No-Bake Monster Cookie Energy Balls

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Every time I pack my cooler for a trip, it appears as though I’m looking through a veil of health consciousness, which clouds my vision and makes me believe that salad alone will keep me satisfied along my journey. Then, invariably, when I’m 35,000 feet up in the earth’s atmosphere, my enthusiasm for raw cauliflower seems to dissipate. When I start to lose interest in my rabbit food I fall victim to sweet cravings, and those hyper-processed, sugar-laden plane “muffins” start calling my name.

The story always ends the same. I give in and break into a forever-soft banana nut muffin. Halfway through the calorie bomb, I become aware of two developments: my energy has both peaked and crashed, and my stomach is suffering the consequences of sugar over-consumption.

So I learned quickly that I need to come prepared with some quasi nutritious options of my own in order to avoid that regretful feeling–both literally and figuratively–in my gut that comes from caving. I learned that I needed to bring a snack because sugar abstinence is not realistic for me. But I also learned that my sweets should hold some other nutritional value because I am an adult. Protein would be the key to stabilizing my blood sugar while I satisfy my unruly sweet tooth.

Monster trail mix has always been a favorite cheat snack of mine. I love the salty sweet balance between the peanut butter, raisins, and chocolate, and the protein keeps me full and energized for more miles on the trail. So I deconstructed the picky-kid friendly version of the snack and reassembled its parts into bite-size, protein-packed, no-bake monster cookie energy balls to energize my miles in the sky.

This is a really easy recipe to mold to your taste and your pantry inventory. So, replace whatever you don’t have or like with what you do and enjoy your creation.

Ingredients

1 cup oats (I used the gluten-free ancient grain and super seed oatmeal blend from–you guessed it–Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup nut butter (I ended up mixing in sunflower seed butter when I ran out of crunchy peanutbutter)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup mini M&M’s or mini chocolate chips (for a cleaner version, try some cacao nibs)
1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds

Mix all your ingredients up in a bowl and form into bite-size balls. Refrigerate, or freeze until you’re ready to pack them.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Barely sweet, majorly buttery, and nutty-crunchy, these Mexican Wedding Cookies will melt in your mouth and have you craving more.

Barely sweet, majorly buttery, and nutty-crunchy, these Mexican Wedding Cookies will melt in your mouth and have you craving more.

There are so many cookies to love in this world, and each of us has an opinion about which qualities comprise the best sort.

There’s the dense and chewy cookie that bends ever so slightly beneath the pressure of an eager bite for just a slow-motion moment until, finally, it gives way and breaks to expose its gooey, caramelized core, ripe and ready for a deliberate demise.

The cakey cookie is mighty in volume but modest in mass. This cookie with its light and airy texture yields a delicate, buttery crumb. Like a dream-inducing cumulus pillow of the culinary heavens, this soft morsel beckons its lover into a state of divine exaltation.

Then there’s the crispy cookie. This playful treat has as much fun performing a symphony of crunchety, munchety sound in the amphitheater of your mouth as you have conducting it. Each resonant bite a beautiful new voice in the canon of delightful satisfaction.

As far as consistency is concerned, I almost always opt for the chewy cookie. I find the extra time and effort it takes to get through it extremely gratifying. But no matter how we prefer our cookies, and whether we know it or not, butter is the ingredient we all desire. Not only is this ingredient a fundamental component of basically every pastry in the book; it’s also the linchpin of our food cravings. It’s fatty, sweet-creamy, and a little salty. It makes everything we put it in sinfully mouthwatering. Without butter, what fun would life even be? Perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but I’m stickin’ to it.

So every now and then I like to shake things up a bit and go for something out of my typical profile. Sometimes, I just want a passable excuse to eat a ball of butter, you know? I experienced this very phenomenon just the other day. The snowpocalypse that conquered the entire Northeast had me stuck inside in my comfiest sweater and my coziest wool socks. I figured I’d make use of my extra time the best way I know how: baking cookies! And so I decided on Mexican Wedding Cookies: a very passable excuse for eating butter like it’s a food group of its own. Maybe it was the wintery white scene outside that had me subconsciously craving snowball-shaped treats. Maybe it was the nostalgia of Grandma’s Mexican Wedding Cookie care packages, brought on by the snuggly atmosphere inside, that had me wanting to relive the loving sentiments and to taste that crumbly, buttery goodness. Whatever the reason, it was settled, and soon I’d be breaking my way into the nutty, crunchy, powdered-sugary treasure.

