Tag Archives: chocolate chips

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

I went to a concert with a good friend last night. I bought tickets a few months ago, knowing that I would need to force myself out of the house during the month of November. Music has always been restorative for me; it makes me feel more intensely. I tend to intellectualize emotions instead of just feeling them. Towards the end of the show, I saw two elderly women singing along to the music and dancing in their seats. They were living in the moment and so full of joy. It made me smile. Whenever I witness someone saying or doing something that makes me feel the warm fuzzies I think, “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” I want to attend concerts and sing along to the lyrics when I am a senior citizen! Watching these women sing along to the music jolted me out of my despair. It was a good reminder that I am still alive, even if my sister isn’t. In a way, I am living life for both of us now. And singing along at a concert is definitely something my sister would have continued to do well into her eighties.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of positive examples of the type of adult I wanted to become. I did have a mother who was, and is, very kind, and I knew I wanted to be like her in that regard. I also had some good teachers along the way, who awakened my curiosity to the world. But I also had a lot of bad examples of adulthood–adults who were selfish, angry, fearful of the world, and cruel to other people. There’s the old adage about relationships that says you may not always know what you want, but you find out along the way what you don’t want.

For most of my youth, I had so much anger inside of me, and I was fearful of becoming an angry, resentful adult. It took many years to learn how to express my feelings in a healthy way. It took me even longer to learn that I have the ability to be the kind of person I want to be, regardless of my upbringing. I have a magnet on my refrigerator that reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” It’s a great daily reminder. Even so, there are many ways I fall short of being the best version of me. But I hope I never stop striving.

I created this recipe four years ago when I wanted a sugar-free cookie that was fairly healthy but every bit as delicious as a “normal” cookie. I have fallen so in love with these cookies over the years that I now make sure that I always have a bag of these in the freezer. As soon as I see that I am down to one or two cookies, I make another batch. Obviously, I love the trifecta of banana-peanut butter-chocolate, but even if it’s not your favorite, I think you will like these. Because they are on the wetter side, I keep mine in the refrigerator. If you don’t want a wet cookie, feel free to add more oats to the recipe. Because they have oatmeal and bananas in them, I often eat these cookies for breakfast!

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (if you use sweetened peanut butter, only use 2 bananas)
1 cup quick-cooking oats*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
2. Mix smashed bananas and peanut butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a whisk
until fully incorporated.
3. Add oats, vanilla extract, sea salt, and chocolate chips to bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mixture will be very wet.
4. Using a 1″ cookie scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet, making a total of 12 cookies per sheet.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before transferring cookies onto a cooking rack.
6. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in freezer for up to 3 months.

*If you prefer less wet cookies, add another 1/4-1/2 cup oats.

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

I’ve been trying to keep my head above water lately. I think I was in denial about my sister’s death for most of the summer. I went back to Minnesota frequently to spend time with my family, and somehow I was able to convince myself that Heidi hadn’t really died. Now that fall has set in and the weather has turned, sadness has enveloped me. It’s almost as if my body was waiting for the outside world to start dying so that it could accept my sister’s death as well. I’ve always loved the melancholy of fall, but this year it has taken on a different meaning for me. Like a lot of people I know, fall was Heidi’s favorite time of year. And so, I am thinking about her a lot. It’s her birthday tomorrow; she would have been 43. I plan on getting a carrot cupcake to celebrate my beautiful big sister. Sometimes I think about years down the road, when I am that much older, and my parents are elderly. How is it possible that she won’t be there with us? Neither of us had children, so this is the end of the line for my family. I am staring down my mortality these days.

Trying to stay busy helps to keep the sadness at bay some days. And other days, it’s useless. The tears can spring up when I least expect it: seeing another blue-eyed redhead sitting across from me on the subway, hearing one of Heidi’s favorite songs playing in the grocery store, or watching a movie that has siblings in it. For a while, I was baking obsessively simply because I didn’t know what else to do. My freezer is now full of cookies, muffins, and brownies.

In reference to grief, I’ve heard people say that they were initially scared about forgetting their loved one if they attempted to move on with their life. It’s a horrible catch-22: when I am feeling the full weight of my sorrow, I feel closest to my sister, and so in a strange way the rawness feels nurturing and restorative. And on the days where I am keeping myself distracted and not thinking about the loss of my sister, I feel very disconnected from it all. In order for me to feel closer to her, I want to get back to the sadness and pain. Maybe it’s just a necessary part of grieving, a way for our brains to force us to process our emotions. Regardless, I will get through it.

In celebration of Halloween, try this recipe for Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark. If you use chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher, it’s packed with anti-oxidants and other good stuff.

Happy Halloween!

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

20 ounces (60% or darker) chocolate chips

1 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1/4 cup cocoa nibs

2 tablespoons smoked coarse sea salt

1. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler or microwave method.  Remove from heat.
3. Pour chocolate into parchment-lined pan.
4.Evenly sprinkle the almonds, cocoa nibs, and sea salt over the chocolate edge to edge.
5. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the almonds down to make sure each piece has adhered to the chocolate.
6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes until firm.