP CASHEW COOKIE BARS
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Yield: 1 8x8 pan
1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (I love Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips (I used a combination of Enjoy Life's semi-sweet and dark chocolate)
1/2 cup raw cashews
6 tablespoons soy-free Earth Balance spread (or butter, if tolerated)
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 8x8 pan with Earth Balance spread or shortening (I like to use Spectrum's Natural's Organic All Vegetable Shortening).
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the GF flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Add in the chocolate chips and cashews.
In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sunbutter together until smooth. Beat in the sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla.
Fold the dry ingredient mixture into the wet ingredients until everything is well combined.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for around 35 minutes. Prepare for ultimate deliciousness.
So, today is Wednesday, which means it's hump day. (Mike, Mike, Mike! Guess what day it is?! Guess. What. Day. It. Is!) But, it's also Earth Day! So, here's a round-up of some eco-friendly products to help out the earth. Every little bit helps!
1. Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Basil Hand Soap - This stuff smells so good AND its ingredients are 98% naturally derived. No parabens, phthlates, triclosan, formaldehyde, artifical colors, OR animal ingredients. Phew! AND, it's made right here in the U S of A. Pluses all around.
2. California Bear Eco Throw Pillow Cover - How cool is this pillow? Even though I don't live in California, I still think it's pretty darn cool. This Etsy shop has all sorts of other designs too. Made ramie cotton and eco-friendly ink, this pillow is a winner. Plus, when you buy this pillow, you're also supporting a small business! Score.
3. Linen and Cotton Bowl Covers - This is a genius idea to replace plastic wrap. I hate using plastic wrap, but I do end up using quite a bit when I bake or cook. Because they're made of fabric, they're washable, which means reusable! Hurray! And they're pretty, which adds some major points.
4. Kure Bazaar Non-Toxic Nail Polish in Fabulous - Love the color, love the fact that it's made up of natural materials like wood pulp, wheat, potatoes and corn. 'Nuff said.
5. Volupsa Coconut Wax Candles - I love, love, love candles, and Volupsa's coconut wax candles burn up to 90% cleaner than a soy candle! That's pretty darn awesome. And once you've finished the candle, you can re-use the tin! It's like a 2-for-1.
6. Stubby Pencil Studio's Eco Dry Highlighters - Another genius idea. Regular highlighters usually have solvents and other gross, chemically things. Since these are all wood, there's no plastic, ink solvents, or VOCs involved. The company is based in Portland, OR, so another US-made product for the win!
7. Colorhouse Paints - Okay, this is a seriously cool company. Not only are their paints VOC-free and are free of toxic fumes and chemical solvents, but they also manufacture their paint in a LEED Gold facility, use recycled materials for their containers, AND have a drop off site where customers can drop off their used paint to be recycled. In addition to interior paints, they also make chalkboard paint. And they actually have good colors. AND they're based in Portland, OR. Portland is kicking some serious butt in the eco-friendly department!
Other ways you can be kind to our planet is by making your own eco-friendly cleaning products. Baking soda and vinegar are pretty much the most fantastic cleaning products ever -- they do the job AND they're all natural. Recycling, upcycling, and reusing things are all great ways to cut down on waste and keep things out of landfills. I love scouring thrift stores, yard sales, and the swap shop at the dump for furniture pieces and anything else that might catch my eye. You're doing something for the environment AND saving money. It's a win-win. Every small act helps to keep our planet healthy, and small things add up!
All right, Mother Nature. Can we please get back to spring? Pretty, pretty please? With a cherry on top? The weather this weekend was so gorgeous and beautiful and fantastical. Like what end of April is SUPPOSED to be. I feel like we've totally earned a warm and lovely spring with the winter that we had (I love how I say "we." I wasn't even here for the worst of winter -- I was off in Madrid enjoying blue skies and warm sunshine. But, shhhh.) ANYWAY. We're back to like the beginning of March now with the raw wind and rain and it's so not cool, Mother Nature. Not cool at all.
Anyway, I digress. Onto the bigger and better things -- this cranberry coconut bread!!
Okay, so this bread might not be the prettiest looking bread ever, but oh man. It is DELICIOUS. I would have photographed more slices, but by the time I got around to photographing the bread, I may or may not have already eaten like the entire loaf. This bread all started with a purchase-on-a-whim from the grocery store. Langer's had a cranberry coconut juice, which I had never seen before and sounded quite intriguing, so into the cart it went. Unfortunately, actually drinking the juice was not as intriguing. It was, well, kind of odd. So, I needed to figure out what to do with an entire bottle of cranberry coconut juice. I love baking quick breads and thought about orange juice bread. Why not just swap out the orange juice for the cranberry coconut juice? Throw in some cranberries that were sitting in the freezer, add some shredded coconut, and bam! The cranberry coconut bread was born. The tangy-ness of the cranberries pairs so super well with the sweet flavor of the coconut. It's a little tropical from the coconut and a little New England-y from the cranberries. And the juice helps prevent the bread from getting too dry. SO GOOD. I think I need to make some more, like, right now.
PS - You want to know what is the most amazing baking tool for gluten free baking?? This bread loaf pan from King Arthur Flour made specifically for gluten free baking. It's taller and narrower than your standard loaf pan which is super helpful for gluten free baking. I use it ALL. THE. TIME. I discovered this little gem when I visited my mom's cousin last fall. She works at King Arthur Flour, so naturally we had to stop in and do a little shopping. While we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over King Arthur's abundance of baking pans, she pointed out this bread loaf pan. Genius. AND I got to use her discount. Score!
Now, onto the recipe!
CRANBERRY COCONUT BREAD
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 50 - 60 minutes Yield: 1 9x4-inch loaf
1 large egg
3/4 cup cranberry coconut juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons cold Earth Balance spread, cut into pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup of shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x4-inch loaf pan (or 9x5 works just fine) with shortening (I like to use Spectrum's Natural's Organic All Vegetable Shortening).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the Earth Balance to the dry mixture, blending the ingredients together with your fingers until the Earth Balance is well incorporated.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the cranberry coconut juice and vanilla extract.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and then stir in the cranberries and shredded coconut. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with extra shredded coconut.
Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let the bread cool for 10 minutes, then dig in and enjoy!