25 November 2009

Cookbook Review: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

From November 2009 photos

I've been a big fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero's cookbooks since I first read (and began to cook from) Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance back in 2005. Now, they've released Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and I couldn't wait to read the gems they came up with for this one.

I love all their tips and comical ways of explaining things. One of the most thoughtful things they did was to include a "Gluten Frida Mix" for our gluten-free friends. (I haven't tried it, but I have the ingredients, so I will make something with it soon.)

Another funny bit was the "Shopping with pants: off-line shopping" title to their brick-and-mortar resources list. Per usual, the ladies and I have loads of fun with their cookbooks.

From November 2009 photos

The cookies I made for this review were the super-easy-to-make Chocolate Agave Trailmixers on page 96. I made a few small changes to the recipe, but the main alteration is that I used carob instead of chocolate in the cases of the cocoa powder and the chips. I also substituted almonds for the other suggested nuts, and split the cherries with dried gogi berries. Finally, I omitted the almond extract since I was using almonds in the mix, and I never preheat my oven until the cookies are ready to be scooped out onto prepped sheets. It wastes energy, and my new oven heats very quickly.

The resulting cookies were very tasty. Cooled for about 20 minutes, yet still warm, these reminded me of cakey, nutty brownies (with some dried fruit) when I tried a couple. I quickly brought the remaining cookies with me to the co-op where they were scooped up and enjoyed by the staff and volunteers. I would definitely make these again and underbake them a bit so they get that fudgey brownie feeling.

So, because I didn't stray far at all from the original, I'm reprinting (with permission) the recipe as it is in the book.

Chocolate Agave Trailmixers (From the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.)

Makes 2 dozen cookies.


1/4 cup nondairy milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
A generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup whole roasted peanuts, toasted walnuts, or roasted cashews
1/2 cup dried cherries or raisins


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together nondairy milk, flax seeds, oil, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and almond extract until combined, about 2 minutes. Sift in all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and mix to form a soft dough. Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruit.
3. For each cookie drop about 2 tablespoons of dough, 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheets. If the dough is sticking spray the spoon or dough scoop with nonstick spray. If desired, lightly flatten cookies with the back of a measuring cup sprayed with nonstick spray.
4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until firm. Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container.

From November 2009 photos

Oh, one last thing -- I know this is Thanksgiving time, so here's a link to one of the dishes I'll be bringing to Mom's this year. Hope you enjoy the how-to videos. I watched them again this morning and reminded of yet another thing I'm grateful for this year: my new kitchen.

15 November 2009

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes Your Cookies Spread Too Much

I wish I could be posting about the wonderful new recipe I'm working out for some highly seasonal, cranberry walnut oatmeal cookies. But I can't. Well, technically, that is what I'm doing, albeit not in the originally intended way.

Normally, you'd see a photo up here showing the results of some new kitchen surprise I've reworked from someone's fine recipe to accommodate agave nectar and/or veganizing, but not today. Today, I'm writing about what happens when you bake in a hurry. A hurry necessitated by too long a list of to-dos and too short a time for doing them. Yes, I know. Join the club.

All that to say, a very kind fellow from Princeton sent me a bunch of marvelous recipes, one of which I made earlier on a break between reading for tomorrow's classes and working on an extensive (read: way too long, yet pretty darn useful) annotated bibliography for my independent study work.

Because I noodled with the recipe while my mind was elsewhere, I neglected to take some needed precautions (chill the dough for 2 hours prior to baking -- my direction, not his). The resulting cookies spread so much that they became very thin, very large facsimiles of oatmeal cookies. On the other hand, they are very tasty. The combination of fresh cranberries with crunchy walnuts and rich oats is right on the money. I also used coconut oil instead of butter (you know I have mixed feeling about the stuff -- scary that it's so solid at room temperature), but the next time I rework these, I will use less. They don't end up tasting coconutty at all. Just buttery.

