No-Bake Apricot Coconut Oatmeal Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

Some people live for endless summer. I am not one of them. I start crabbing as soon as the temperature goes over 75° and I don't stop until the leaves start turning. It's the heat AND the humidity and I'm just a big pill about the whole thing. It doesn't help that our house isn't air-conditioned (which I don't like either—BIG pill), which pretty much puts the kibosh on my love of baking. The last thing you want when the temps are hovering in the 90s is the crank up the oven to 500° to bake a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies, but I do it anyway and then crab about it endlessly. I think I keep baking in the summer because I'm such a crank that if I don't woo people with treats, they'll most likely want to kill me or at least tape my mouth shut. 

Summer and cranky people are why no-bake cookies were invented. You get your cookies and you keep your cool. WIN! You'd think that, for me, no-bake would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? And you would be wrong. Because based on my research (Google), it seems that the majority of no-bake treats contain chocolate (eh). Or nuts (HATE!) Or worse still—and I can barely say the words—peanut butter. Which I detest with the power of a thousand blazing suns. So no-bake has been a no-go for me. Til now. 

I am in love, love, love with these no-bake apricot coconut oatmeal cookies and I couldn't be happier that I stumbled on them. No chocolate, no nuts, no peanut butter. Wheeee! Instead, they're chockfull of things I love—dried apricots, oatmeal, dates, lemon. I didn't even mind the coconut (not the biggest fan). I don't know that I'd consider them to be a cookie-cookie—more like a handful of dried fruit—but they're shaped like a cookie, they look cookie-ish and Tess the Blender Girl calls them cookies, so I'm running with it. Whatever you want to call them, they're tangy, they're bright, they're chewy and satisfying, they're full of good-for-you stuff…and they're dead easy. (Oh, and they're also raw, vegan and gluten-free if you're into that sort of thing.) You do need a food processor—I can't see any way around that, but you should have one anyway, right?—and a food dehydrator does makes things a lot easier, but there's a workaround if you don't have one. From start to finish (not including the dehydrating part) if these took me 15 minutes it was a lot. Almost instant gratification, which will put a smile on the face of even the worst summertime crabby pants. 

No-Bake Cookies are the theme for this month's #CreativeCookieExchange, just in time for summer. Be sure to check out the links below for some amazing cookies!

No-Bake Apricot Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups dried apricots
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed grated fresh apple (about 2 medium apples)
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 4 Tbsp raw unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Throw all ingredients into the bowl of food processor and pulse until the mixture is thoroughly blended and holds together. Adjust ingredients to taste, if preferred. (I added a couple of teaspoons more coconut nectar for sweetness and two lemons' worth of zest because one can never have too much lemon).
  2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and scoop into balls, then flatten into a cookie shape.
  3. Place the cookies onto dehydrator racks lined with mesh sheets and dehydrate at 100°F for 10-15 hours (time will depend on the size of your cookies or your preference.)* The cookies will be dense and chewy. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from The Blender Girl

Notes

*If you don't have a dehydrator, preheat your oven to 300°F, then turn off the heat, place the cookies inside, close the door and let cool. Repeat this process until the cookies reach your preferred consistency. 

I always use organic ingredients for raw foods.

Unlike nuts and peanut butter, I can deal with coconut, even though it's not a favorite. I don't particularly care for the texture so I was very happy to find Let's Do Organics finely shredded coconut. It's, well, finely shredded so it doesn't overwhelm. 

I used Wholesome's Organic Coconut Palm Syrup, which, I'm assuming is the same thing as coconut nectar. Readily available in the organic section of the regular grocery store, at least in my area.

I used a medium size cookie scoop for smaller cookies, which gave me a yield of around 30.

#CreativeCookieExchange No-Bake Cookies

Too hot to turn on your oven? The theme this month for the Creative Cookie Exchange group is No Bake Cookies! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes—be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). We all post on the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking (or this month "no baking"), check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Whole Wheat Nectarine Bread #BreadBakers

I think we can all use a little peace, love and understanding these days. We need to find a ray of light wherever we can and if that means finding joy by sharing something as simple as food, so be it. Food is comfort. (Sometimes TOO MUCH comfort, if you get my drift…) Food is community. Food is love. So let me share this with you so that you can share it with others.  Herewith, I give you Whole Wheat Nectarine Bread. World peace in a loaf of bread.

