Oatmeal Cookie Journey (gluten-free)

Cookies…cookies…cookiesCOOKIES!!!

You guessed it….I love cookies!  (Of course, Cookie Monster was my favorite Muppet.)  Sadly, I haven’t been doing much baking lately, though.  Kinda lost my mojo without wheat flour to make it brainless easy.

Last night and this morning I had such a craving for oatmeal-raisin cookies that I couldn’t Oatmeal Cookie (gluten-free; first attempt) 002help but make another attempt at turning out a good whole-grain gluten-free cookie.  Since I want you to be brave, too, at trying to create new recipes in your kitchen, I am going to take you on this oatmeal cookie journey.  I will tell you what I was thinking as I turned this recipe that I made for years and years with whole wheat flour into this gluten-free version.

First of all, oatmeal cookies are marvelous for attempting to remove the wheat flour, because there isn’t much of it in the recipe at the beginning!  As long as you are using gluten-free oats you are almost home free (or if you are just avoiding wheat and don’t get deathly ill if you get a hold of some teeny amounts gluten, use regular oats.)

To replace the 1 1/2 c. of wheat flour, I decided how hard could it be to use oat flour?  I scooped up 3 c. of oats (because I always double this recipe or they are gone much too soon) and whizzed it up in a dry blender.  (It’s okay if the oats look more like meal than a smooth flour when you are done.)  When I measured the flour after whizzing it, I was 1/4 c. short.  Well, rats!  Rather than try to whiz up that small amount of oats (they get kind of lost in the bottom of the blender and it doesn’t work particularly well), I decided to just throw in some almond meal for the final 1/4 c. that was missing.  Almond meal gives the look and feel of whole wheat flour.  At the last minute, I pondered my coconut flour.  It can help with the baked texture of things to also mimic whole wheat flour.  So, I tossed in a 1/4 c. of that, too!  I figured at worst I would have to add some extra liquid since it seriously soaks up moisture like a sponge left out to dry in the summer sun.

Turns out it was a good choice at the last minute to toss in that coconut flour.  Oat flour can be a little sticky in comparison to whole wheat flour.  The little bit of coconut flour just mopped up any sticky ideas the oat flour might have had and sat back to enjoy the ride.

I chose to add jumbo organic raisins in these cookies – and I made them fairly big since I was in a hurry.  (It only took me an hour to make a double batch from start to finish – not bad.)  Chocolate chips are a nice switch from raisins if you’d rather.  Butterscotch chips are fun, too, if you can find vegan ones.  Coconut flakes are great with any of the above options or by itself (I found some sweetened coconut shreds without any nasty chemicals at Trader Joe’s and I am thrilled.)

I originally thought I was going to have to tweak this recipe again later, but after the whole batch is finished, I don’t think I will need to do so.  They are a little fragile when you first take them off of the cookie sheet, but they firm up nicely as they cool.  If you like, you can leave them on the cookie sheet until they are not so fragile before removing them to a cooling rack.

Oatmeal CookiesOatmeal Cookie (gluten-free; first attempt) 001

  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks (1 stick)
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil (virgin is best)
  • 1 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/4 c. + 2 T. oat flour (1 1/2 c. oats whizzed into meal/flour)
  • 2 T. almond meal/flour
  • 2 T. coconut flour
  • 3 c. oats (I used half and half ~ rolled oats and quick oats)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper (this is vital to make vegan and gluten-free cookies work the best.)

Mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Add the non-dairy milk a little at a time, whipping it into the batter.  By the time it is all in, you should have a lovely fluffy batter.  (Add any extras here, like raisins, chips, coconut, etc.) Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before pouring it all into the wet ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.

Using a teaspoon or a tablespoon, scoop dough against the side of the bowl to press it.  This will give you a sturdier cookie.  You could also press the dough in your hands if you prefer.  Drop spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack.

