Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

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This has been quite the summer thus far. I left my job at the beginning of June, started a new job — where I worked for three weeks before deciding it wasn’t the right fit — and moved out of my apartment (almost). Amid all of this change, I also got to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls with my family and spend a weekend laying on the beach in Montauk with some friends from college.

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This summer, I’m also lucky enough to get to travel to Israel through the Birthright program. As part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, young Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 26 get a 10-day all-expenses paid trip to Israel. I went to Israel in the summer of 2008 with my family and loved the culture, food, and landscape. I can’t wait to go back, meet new people, and eat delicious Israeli food.

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Tahini is known mostly as the essential ingredient that gives hummus its creamy texture and slightly nutty taste. And though I love hummus, tahini can be much more versatile. Though tahini is a little too salty to eat like other nut butters, when combined with agave and chocolate chips, it provides a wonderful yet unexpected base to this sweet and savory cookie.

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I was inspired to make a tahini cookie when I saw a recipe in a recent Birthright newsletter. The original recipe called for granulated sugar and butter, so I knew I would make something a bit different when I set out to make my own. It’s not that I don’t like using butter and sugar in baking — no question, they turn out delicious treats. But, typically when I bake, I like to make healthier sweets that I can snack on. Cue the agave and gluten-free flour. Similar to natural peanut butter in consistency, tahini contains plenty of oil, so I didn’t even have to make another addition.

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Add as little or as many chocolate chips as you like, but I will say that my family requested more chips. Maybe it’s just my family’s collective sweet tooth, or maybe more chocolate is generally preferred. My family is also split on whether these cookies are better straight from the freezer or at room temp. (I like the freezer option, especially in this 90 degree heat). Give these cookies a try, let me know how they turn out and what you, your family, and friends think of this surprising treat.

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Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies 

–       2 eggs

–       2 tbs. vanilla extract

–       ½ cup agave

–       ¼ cup milk (I used almond milk)

–       1 cup tahini

–       3 cups flour (I used gluten-free)

–       ½ tsp. baking powder

–       1 tsp. baking soda

–       ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

–       2 tbs. sesame seeds

Combine wet ingredients, and stir until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Add the chocolate chips, and stir until combined. Spoon cookies onto lined cookie sheets, press down with a fork, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

Lemon Blueberry Cake

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Lately I’ve been having fantasies about moving to a small town in a different state. Somewhere like Oklahoma or North Carolina. Somewhere where, at least in my idealized view of the place, life is a bit easier than here in New York.

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Whenever I think of living in a small town, I undoubtedly think about one of my favorite TV shows, Gilmore Girls. I think about the Dragonfly Inn and all of the delicious creations Sookie made.

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This lemon blueberry cake seems like the type of thing that would appear on the Dragonfly Inn’s menu. This cake has a small town charm to it. The lemon makes this cake bright and sunny, just as I imagine small town people to be. And baking with fresh fruit always reminds me of how satisfying it must be to bake with fruit you’ve grown or picked yourself. I imagine that, if I lived in a small town, I’d have a small garden and the luxury of picking seasonal fruit from nearby farms.

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Of course much of this is my romanticizing small town life. I’m sure there are just as many, albeit different, challenges to everyday life as there are in other places. But for some reason, this cake just seems to be the perfect thing to be eaten while sitting on a porch on a warm spring afternoon, talking to your neighbors about how pretty the flowers are this time of year.

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Wherever you may eat this cake from, I do hope you make it, as it has all the right flavors to match this sunny, spring weather. I tried to ramp up the health factor of this cake by using nonfat yogurt, decreasing the amount of sweetener, and substituting coconut oil for the vegetable oil, but other moisture, sugar, and fat stand-ins would work just fine.

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This cake was just the thing I needed on this early May afternoon, unwinding on my couch after a long walk this morning and catching up with a friend on the phone (who just happened to be sitting on the porch of her new home down south!) I may not be in Stars Hollow, but this cake makes me feel just a little bit closer.

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

–       3 eggs

–       1 cup Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)

–       zest and juice of two lemons

–       2/3 cup agave syrup

–       ½ tsp. almond extract

–       ½ cup coconut oil, melted, plus more for preparing the pan

–       1 ½ cups flour plus one tablespoon, plus more for preparing the pan

–       2 tsp. baking powder

–       1 tsp. salt

–       1 pint fresh blueberries

–       1 tbs. turbinado sugar

Whisk all of the wet ingredients until incorporated. Add the 1 ½ cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until combined. The batter will be very thick, but should still be moist. In a separate bowl, combine the blueberries and 1 tbs. flour. Stir until blueberries are coated, and fold blueberries into the batter. Coat a loaf pan (or any type of pan, really) with coconut oil and flour, and add batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the batter, and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

No-Bake Coconut, Cranberry, and Chocolate Nut Bites

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I started making no-bake cookies and bites about a year ago after learning how similarly finely ground nuts taste to cookie dough. Since then, I’ve tried a few different varieties including no bake bars that taste like vanilla shortbread and chocolate chip cookies.

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Though I will admit that these raw cookies and bites don’t taste exactly like the real thing, they are definitely a satisfying alternative. And because these treats are made with all good-for-you ingredients like nuts and coconut oil, they are pretty much guilt-free.

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I made these bites last Sunday and had them as a snack throughout the week. I love having a couple of these bites on hand at work for a mid-morning or 3 pm snack when a chocolate/sweets craving hits. Instead of leaving me wanting more sugar, these raw bites give me an energetic pick-me-up and satisfy my sweet tooth.

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I love the versatility of these no-bake bites because you can customize them using whichever nut/dried fruit/chocolate combination you’re in the mood for or that you have on hand. You can definitely omit the chocolate for an even healthier treat, but the chocolate chips are my favorite part. And if you’re not a fan of nuts, you might just like these bites. My mom and I joke that nuts are her nemesis, but surprisingly, she enjoyed these bites just as much as I did.

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Unlike regular cookies that take time to make, bake, and cool, these raw treats are prepared in no time. For an even quicker sweet snack, press the dough into a rectangular dish to make bars instead of rolling into balls. I like these bites when they’re a bit firmer after being refrigerated, but if you can’t wait for that boost of energy, eating the dough right out of the food processor is perfectly fine by me.

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No-Bake Coconut, Cranberry, and Chocolate Nut Bites

Adapted from Oh She Glows and Shutterbean

Makes about 40 bites

–       2 cups raw almonds

–       2 cups raw pecans

–       5 medjool dates

–       2 tbs. maple syrup

–       1 tsp. salt

–       1 cup shredded coconut

–       ½ cup coconut oil

–       ½ tsp. cinnamon

–       1 tsp. vanilla extract

–       ½ cup dried cranberries

–       ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Blend almonds and pecans in a food processor until mostly finely ground, but some larger pieces remain. Add dates, maple syrup, salt, shredded coconut, coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Blend again until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Add dried cranberries, and pulse until dried berries are chopped and incorporated into the mixture. Transfer mixture from food processor to another bowl, and fold in chocolate chips until combined. Form small balls from the dough, place on cookie sheet, and refrigerate until firm. Nut bites are best kept refrigerated.