Mexican Wedding Cookies, known by many different names–Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, Italian Butter Nuts, Southern Pecan Butterballs–are so well loved around the world that multiple countries claim them as their own. Mexican Wedding Cookies are perfect in their simplicity. These humble little cookies, coated in sweet powdered sugar feel cool at the first taste, only to melt on your tongue moments later, giving way to a tender, crumbly center that is nutty, just a touch sweet, and buttery as can be.  Mexican Wedding Cookies are the delicious answer to your butter-fiending prayers.

So give butter some credit. Then go give into its tempting allure and bake yourselves some of these satisfying cookies. Mexican Wedding Cookies are super simple. They require only a few ingredients, and they demand minimal effort. These delicious balls of love pack a whole lotta “wow!” that will have you and all your friends glad you were trapped in your apartment.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into very small pieces.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 275º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat Mat
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar at low speed until smooth
  3. Combine salt and flour and gradually mix into the butter at low speed
  4. Fold in pecans with a spatula
  5. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  6. Once dough is chilled, dust hands with flour and roll one inch balls to place on cookie sheet (they do not spread, so no need to worry about placing them close together)
  7. Bake for 40 minutes
  8. When cool enough to handle, roll in powdered sugar to coat and repeat one more time
Roll your cookies in powdered sugar twice for an extra thick, melty coating.

Roll your cookies in powdered sugar twice for an extra thick, melty coating.

Enjoy!

Life-Changing Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0062Everybody loves the chocolate chip cookie. It’s an American classic that has made its way in the homes and hearts of kids and grown-ups alike. There are seemingly endless possibilities for creating a scrumptious flavor and texture profile, and most people have very strong opinions about who makes the best chocolate chip cookie. Some people prefer crispy, and some prefer chewy, some people vote in favor of dark chocolate, some of milk, still others throw oats or nuts into the mix that they call perfect.

I used to be an honest-to-goodness loyal fan of the Tollhouse recipe. A big shoutout to Ruth Wakefield for accidentally inventing arguably the best thing of the century to have happened to this country! Since the 30s when Ruth started turning out Tollhouse cookies for consumers, many have attempted unsuccessfully to claim the title of Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Creator, but we all know hers will forever be a culinary gem of America. The Tollhouse cookie is chewy, salty, and semi-sweet (kinda like me)–everything I could want in chocolate chip cookie. This is the OG chocolate chip cookie, after all!

Well, I have a game changer for y’all: the brown butter sea salt chocolate chip cookie. This cookie doesn’t stray too far from Ruth’s classic Tollhouse recipe in terms of the delicate balance of flavors. The still not-too-sweet chocolate offsets the sugary-warm dough, and all the flavors are still wrapped in a salty little bow that brings everything together in a perfectly composed cookie package. What makes this recipe so different from all the other chocolate chip cookies out there is the brown butter. It adds a rich, nutty depth of flavor worthy of your most desirous food fantasies. Toss in some exceptional chocolate chips, and add a sprinkle of corse sea salt, and you have the secret to happiness. Your friends will be begging you to bring these to the next dinner party!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Brown 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt completely. Just before the butter begins to brown it will start to foam up. Slowly stir the butter until it begins to turn a warm chestnut color, as tiny brown flecks begin to form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring, and pay close attention because you want the butter browned but not burnt. Once the butter is browned, pour it into a bowl and allow to cool. You can put it in the fridge for a while to speed up this process (remove it from the fridge before it solidifies). IMG_0036IMG_0037
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the other stick of butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Periodically scrape the sides of the bowl. IMG_0049
  3. Slowly add the brown butter. Make sure the brown butter isn’t too warm, or it will melt the sugars prematurely and produce thin, flat cookies. Mix on medium speed for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the egg and egg yolks. Mix for another minute. IMG_0053
  5. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low until flour is just incorporated.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. IMG_0056
  7. Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Chilling the dough is essential for thick cookies. IMG_0060
  8. Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop cookies with tablespoon. Place two inches apart and sprinkle each ball with sea salt.
  9. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Rotate trays halfway through.
  10. Let cool for a couple minutes and transfer to cooling racks. If you like extra salt, add a little now while the cookies are still warm and melty. IMG_0064