Variations:  Add 1 c. raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, and/or coconut

 

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A Word of Concern about Silk Milk Products

Last week in the grocery store I noticed with dismay that my favorite coconut vanilla flavor Silk milk had a “new and improved” label on it’s carton.  In my experience, “new and improved” usually isn’t improved.  It’s usually just cheaper for the manufacturer and somehow less than impressive for the consumer.  This time is no exception.

Upon looking closer at the new label, I discovered one glaring change:  cane sugar instead of evaporated cane juice.  What is the difference you ask?  Regular sugar has been whitened by using bone meal.  So, even though evaporated cane juice is more pricey, I made the decision long ago to use it.

In addition to my coconut milk being almost sickenly sweet now (yes, I did buy some before I realized what the difference was), as well as filtered through bone meal, it also is thinner than before.

I looked at the Silk soy in my refrigerator, and it has the same issue.  I do not know about the other Silk flavors and types, but I imagine they have also been changed, or will be soon.  Check yours.  Make an informed choice.  Personally, I will be trying out other brands.

What it comes down to is that the makers of Silk have decided to lessen their production costs at our expense.  They did this once before when the company was purchased from it’s original owners.  With no notice, it went from being organic to non-organic.  I kept buying it then, because it still had better flavor and texture than most others.  This time, I’m not continuing the march into mediocrity.

If you are as unhappy about this as I am, please contact Silk and let them know.  If enough of us complain and take our business elsewhere, perhaps they will listen and go back to healthier options.

Italian Quinoa

There has been a long dry spell for my creativity in the kitchen.  I’m sure it’s been caused in part by my busy life and in part by my mental focus on creating a dessert for the up-coming Virtual Vegan Potluck (more on that soon.)  Overall, the family has been receiving old stand-bys on the table and some lazy versions of home cooked meals!

No wonder, then, my family just about licked the pan clean last night when I served this.  I was a bit surprised, because most of them aren’t big fans of sun-dried tomatoes and usually pick them out to toss onto my plate (which means I get tons more – yay!)  However, last night I didn’t get any extras on my plate!  None!  If I had known that, I would have put more in the recipe than I did.  I was informed it is a texture issue and these sun-dried tomatoes were soft enough for their palates this time.  Who knew?  Therefore, I wrote a scope of choice below for how many tomatoes you use.  The picture shows the quinoa with about 4 oz. of sun-dried tomatoes (approximately).  It would have been tastier with the larger amount and that is what I will do next time.

Italian QuinoaYou can switch a few things around in this recipe depending on what you have in your cupboards and refrigerator.  I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms, so I used canned, but either works.  If you prefer a stronger tasting olive such as Kalamata, then by all means, try those.  I’m the only one in this house who likes cooked bell peppers – of any color, so I didn’t toss any in, but those would be great here, too – either fresh or frozen.  (I figured I was pushing it by using the sun-dried tomatoes, let alone making it “worse” in their minds by adding peppers.)

Addendum:  You will need a large frying pan with lid or dutch oven.  Mine is 4-5 quarts!

Italian Quinoa

  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 2 Tofurkey Italian “sausage” links, diced (optional, or reduce)
  • 6-8 oz. frozen artichoke hearts (half a bag)
  • olive oil (may use oil from sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 4-8 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 4 oz. can of chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • soy parmesan “cheese”

Saute the onion, Tofurkey links, and artichoke hearts in just enough olive oil to keep them from sticking or burning.  As the artichokes thaw, they will put off some liquid that will help.  Once the onion is softening some and the artichokes can be mushed with the back of a spoon to break them up and distribute them a bit, add remaining ingredients, excluding parmesan “cheese.”  (Include some or all of the oil from the tomatoes for the best overall flavor.)  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle soy parmesan over the whole dish and stir in.  Serve with extra parmesan at the table.

Best served with cooked greens or a salad.

