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

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

I told you we had a lot of birthdays right about now!  This is a favorite cake in my family.  They often request it for special occasions.  This time I happened to make it with spelt flour, but King Arthur’s white whole wheat (or Trader Joe’s) works marvelously well, too.

In the beginning this recipe was a muffin recipe from a book called A-Z Muffins that I borrowed from a library.  It wasn’t vegan and it wasn’t particularly healthy, either, with loads of oil.  After I turned it into a vegan creation with more healthful ingredients, I made it as muffins, but decided that it made a wonderful dense cake instead.  (Quicker and less clean-up, don’t you know….Does anybody like washing muffin tins?)

{I’m still learning R’s camera and didn’t increase the shutter speed, making this a little blurry.  I also tried to capture an artful picture of a piece of cake on a plate, but the piece I put on there was somehow a little smushed and didn’t look pretty at all.  So, you get a shot from a piece still in the pan.  Realism…at it’s…finest?}

Usually, we don’t serve banana chocolate chip cake with frosting (only on birthdays) because it is just so moist and marvelous on its own.  Plus it has all those chocolate chips…mmmm.  You see, my family has learned a crazy habit ~ from me ~ of putting milk on the cake in a bowl and eating it that way.  (Didn’t you ever hear Bill Cosby’s comic routine about cake for breakfast?  Flour, eggs, milk…all healthy ingredients, right?  {or so I thought at the time}  Yes…yes, that is how it all began one morning when as a teenager I ran out of cereal and nobody was there to stop me from eating cake in my bowl instead.)  Thus, we don’t usually need the frosting.  My poor son-in-law just shakes his head and quietly eats his on a plate with a glass of soy milk beside it.  😀

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 4 c. white whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 7 medium-sized, very ripe bananas (with speckles…or turning brown, if you must)
  • 1 c. honey
  • 2/3 c. applesauce (or 1/2 c. melted coconut oil, or combo of the two)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Spray 9″x13″ pan with oil.

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mash bananas with a pastry blender or potato masher in a medium-sized bowl.  Mix in the remaining wet ingredients with the banana.  Add banana mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together until there are no dry spots.  Scrape into prepared pan and smooth out batter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (look out for chocolate chips!)  Cool on rack.  (I have never tried to turn this out of the pan to place on a platter.  I have only served it directly out of the pan.  I suggest parchment paper in the bottom if wish to remove it from the pan.  I also think 8″ round pans would work better for that purpose.)

My daughter, K, with her birthday cake.  Only 2 candles?!  What’s up with that?  😀

Island Cookies

I love taste testing my cookie recipes!  😀  Of course, sometimes it gets out of hand….  Like this time.  (By the way, you can click on the pictures to see bigger versions.)

Last weekend, I needed a new cookie recipe, because somebody (or bodies) had snacked on the chocolate chips and I couldn’t make the requested lunch box favorites – chocolate chip cookies.  I also needed a gluten-free cookie.  This is what I found.  It was based off of this recipe.  I was intrigued, but frustrated.  Too often gluten-free, grain-free recipes call for massive amounts of eggs.  It can be difficult to substitute, because often they are doing more than one job – leavening, binding, moisture, flavor.  I can fix the moisture issue, as a general rule, but the leavening/binding issues can be tricky.  Flavor can be adjusted to make up for the lack of eggs, too.  I did some reading on other websites about replacing eggs in things (thus reinforcing the on-going thought that we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us when it comes to creating something “new.”)

Often times, you don’t know for sure how things will work out until you’ve made at least one batch….or two…or….well, you get the picture.

My first attempt came out ~ well ~ in my mind…plain.  Remember what I said about eggs giving things flavor?  Hmmm…they had a very mild flavor.  I was afraid my non-taster hubby wouldn’t be impressed.  I was sure tweaking would be in order.  Guess what?  All the guys liked them!  The impression they got was of a sugar cookie with a little cinnamon.  Who knew?  However, I wasn’t finished tweaking.

