Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vegan Brown Butter Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (. . . and summer canning tips for the "cherry" obsessed)

This is one of those recipes that came about because another oatmeal raisin cookie recipe didn't. I was insane to bake today in this ninety degree gawdawful heat. Cravings have priority. While I was at it--baking, that is, I whipped up some cinnamon raisin bread, too. It was a little steamy in here. (Something about the cinnamon being out made me crave the bread. But I don't know.) I can barely concentrate enough to stay on task going from one room to the next. But somehow today I was able to accomplish both bread and cookies thanks to a little cinnamon-obsessed moment.  

I think of the oatmeal cookie in the way I was raised to think of them: chewy. There are other schools of thought on the matter of oatmeal cookies. And I won't eat them. You know who you are: dry and crumbly. Save that for the shortbread cookies. So after one huge, messy kitchen cookie disaster, I did what any other woman would do, I baked another batch of cookies again, only this time, I wasn't messing around. And brown butter showed up to take these to the next level of yum. It wasn't on purpose, sort of a happy accident with the butter. I wasn't paying attention. But it worked, okay?   
I think I've mentioned my cookbook collection before. This is one of those days where it took flipping through at least half a dozen to find something close to what I wanted, only I had to veganize again and as I saw with the first try, I knew what not to do. (Sometimes you have to fall down in the kitchen to really be spectacular the next time.) Not literally. Though I've been known to do just that. Fall. Down.
See how the bottoms of these are all nice and crispy and tops are all fluffy and full of raisins--that's because we added some fat to them. No soy milk. Just plain old fat. Using Earth Balance vegan butter--and like I mentioned: browning it some. 
(The vegan in me doesn't always crave uber-healthy.) 
The mixture will be quite runny when you finish stirring and you may be left wondering what in the world I was thinking posting this recipe. But trust me, it firms up quickly in the fridge--just like the picture of this cold frosty bowl with its mound of raisin cookie dough (which I had to practice great restraint to keep from eating the entire thing myself). I made a small batch of dough--enough for a dozen cookies. I baked six at a time. I like to have the smell of the cookies in the house so I saved the rest of the dough for later. Use old fashioned rolled oats--not the quick cooking kind. 

On a completely unrelated topic, I have been buying and storing cherries like they'll never return. I've walked around with red under my fingernails for a week from pitting them. I initially bought three pounds, intending to "just can a couple jars" of my favorite plum cherry preserves. But then I had to run the store again and I couldn't resist . . . just one more pound. And another. Well, let's just say that if the end of the world should happen tomorrow, we'll be okay. Er, I'll be okay. DH is not a fan. (How could this be--I ask him this every summer: How can you NOT like cherries?) 
He prefers berries. So I canned mixed berry jam for him while I was at it. . . making for another steamy kitchen afternoon. 
I used Pamona's Universal Pectin for all of my fruit canning this year. It's a saving grace when it comes to cutting back the sugar. My favorite plum cherry preserves usually takes seven cups of sugar for 4-5 half pints. This year, I measured my fruit out (after pitting) and then used the Pamona's create your own recipes chart to help me figure out the amount of sugar and pectin to use and cut my sugar I needed for the same recipe to two cups. Amazing. And better yet, I can taste the fruit and may possibly have saved myself from diabetes.
There's fifteen new jars of yum in the basement right now. This is just the beginning.
 Next up: canning tomatoes!

Vegan Brown Butter Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
*Adapted from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
**makes 12-14 cookies

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 stick Earth Balance butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut *optional
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and set aside. In a small bowl, add the oats and sprinkle the water over them and set aside. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan until the butter begins to change to a lovely light amber color. This may take five minutes or so--just keep and eye on it. Once you get a sort of amber color, remove from heat and set aside to cool. Measure out the dry ingredients into another bowl: flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Add the oats and sift together well. In the pan with the butter, add the sugars, vanilla extract, olive oil--mix well with a spoon--until sugars dissolve. Add the coconut (if using--and you should!), and raisins. Add all dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir just until the dry pieces are incorporated--no vigorous stirring is needed! For one cookie, use about a tablespoon of dough. If you are baking these right away--the mixture may be too wet and would benefit from about 15-20 minutes in the fridge. Just trust me. Place the mound of dough for each cookie well-spaced apart on cookie sheet--about six cookies per cookie sheet because they will spread a bit. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges of cookies begin to turn golden brown. Remove pan from oven and allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet. Store in air tight cookie jar. (If you have dough left over, place in a container in fridge and remove about fifteen minutes prior to baking so you will have a softer cookie dough to work with.)   

