carb cravings: the cookies and bread edition

The better part of my weekend was spent developing no-carb recipes for a client who is assembling a cookbook. This was a tough project for me as guidelines called for essentially zero carbs other than vegetables. The allowed foods list contained a fair amount of meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, and oils along with limitless non-starchy veg. Fruits? Lemons, limes, berries, and apples, and then only “in moderation.” Even dried beans were given the cold shoulder and limited to occasional consumption. Whole grains? Not even on the Allowed list. (Quinoa and a few others were occasionally acceptable, but anything wheat-related was a no-no.)

While I was up for the challenge, it hurt to shun grains, legumes, and fruits as they add variety to a daily diet and have so much to offer nutritionally. But working for a client, I pushed personal feelings aside and stepped up to the no-carb plate. While I made some progress (Venison-stuffed bell peppers? Salmon salad? Winners both.), there were a few recipes I just couldn’t like. (Talking to you, spinach bread and kale smoothie.) More tweaking lies ahead, but by the end of the weekend my kitchen needed some carb karma.

Oatmeal cookies seemed a good choice, so I put together a batch using a recipe clipped from the newspaper years back. Chocolate chips were replaced by a handful of leftover red and pink m&m’s, another small amount of red “chocolate” chips (must have hit the day-after-Valentine’s rack at the grocery store), and a much larger amount of pretzel m&ms. The cookies were fantastic and loved by all; just by baking them I started feeling better about my no-carb recipes.

oatmeal m&m cookies

oatmeal m&m cookies

My husband, a willing if wary no-carb taste-tester, must also have been scarred by my project as he announced today that he was going to bake bread. While not completely out of character for him, it’s been ages since he’s made bread and his declaration cracked me up. He, too, must have sensed the kitchen’s need for carbohydrates. His chosen recipe was a no-knead oatmeal loaf and when time came to put the dough into pans, he happened upon my new loaf pan. Sold as a three-slot lasagna pan, this “kitchen toy” was recommended by a friend who uses it to bake multiple types of quick bread at once. Hubby’s bread dough filled two of the three slots, giving us two spectacularly amazing soft, fragrant, and golden loaves of carbohydrate bliss.

dough starting to rise

dough starting to rise

just-baked bread is very near the top of my Favorite Things in Life list

doesn’t get much better than just-baked bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

I get that consuming excess carbs can pack on the pounds. I get that protein and fat satiate in ways that carbs cannot. But I also believe that there’s room in a healthy diet for carbs–especially the whole grains that provide fiber and lots of B vitamins. While I’m not fond of the mantra “everything in moderation” (everything? really? there goes the moderation, then), it does apply to most food situations. No-carb diets may be important for folk in critical health situations and may also help jump-start weight loss. But I’m all for including some of (almost) everything in what I eat. Kale and spinach. Cookies and bread. I’ll gladly make room for all of it. If you feel likewise, here are two rock star carb recipes.

Oatmeal-Candy Cookies

adapted from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups m&ms (the pretzel variety is an especially fun cookie stir-in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In bowl, beat together butter and brown and granulated sugars with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, beating until combined.

In separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and powder, and salt; mix well. Add to butter mixture; beat on Low speed until blended. Stir in m&ms.

Drop tablespoons of dough at least 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown at edge. Cool briefly on baking sheets; transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

No-Knead Oatmeal Bread

adapted from a recipe found in 2010 Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  •  1/2 cup honey or light molasses
  •  1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour

In large bowl, combine boiling water, oats, honey, butter, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, mix well. Blend in eggs. Add flour until well blended yet still a soft dough. Place dough in greased bowl; cover. Refrigerate until needed, at least 2 hours.

Grease 2 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. On well-floured board, shape dough into 2 loaves. Place in pans; cover. Let rise 1 hour or until double. Bake at 350°F 1 hour or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when removed from pans and tapped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.