The “worst” of it was that I didn’t finish tweaking until about half of the cookies were baked!  😀  I had the dough mixed up and decided if I threw in some rum flavoring it would add a lot to the overall flavor.  Then I thought, “What about some coconut flakes?”  Before I threw those in, I made up 2 cookies from the original dough in the mixing bowl – 1 to taste test and 1 for the photo shoot.  (Those taste a lot like coconut snickerdoodles.)

While I was stirring in the coconut, I thought about how much hubby prefers chocolate chips in his cookies.  So, I put 2-cookies-worth of coconut-laden dough onto the cookie sheet and added chocolate chips.  I no longer thought they would need to be rolled in the cinnamon sugar.  One cookie later told me ‘no.’  It stuck like crazy to the glass I was using to flatten the cookie balls.  Back to the sugar…but I really thought just plain sugar (aka: evaporated cane juice crystals) would be good enough.

By this time, I had the first pan in the oven – can you believe it?  Finally.  When the cookies came out, I almost burned my mouth tasting the first one before they cooled!  By this time, the 2nd pan was already in the oven with plain-sugar-coated cookies on it.

I bit into the first cookie ~ the plain one.  MMmmm…it was SO much better than my first attempt.  I only ate a bite, because I hadn’t been hungry this morning and hadn’t actually had breakfast yet.  Next I broke off a piece of the coconut-flakes-added cookie.  Oh, man, this was even better than the last one!  I couldn’t wait to try the ones with chocolate chips.  All set to get a bigger burst of flavor than before, my mouth watered….ah, let down.  Without the cinnamon sugar, they were just plain ol’ cookies!

Quickly I got the next pan ready with cinnamon-sugar on them.  When they came out of the oven, I finally got that amazing burst of flavor I knew was coming!

Overall, I love each of these cookie variations for different reasons.  They were all moist inside with a nice crumb.  Since I made a double batch, by the time I got to the very last pan, the coconut flour had soaked up a little too much moisture and the finished product was a bit on the fragile side as it came off the pan.  If you make a single batch, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Island Cookies

  • 3/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1/4 c. Earth Balance buttery spread sticks (1/2 a stick)
  • 1/4 c. softened virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. Silk vanilla coconut milk (you could probably substitute canned coconut milk)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 3/4 c. coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. coconut flakes – I used sweetened ones (opt. – if not using chocolate chips, increase)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (opt.)
  • 3 T. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (use the good stuff for the best flavor – Saigon, etc.)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugar, Earth Balance, coconut oil, vanilla, rum extract, salt, and molasses until creamy.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Add roughly a 1/3 of the coconut milk, stirring until batter begins to fluff up.  Add another 1/3 of the coconut milk, again mixing well.  Reserve the remaining coconut milk.  Sprinkle the baking soda over the dough and whip into the batter.  Stir in the coconut flour and when almost all is incorporated, add the reserved coconut milk.  Add coconut flakes and chocolate chips if using.  Let rest for 5 minutes while mixing remaining sugar and cinnamon in a cereal bowl.

Form dough into no-bigger-than-ping-pong-sized balls and roll/toss in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place on cookie sheets and press lightly down with the bottom of a wide drinking glass.  (If you prefer, you can use a fork, but I didn’t care for the looks as much.)  If the chocolate chips resist the pressing, just wiggle the glass a bit and they will give in.  😀

Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Cool on racks.Yields 25-28 cookies

Secret Ingredient Brownies

There are some dietary “fads” that just seem inherently wrong.  When I heard of this particular whopper, I backed slowly away from the recipe source and ran.  There was NO WAY I was making this dessert.  Just no way.

Enter my doctor.  He told me I needed to not eat flour products – not any.  After going through serious withdrawl and pouting a significant amount, I did lose some weight.  But more than that, I discovered that my aches and pains had receded!  That was enough to keep me away from wheat forever.  (Especially after I binged on a batch of cookies and a few slices of cornbread and was slammed back into pain.)

