Whole Grain Bread

love making my own bread.  Kneading the dough is so relaxing.  I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably!  Think bricks.  I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up.  Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard.  It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem.  I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too.  Hallelujah!  Fresh bread again!  My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore.  I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!

  Homemade Whole Grain Bread

Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)

  • 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
  • ½ c. dry oatmeal
  • 1 T. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ c. water
  • ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)

Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl.  Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour.)  Set aside remaining 2½  c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees.  Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water.  Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly.  Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten.  Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.)  After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well.  The dough should look shaggy.  If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour.  Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour.  Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.)  More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky.  Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy.  It will slightly push back as you knead it.  If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.

Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil.  Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you.  This will tell you that you kneaded it enough.  Better not enough kneading than too much!  Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area.  Let rise until double in size.

Oil your 8”x4” bread pans.  Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times.  Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Form into loaves.  If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan.  Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil.  Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.

The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs.  It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use.  It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.

*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt.  Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees.  You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water.   Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.

** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands.  Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again.  Keep doing this for 10 minutes.  You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go.  As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you.  It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it.  This will be at about the 10 minute mark.  Try not to over-knead the bread.  If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.

Note:  If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans.  This makes a higher loaf.

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 001 Since we’re all short on time at this time of year, I’m going to keep any comments brief.

It is a tradition with my kids to decorate sugar cookies for the holidays as a family – well, minus hubby, who just isn’t interested.  Sometimes the kids are really good about prettily and carefully crafting their cookies.  Other years, not so much…and we end up with houses turned in a funny way and becoming elephants, snowmen upended and being crafted into ice cream cones.  No…I do not know why, nor do I understand.  But since three out of four of them are adults, who am I to argue?  lol  However, it is my creations you see pictured here.  😀

Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks
  • Sugar Cookies 0121/4 c. extra light olive oil
  • 2 T. soy sour cream
  • 2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals, or sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (or more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk (may need a smidgen more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s brand)

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

Thoroughly cream “butter,” olive oil, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Add in egg replacer powder.  Stir milk in little at a time, beating until well mixed.  Stir in salt and baking powder.  Then add the flour, mixing carefully until no dry spots remain.  If dough seems crumbly, add a little bit of milk – but be very careful here – it doesn’t take much to make a soggy mess suddenly!  It is the right consistency when a small ball of dough can be lightly kneaded and come together.

Roll dough into balls and flatten with a glass dipped into evaporated cane juice crystals/sugar.  (You may need to rub your cookie-dough-smeared palm on the bottom of the glass before the first cookie so that the sugar will stick to it.)  OR  to make cut-out cookies take a good-sized lump of dough, knead it until it is more cohesive, and roll it out on the kitchen counter.  You shouldn’t need any flour if you are careful and use something like a dough scraper or a thin pancake turner to gently scrape up the cut-out dough from the counter.  This makes for a much nicer flavored cookie!  If all else fails, use a little flour on the counter.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack.  Decorate as desired.  (Or leave the sugared round ones plain.)

Yields approximately 6 dozen (depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

Sugar Cookies 017

Peach Cobbler (or Blueberry…or Blackberry…or….) plus a gluten-free option

Years and years ago, when women wrote their recipes more cryptically than they do today (a pinch of this, a dash of that, a slow oven…as in wood-burning stove/oven!), my grandmother crafted a cobbler that was out of this world!  My mother recreated it for a “normal” oven and I grew up adoring cobblers of any kind.  When we lived in Oregon, we picked wild Marion blackberries on the side of the road that were as long as my 7-year-old thumb and thicker – and they had very little seeds, as I recall.  They made the best cobbler I ever can remember.  (I tried to recreate it with frozen Marion blackberries…oh, no.  It was more of a seed-crunch cobbler.   Ick.)

