Tag Archives: cookies

Logan rocks the fishing derby!

15 Jun

As the school year winds down (today is their last day), things have been crazy busy with field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers and scout activities. We are having so much fun, but are definitely ready for summer vacation to get underway so we can sleep in a little later, float around the pool in the afternoons and clean some closets (Shh! The kids don’t know about the closet-cleaning part!).

Last night was the year-end Cub Scout event. Our Scoutmaster lives on 40 acres and has a small lake on his property, so he hosted a fishing derby. Everyone brought a dish to share and the kids had a blast fishing. But the highlight of the evening was my one-and-only Logan, who not only caught the most fish, he took home the trophy for catching the biggest fish! He caught a 14.5″ bass, but his winning catch was a 17″ bass. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. My animal-loving kids had no problem releasing their fish back into the lake. It was definitely a night to remember.

Logan with his Scoutmaster and his 14.5″ catch; Logan with Dad and his trophy-winning 17″ catch

Because I have two boys in the Cub Scout Pack, we contributed two things to the potluck — super easy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from the Duncan Hines website) made with farm fresh eggs, and a delicious little salad that takes advantage of fresh herbs from the garden (recipe to follow).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but the wild turkeys that have been visiting our property for the last 5 or 6 years decided this year that my garden looked tasty. About 2 weeks after I got the initial seeds in, they stomped their way through all the beds, digging up dirt, tossing seeds everywhere and leaving large holes in areas I had already planted. What a mess. Because many of the seeds had not even sprouted yet, I decided not to weed or try to figure out what was left until I could identify them above ground. So I waited. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m left with half a row of peas and half a row of beans still in place. I’m missing all of my Swiss chard and most of the rainbow chard. Though my zucchini and yellow squash are growing, I have discovered squash plants growing in other areas where I didn’t even plant them. To top it off, the weeds have gone crazy. I’m so disappointed in my mess of a garden that I can’t even bear the thought of pulling all those weeds out.

The only thing to truly survive is my area of herbs. I planted these from seedlings I bought at the local greenhouse so they are nice and strong and growing well. They came in handy for this recipe. The Mediterranean flavors of this salad work well with just about anything you grill, but especially with veggie burgers, chicken or fish (ethically raised or wild caught, of course). Though this started as a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005), I have changed it enough that I’m calling it mine. The nice thing about it is that it actually tastes better the next day, so assemble it ahead if you can. Plus, it can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for a potluck or summer barbecue.

Mediterranean Chickpea and Fresh Herb Salad
serves 8

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in fresh herbs. Add the chickpeas, black beans, onion, tomatoes and olives. Stir well to combine and coat everything. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Peace. Joy. Love.

24 Dec

Here it is. December 24. Christmas Eve. And I have only blogged one day this month. It’s unbelievable how fast this holiday season arrived! Thanksgiving was just last Thursday, wasn’t it?!

I had hoped to share some really good holiday cookie recipes with all of you. Unfortunately, my oven has been suffering from some health issues, too. The bottom heating element no longer works, and I think only the center section of the top heating element is working. The first batch of cookies I made last weekend were sugar cookies for the kids to decorate. I checked them halfway through baking and the cookies in the center of the cookie sheet were brown while the ones on the edges were raw. I rotated the tray in the oven, crossed my fingers, and hoped they would be okay when finished. Well, they came out of the oven looking fairly evenly baked, although a little more brown than I like them. I let them cool for a minute or two and then lifted them off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack…only to discover that the bottoms of the cookies were raw. ERGH!

Now, if you have kids, you’ve experienced this: kids…jumping up and down…asking over and over again, “When can we decorate? When can we decorate?”

So I flipped them all over upside-down on the cookie sheet (the cookies…not the kids!) and stuck them back in the oven to try and finish them. They came out brown and crunchy and not at all chewy like I like them. Luckily, kids don’t care. They decorated them with all the sprinkles and goodies and didn’t complain one bit about them being too crunchy. Whew.