Therefore, the next time a recipe mentioning beans in brownies showed up (yes, I said beans), I paused before running screaming into the night.  Brownies without flour?  I could have brownies again?  Hmmmm…maybe these did bear some closer examination.  After all, if you throw enough chocolate at something, it’s bound to be good.

Per usual, I didn’t choose the first recipe I saw.  That’s not my style.  With the availability of the internet, there are comparisons to be made.  I wanted the BEST tasting brownies for the minimum amount of fuss.  (It’s not unusual for me to take the best ideas from several sources and whip up my own plan like I did here.)

Are you feeling brave?  Would you like to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes (especially a fussy eater)?  Never fear…these taste wonderful.  I even licked off the spatula and scraped out the blender while my first batch was baking.

Now these are my go-to recipe when I need cookies for my husband’s lunch and I’ve run out of time.  He loves them, the kids love them, and I love how fast they are to make!  Seriously ~ just throw the batter ingredients into the blender, whiz it up, and pour it into the pan.  Sprinkle the nuts and chocolate chips across the top, give it a stir, and pop it in the oven.   Done.  Baking doesn’t get any easier than this.

Secret Ingredient Brownies

  •  1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil (preferably virgin)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no water added)
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. pure stevia powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coffee substitute powder (Cafix, Roma, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4-1/2 c. chopped pecans (or other nut of choice)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (non-dairy)

Preheat oven to 350° and spray an 8” x 8” pan with oil.

Puree all except the nuts and chocolate chips in a blender, scraping down the sides occasionally to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.  Blend until very smooth.  This is the key to making them good.  If you don’t blend them enough, they will taste ever so slightly beany.

Scrape batter into prepared pan with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over the batter, stirring them in with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Do not overbake!  Cool on rack.

These may be doubled easily in a 9″x13″ pan, but if you don’t have a high powered blender, it may be harder to get the batter smooth.  This is the way I’ll be making them from now on, because otherwise they disappear to quickly!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let’s face it ~ most people realize that cookies are not health food.  And those of us who are vegan realize that most cookies contain milk, eggs, and butter (or worse, hydrogenated oils.)   But sometimes, the siren song of cookies in the bakery window is just overwhelming.  Despite a desire to eat a whole-plant-food based diet, sometimes the cookie monster inside simply won’t be put off with another piece of fruit for dessert or an imitation cookie (you know the kind ~ the ones even undiscriminating little kids won’t eat.)

Before you succumb to that cookie (or worse yet, a package of store bought ones), hurry home and make these.  They are not CHIP- or Forks-Over-Knives- approved; they contain too much sugar and fat for that.  But they are a far sight healthier than Toll House chocolate chip cookies that most of us grew up eating!

I spent several years perfecting this recipe.  I wanted to cut the fat, do away with the dairy products, and use whole wheat flour.  I had some pretty sad and sorry cookies at the beginning!  You get the benefit of all that trial and error.  The final piece to the puzzle was parchment paper.  I know it’s a pain to use and adds extra expense, but it is worth it.  No more squashed cookies trying to peel them off of the pan with the spatula.  No more stuck-on goo to scrape off before the next ones can be put on the cookie sheet.  And no more washing the pans, either.  If you are careful about keeping the dough off of the sides, you can just throw the paper away, wipe the pans off, and put them back in the cupboard.

I usually have “one extra note” to make about my recipes.  Here is today’s.  When it comes to vanilla in cookies (or anything, for that matter) use a heavy hand.  If the real stuff is too expensive for you to do that, then by all means use imitation.  The taste difference will amaze you.  Confession:  I don’t measure my vanilla – I guesstimate and splash it in.  (I taught my kids to do this, and it got my daughter, K, in trouble one of the years she wasn’t homeschooled.  She was in home ec. making chocolate chip cookies and her teacher spotted her splashing in the vanilla and romped on her for it.  It was too expensive for such a thing and besides that, you are supposed to measure it, don’t ya’ know!!  When it came time for the teacher to taste test all the groups’ cookies [not a bad job to have…], guess which ones got the highest praise?  Ha!  Vanilla for the win!)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 c. non-hydrogenated soy margarine, softened (1 stick), such as Earth Balance
  • 1/4 c. light olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 3 c. evaporated cane juice or sugar (you can use 2 ½ c., but it’s better with 3)
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no added water)
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk plain or vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional, but it adds extra nutrition and omega 3 fatty acids)
  • 2 c. chocolate chips (more if you want them bursting at the seams)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 4 1/2 c. King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s ‘white’ whole wheat flour (from spring wheat that is sweeter and not as strong in flavor)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.  This step is non-negotiable.  Without it, I cannot be responsible for how awful your cookies look.