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vegan Black Raspberry Cobbler with Biscuit Thick Crust (Heirloom Amish Recipe. . . and your mother was right: Always. Wear. Sunscreen!)

This week: bake, eat, bake some more, run, garden, pet the dogs and bake again--oh and attend a medical procedure for DH. This cobbler is a result of what happens with a black raspberry patch that's gone amok and a whole lot of stress on the side. The cobbler is an old recipe from one of my mother's Amish cookbooks. Growing up in Indiana, many of our summer trips involved a visit to Amish country. Mom was into the Amish. Though I don't think she'd trade her modern conveniences like electricity (powering her sunlamps!) for the whole "Amish" way. Ever. 

A huge black raspberry crop showed up in our yard this summer. (I have the remnants from the thorns all over my upper arm to prove it--a small price to pay for enjoying these delicious fruits.) We had no trouble devouring them. On my last trip down the hill, I had harvested about four cups of berries. I knew immediately they'd be made into a cobbler (one of DH's favorites). Problem was, I didn't know which recipe I'd use. About ten years ago, I had used this same Amish recipe, but with the traditional butter/fat/and a TON of sugar--the recipe called for. Not this time. I whole-grained the crust up and then cut back on the sugar and of course, used vegan butter. The result was pure heaven. You should check to be sure you have some vegan ice cream on hand. Pretty much mandatory for finishing this dish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homemade Dill Pickles (fast. . . no canning required!)

So far I've made three batches of homemade dill pickles. Every morning I go into the garden, there's a another "surprise" cucumber. This is my best cucumber crop yet. A few years back, my first pickling disaster was so salty, it nearly required eating a pound of bananas to offset the spike in my sodium levels. A detox from dill pickles then ensued. This recipe is forgiving and allows for some latitude in the amount of salt you'd like. I prefer my pickles a little more briny and less salty.

 The cucumber season has been plentiful. I planted about six seeds back in April indoors. They were about two or three years old. Truth be told, cucumber seeds will produce better the older they are. (When they fall off the cliff in terms of their germination rate, I have no idea--but I had read this fact about the cuke seeds and fortunately for me, I am always saving seeds.) Thus, I am experiencing my first "old cucumber seed" bonanza this summer.
 At first, I wasn't sure I'd have room for them--they spread and like tons of garden space. If you're savvy about it and have the "energy"--they will climb a trellis. I skipped the trellis. But I did give them plenty of room to grow. I have pickling cucumbers and slicers. The difference being, one is for pickling (obviously). The pickling cukes are smaller and quite prolific producers. I companion planted them with two bronze fennel/dill plants and zucchini. I love the bronze fennel against the bright green of the other foliage. Companion planting tip: always plant dill with your cucumbers!  

Grab some pickling cucumbers the next time you're at the farmers' market. Then rush home and make these dill pickles. Or next  year, plan ahead and plant your own cukes. They are incredibly easy to grow and will do well in containers, too. The best cucumbers are made from the most freshly picked cucumbers. Ask the grower when the pickles were picked. 

Ask if Peter Piper picked them. . . just get them as fresh as you can.

Grab some pickling spices. The difference in your pickle flavor will be amazing. The McCormick's brand is the one I used. 

Because you aren't using a water bath canning method to make these pickles, they are only good for about four-five days in the fridge (if they last that long). Store them in a glass container with a lid and enjoy!