After that, I didn’t attempt any more cookies. Thank goodness I had made biscotti earlier in the month! To complete our selection of sweets to take to various Christmas gatherings, I went with items that didn’t require baking: white chocolate dipped pretzel rods and a fabulous White Christmas Cherry-Almond Fudge from the Inn at Cedar Falls near Hocking Hills in Ohio (recipe here).

As we head into days of gift-opening, I’m crossing my fingers again…in hopes of finding a gift card or two to Home Depot where I picked out an awesome new stove (made in the USA!) with all the fancy features. I wish solving my personal health issues was as easy as solving my old oven’s health issues!

I also wish all of you a wonderful, stress-free holiday season filled with love, laughter and fun with family and friends. I’ll see you at the top of the new year with new ideas and recipes.

Merry Christmas!

Gluten Free? And Vegan?!

30 Oct

As you all know, this journey toward normal blood pressure is ongoing and ever-changing for me. I’m willing to try just about anything to find what works for me.

I’ve had more than one person talk to me lately about a gluten-free diet. Basically, this means eliminating wheat, rye and barley from your diet. Every one of them told me how much it changed their life in one way or another. So I did some research and reading, then found a Facebook page of people living without gluten. I posted a question on the Facebook page: “Has anyone lowered their blood pressure by being gluten free?” The responses were overwhelming and every single one said “yes.”

Although I couldn’t find any research online that connected high blood pressure with wheat or gluten, I think I need to give this some serious thought. Can I eat a plant-based diet without wheat? Since I don’t eat meat, I rely pretty heavily on healthy carbs – whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortillas, Triscuits, pasta, etc. I also have a variety of meat substitutes in my freezer for those occasions when I want something like that, but they all contain wheat products. Meal planning will become even more of a challenge and dining out will be nearly impossible unless they have a salad bar.

After much consideration, I decided to look into some of the gluten-free products now available at my grocery store. If I’m going to give up baked goods made with wheat, I have to have something else I can bake with. I found several different gluten-free flours and chose one called Gluten Free Pantry all-purpose flour. It’s a cup-for-cup substitution for wheat flour and is made mostly of rice flour and a few other ingredients. I bought a box. I also bought a loaf of gluten-free vegan bread. Tastes great, but it’s a very dense loaf and the slices are about half the size of normal bread. Not sure what kind of sandwich that would make!

This morning was spent testing this gluten-free flour. I still had canned pumpkin in my fridge from earlier in the week. I used it up by making Pumpkin Chocolate Biscotti with the gluten-free flour. Like the store-bought bread, the biscotti came out much denser than my other recipes. I would definitely consider it a success, though. The taste is wonderful! I can’t wait to make another batch of the chai concentrate (October 19 blog) because these would be perfect dunked in a steamy cup of chai latte.

Pumpkin Chocolate Biscotti
makes 12 biscotti

1-1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds or pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
good dash of cloves
good dash of ginger
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon canola oil
Ener-G Egg Substitute for 1 egg (use package directions)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped vegan chocolate bar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flours, almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, cloves and ginger. Pulse a few times to blend. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, egg substitute mixture, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pulse until a dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and pulse one or two more times to blend them. Dust your hands with flour, then roll the dough into a ball. Shape into log, approximately 2″ wide by 11″ long. Gently flatten the top until it’s about 1″ tall.

Place the log on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Lower the oven to 300 degrees. Carefully slice the log, on a diagonal, into 12 slices about 1/2″ wide. Remove the parchment paper from the baking sheet and put the slices back on, standing upright. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown on the bottom.

Cool completely. Mix up a chai latte and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

12 Oct

People ask me all the time if being vegan is hard and if I miss any of my old favorites. There are a few things I miss, but not many. Barbecued ribs would be one…tiramisu…feta cheese…Parmesan cheese…pepperoni…and my dad’s chicken sausage. Really good vegan versions of those items just don’t exist.