Gluten-free Vegan Pancakes

We’ve all heard the horror stories about gluten-free pancakes.  I didn’t want any I might make to become another statistic of wasted ingredients thrown into the garbage because the results were abysmal.  While my family is eating “normal” pancakes, I don’t want to chew on cardboard frisbees or disintegrating messes of grainy goo.

If you’ve been reading my other gluten-free posts, you know I am also not a fan of the weird ingredients of starch this and gum that.  My family is accustomed to whole wheat everything, so a hearty replacement is necessary for my palate.  I’m not a fan of white flour anything.

I took my tried-and-true wheat pancake recipe and messed around with different flours.  Although my first attempt could have used some more salt, they were very good.  Fluffy texture, hearty taste…though a little more fragile than typical wheat pancakes.  The next batch I added ground chia seed and extra liquid.  That took care of their fragility!  I’m very happy with the final results.

Gluten-free Vegan Pancakes

  • 1/4 c. millet flour
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flourGluten-free Pancakes
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 T. ground chia seed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1 1/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 c. + 2 T. juice, such as organic apple or white grape
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp. non-flavored oil (I use extra light olive oil)
  • optional – sweetener to taste.  I find the juice is enough for me with sweet toppings

Whisk the flours, chia seed, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and egg replacer powder together in a mixing bowl.  Whiz the oats with the juice, milk, and oil in the blender.  Whisk the liquid with the dry ingredients for 30 seconds or so until bubbly.  Let rest for a minute while you heat the griddle to 300° F.  It will thicken up as it rests.

Pour 1/4 c.-sized pancakes blops from the batter onto the hot griddle.  Make sure you leave enough space between them for spreading out.  When they begin to be a little dry around the edges, flip them over.  When they are toasty brown on the underside, remove them to a serving plate.

Blueberry Lemon Kale Smoothie

Some of my favorite recipes have come together because of what I did or did not have on hand.  This morning I had no more fresh spinach left due to my forgetfulness to stop at the store yesterday, but there was a slice of honeydew.  My typical morning smoothie contains kale and spinach along with fruit ~ usually frozen.  After tossing in just the kale and the honeydew, I stared at the blender trying to imagine what would go well with them.  I love blueberries and honeydew together.  And of course everyone knows that blueberry and lemon pairing is classic, but would it translate into the smoothie?  I’ve failed before with lemon juice in a smoothie….

…But not this time!!  This smoothie has a bright, summery flavor that makes you want to jump right into your favorite warm weather fun.  The flavor lasts hauntingly in the background of your taste buds teasing you long after the smoothie is a memory.  I have a new favorite now!

Blueberry Lemon Kale SmoothieBlueberry Lemon Kale Smoothie

  • 3 red curly kale leaves, stem removed (if fairly large, just use 2)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. honeydew melon (about 1/8 of a melon)
  • 1/2 – 1 c. frozen blueberries (honestly, I didn’t measure – just tossed)
  • 2″ piece of frozen banana
  • 2-4 T. ground chia seed **
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • sweetener, to taste – I used a few sprinkles of pure stevia powder
  • coconut milk (not canned) – I used Silk coconut vanilla flavor, but use the brand you prefer.

Whiz all ingredients up in a blender, using just enough coconut milk to get the blender going at first.  You can always add more as you go, but the honeydew typically will release a lot of juiciness so that you won’t need very much else.

This makes enough for 1 person’s stand-alone breakfast or 2 people’s smaller servings.  Mine made about 3 cups and though I offered sips to other family members, I wasn’t sad when they turned me down and I got it all.  😉  (They are not green smoothie enthusiasts.)

**Not only is this little seed a powerhouse of omega-3’s, but it has loads of protein and fiber, too!  It will give your smoothie staying power so that you aren’t hungry for hours.  If you aren’t a fan of chia seed or haven’t used it much, only use a small amount to begin with until you get acclimated to it.  It will thicken the smoothie, especially if you don’t drink it right away.  If you plan to take it with you as you commute, you might use more liquid or less chia seed.