Monday, April 6, 2015

Cheap Alternative to Maple Syrup

One of my favorite vegan cookies has maple syrup as one of the ingredients. I love the stuff but it can get expensive ($14 at Costco is a deal, but still) when you use it a lot or want to make a big batch of cookies. The aforementioned cookie recipe calls for 1/3 cup of it for just 8-10 cookies. I decided to see if I could just make a syrup myself and it worked out great!

Brown Sugar Syrup

You'll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups packed organic / vegan brown sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon flavoring (maple extract, vanilla, whatever floats your boat)

What you do:

Mix sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, add flavoring if desired. Store in fridge.

The first time I boiled the mix for 3 minutes and the cookies came out super crisp and had a toffee flavor. The syrup was just too thick and condensed. The coookies weren't bad, but I really like a softer cookie. This weekend, I boiled for 2 minutes and the cookies came out perfect.

I made more than I needed for the batch so that I could make more later or use it as a sweetener in my tea. I like having a liquid sweetener around once it's summer and I start drinking iced tea.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Meatless Monday

If you're a complete and total newbie when it comes to vegan food and you're thinking about making the transition but you're not quite ready yet or you just don't want to go whole hog (or "whole tofu" as we say in the veg world), then why not give Meatless Mondays a try? Not everyone is ready to make the leap in one day from meat at every meal to zero animal products whatsoever. That's okay. Use this one day a week to give it a test drive. Once you've got a month of Meatless Mondays under your belt, try adding another day per week. Maybe Veggie Taco Tuesdays or Spaghetti Saturdays? It's up to you.

Try to focus on the progress you're making toward a completely plant-based diet and not worry about every single day being perfect. If you really can't let go of that struggle for perfection, then make the same meal every Meatless Monday, but work on changing it each week until it's just the way you like it. Then start perfecting another recipe.

Which recipe should you choose for your first Meatless Monday? Choose one that you make all the time or one that is your favorite go-to recipe when you're in a rush. Now, think about how you can adapt that recipe to get rid of its meat components. For instance, if you love making BLTs, then you can easily substitute the bacon for tofu bacon or tempeh bacon. There are lots of veggie burger options, too. Tacos are as easy as using beans instead of meat filling. Here are more recipes to help you get started. But, please, do get started! Even if it is just one day per week.

Another great use for Meatless Mondays is when you've already made the switch, but the rest of your family hasn't. Or maybe you have roommates that you'd like to introduce to going vegan or even just to getting more veggies into their diets, period. Take this day to show them how easy it can be to eat their favorite meals without using meat at all. Volunteer to cook that day and whip up one of their favorite meals except sub in beans or a meat replacement.

Lots of restaurants participate in Meatless Mondays and college campuses do it, too. So, it's possible that you will have a better time on Mondays if you're trying to find vegetarian or vegan fare at places that might not normally serve these items.

Wondering what I'm having today for my Meatless Monday? I started the day off with some Vegan French Toast. I'm having a peanut butter and fruit smoothie in just a few minutes and I'll finish it off with some lentil and quinoa filled tacos (will post a recipe for this tomorrow).

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Day. New Dawn.

And I'm feeling good.

Well, sort of. Mentally, I'm ready for this. I had a good run in September during Vegan MoFo until I got really sick and then things just went downhill. I was so tired. All I wanted was convenience. I just ate so much crap during and after that and I have never really fully recovered. Cheese. Dairy. Yes, even meat, sadly.

No better time than the New Year, though. Renewal. New Beginnings. Motivation. I've got it now.

Of course, I say this and part of it, I know, is because my husband is out of town and I'm not thinking about what it's going to be like when he gets back and I'm once again cooking for someone who doesn't really want to be full-on vegan, full-on all the time. It's hard sometimes when you're the one who does all the cooking. I feel a certain pressure to throw some chicken into the slow cooker for he and my son. Although, I feel like if I cooked some sort of beans or lentils every single day, they wouldn't complain. I am lucky in that respect. They love some legumes.

How I'm Getting Ready

I've joined a 21-day Kickstart program.

I've got some books loaded in my reader to work on reading over the holiday. Nothing gets me motivated like information. I'm a non-fiction kind of girl. They are:

Forks over Knives

Forks over Knives Cookbook

Great Gluten-Free Eats

Great Gluten-Free Eats from Around the World

UnDiet

The 100 Best Gluten-free Recipes for Your Vegan Kitchen

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Whole

The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook

The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts, and Drinks--100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes!

Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don't Have to Be Vegan to Love

And last night I stayed up watching some Neal Barnard videos on YouTube. He's coming out with some new work regarding Alzheimer's and if nothing else, that will be the thing that I will have to use to motivate my husband. His Noni had it really bad and became mean and experienced a long decline. they lived with her during a lot of this time as his mother was taking care of her. It's a really scary thing to him. He already doesn't cook in aluminum pots or use deodorant with aluminum, etc. I quit using aluminum containing baking powder a long time ago. He does mental things to keep his brain sharp, etc. so there is already a large seed of concern there. The video I watched last night was very interesting and compelling to me. I'm not getting any younger and if there's time for me to reverse damage, I should just get on with it already.

You may notice in the books up there that several are gluten-free. It's not because I feel like bread is inherently evil or anything. In fact, I love the stuff. LOVE it. Love making it, smelling it, eating it, using it to cook with, etc. My husband, however, has a problem with it when it's a regular or predominant thing. He avoids wheat when at all possible. Actually, it's not even the gluten he has a problem with. It's the other stuff in there (FODMAPs) that presents a problem for him. On top of that, I cannot stand the taste of most seitan which is entirely wheat gluten. I can handle it when it's just used in small amounts and some other flavor is dominant, but if it's just a slab of "wheat meat" then I can't take it. So, the whole gluten-free thing seems to give me options that work for everyone. As for my son and I, though, there will be bread baking and I have many much sourdough plans as I am obsessed with fermenting things right now!

I'm ready for this. Come January 1st, I'm back on it. And I'm excited about it. Here's to hoping I can keep this momentum going...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Report to Sick Bay

The last couple of weeks have been hell around here. Everyone is sick and it's holding on for dear life. It's moved into my chest. I'm not happy. I have been up since 3 a.m. puffing on my inhaler and struggling to breathe.

Some of the questions I've asked myself lately:

Is Luden's vegan?

Is Ricola vegan?

Is Mucinex vegan?

Is Afrin vegan?

Is albuterol vegan?

Why do I have such a strong association with that certain non-vegan animal-based soup of my childhood when I have a cold?

Why does the universe hate me?

When will this ever end?

How can one person produce this much snot?

Why did this have to happen during VeganMoFo when I was trying to hard to have a fresh start?

Why does the weather have to finally be so nice when I'm sick and all I want to do is be in bed?

Why is the light so bright?

Will the area between my nose and mouth ever heal?

Where will I get the strength to stand up in the shower?

Answers to those and other questions when this finally subsides. Until then, wishing all of you good health!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chocolate Cherry-Filled Cookies

I'm busy doing a cookthrough of:

100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

These are the Chocolate Cherry-Filled Cookies from page 42 if you're following along. I got the Tart Montmorency cherries in bulk at Costco. Well, I should say that my kid got them and I stole some for this recipe. I am glad I used a tart one because this is a sweet cookie!

As always, here's the batter shot:

It is a pretty thick batter and I was a little worried about that, but it was perfect for patting out it my hand. This is the first time I've ever made a cookie with a super secret middle. If you're looking at the cookie upon completion, as below, you can scarcely tell there's anything inside. But then if you bust it in half, there's a whole layer of cherries and gooey chocolate.

First, you pat out some dough.

Then you load it up with chips and cherries.

Then you roll it up in your hand and seal it all into a ball, then roll in a plate of powdered sugar. I mean, you roll the cookie in the sugar, not yourself. Although, I was covered in powdered sugar and my teeny phone speaker holes have powdered sugar in them now and I don't know how I will ever get that out.

In hindsight, I probably could have gotten 12 on the pan, but they were so big and I was afraid they would spread into each other. I'm pretty proud of myself, too. Last entry I was bitching about how I always end up with way too many cookies. The recipe says it will make 24 and I end up with like a hundred. This time, I wound up with exactly 18 cookies as the recipe predicted. When I was done, I felt like I'd given birth on my due date or something.

The consistency of these cookies is kind of like a snickerdoodle or a crinkle cookie but with a gooey middle of stuff. It has that crunchy, sweet bottom that I love in those types of cookies. I would definitely make these again, even though they were a little more work than your average cookie. Next time I might add cocoa to the batter so that I get some nice chocolate-on-chocolate action.

Usually, I find that others have made what I'm making and I like to share links, but this time, I might be the first. Hopefully I am not the last because these suckers are good.

You can visit the author of this cookbook on her blog nom! nom! nom! or on her Facebook page where she is pimping a new cookbook about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

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