When we became vegan, I figured out what to do with the handed-down cobbler recipe.  I had tried and tried to tweak it to make it healthier…and gave up to a certain extent.  If I was going to eat the cobbler-of-my-childhood/vegan-version, it wasn’t going to be super-duper healthy.  It was going to be dessert…with whole grain flour.  (Hey, I couldn’t give in entirely to unhealthy living!)  🙂

A few days ago a friend dropped off some South Carolina peaches that he brought back from his trip.  They smelled amazing!  I could have crawled in the bag and absorbed that perfume into my skin.  We ate some of the peaches, but when my boys went away for a 5-day camp-out, I knew I was going to have to make something with the fruit before it went bad.  My mouth started to water thinking about cobbler.

And then I remembered…my cobbler recipe is a wheat flour recipe.  And two days ago, I splurged and had some real, live pizza complete with a wheat crust (but vegan cheese…so maybe it’s not truly “real”) ~ and I’m paying for it with an achy body still today.  The last thing I wanted to do was make and eat more wheat ~ especially with my wheat-tolerant, eating-machine boys not there to help devour it.

First I prayed for guidance and then bravely started working on what was hopefully going to be an amazing gluten-free, vegan version of my grandmother’s recipe.  I’m sure she would be astonished.  As I type this, it is in the oven baking…and I am on pins and needles wondering how it will turn out.  I peeked in the oven at the half-way point, and it looks promising!  I’m so excited.  The peaches have sunk down in the batter perfectly!

Meanwhile, let me give you the just-plain vegan version of the recipe.  Then if the gluten-free one turns out, I’ll add that, too.  Remember, this is a special treat with plenty of sweetener and fat.  If you prefer a less sweet dish, cut down on the sweetener in the batter by 1/2 a cup, but I don’t recommend reducing the fat content any more…been there/done that…and it wasn’t pretty.

This makes a 4 quart casserole full as it rises.  It will drop down some as it cools.

Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour (I prefer white whole wheat – King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 1 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 4 cups or more of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh, I’ve used both successfully.  I usually use 6 cups of fruit.
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 4) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  (You can click on the picture to see just how lumpy it will look.)  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.

_________Update on the gluten-free cobbler__________

After actually allowing the cobbler to cool (only because I could test the taste and texture better without a burned tongue) I took a nibble of the crust.  Mmmm…it was very good and the texture was spot-on.  But before I really could tell you how it came out, I had to eat a big spoonful of it to know for certain.  (I was willing to go the distance for all of you!  Such a sacrifice!)  Oh, man…was it good.  I would have no problem serving this to anyone.  It has a slightly nutty flavor that the wheat version doesn’t, but it doesn’t detract from the overall dessert.  I think the sweetener could certainly be reduced in the batter.  Without the slight bitterness of the wheat, it doesn’t need as much.  On the other hand, if you want a knock-down, drag-out dessert that will go the distance, leave the sweetener as is!

Gluten-free Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 2 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 or more pints of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 8) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.

Apple Pecan Muffins

I got a message from a friend who is cooking for a group of young people involved in an Christian outreach program this summer.  She needed 2 dozen vegan muffins ~ could I help?  How could I say no?  Especially since this amazing woman is cooking for these kids even though she recently fell and broke her shoulder!

These are some of my favorite muffins and I wanted to share them with you.  But I confess I haven’t made them recently, because hubby and I would be tempted to eat them, wheat and all.  So, this was the perfect excuse to bake them for the recipe photo-op, but with temptation being removed!  🙂

I’ve been making this recipe for a very long time.  I made and froze these before my last baby was born so that once I needed them, hubby could bring them to me in the hospital to eat.  (Hospital food and veganism just don’t seem to dovetail very well.)  That baby is now 15!!  And I’ve been making them longer than that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to.

Apple Pecan Muffins

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s are good)
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (best if you can get ahold of Saigon or Ceylon, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (do not add water)
  • 1 c. chopped apple (the finer you chop it the softer it will be)
  • 1/4 c. broken pecan pieces (or chop if you want finer pieces)
  • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • soy milk added to lemon juice to make 1 c. total**
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 c. applesauce & an extra 1/4 c. oil)
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray muffin cups with oil.  Whisk lemon juice and soy milk together and set aside.

