29 January 2009

A Long Overdue Product Review -- Gluten-Free, Raw Snakaroons from Laughing Giraffe Organics

With one of my favorite product names ever, the wonderfully tasty, soft, and chewy Snakaroon from Laughing Giraffe Organics is a great snack. This raw cookie (actually HUGE mounds of cookies in an 11 oz. package) is made from all organics -- almonds, unsweetened coconut, agave nectar, extra virgin coconut oil, vanilla extract, and sea salt. They're pretty pricey bits, and very high in calories and fat, so these are treats to be savored. Just work out very aggressively after each bite.

I've tried duplicating the flavor and texture in my own version of the Snakaroon, but I'm not there yet. Probably the most impressive thing about the Snakaroon is its freshness. The flavors of coconut, almond, and vanilla were present in each bite. Definitely worth the $10, if only just once a year on my birthday (which is coming up in March, folks -- just giving you some advance warning).

The Laughing Giraffe folks have a range of tasty goodies, including Cranberry Orange Cacao Granola, which I gave to some of the volunteers at the co-op to sample. Here are Nancy and Gwen's comments:

"Light, nutty, and crispy. The orange essence lingers on the palate. Yummy, greedy granola."

I asked Nancy what she meant by "greedy" granola. She said it was greedy because they wanted it all for themselves (and a lot more). I completely understand. I'm greedy about the Snakaroons, which is why I didn't share a single 'oon with anyone.

22 January 2009

Book Review: Food Matters by Mark Bittman and Yet Another Vegan Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

I'm really glad Bittman's been making big changes in his life that have yielded improved health and welfare. His "How to Cook Everything" is the source of more than a few of my favorite recipes. However, I'm not that crazy about his new "Food Matters." On the other hand, the Nutty Oatmeal Cookies recipe in the book is fantastic.

First, if you're a pretty well-informed vegetarian, vegan, or even a (and I'm loathe to use this term) "flexitarian" (ugh, just a terrible word for someone who just isn't a vegetarian, but wants to be defined in some way), you won't find anything you don't already know. Especially when it comes to the beef industry. He barely touches on the poultry or pork industries.

What is interesting is Bittman's story about himself. But I find it to be a mere scratching of the surface. Tell me more, Bitty!

But, what is redeeming about the book is that the recipes, like all his recipes, are fine. They are health-conscious and tasty. For example, the oatmeal cookies I made for this review (in the vegan version he kindly provided) were moist and oaty. They also were rich and toothsome, yet light. The best part was that they made excellent breakfast cookies for my cohorts at the co-op.

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

I made some pretty big changes to the original recipe, including Chinese 5-Spice Powder instead of cinnamon. Now that I've started using it regularly, I find it difficult to not use it. However, I will restrain myself in future recipes. And, of course, as always, I've used agave nectar instead of the cane sugars.

One last thing -- the title of the cookie is a bit misleading. If it featured multiple nuts or perhaps peanut butter (or even more of the single nut for that matter), it would probably be more fitting. I'd call 'em Better Oatmeal Cookies.

That said, here's the recipe as I made it.

Better Oatmeal Cookies (inspired by Bittman's Nutty Oatmeal Cookies in "Food Matters")

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.


1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (feel free to use a flavored applesauce here)
1/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flame raisins (not as sweet as Thompson)


1. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat the liquid ingredients together until well combined.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients until well incorporated.
4. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
5. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, mixing just until combined.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out 16 cookies per sheet, allowing room between the cookies for spreading. They won't spread much, though. Use the scoop to pat down the tops a little.
8. Bake the cookies for 18 minutes, turning the sheets and changing their oven positions halfway through the cycle. The cookies should be light golden brown when you take them out.
9. Let them cool on the sheets for 5-10 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool completely.
10. Enjoy!

Note: These will keep for several days in an airtight container. Bittman says they only keep for a day or two. In our case, they are still great after several days. In fact, the flavor just keeps deepening.

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

14 January 2009

Book Review and Yummy New Brownie Recipe: Go Dairy Free by Alisa Marie Fleming

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

What a great way to Go Dairy Free! These brownies are inspired by the recipe for Coconut Fudge Brownies from the new book by Alisa Marie Fleming, Go Dairy Free. The brownies are indeed fudgy and coconutty. I boosted the coconut factor a bit when I used some coconut flour (see the recipe below) in combination with whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour. Per usual, I substituted agave nectar for sugar and carob for chocolate. Overall, a mighty tasty brownie that can easily become a favorite of any coconut fan.

The book is much more than a cookbook. Go Dairy Free is easily the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand compendium on the process of giving up dairy. Ms. Fleming, the longtime author of the Go Dairy Free blog, describes her experience with health issues that have since disappeared since she stopped eating/drinking dairy products. She also provides useful information on the differences between lactose intolerance and milk allergies. I'm hard pressed not to keep saying how useful this book is, but if you've never considered it, or are in the beginning stages of giving up dairy, it's well worth a read. Besides, you'll get some great new recipes in the bargain.

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

Speaking of recipes, I know you'll want to try this one.

Agave-Sweetened Coconut Fudge Carob Brownies (based on the Coconut Fudge Brownie recipe in Go Dairy Free)

Makes 12 brownies.


1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup carob powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2/3 cup agave nectar
2 eggs (can be made vegan by using 2 large mashed avocados instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsweetened carob chips
1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped


1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, carob powder, and salt.
2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and agave nectar until well blended.
3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended.
4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just incorporated.
5. Fold in the coconut, then the chips, and walnuts, mixing for about a minute after each addition.
6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and oil an 8-in. baking dish.
7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and let sit until the oven comes to temperature.
8. Bake the brownies for 25 minutes until a tester comes out with just a couple moist crumbs.
9. Let cool on a wire rack until completely cool, then cut and enjoy!

06 January 2009

Product Review: Agave Nectar-Sweetened Coconut Peanut Sauce from Simply Boulder

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

Normally I focus on sweet stuff to review, but I saw Simply Boulder's sauces and thought you agave fans ought to know about them. The one I'm holding here, Coconut Peanut is really zippy stuff. It reminds me of the tasty sauce used in cold sesame noodles.

I sampled it cold (which, by the way, is a good litmus test for sauces) on the salad below.

From Jan. 2009 Product Reviews and Recipes

The salad was comprised of baby spinach, tomato chunks, sliced mushrooms, shredded carrots, sliced avocado, last night's leftover garlic-sauteed green beans, and some tofu croutons (tips on those below). The sauce makes a spicy dressing, although next time, I'll probably cut it with a little tahini. Also, as I was making the tofu croutons, I dipped a few of the freshly made croutons into the sauce and enjoyed it very much.

About the croutons, all I did was drain and freeze some fresh tofu, then thaw it the next day. I drained it again, then squeezed out as much water as possible and blotted it dry. Then I heated up a tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, I sliced the tofu brick into 1/4 in. slices. I lightly fried them until they looked like toasted bread, and cut them into 1/2 in. cubes. They were great in the salad. They might just have turned me into a tofu convert.

I'm planning to make some hot sesame noodles to try the Simply Boulder Coconut Peanut sauce hot. Since it was very good cold, I'm sure it will be delicious hot.

For more info, visit Simply Boulder.