Monday, August 27, 2018

Where to Be Merry: Baking Desserts @ The Monthly HelloWellness Event

The Merriment: A monthly series with a focus on wellness-related topics and activities, such as yoga, plant-based medicine and baking healthy desserts

The Location: Various locations throughout the L.A. region

The Vibes: Fun, informative, bubbly

Good for: Alone, girls night out, small groups

When-To-Go: On a specified day each month; find out about upcoming events here

The $$ Factor: Free - $50 per event

The Names behind the scenes: Co-Founders Sarah Osman and Jenna Sands

The 4-1-1: In addition to hosting monthly events, there’s also a four-day fitness retreat that will be led by 
sweat trainer Kelsey Wells at The UNICO 20°87° resort in Riviera Maya

Earlier this month I was invited to a HelloWellness event at the New School of Cooking Culver City. HelloWellness focuses on motivating bloggers, social media influencers and other health and wellness aficionados to move out from behind the screens and connect at monthly meet-ups. These events focus on activities that promote healthy lifestyles and are usually curated by a fellow health blogger / influencer. Originally launching last year in New York City, the series has now expanded to Boston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

Specifically for the event I attended, about 30 of us gathered to have The Toasted Pine Nut blog founder Lindsay Grimes Freedman, pictured above in the middle, walked us through making two healthy desserts: perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookies and no-bake cookie dough bars.

Now let me start by saying this: I grew up following my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. It called for using heaps of butter, massive scoops of sugar and of course, sticking my finger in the bowl every minute or so to grab a quick taste, simply to ensure everything was coming out just right. Flashforward to this event, and Lindsay had us using all these healthy products — like the cashew butter, ghee, coconut palm sugar and almond flour pictured below — that I’d never even heard of, let alone baked with. So I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical of how everything was going to turn out. I mean, could her recipes taste like dessert is supposed to be: like a guilty, decadent, can’t-live-without indulgence?

I was about to find out! 

Splitting up into teams of about five to six people, each group had its own prepping station complete with all the tools and ingredients we needed to whip up the desserts.

First up were the perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookies, pictured below. To make them healthier than regular chocolate chip cookies, we substituted butter for ghee, white flour for almond flour and white sugar with coconut sugar. Our mixer unfortunately didn’t work, so we had to mix everything by hand. Nonetheless they were super easy and quick to prepare. 

After cooking for about 10 – 12 minutes, they emerged a beautiful golden brown, soft in the center and crisp on the edges. They were moist and I couldn’t taste the difference from using healthier substitutions. An A+ in my book! And, you can find Lindsay's recipe here if you're interested in baking them, too.

Next up were the no-bake cookie dough bars. We used a lot of the same ingredients as the cookies: almond flour, vanilla extract, dark chocolate chips and sea salt. We also added some new ingredients, including cashew butter and agave nectar.

After mixing everything together, we spread it into a metallic cylinder, drizzled some melted dark chocolate on top and popped it into the freezer to chill for about 10 minutes. I don’t think our bars stayed frozen long enough, as some were still a bit gooey and the chocolate frosting wasn’t completely hardened. But, they definitely had a great flavor, and I’d be interested in making them again. If you want to make them too, here's the recipe.

As we nibbled on our marvelous mini masterpieces, we came back together as one big group and Lindsay answered a few questions from guests about everything from how she first got started blogging to where she draws her inspiration to formulate new recipes. We left the night with treats in hand and also a goodie bag filled with snacks and treats, pictured below.

As my first HelloWellness event, I had a fun and informative time. I learned something new about baking — that you truly can create a fairly healthy dessert without sacrificing flavor — and, it's always nice connecting with other fellow bloggers and social media influencers.

The next HelloWellness event in Los Angeles will be “Meal Prep Tips & Tricks” with @kaleandcarrotsticks on Thursday, Sept. 20.

See you at the next one soon!

For more info:

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