The hardest part of this diet is eating out. Most restaurants offer a vegetarian entree, but they’re usually loaded with cheese, which I don’t eat. Cooking plant-based foods at home is a breeze. Meat? I just go without. Or, sometimes I’ll substitute a meat-free version of whatever meat my family is eating, such as a veggie burger or meatless “chicken.” There are fantastic choices available for dairy-free milk, butter and ice cream, and some acceptable choices for dairy-free cheese. Eggs are a tough one to substitute, although I have recently added the occasional egg back into my diet, based on new research that it may be beneficial to my blood pressure. (I guess that doesn’t make me 100% vegan anymore.)

One thing I refuse to live without it sweets! Though I very rarely bake, I do have a sweet tooth. I usually try to satisfy it with something chocolate. Vegan chocolate chips are easy to find, but I haven’t gone that route yet. My mom (the chef) gets really high-quality chocolate chips and although they contain a small amount of dairy, I think the antioxidants I’m getting from them is important, so that’s what I have on hand.

To show how easy it is to turn a favorite recipe into a vegan version, I decided to whip up a batch of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies — but with vegan substitutions and some whole wheat flour. The original recipe calls for one cup of butter. I substituted half vegan butter and half canola oil because canola oil is less expensive.

Delicious, chewy, and a little bit better for you — plus they will put a big smile on some faces in your household!


Nestle Tollhouse Cookies – Veganized

makes about 4 dozen

2-1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (instead of white flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened (Earth Balance instead of regular butter)
1/2 cup canola oil (instead of regular butter)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (instead of 2 eggs)
2 cups vegan chocolate chips (instead of Nestle Tollhouse Morsels)
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add applesauce and beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

Note: Regular grocery store sugar is technically vegan, but many vegans do not use it because of the way it is processed. During the final purification process, cane sugar is filtered through activated carbon (charcoal) which may be of animal, vegetable, or mineral origin. About 50% of the cane refineries in the U.S. use bone char (charcoal made from animal bones) as their activated carbon source. Because one cannot tell what processing method a specific bag of sugar went through, many vegans don’t buy it for ethical reasons. If you wish to substitute, try pure cane sugar or raw cane sugar purchased from your local health food store. I just use regular grocery store sugar.

Chocolate!

3 May

I was really craving something chocolate the other day, but was not in the mood to bake anything. I started experimenting with those no-bake cookies that are made with oats and cocoa powder. I came up with a vegan version that really hit the spot (recipe below).

After I ate two (ok, maybe it was three) cookies, I decided to do a little online research on cocoa to see if it has any affect on blood pressure. I am pleased to report that it happens to be very good for your blood pressure! 
I'm sure you've probably heard the word antioxidants. Antioxidants help your body fight off the damage caused by free radicals. Some of the foods high in antioxidants are blueberries, blackberries, green and black tea, red wine and chocolate. Specifically, dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder. As a matter of fact, scientists at Cornell University found that cocoa powder has almost twice the antioxidants found in red wine and nearly three times the antioxidants in green tea.
Two recent studies tested cocoa and dark chocolate consumption in people with hypertension. After just two weeks, both studies found similar results: both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced! 
How does it work? The antioxidants in cocoa "protect the heart and circulatory system," reports the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Apparently, eating a few squares of dark chocolate a day will increase your blood vessels' ability to dilate. This is called vasodilation, which I discussed in an earlier blog post. Vasodilation relaxes your blood vessels which eases blood pressure.
Another study shows that the antioxidants in cocoa (flavonoids) help the body produce more nitric oxide which relaxes the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.
But, wait! There's more. Cocoa is a good source of magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese, which are vital minerals in lowering blood pressure.
If all that's not enough to convince you, make note of this: cocoa also may have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. And, it's been reported that the antioxidants in cocoa can lower LDL cholesterol.
So, eat your chocolate!
By the way, I'm not talking about candy bars and chocolate ice cream. Sorry! Unsweetened cocoa and dark chocolate bars are the specific items. And check the ingredients when purchasing dark chocolate, if you're vegan. Many contain dairy products. Unsweetened cocoa powder is vegan and is often used in baked goods. You can also make hot chocolate with it. The directions are on the back of the box of cocoa powder.
In the meantime, whip up a batch of these yummy vegan no-bake cookies. They aren't the most photogenic cookies in the world but, man, they are tasty!
VEGAN NO-BAKE COOKIES
makes about 18 cookies
1/4 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup vanilla coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1-1/4 cups quick cook oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, whichever you prefer)
Lay a large sheet of wax paper on a large cookie sheet.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Stir in coconut milk. Then add sugars, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk together. Bring to a rolling boil. As soon as it comes to a rolling boil, watch the clock and allow it to boil for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter. Remove from heat and add oats and coconut. Stir well. Quickly drop by tablespoons onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Slide into refrigerator to chill. Enjoy!
Note: Pay attention to how long you boil the cocoa mixture. I boiled for just one minute and my cookies are still a little bit sticky. But if you boil for too long, they will be really crumbly when chilled. I think next time I'll try a minute and a half.
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Frustrated…which isn’t good for my BP.