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg replacer powder in a mixing bowl.  Add pecans and chopped apple, tossing to coat apple with flour mixture.  In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk/lemon juice mixture (which should have curdled into vegan buttermilk) with the applesauce, oil, and maple syrup/honey.  With a rubber spatula, scrape wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together until no dry spots remain. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  As you can see from the picture of the unbaked batter, these will be very full muffin cups!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Place muffin pan on wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  (Trust me on this, okay?  It’s absolutely necessary, or your muffins will not let go of the pan and you’ll have muffin pieces that are slightly gooey because they haven’t finished setting up in the pan.)  Remove from pans with fingers ~ if they won’t let go with just a tiny tug, then let them cool a little longer (esp. in the summer if you don’t have the A/C on.)  Place on rack to finish cooling.

** I have only tried this with soy milk.  It probably works with other non-dairy milks, but I cannot vouch for how they behave.

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?  😀

Barley Flour Biscuits (wheat free)

These are simple drop biscuits that I like to use as a base for strawberry shortcake or under a tasty gravy.  They are not a light, fluffy, Pillsbury pop-out-of-a-can biscuit copy.  They aren’t bricks, either, but are full of whole-grain goodness that gives sturdiness to a simple meal of strawberry shortcake.  (Whole wheat flour ~ I especially like King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour ~ can be substituted for the barley and coconut flours, though you may wish to decrease the milk and baking powder a little.)

I like drop biscuits, because I’m more likely to make them if I don’t have to roll out dough and clean up the counter afterward.  Some people are really into the process of making food ~ and I applaud them.  We need those chefs and marvelous in-depth homemakers/bakers/cooks.  I love to cook and love good tasting food, but if it takes too long to make, I tend to skip it entirely!  There are just too many things clamoring for my time.  When I learned that my family didn’t notice a difference in drop biscuits vs. rolled-out ones, I never rolled out another biscuit.

The 2 biscuits pictured show 2 options – spooning up and treating the dough like a huge drop cookie (left), or taking that same amount of dough in damp hands and forming it slightly into a smoother, somewhat formed biscuit (right.)  If you use more dough, you can form the biscuit so that it has a higher profile so that it can be split in half more easily.  I am going to do that next time.

Barley Flour Biscuits (wheat free)

  • 1 1/2 c. barley flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. evaporated cane juice crystals (optional – use for shortcake biscuits)
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil OR 1/2 of an Earth Balance vegan buttery stick
  • 1 c. non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 450° and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut in coconut oil (if it is warm at your house and the oil has liquified, you can either harden it up in the refrigerator before hand, or you can melt it and whisk it into the non-dairy milk that has been brought to room temperature) OR vegan butter substitute into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until everything begins to look a bit crumbly and like there are tiny clumps that easily break apart when mashed with the blender.  Stir in the milk all at once with a fork, making sure that you get the flour in the bottom of the bowl that tends to hide there.  It will look way too runny at first, but it will firm up.

Drop or form into approximately 10 biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm and the bottoms are golden brown.  Serve right away under gravy, or cool for strawberry shortcake.

Make Your Muffins Healthier

It’s possible to re-make your favorite muffin recipes into healthier vegan versions.  Don’t hesitate to experiment with them.  Here are some tips:

  • Replace from half up to all of the oil with applesauce (the best texture comes from leaving about 2 T. of oil per dozen muffins)
  • Replace eggs with Ener-G egg replacer powder (1 1/2 tsp. per egg, plus 2 T liquid such as water or non-dairy milk added to the liquid ingredients, or if replacing the sugar with liquid sweetener, omit the extra liquid for just 1 egg)
  • Replace the sugar with honey or maple syrup to add more moistness, but be sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°
  • Use whole grain flours and oats instead of white flour
  • Use non-dairy milk

Here is an example of a modified muffin recipe:

Original:

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Healthier Version:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 T. light olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 T. unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour (*note)
  • 1/3 c. honey or maple syrup
  • 1 T. non-aluminum baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Original directions:  Heat oven to 400°.  Grease bottoms only of about 12 medium muffin cups.  Beat egg; stir in milk and oil.  Stir in remaining ingredients all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan.

