Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This recipe is all about the cookie dough but guess what? Lily’s chocolate chips are made with stevia instead of sugar and they are also gluten free!  And in case you are interested, I have discovered a couple of other chocolate chip brands that contain healthier ingredients and  fewer additives too, although they are not sugar-free. Enjoy Life  chocolate chips are certified organic, certified vegan, non-GMO, gluten free and soy free. Camino chocolate chips are also  certified organic and the package states that the chips are made in a facility that is free of several priority allergens, including; wheat, milk, eggs, and soy. But, you don’t have to add chocolate chips to these cookies at all – you can  substitute raisins or any other dried fruits you like for the chocolate chips. (By the way, any comments, mentions or recommendations of products on this blog are my own. I am not paid to promote or review  the products I use, nor am I affiliated with any of the companies that manufacture them).

Making a really good cookie without butter and/or eggs is a challenge.  Nut butters or fruit purees are common  substitutes in vegan baking  but  these substitutes generally result in cookies that are dense or cake-y and sometimes they take on the flavour of the nut or fruit used.  They work better in muffin batters than they do in cookie doughs.  This dough is different. The texture is amazing. The cookies turn out slightly crispy on the outside; soft and tender on the inside! It’s simply the best vegan cookie dough I have made. I am still playing with the recipe – trying to make it even better, but I am really happy with the dough as it is written below and will post any enhancements as they are developed.

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This recipe was inspired by an oil-free cookie recipe posted by Plant Powered Kitchen. The secret to the cookie dough is coconut butter – not to be confused with coconut oil. The difference (and bonus, in my opinion) is that coconut butter is a whole food. It is what you get when you process coconut meat into butter, in the same way you get peanut or almond butter from processing peanuts or almonds. It is expensive to buy but it is dead simple to make with a package of unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut chips and a Vitamix blender. (Coconut Butter recipe in  Notes below).

INGREDIENTS (16-18 cookies)

  • ½ cup coconut butter*
  • ½ cup pure organic maple syrup (I use No. 2)
  • 1 cup oat flour, scant
  • 2 tbsp. whole oats (GF or regular)
  • 1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (or raisins)

INSTRUCTIONS

If you are making your own coconut butter, make that before continuing with the recipe.

Place the oat flour, rolled oats, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and mix with a fork until the ingredients are evenly distributed.  (When measuring out the oat flour, spoon it into a measuring cup without shaking or packing it down. Run a knife along the top of the measuring cup to level the flour). Sprinkle in the salt.

In a larger bowl, place the coconut butter, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix with a fork until the ingredients emulsify. (You can use the same fork you used to combine the dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet all at once and mix just long enough to incorporate the ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips or raisins, or whatever.

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Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Scoop about 8-9 mounds (2-tablespoons each)  of the cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets. (I use a #40 scoop for this). If your tray is large, you could easily add more cookies to a tray because they will not spread very much. 

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Flatten each cookie with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for 12 minutes. Now, baking times are dependent on the size of cookie you make. If the cookies are smaller, bake them for less time – for larger cookies, bake longer. And don’t taste them when they’re still warm from the oven – you might think they’re not done. They are best once they have cooled completely. I happen to be a bit of an anomaly in that I like crisp cookies – not cookies that are soft and chewy so it took me a couple of tries to figure the timing out. 

The cookies will be pretty close to the colour of the raw batter when their done – they won’t turn golden brown the way cookies made with butter and sugar will.  But they are  done.

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These cookies are delicious! They have the texture that other butter or oil-free, vegan cookies lack and the flavour is fantastic!

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Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Notes*

Coconut Butter

16 oz. (1 lb.) shredded, unsweetened coconut or packed coconut chips

Add  1/2 the coconut to a high-speed blender. Puree on high until the mixture becomes creamy. Use a tamper to push all of the coconut down into the jug as it purees. Add the remaining coconut in 2 increments, continuing to use the tamper to  mix in the coconut meat. Puree for about another minute, or until the consistency is creamy, and resembles a thin paste. The whole process should only take 2-3 minutes and yields about 1 cup.