I Google recipes for fun. Other people watch Real Housewives. We all have our guilty pleasures. I found this one while randomly Googling nectarine recipes just because I really, really like nectarines and I had a bunch thisclose to turning to mush. It was pure coincidence that this month's #BreadBakers theme happened to be stone fruit. Pure coincidence, I tells ya. (It really was.) Who knew I would turn up this throwback, from the July 3, 1984 edition of the Southeast Missourian? A recipe so old that it was only available as a scan. I was definitely intrigued. And once I made it, I was an unabashed fan.

Okay, so on the surface, this bread isn’t the prettiest one I’ve ever made, not by a long shot. But who cares about looks. It’s what’s inside that counts, amiright? What this bread lacks in surface pretty, it makes up for in taste. Pureed nectarines are the liquid in this loaf and that’s what gives it its slightly sweet, slightly tangy notes and moist crumb. Even more diced nectarines (and some diced dried ones too, if you like), scattered throughout and rolled up jelly roll style, bake up to a jammy consistency. And you can really gild the lily by spreading some quick nectarine jam over a toasted slice. Should I mention that it makes a kick-ass French toast? Because it does and you don’t want to miss it.

You also don't want to miss seeing what the rest of the #BreadBakers came up with for this month's Stone Fruit theme. It's a long list but they're a talented bunch so it's worth checking out each one. Thanks to Mireille at The Schizo Chef for hosting!

Whole Wheat Nectarine Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3–4 nectarines (enough for 3 cups diced)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest (or more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil (like safflower)
  • 2-1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3–4 dried nectarines halves, cut into small dice (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water
  • Pearl or sparking sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Dice 3-4 nectarines, enough for 3 cups. Set aside 1 cup and place the remaining 2 cups in a blender with the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and egg. Blend until smooth.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the whole wheat flour, 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast and salt and stir to combine. 
  3. Add in the oil and nectarine mixture and using the paddle attachment, mix to bring everything together. Switch to the dough hook and knee on medium speed, adding just enough of the remaining all-purpose flour to make a smooth, firm and elastic dough. 
  4. Form into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled container, cover and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled (this can take up to two hours).
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 13 x 9 rectangle. 
  6. Spread the remaining diced nectarines (and dried nectarines, if using) over the top of the dough, then roll up from the short end, tuck under the ends and place seam side down in a 10 x 5 greased loaf pan. Cover and set aside to rise until doubled. 
  7. Just before baking, brush the top with the egg and water mixture and sprinkle with sugar (if using.) 
  8. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 35 minutes, tenting with foil if needed to prevent the top from over browning. 
  9. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
  10. Serve with nectarine jam.

Adapted from the Southeast Missourian

Nectarine Jam

Ingredients

  • 200 g ripe nectarines
  • 100 g jam sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean split in half
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 50 ml water

Directions

  1. To make the nectarine jam, chop the nectarines and place in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring the mixture to a low boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes, stirring frequently. The fruit will soften and the jam will thicken. To test for readiness, drop a small amount on a cold plate and let cool. If you push the cooled jam with a spoon and it wrinkles, it’s ready.
  3. Remove the vanilla bean, transfer to a container and set aside to cool.

Adapted from waitrose.com

Notes

The dried nectarines are totally optional but they definitely added a bit of zing.

I ended up needing only 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour to make a firm dough.

The first time I made this, it split when baked, which is usually a sign of under proofing. But I baked it two more times, and each time, no matter how long I let it proof in the pans, it still split. I think I could have let it proof til the cows came how and ended up with the same result. Just the nature of the bread? Who knows. Like I said, not the prettiest bread but I'm not complaining.

This is also a HUGE bread. The original recipe says to use a 9x5 loaf pan but even before proofing, the bread was already filling the pan. I used a 10x5 pan and it was still too small. Third time, I used two 8x4 pans. Small loaves but at least they don’t look like they’re going to eat YOU, instead of the other way around. I’m tempted to buy an 11” loaf pan just for this bread. Talk me out of it, willya?

