Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School Peanut Butter Cookies

Can anyone tell me what happened to summer?  The kids are back to school and I haven't even been to the beach yet!

The weather never turned really hot and sticky this summer (until yesterday), which is not me complaining, but when we have a season like that we're so happy when fall does finally get here.  Then we can take out our sweaters (I never put mine away), and we can mull cider and make peanut butter cookies because peanut butter cookies remind me of school.  Well today's that day.  I don't care that it finally got hot and sticky, not to mention stormy, I'm making peanut butter cookies.

I love the smell of peanut butter cookies baking.  It's immensely satisfying and of course when you get to eat that first one, with a beverage of your choice, it's a peak moment.    

This is the recipe I used forever, most likely taken from the back of a peanut butter jar.  As you can see it originally called for Crisco, although it wasn't long before I switched to all butter.  I held true to this formula for these cookies with some notable exceptions.  First, I added salt because I bought 'no salt added' peanut butter.  I left out the vanilla, have you seen the price of vanilla lately?!  I left off the chocolate chunks in favor of some crunchy Demeara sugar.  And lastly, I backed out some of the flour and subbed chickpea flour, lately I'm sneaking it into everything.  A little extra protein and fiber, you know, for the kids.

back to school peanut butter cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/c cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Demerara sugar for the tops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and peanut butter together in a stand mixer on low.  Add brown sugar and raw sugar.  Mix on medium, stopping to scrap the sides of the bowl and necessary.  Add egg and mix well.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, chickpea flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to mixer in thirds, scraping the bowl between additions, and mix until well blended.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop out cookies with a 1 ounce scoop, 12 to a sheet.  Flatten each cookie, and mark with a fork two times at 90 degree angles.  Sprinkle with Demerara sugar or cane sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed up and lightly golden around the edges.  When cool enough to handle transfer cookies to a wire rack.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vegan Zucchini Pancakes and Green Tomato Chutney


Please don't think I'm complaining about my tomato plants this year because I did get a bunch of large, firm tomatoes.  However, it seems that while the plants were quick to set fruit, it took forever for the fruit to ripen on the vine.  And of course there were squirrels involved who took the opportunity to sample a few for themselves.  I got into the habit of picking the fruit when, by my best guess, it had reached it's full size but before it started to ripen and become squirrel fodder.  

Needless to say I ended up with quite a few green tomatoes on my hand, even after many had ripened on a sunny windowsill.  There are only so many fried green toms a person watching their pants size can indulge in.  I had to find another way to enjoy my green bounty and this green tomato chutney was the perfect answer.

I viewed several recipes and this one seemed representative of the species.  I liked that it wasn't a weird green color.  I added and subtracted ingredients to my hearts desire and came up with a sweet and spicy condiment that made a perfect accompaniment to my savory vegan zucchini pancakes.  Because tomatoes aren't the only thing going bananas in the veg garden! 

Yes, a zucchini or two every couple of days ain't bad.  I'd already done zucchini cake and Moroccan ratatouille but I really liked the sound of zuccihni  pancakes.  I went the vegan route, as some folks in my life right now are cutting out animal products and I don't want them to be alone on that band wagon.  

I started with a standard zucchini pancake, subbed the eggs with chia seeds, the milk with soy milk.  I also snuck some chickpea flour in there.  They turned out fabulous, the dairy and eggs aren't missed at all!  Topped with green tomato chutney they're a hearty breakfast or healthy light lunch and in between something to munch on while contemplating what else to make with my bumper crops.
green tomato chutney (adapted from here)

6 cups chopped green tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup minced red pepper
1/2 cup flame raisins
1/2 cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook for 1 to 2 hours or until liquid is absorbed and mixture is thick.  Cool before using.  Store in refrigerator for up to a week.  Makes about a pint of chutney.

vegan zucchini pancakes

2 medium zucchinis
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh herbs
sea salt and black pepper to taste 
1/2 cup soy milk
oil for frying

Grate zucchini, place in strainer over a bowl.  Cover with a paper towel and weight the zucchini down with another bowl or similar heavy object.  Let sit for an hour, occasional pressing down on the weight to release moisture.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and set aside a cookie sheet.  Combine chia seeds with water and let sit until thick, about 5 minutes.  In a medium bowl whisk together chickpea flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cumin, fresh herbs and salt and pepper.

In a large bowl whisk together chia mixture and milk.  Fold in flour mixture to combine.  Add zucchini mixture and mix well.

Heat oil in large skillet or flat grill on medium-high heat.  Measure 1/4 cup of batter for each zucchini pancake onto hot, oiled skillet; flatten with the back of spatula to about 4 inches.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes then flip and cook for 2 minutes more, or until pancakes are cooked through.  Transfer to cookie sheet and keep warm in oven.  Repeat with the rest of the batter.   Serve hot with a side of green tomato chutney.  Makes 8 pancakes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hungry Bird Bars

I've finally found a mascot for Almacucina and it's these Hungry Bird Bars, aka, sourdough granola bars, the Sourdough Surprise August challenge.  These bars will make you sore, loaded as they are with all things birds, and I, love like millet, sunflower seeds, raisins and nuts.

As treats go they are truly no guilt, it's all good, clean fun and healthy stuff.  They'll rev you up with energy but you won't get that sugar crash.  They are plenty sweet thanks to honey and dried fruits.  The walnuts, millet and sunflower seeds add crunch, the dates and raisins make them extra chewy and the starter holds everything together and adds a pleasant tangy background to it all.

Cut into 8 slices they are substantial, almost like a meal, and considering the main ingredient is oats I had no problem substituting one of these for breakfast on the run.  Cut into 16 bars they're equally  as good for that 3 PM office slump or that 7 o'clock after walk-before bedtime snack.  Just what the hungry bird ordered!
hungry bird bars

2 cups whole oats
1/2 cup millet
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
6 dates, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sourdough starter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a 9 inch square pan and set aside.    Soak raisins in 1 cup of hot water and in a separate bowl soak millet in 1/2 cup of hot water, each for about 15 minutes, then drain.

In a large bowl combine oats, drained millet, drained raisins, chopped walnuts, chopped dates and sunflower seeds.   In a small bowl whisk together honey and starter; pour over oat mixture and fold in until completely mixed.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before cutting.  Makes 16 servings.