Set 1/2 cup aside for this cookie recipe and place the remainder in a sealed container, either in your fridge or at room temperature. You can half this recipe if you prefer – just make sure you have enough coconut meat for it to process easily in the blender. I usually don’t half the coconut butter  recipe – I double the cookie recipe instead.

Coconut butter will harden at colder temperatures and liquefy at warmer temperatures, which can produce different results in baking as a result. So if you have made the coconut butter ahead and it has hardened, carefully warm it up in a bowl of warm water until it regains a paste-like consistency. That is the consistency you will want the butter to be when you make these cookies.

 

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Small-batch Blackberry Jam

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Most people don’t even think about making jam until berries are in season and at their freshest but I happened to see fresh blackberries on sale (2 punnets for the price of one) at my local grocery store last week, so I thought – why not? I only needed 800 grams of blackberries to make this small batch of jam and it turned out great! Truth be told, I don’t always feel like investing the time and money to make a large batch of jam even when berries are at their peak. Sometimes a small batch recipe like this one suits me better.  

This blackberry jam is incredibly easy and it can be eaten straight away – like, as soon as it cools down. It doesn’t require any time to gel or set. You could literally throw the ingredients together when you get up in the morning and have it ready by the time your coffee has brewed! 

Chia seeds replace the pectin and sugar without compromising the consistency and texture you would find in regular jam. Chia seeds come from a plant in the mint family (Salvia hispanica L.) and are generally available in white or grey/black. I prefer the darker seeds in this recipe but either one can be used. 

Chia seeds are gluten-free, high in fiber and in protein content. Some research suggests  that grinding the seeds prior to using results in better absorption of  the nutrients, which is why I used ground chia seeds in this recipe. The seeds have no distinct flavour of their own and will take on the flavour of whatever they are added to.

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The flavor  of this jam is deliciously fresh and lovely and you can use it for all the same things you would use store-bought jam i.e.; spread it on toast or use it in baking!

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Ingredients

  • 800 grams fresh blackberries
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
  • 1 tbsp. ground chia seeds (I used grey/black)

Place everything except the chia seeds in a shallow saucepan. Simmer over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the blackberries are soft and the liquid has reduced by about two thirds.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chia seeds. I use a fork, mashing and breaking up any whole blackberries as I mix in the seeds. You don’t have to mash the blackberries – I just refer the jam that way. Once the mixture thickens (only takes minutes) transfer the jam to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for about 10-14 days.

Yield: 2 cups.

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Notes:

You can use this recipe to make a small batch of raspberry or strawberry jam too. Just swap the blackberries for the same amount of raspberries or strawberries and follow the method as written above. 

Vegan Mac and Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! This version uses a vegetable-based cheese sauce and let’s you choose use any type of pasta you like. You can also add other vegetables, such as red pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, etc., to the macaroni and cheese before topping with breadcrumbs and baking in the oven. Just make sure the vegetables are pre-cooked if you do that  because the casserole isn’t in the oven  long enough to cook them.  

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The cheese sauce can be made ahead and stored, refrigerated until ready to serve. The macaroni can also be cooked ahead and stored in the refrigerator until needed. I adore recipes that have one or more component that I can make ahead! 

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups dry elbow macaroni (use your favourite gluten free, or regular pasta)
  • 1 fresh tomato, seeded and diced (for garnish, optional)

Cheese Sauce

  • 1 large potato (equal to 2 cups peeled & coarsely chopped)
  • 1 large carrot (equal to 1 cup coarsely chopped)
  • 3 sundried tomatoes (not oil packed), soaked
  • 1 green onion, white part only
  • ¼ red pepper (about 1/3 cup coarsely chopped)
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, (I make my own but you can use any purchased non-dairy milk)

Breadcrumb Topping 

  • 1 cup fresh GF breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. salt

Mix the breadcrumbs, lemon juice and salt well in a small bowl and set aside.