With a wooden spoon, in a large bowl, combine margarine, olive or coconut oil, cane juice, molasses, and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir in egg replacer powder.  Add a third of the non-dairy milk, or so, at a time, beating it in completely after each addition.  Keep whipping it until fluffy and creamy.  Tip the bowl some to make it easier.  (You can toss the milk in all at once, but it tends to cause separation and then you have to work harder to whip it together.)  Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in flour until no dry spots remain.  Don’t be afraid to add an extra 1-2 T. non-dairy milk at this point if the dough seems crumbly.  You want the dough to just stick together if you press a clump on a spoon, or between your fingers.  The moisture content of whole wheat flour varies causing slight differences each time.  Just don’t add too much extra milk, or your cookies will be very flat and hard.

Drop by tablespoon onto parchment-covered cookie sheets.  (Or roll into balls for perfectly round cookies.)  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove to cookie racks to cool.  If you want smaller cookies dropped by teaspoon, reduce the baking time to 8-10 minutes.

Oatmeal Cookies

Eating cookie dough – I think we all did it growing up!  That is, until Mom learned that raw eggs could contain salmonella and kill us.  Rats.  There went all the fun of “helping” make cookies.  Somehow, though, when her back was turned, I still managed to snitch a taste here and there.  To a little kid’s mind it made no sense whatsoever to one week be allowed to eat the dough and the next to be told it was dangerous.  Once I became a mom, I had to be diligent and depressing and not allow my children to eat it, either when we weren’t yet vegan.  Therefore, it was with great joy that it dawned on me while creating a vegan cookie recipe that there were no eggs in the cookie dough any more.  I could teach my children to eat cookie dough!  (I think I probably created a problem there…ha!)

This recipe probably provides my favorite cookie dough to eat (although chocolate chip is a close second.)  There is something about the chewy oatmeal and the goodies chosen to vary the recipe that make me dip in again and again.  (I guess it might be a little difficult to definitively tell you how many cookies the batch makes!)  🙂

The batch pictured contains a wonderful raisin medley from Trader Joe’s.  It has 3 types of HUGE raisins – white, flame, and regular.  If you are not a raisin fan (like some of my kids – and lo, and behold, my husband!  He refused to eat the cookies when he saw these.  Shocking….simply shocking!  This is the man who is a devourer of cookies…), you can switch them with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips (I’ve actually found a dairy- and corn syrup-free kind once!), coconut flakes, etc.  Or combine a whole bunch of things together to make some crazy cookies.

And be forewarned….you may wish you’d  made a double batch when you see how quickly these disappear!  (I guess mine will be around longer since the cookie-monster hubby isn’t involved any more.  But wait…these are my 17-yr. old son, J’s, favorite cookies.  Never mind….they probably are already gone.)

Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) Earth’s Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, softened (these contain no trans fats)
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil (virgin is best) or light olive oil
  • 1 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice
  • 1-2 T. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (white whole wheat is sweetest and lightest)
  • 3 c. oats
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Stir in soy milk a bit at a time and whip with spoon until fluffier.  Add salt and baking soda into sugar mixture.  Add flour and oats.  Stir thoroughly.

Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  If the cookies seem crumbly after the first pan is baked, press the dough together more before baking.

Makes approximately 42 cookies.  (I tried to estimate just how much dough I snitched to make up the total.)

Variations: Add 1 c. raisins, nuts, chocolate or butterscotch chips, and/or coconut before adding the flour and oats.