Healthier version directionsHeat oven to 375°.  Spray 12 medium muffin cups with oil mister or use paper liners.  Whisk all dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Whisk all wet ingredients in small bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into dry, stirring just until moistened.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan – slip knife around edges if necessary to loosen.

Variations:

Blueberry: Stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries during the last few stirs after wet ingredients are added to dry.

Banana: Decrease milk to 1/3 cup; stir in 1 c. mashed bananas (2-3 medium) with the wet ingredients.  Add 1/3 c. chopped nuts and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, if desired, to the dry ingredients.

Oatmeal-Raisin: Stir in 1 cup raisins with the dry ingredients.  Decrease flour to 1 cup; stir in 1 cup quick oats, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon with the dry ingredients.

Pumpkin: Stir in 1/2 c. pumpkin with the wet ingredients.  Stir in 1/2 c. raisins and 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice with the dry ingredients.

Date-Nut: Stir in 1/2 c. chopped dates and 1/3 c. chopped nuts with the dry ingredients.

Apple-Nut: Stir in 1 medium apple, pared and chopped, with the wet ingredients.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 c. chopped nuts with the dry ingredients.

*NOTE: King Arthur’s white whole wheat is fantastic to use, as it’s made from spring wheat that is lighter in color and sweeter in flavor.  You can also use 1/2 – 1 c. oats in place of part of the flour.

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.

Cornbread (muffins or pan)

This recipe has been in my possession for so many years that I didn’t own a printer and it’s handwritten ~ probably didn’t even own a computer and if I did, I doubt it had a word processing program on it!  Yikes.  Some of you may wonder if the world existed then.  The notebook page it’s written on has bent edges, stains, and it needs its 3 holes repaired, causing it to fall out of the notebook regularly.  Originally, it was cut out of a woman’s magazine (who knows which one at this point?) complete with picture.  It was full fat, full milk and eggs, regular degerminated cornmeal, white flour – you name it.  It was pretty bad for you.  The recipe strongly called for cast-iron corn tins – but I didn’t own those, so I substituted the variation provided ~ muffin tins.

Because I wasn’t vegan at that time, I only changed one thing about the recipe – I used whole wheat flour in place of the white.  They were very tasty and everyone was happy when I served them.

Not long afterwards, I had to set the recipe aside.  My children and I were found to have allergies and we all became vegan overnight.  *gulp*  Since I didn’t have such a thing as internet yet to look for new recipes, I needed to learn how to take my much-loved ones and transform them.  (And while I was at it, one son had wheat and corn allergies, so I had to make something work for him, too.  I substituted millet flour for the cornmeal and barley or spelt flour for the wheat and made a small pan for him.  It had a stickier texture – you have to cut back on the liquid a bit – but it was worth it to him to eat something similar to our version.)  After a few attempts and substitutions, the recipe was deemed successful.  Update: I’ve learned that substituting oat flour for the wheat works very well.  It’s a little more fragile than the wheat version, but not terribly so.

This still is a favorite of mine.  I love it with chili, “chicken”-noodle soup, baked beans, and for breakfast with strawberry or raspberry jam and non-dairy milk over it  (Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!  Esp. if you use coconut milk.  Mmmmm….) – or warm for “dessert” with vegan “butter” and maple syrup drizzled over it.

Cornbread

  • 1 c. whole wheat flour or oat flour (whiz rolled oats in blender until floury)
  • 1 c. stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1/4 c. honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1 1/3 c. soy milk
  • 2 T. melted coconut oil (for best texture) or unsweetened applesauce or half and half of each

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray muffin tin or 8”x8” pan with oil.

Combine dry ingredients.  Whisk liquid ingredients in separate bowl; add to dry ingredients and whisk until batter is smooth and just begins to thicken – about 30 seconds.  Spoon into pan.  Bake muffins for 14 minutes or 8”x8” pan for 18-20 minutes, until edges are beginning to slightly brown and center is firm.  (If the edges begin to look too brown, the bottom will already be too dark.)

Variation:  Double and place in a 9”x13” cake pan and bake for 22-25 minutes.