Instructions

Place the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Boil until fork-tender, about 20-25 minutes. Strain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Add the cooked potatoes and carrots to a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Prep the remaining vegetables and add them to the blender with seasonings and spices.

Puree vegetables with half of the reserved cooking water. Add the remaining water as necessary to reach a silky smooth texture. (At this point, the sauce can be refrigerated until ready to assemble the dish).

Cook your favourite macaroni in a medium saucepan until al dente. Meanwhile, pour the pureed contents of the blender into a medium-small saucepan and add the almond milk. Stir over a very low heat until the sauce becomes smooth and creamy.

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When your macaroni is ready, strain the water and pour the noodles into a 8″ X 8″ oven-proof dish. Add the cheese sauce and stir to combine.  

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Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  

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Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until heated through. Turn the heat to broil and lightly brown the breadcrumbs. Watch closely – this takes less than a minute.

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*The cheese sauce recipe, minus the almond milk, doubles as a nacho cheese sauce for dipping too!

Thai Inspired Cucumber Salad

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I love cucumbers! Technically, a cucumber is a fruit – a relative of the squash and melon family, but we tend to think of it as a vegetable, serving it raw with some sort of dip, or adding it into salads with other vegetables. 

The health benefits from cucumbers don’t attract the attention that other fruits and vegetables do but the amount of phytonutrients found in cucumbers provides valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits all the same. These health benefits are promoted in beauty products too. Research done in the cosmetic industry suggests that constituents in cucumber extract (primarily ascorbic acid (vitamin C), caffeic acid (an antioxidant), the mineral silica, plus other trace minerals) have a beneficial effect on our skin.

A few of the better-known health benefits from eating cucumbers include:

  • Hydration. Cucumbers have a high-water content, which keeps the body hydrated and eliminates toxin at the same time.
  • Energy Boost. Cucumbers are far more nutritious than a cup of coffee, soft drinks or energy drinks when a quick pick-me-up is needed and they do the job just as well. They contain most of the vitamins the body needs on a daily basis and there are just enough carbohydrates and B vitamins to help boost energy.
  • Relieves bad breath. Phytochemicals in cucumbers kill the bacteria responsible for causing bad breath. (Press a slice of cucumber to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds).
  • Weight control. Because of its high water, high fiber and low-calorie content, cucumber is a wonderful food for people trying to lose weight.
  • Controls blood pressure. Cucumbers contain a lot of potassium, magnesium and fiber, all of which help in regulating both high and low blood pressure.

This cucumber salad delivers a perfect balance between sensory textures and flavours that are so delighful in Thai dishes. Crisp cucumber and roasted nuts provide the crunch,  cilantro provides the aromatics and a bit of fresh chilli adds a kick! Top it off with the sweet and sour dressing with a pinch of salt and you have a refreshing aromatic salad. The flavour is really quite addictive!

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INGREDIENTS

  • ½ large English cucumber (or 3-4 baby cucumbers)
  • ¼ cup cashews, peanuts or almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dried large-flake unsweetened coconut
  • 1 red or green Serrano or Thai chilli
  • ½ teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

DRESSING

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. organic maple syrup
  • Pinch of Pink Himalayan salt or Celtic Sea salt

DIRECTIONS 

Toast the cashews, peanuts or almonds in a 350°F oven until lightly and even/y browned. Set aside to cool.

Toast the coconut flakes and cumin and sesame seeds in a 350°F oven until lightly and even/y browned. (Watch closely because the coconut browns fairly quickly). Set aside to cool.

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Halve the cucumber lengthwise and slice thinly or chop cucumber into pieces roughly the size of pencil erasers.

Remove stem and seeds from chilli and finely chop  I find the little Thai chilies quite spicy so I usually only add 1/2 a minced chilli into the salad and taste it before adding any more. You can also leave seeds in if you like a spicier kick.

When ready to serve, place cucumbers in a mixing bowl and toss gently with chillies, nuts, black sesame and cumin seeds, toasted coconut, cilantro and dressing. 


Yield: 3-4 generous servings.
 


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