I discovered jam sugar (or jelly sugar or Gelierzucker) thanks to my obsession with The Great British Bake Off. Basically, jam sugar is sugar with pectin already mixed in and it's great for small batch, quick jams. I haven't found a US equivalent and those darn Tate and Lyle people won't ship to the US from Amazon UK, but Amazon US does carry Dr. Oetker's Gelling Sugar, which is the same thing.  Even though I like making pectin-free jams, this stuff is the bomb.

I keep a bunch of small plates in the freezer so I'm ready whenever I need a jam fix. It's a great way to test for jam readiness.

#BreadBakers for June: Stone Fruit

This month's theme is Stone Fruit, hosted by Mireille of The Schizo Chef. Our breads could include any kind of stone fruit (that's fruit with a pit), including peaches, plum, apricots, mangos, and whatnot, in any form—juice, fresh, dried… The only no-no was that it couldn't be a jam or jelly that was spread on the bread AFTER it was baked; it had to be IN the bread. Thanks, Mireille!

BreadBakers
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Rhubarb Lemon Drop Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

True confession time: Despite decades (and I do mean DECADES…Eeek!) of culinary adventurousness and a love for all things tart, I have never eaten rhubarb. Now, given that people wax rhapsodic about its tangy joys and the fact that it’s abundant this time of year, you might wonder why I've avoided it like the plague. And the answer is…POISON! Yes, folks, somewhere along the line I found out that rhubarb LEAVES (and I’m stressing LEAVES here) were poisonous and I decided to damn the stalks as well. Never mind that people were delighting in rhubarb the world over and none of them were ending up dead as a result. Nope, I was convinced that I would be the one to succumb to improperly prepared rhubarb, perhaps from ingesting an errant leaf morsel that went unseen. In my mind, rhubarb was the vegetable equivalent of fugu. Let the Type A’s take the risk. Not I. Obviously, I have issues. As in, dramatic much?

I finally decided to pull up my Big Girl Underoos and throw caution to the wind in honor of this month’s #CreativeCookieExchange theme: Seasonal Spring Baking. There I was, standing in the grocery store trying to decide what springy ingredient to use, when the rhubarb started taunting me. Daring me. Mocking me. So I took the plunge. I bought the rhubarb. I baked with the rhubarb. I ate the rhubarb. And I’m happy to report…I’m not dead. Which is a really good thing because that means I can continue baking and eating these cookies for many years to come. To steal a line from Agent Cooper, that’s a damn fine cookie.

I kind of winged it (wung it?) with these. I started with my basic drop cookie recipe—the “throw stuff in it” recipe I’ve been baking for more years than I can remember (unfortunately, because, until I added it to my recipe app, it was just a scribble on a piece of paper, I have no idea where it originated) and I threw stuff in. Diced rhubarb macerated in a bit of lemon juice and sugar. Lemon zest. More lemon zest. Lemon oil. The result was the kind of soft, tart, melt-in-your-mouth cookie that I love. They’re fast, they’re easy and best of all, they’re plentiful—I got almost 5 dozen cookies from one batch of dough. I consider this bounty my reward for facing my rhubarby demons and coming out the other side still alive. I feel tingly with excitement, I feel empowered, I may even try growing this stuff! Feel the power!

Rhubarb Lemon Drop Cookies are my contribution to this month's #CreativeCookieExchange theme: Seasonal Spring Baking. Don't forget to check the links below to see what the rest of this group of talented bakers came up with. And no one died!

Rhubarb Lemon Drop Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rhubarb, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon oil (or 1 teaspoon lemon extract)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest  (or more to taste)

Directions

  1. Place the diced rhubarb, lemon juice, sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy with a hand mixer or the flat beater of a stand mixer. Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon oil or  extract until throughly combined. Add the flour mixture slowly until combined but don't overmix. Stir in lemon zest and rhubarb mixture (draining the mixture a bit if it's too wet).
  5. Drop tablespoon-sized rounds of dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. (A small cookie scoop works great here.) Don't flatten the dough rounds.
  6. Bake 10–12 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden around the edges, switching and rotating the baking sheets if necessary for even baking. Cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes to set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

#CreativeCookieExchange Bakes for Spring

Spring is here! And with it loads of great flavors for baking!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made: