27 August 2008

Vegan Tahini Oatmeal and Cranberry Drops

A few years ago, I found this great recipe at the Whole Foods store Web site. Although the photo they provide doesn't look all that attractive (my cookies are a bit cuter, as far as cookies go), these are quite the yummy bits.

When I read the original recipe again on Monday, I knew that the cookies wouldn't take long to make. I was right; they didn't.

I pretty much used their recipe verbatim except for some pretty important changes:

1. Agave nectar for the maple syrup.
2. Addition of 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg with the dry ingredients.
3. Addition of 1/4 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries, also with the dry ingredients.
4. Let the batter rest for about 10 minutes before using a small scoop to drop the cookies onto sheets lined with parchment paper.
5. Heated oven to 330 degrees F.
6. Baked for 7 minutes, then turned the cookie sheets and baked for another 7 minutes.

I found it strange that Whole Foods hadn't spiced these at all, hence the addition of the nutmeg. You could easily add cinnamon as well. I'd probably add even more nutmeg next time. Ginger and allspice might be very interesting. If you make them that way, please let me know. I'd love to hear about it.

The texture of these cookies is very pleasing. Not grainy or gritty, not too chewy -- just perfect. When I passed these out on Monday night, my friends asked me what was in them that they couldn't identify (the tahini) and went back for more. The best part about these cookies is the tang of the cranberries that offers the ideal foil for the richness of the tahini and heartiness of the oats.

Overall, I'd definitely give these an A for 1. speed and ease, 2. flavor and flexibility, and 3. vegan deliciousness.

21 August 2008

Moore Beany Brownies

This insanely fudgy brownie comes from the nifty Jennifer Moore Howe. The wacky thing about these brownies is that they're light and fluffy at the same time. It has to be the 4 eggs. The next time I make these, I'll definitely add walnuts. They are already much healthier than most brownies because they don't contain any butter or oil, but the kicker is that they don't have any flour in them either. They're full of beans!

You'd never know it, either. I brought them to a Board of Directors meeting at the George Street Co-op earlier this month, and they were a big hit. They'd probably be an even bigger hit with some frosting. He, he, he.

Just a baking note -- I'm not sure if this always happens, but my brownies really fluffed up, split at the halfway mark, then settled in to supreme fudgyness. What do I mean by that? Take a look at these photos of the brownies after I pulled them from the oven.

Here's a close-up.

But here's the final texture.

I reworked her original recipe quite a bit, so I'll publish the alterations here.

Secret Weapon Highly Nutritious Brownies (adapted from Jennifer Moore Howe's recipe)


1 1/2 cups unsweetened carob chips
2 cups black beans (I actually used about 1 3/4 cup of black beans and 1/4 cup kidney beans, and Jennifer's original recipe calls for garbanzo beans.)
4 eggs beaten
2/3 cups agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup roasted carob powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon hazelnut flavored Teeccino (or your favorite instant non-coffee)
optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-in. baking pan with parchment paper or lightly oil the pan with canola oil.
2. In your food processor or blender, process the beans until they are smooth.
3. Over a pot of simmering water, place a glass or metal bowl with the chips. Melt the chips, stirring until smooth.
4. Add the melted chips, eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla to the beans and mix well.
5. In a separate, large bowl, sift together the carob powder and baking powder.
6. Add the instant non-coffee and walnuts to the dry ingredients and mix well.
7. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.
8. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a light coating of crumbs.
9. Cool completely on a wire rack.
10. Enjoy!

10 August 2008

Super-Duper Vegan Cookies

These are by far some of the best cookies I've ever had. The wonderful Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan's "Super-Charge Me! Cookies" are these fantastic lumps of tastiness. They're like the vegan version of the ideal chocolate chip cookie, but far better.

To tell the truth, I wasn't the one who picked out these cookies to make last week; it was my nephew Tyler. We were celebrating his 13th birthday (a bit late) by spending a day together, like we've done each year for the past few years. We also selected a couple of healthy vegetable-based recipes for lunch, but these cookies were definitely the big winner.

Dreena's original recipe calls for spelt flour, but we went for 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all-purpose. Tyler liked the result of using the half and half mixture because it gave texture to the cookie along with the oats, carob chips, coconut and dried cherries (a substitution for raisins). We both really enjoyed the chewiness and the richness of the cookies from the cashew macadamia nut butter we used instead of the almond butter. (Source note: Try Trader Joe's cashew macadamia nut butter for any nut butter in a recipe. It works beautifully.)

Finally, the new oven yielded excellent results, taking only 8 minutes to come to temperature. Luckily, I'd tested this early, so I didn't have to waste gas preheating the oven for the length of time it took (relatively short) to prep the cookies for baking.

Otherwise, aside from using 3 oz of agave nectar for the 1/2 cup of maple syrup, we didn't alter the recipe much. Per usual, I dropped the oven temp by 25 degrees F. Usually that means I have to bake the cookies longer, but not so with the new oven. Just 6 minutes, then turn the tray, then another 6 minutes. The cookies baked perfectly!