Homemade Dill Pickles 
*Adapted from Rachael Ray

3-4 pickling cucumbers sliced on the diagonal about 1/2" thick
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic minced
2 T. fresh dill chopped
2 tsp. pickling spice

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add vinegar, sugar and salt and bring just to a boil. In a medium bowl--one that is a bit flat (so the cucumbers can be submerged in the vinegar to soak up all the goodness) add your cucumbers, garlic, fresh dill, and pickling spices--toss together in a bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over all of this. Carefully toss the pickles around a bit to make sure the pickles all have a chance to soak up this yummy mixture. Store them in the fridge. These are better after they've had a chance to cool. *Note: if you taste the mixture and feel there needs to be more salt, just sprinkle more over the pickle/vinegar mixture.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blogger Photo Restoration Complete! (How I Fixed the Google Plus "Mess"-- You're Welcome)

I am not going to tell you the last few days has been easy. A nightmare is more like it. (Felt like I was trapped in a cage with spider monkeys.) This "blog photo disappearing act" tragedy has happened to other blogspot bloggers. I feel your pain and possibly this made me even more determined to find a solution to this mess that nearly wiped out SIX YEARS of my digital life. Here's a caveat to remember: if you are going to blog on a free platform, recognize there are risks you take in doing so. I don't claim to know the inner workings of Google any more than the next person. However, I sort of have an "in" with regard to how search works (those digital footprints and detritus)--and his name is Dr. Thyme. So to you DH for these little monster moments you had to endure as I sat feverishly plucking my blog posts from cyberspace (dear god, over 450 of them)--thank you for your patience and understanding--and tissue-box-replacer man.

I hope in sharing my story, I am able to help at least one more person who may experience a similar meltdown, er, "problem". Or prevent the same disaster from happening to someone else.

Now for the details--and this is not complicated, but is very time consumptive:  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We Have A Problem. . .

Well. I think this may be my official "undoing." It appears the entire six years of photo history within my blog has been wiped away. All except those I decided NOT to delete in Google+. Why, may you ask, would you EVER do that? Delete photos. To save space, silly. I had moved my photos from my phone onto Google+ (to shore up more space on my phone--like you are supposed to do, like you are told to do). While doing so, decided, well, since I was "in there," may as well free up more space in Google+, because wouldn't that be nice to free up space for Google? So I deleted some photos of "old food" and whatnot. Years. Of. Food. And. Whatnot. . .GONE.

Never, never realizing for one single moment that I had just deleted 99.9 of my blog photo history. Because I am prone to hysterics, and yes, you could say I am near hysterical right now, I called my DH. Oh no, he said. When he says "oh no," this is very bad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes with Black Raspberry Buttercream Frosting (. . . I was "berry" surprised by Rubus 'Bristol'!)

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes with Black Raspberry Butte...
I was out in the back yard yesterday and had an I Spy moment while walking the kids. Mother Nature had gifted us with canes and canes of black raspberries. Apparently we once lived on top of a berry plantation. Out of sheer laziness I had decided to not "bother" trimming back some overgrowth of the thistle-bearing sticks that for years have demanded some attention from the pruning sheers. They are the ugliest things, really. And in winter they stick out of the ground with their red stems like nobody's business. All over. I am forever walking by the ragged jumbles telling myself get to those sticks. Never made it this spring. 
Lucky us!
Whoa. So glad I let things "go" a bit. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kelp Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing (Um, I may have a yarn "problem" plus we go hither and yon)

It was only a matter of time before "kelp" entered this blog. Last month, DH and I were searching for a vegan eatery in St. Louis. Finding a vegan restaurant in STL is very simple--there are only a handful. I overwhelm easily, so it's a win-win for me in deciding. We were near Forest Park, PuraVegan was ohsoclose. So that settled it for us. This isn't a restaurant review post, but if it were, major kudos would be handed out. I decided to have a kelp noodle salad. Dr. Thyme had the vegan burger. (No surprise there.) What happened next changed my eating for about two weeks. Kelp was all I could think about. Kelp was all I wanted. 


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