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Yesterday was A Major Kitchen Project for me, so I decided to make today’s cooking a bit more scaled down and I made the choice to experiment with converting some fondly-remembered omni recipes from my childhood to vegan versions–some of them more successfully than others. Also today, I actually ate three whole meals, something I almost never do. Most days I eat one meal (dinner) and one or two snacks. I essentially only eat breakfast on Sundays and usually only eat lunch if someone has invited me out. This really doesn’t seem healthy, so I’m trying to remedy that.

For breakfast, I toasted one of yesterday’s sandwich buns and spread it with natural peanut butter and some slices of Jazz apple. I looooved peanut butter and fruit on sandwiches when I was a kid–in high school I used to eat peanut butter and kiwi sammies as a snack–and it seemed like a good way to kick off the morning. I ate it on the run with a travel mug of rooibos tea with soymilk and turbinado sugar.

For lunch, I tried my hand at adapting Childhood Classic #1: Chicken Fingers, using chicken-style seitan. I used a recipe on the side of a Bisquick box which called for dipping the chicken in egg before shaking it in coating. Lack of egg is usually my main problem in effectively breading vegan food for baking or frying, and today I decided to try soaking my seitan pieces in “vegan buttermilk” (soy milk + lemon juice). In addition to making the breading stick, I hoped that the soaking process would keep the seitan from drying out too much in the oven.

The seitan in a bag of “buttermilk.” I would have put them in a bowl, but we had “planned water line maintenance” on my street which meant that I was without running water for part of the afternoon and wanted to keep a stack of dirty dishes from forming on my counter.

And the seitan, breaded and drizzled with melted margarine as per the Bisquick instructions, waiting to go into the oven. Okay, the problems with this recipe were mostly strategic. The foil on the baking sheet is sprayed with olive oil. The side of the seitan which was facing down for the first six minutes of baking crisped up beautifully, exactly the texture I was hoping for. But because the flip side didn’t get this same oil exposure and had to rely on the margarine drizzle, only parts of its breading cooked properly. The directions on the box could have been a bit clearer on the purpose of the margarine drizzle–if I had thought about it, I would have sprayed the tops of the seitan with oil, too. But as cooked, one side did not crisp up as well as the other. The seitan inside stayed moist thanks to the buttermilk, and the properly cooked side of the breading was tasty and crisp. I ate these dipped in leftover Carolina barbecue sauce. I had a prettier picture, but I decided to use this one displaying the improperly crisped side of the seitan so ya’ll could see what I did wrong.

Childhood Classic #2 was peanut butter Hershey’s kiss cookies. Even if your own family never made them, I’m sure that you’ve seen them somewhere: a sugar-coated peanut butter cookie topped with a melty Hershey’s kiss. I love those cookies. I even already have an excellent vegan recipe for them somewhere, but I couldn’t find it, so I hastily veganized a recipe from the internet and hit a couple of stumbling blocks. The cookie dough had a texture closer to muffin batter and the proportions of sugar seemed off to me. I added more sugar and flour in tablespoonfuls until I had a dough I could work with (although it developed bizarre ooblick-like properties), rolled them in a mix of vegan sugar and powdered ginger, and popped the little suckers in the oven. When they came out, I topped them with squares of Chocolove dark chocolate* instead of Hershey’s kisses. The cookies themselves are soft and cakelike, and not terribly sweet–and honestly, I like them that way, because while I love to bake I do not have a big sweet tooth.

Childhood Classic #3 was Macaroni and Cheese. I used the Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce recipe from the PPK, and ended up channeling Cuny Queen by adding peas to my pasta. Normally I would use broccoli, but since I don’t have any, peas it was. On the side I fried up some beef-style seitan, as a nod to the chunks of Polish sausage that my mother would serve with mac and cheese when I was a kid. Then I drenched the entire thing with hot sauce. I actually tend to make my food much spicier than other people like. My father is anosmic–that is, he has no sense of smell–and because of this his sense of taste is very limited. Since the spicy “flavor” of hot peppers comes from capsaicin, he can actually taste spicy food, so most of what my mother cooks for him is very hot and she passed that tendancy on to me.

I liked the cheezy sauce. It’s not Kraft, but if you’re used to the boxed vegan mac and cheese mixes like Road’s End Organics, eazy breezy cheezy is better and cheaper than those. After I took the picture, I got a little concerned about my general lack of vegetables today and I cooked up some turnip greens with sesame oil and ginger. They were yummy, but I was rather hungry by that point and I neglected to take a picture.

*a note on Chocolove dark chocolate:  Chocolove bars work well for this recipe because they are divided into roughly Kiss-sized pillows of chocolate which break apart easily. Chocolove recieves some of their base chocolate from sources which do not have separate processing lines for dark and milk chocolate. While Chocolove uses separate dedicated lines for dark and milk chocolate bars in their own facility, and the dark chocolate bars do not contain dairy ingredients, they cannot promise that there is no cross-contamination from prior steps in the processing chain. I’m comfortable with that, but if you are allergic or if this is an issue for you, any other vegan chocolate bar which can be broken into Kiss-sized lumps can work for making peanut butter kiss style cookies. The higher the percentage of dark chocolate in a Chocolove bar, the lower the chance that there has been cross-contamination.

I didn’t do much cooking yesterday or today–I went out to lunch with a friend, and then had pizza for dinner (and then for breakfast, and then for lunch). But I DID indulge in one of my favorite activities:  baking. I made some vegan chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies. If you live on the East Coast, the super-generic butterscotch chips sold at Food Lion (they’re just called “butterscotch morsels”) are vegan.

The basic recipe is Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from VegWeb. I added 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and I substituted 1/2 cup of plain light soymilk for the 1/4 cup of water called for. The cookies came out with a nice crunch on the outside (probably due to the turbinado sugar) and a chewy center, and they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. Friendboy praised them extensively (between these and the pumpkin muffins I am “the best baker [he] knows,” even ahead of his ex-gf and her peanut butter cup cookies) and I sent him home with a generous bag of them to share with his roommates.

I’m going to use the rest of the butterscotch chips in butterscotch-pear muffins later this week, to further indulge Friendboy’s love of sweets, affinity for muffins, and admiration of my baking skills.

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