23 Mar

It's been more than 2 months since I ditched the animal products (which I love, by the way). It's been 4 months since I stopped taking BP meds and started this journey toward lowering my BP naturally. Granted, it has dropped tremendously since the day I had the allergic reaction to Diovan, but it's been hovering in the range of 150/100 for entirely too long. Frustrating. 

You know what else is frustrating? I have probably read 30 vegan books and cookbooks in the last 2 months. Every single one mentions that eating a vegan diet will "make the pounds fall off" … "watch the weight disappear effortlessly" … "the weight will just slip away" … etc. 
I've been eating a plant-based diet since mid-January and I haven't lost a single pound. Not one. 
What's up with that?! Alicia Silverstone, I want an answer!
Unfortunately, I think my weight might be what's keeping my blood pressure from returning to normal. The experts say that just dropping 10 pounds can make a huge difference in your blood pressure. Not that I'm obese or anything, but to be in the so-called "normal range" for my height, I'd need to lose about 20 pounds. Ugh. 
So, the mission continues to be 120/80 without drugs, but now I need to take a side trip to weight loss. I guess that means I need to get off my butt and exercise, huh? 'Cause I don't think I'm consuming too many calories. Well, except for the vegan cookies I made over the weekend!
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OMG – Margarita Cupcakes?!

8 Mar

No, I’m not kidding. Yes, they have tequila in them.

I have a new favorite cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you haven’t seen it before, you must check it out. It has 75 recipes for fabulous cupcakes and none of them contain eggs or dairy products. I borrowed this book from the library and about 15 recipes into it, I went online and ordered the book from Barnes & Noble. These are not your typical kids birthday party cupcakes, although you could definitely make them for that purpose.

How about Chocolate Cherry Creme Cupcakes, S’mores Cupcakes, Elvis Style Banana Split Cupcakes, or Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes? And there’s no way I’m passing up the Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting, Chai Latte Cupcakes, Tiramisu Cupcakes or Mucho Margarita Cupcakes.

I honestly did not think it was possible to make a moist, fluffy cupcake without eggs. But it is. Yesterday I baked the Cookies & Cream cupcakes and took them for dessert at my in-laws. They were a huge hit. Super moist, rich and so satisfying. I made them exactly as listed except I used So Delicious Coconut Milk in place of the soy milk. (So Delicious Coconut Milk is now available in Kroger’s health food section where the refrigerated soy milk is.) I used the Newman-O’s dairy free chocolate sandwich cookies as it says in the recipe, also available at my local Kroger store.

Vegan Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes
recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 cup soy, coconut or almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 Newman-O’s chocolate sandwich cookies, finely crumbled

Whisk together the “milk” and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with foil liners.

To the milk mixture, add the sugar, oil and vanilla and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients while blending. Stir in cookie crumbs. Beat until no large lumps remain. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

Frosting:
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soy, coconut or almond milk
5 Newman-O’s chocolate sandwich cookies, finely crumbled

Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and “milk” and beat for 5-7 more minutes until light and fluffy. Stir in crumbled cookies.

Spread generously onto the cupcakes and top each with half of a sandwich cookie. Enjoy!

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