Oh well. Only a few more weeks left in the semester and many decisions about what to make for Thanksgiving at Mom's. My intention is to perfect a vegan version of these cookies as my contribution, but they will definitely take more noodling before they are ready for prime time.

One thing I may do next year, if I have time, is work on an agave-sweetened cranberry sauce. I've thought about it a lot over the years and just haven't gotten to it yet. There might be agar involved (to get the right "straight out of the can" rigidity to appeal to the kids who don't like the more authentic stuff), and I need more practice with that.

In the meantime, I encourage you to get some of the fantastic fresh cranberries from New Jersey. The crop I sampled is amazing.

::Continuing to chant "I love a challenge. I love a challenge. I love a challenge."::

08 November 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Cornbread

From October 2009 Photos

Yep, that's me sneaking a piece of this incredibly delectable, moist cornbread. The original recipe (pre-Altered Plates version shown above) comes from the fabulous Debbie McDuffee's site CliqueClack Food. I made all kinds of changes to the recipe in order to veganize it and make it Deb-friendly. But the result was wonderful.

All the folks at the George Street Co-op who tried the cornbread were very happy with the moistness and the flavors that paired so well -- mainly the corn and the pumpkin. It was a karmic return for the organic pumpkin which I had bought at the co-op while it was on sale. For those of you who may think that organic doesn't make a difference, try organic pumpkin. It's a completely different experience. You can actually smell and taste how squash-y it is. It also has a very realistic color. I ate the leftover pumpkin with some pumpkin pie spice and just a 1/2 teaspoon of agave. It was delightful.

From October 2009 Photos

Just like a typical cornbread, this one is made in a cast-iron skillet. I prepped the pan by oiling it with some grapessed oil and then letting it heat in the oven while it preheated to 375 degrees F. I recommend making it this way because it does two things: 1. It give the crust a nice crunch, and 2. you can't beat how nicely the bread comes out of the pan. Here, I'll show you:

From October 2009 Photos

From October 2009 Photos

Just a note about sweetness, I like my cornbread on the sweet side, unless it features savory ingredients like green onions (heaven!). So, if you're like Debbie and want it to be less sweet, cut the amount of agave nectar.

Finally, sometimes baked good improve over time in a tightly sealed container. The spices take their time melding with the other ingredients, the moisture changes, etc. I wish I could say that I knew for sure that this is one of those recipes, but the batch only lasted two days. You'll let me know, won't you?

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Pumpkin Cornbread (greatly inspired by Debbie McDuffee's recipe of the same name)

Yields 18 wedges


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup cornmeal (next time, I'm using corn flour for a smoother finish)
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon flaxmeal
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice.
2. Mix the cornmeal into the dry ingredients until well blended.
3. In a medium bowl or a very big measuring cup (10 cups or more), beat together the pumpkin, agave nectar, flaxmeal, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar until well incorporated.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and mix until well blended. It will be very thick.
5. Let the batter rest while you oil your cast iron pan and let it heat up with the oven to 375 degrees F.
6. Once the oven is hot, using potholders, take the pan out of the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface. Scoop the batter into the hot pan (please be careful!) and spread it evenly across the pan. It won't fill the pan. It also won't rise much.
7. Bake the cornbread for 20 minutes or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.
8. Let the cornbread cool in the pan until the pan cools down. Turn it out by placing a flat surface on top of the pan and inverting both. The cornbread should come out cleanly.
9. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

From October 2009 Photos

02 November 2009

Off Topic: Deb Goes to an Archivists' Conference

Yep, this is WAY off topic, so I won't take up much space about it at all. Some of you very wonderful readers have been super-supportive of me during my library schooling, so I thought I'd give you a link to my report of the recent MARAC in Jersey City. (MARAC is a regional conference for archivists and archival librarians.)

If you're interested in reading about my experience there (pretty awesome on the whole), please visit my Here and There blog to read about it.

Next time, I'll be sharing about pumpkin cornbread -- a surprisingly yummy combination.