One last bit -- the recipe calls for flattening the cookies slightly (and rightly so). We forgot that part, but the scoop-shaped lumps we enjoyed were not affected in the least.

Eat, Drink & Be Vegan is very reasonably priced, and I highly recommend buying a copy. You will definitely use it.

05 August 2008

Product Review: Jake's Unbaked Bars

Jake's Unbaked is an ethical, vegan company that makes some of the most delicious, raw-agave-nectar- sweetened bars I've ever tasted. The Yogi Bar, flavored with Masala Chai spices, is crunchy, fresh tasting, and spicy with ginger and pepper. It might well be my favorite.

Jake's Goji bar also has a nice snap to it, but you can really taste the tangy gojis along with the coconut and almonds that are in every bar. As with all the bars, I was especially impressed by how crisp these soaked and low-temperature dried bars are. Some bars can be rubbery, or too sticky to take along on hikes or bike rides. These are just perfect for taking along on trips.

Finally, the Rawnola bar is definitely up there with the Yogi bar, as far as my flavor preference is concerned. Jake's Rawnola takes the best of what a granola bar is about -- flavor, texture, and portability -- and kicks it up a few notches by making it raw.

I can't say enough about these agave-sweetened bars. Of course, I tend to biased toward foods with fewer than 10 ingredients. Overall, they're terrific.

There's only one drawback, and that's a labeling issue. On the Jake's Unbaked Web site, the ingredients are all listed as organic (except the sea salt). The packaging, on the other hand, does not say the ingredients are certified organic (or organic at all). So, I would suggest to Jake that he invest in some new labels stressing the organic-ness of his products, especially since it shows that he puts a lot of time and energy into producing such a nice bar.

Jake's Unbaked

Altered Plates Receives Arte y Pico Award

How lovely! Miss Diva of Beach Eats has bestowed upon me the Arte y Pico award for Altered Plate's "creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language." That just about made my day. Everything afterward was simply, well, agave-sweetened frosting!

The original Arte y pico blog primarily a Spanish-language blog (although you will find some Portuguese written there as well), so if you're like me, you might have to visit Google Translate. Arte y pico is well worth a visit because original award recipients are displayed as well as links to blogs you might not visit otherwise.

Because one good turn deserves another, I'll share with you the award rules so you can present Arte y Pico awards yourself!

1. Pick 5 blogs that deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each recipient must list the name of its author and a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each recipient must show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4. Each recipient and the award giver must show the link of the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award: http://arteypico.blogspot.com/

5. Each recipient must display these rules.

OK, that said, here are my Arte y Pico award recipients:

1. Ice Cream Ireland -- I can't give these humble ice cream shop owners enough props for their gorgeous photos and well-written prose. Most businesses with blogs don't bother to invest their time and energies into producing a good blog. These fellows are a welcome exception.

2. Joy the Baker -- Beautiful photos, so elegantly staged. Her recipes are paired with stories that are immediately relatable. If nothing else, go for her reports on the Chocolate Chip Cookie Debate (links along the right column).

3. Have Cake, Will Travel! -- Celine's excellent vegan baking/cooking blog will have you in stitches with her hilarious commentary on the recipes. I also love that she uses agave nectar sometimes as well as carob (a rarity). I'd give my bundt pans to be her neighbor.

4. Diet, Dessert and Dogs -- Ricki's recipes are truly innovative, healthy, tasty and very easy on the eyes. Plus, you have to adore her dog photos. Probably the most interesting part of this blog is Ricki's personal journey of weight loss and health. Well worth a day reading and catching up with the story.

5. Cakespy -- A fun blog with excellent interviews, reviews and photos. Definitely THE spot to go for all things cake (especially cupcake). I might just have to purchase some Cakespy art for the new kitchen when it's finished. My favorite posts are those with photos decorated with smiling or grimacing cupcakes. Cracks me up every time!

04 August 2008

Lower-Fat, Lower-Sugar Banana Bread

Once again, I dove into the always-reliable Veganomicon for a good recipe to alter for agave nectar. This time, it was to address an interesting challenge -- what to do with a half case of very ripe bananas. I decided to try a variety of banana bread recipes, including the "Lower-Fat Banana Bread" from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's and Terry Hope Romero's encyclopedic book.

My, this was some tasty banana bread! Of course, it helps when your ingredients are fresh, organic, and pure. Not only was it tasty, but it was moist and light, unlike some gummy bricks that resulted from other recipes I tried.

The only changes I made to the original recipe were:

1. 1/3 cup agave nectar for 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons molasses.
2. The addition of 1/2 cup unsweetened carob chips.
3. Baked at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes.

Because I didn't change the recipe any more than those small alterations, I don't feel right re-publishing the original here. Instead, I will recommend strongly that you purchase Veganomicon or borrow it from your local library to try making this delicious banana bread yourself.