Monday, January 28, 2013

Oatmeal raisin cookies, no baking required

Stripped Down Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(raw, vegan, dairy free, gluten free)

There’s almost nothing better on a chilly winter night than a warm fire, a good book and a dog sleeping next to you. Enjoying it all with some milk and cookies by your side makes it even better.

I love a good granola or trail mix-like snack and I have also come to enjoy Larabars. The ingredients are simple. They are good for you and the flavor combinations are seemingly sinfully delicious. But, bars can be an expensive indulgence if you add up the price of them over time.

In the past, I’ve tried making my own Larabar combinations out of almonds and walnuts, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, fresh and dried dates and a few other fruits, nuts and flavors I have on hand in the kitchen.

Tonight I didn’t want to get up and bake. A bowl of oatmeal was too heavy to have after dinner and I wanted something quick and easy ­– stripped down oatmeal raisin cookies were the solution. I added everything into the food processor, adjusted the flavors of the spices and enjoyed some of the healthy bites with a glass of almond milk as an evening snack.

The spicy, sweet and slightly salty flavor combinations of these raw cookies pair well with the winter season. They also make a great breakfast food on the run or a pre or post-workout snack.

The mixture of rolled oats, almonds, coconut and raisins can be shaped into balls, flattened into cookies or pressed into the shape of bars. I took half of the “dough” mixture and pressed it into a wax paper lined baking pan. The mixture can be stored in the fridge and cut into bars or squares. It firms up after a few hours in the fridge.

The other half got turned into raw cookies. I took the mix out of the food processor and coated the balls with more rolled oats and raisins and then shaped them into cookies. An almond pressed into the center of each cookie makes a nice accent.

These can even be considered gluten free with the ingredients listed below. To be sure, you can use certified gluten free oats or an alternative like spelt flakes.

The ingredients are also easily interchangeable. Try adding in fresh or dried dates, dried cranberries or other goodies like a tablespoon of peanut butter or cacao nibs.

I split this recipe in half to make about 4 bars similar to the size of a Larabar and 4 medium-sized cookies.


Stripped Down Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

• 10 tablespoons rolled oats (plus more for rolling if you shape them into cookies)
• 1/2  cup almonds, or 1/2 cup nuts of your choice (plus more to press into the center of each cookie)
• 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup raisins
• 4 to 5 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (I used Let’s Do Organic unsweetened flakes. They taste great.)
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar, or sweetener of choice like agave nectar or maple syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
• a dash of pumpkin pie spice (optional)
• approximately 2 tablespoons of water

- Place the oats, spices, coconut flakes, brown sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Don’t let the oats get too powdery though.

- Give the mixture a quick taste test to see if you need to add more spices, sweetener or salt.

- Add in the almonds, vanilla extract and raisins and process everything again. Next, add in the water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just starts to stick together. The dough can get pretty sticky.

- Take your “dough” mixture out of the food processor and roll into balls or shape them into bars in a baking pan lined with wax paper.

- If  you want to make them into cookies, roll the dough in more rolled oats and raisins and then flatten them into rounded cookies. Press an almond in the middle of each cookie. Enjoy, preferably with a tall glass of almond milk.

- Store any additional dough, cookies or bars in the fridge in an airtight container. They can also be placed in the freezer.

No baking required!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From chopping potatoes to creating a blog all in one morning

So, after thinking about it for a long, long time and after years of jabs from friends that I take too many photos of my food, I've decided to create a blog about food.
The food is vegan-friendly. It may contain some "everything and the kitchen sink" ingredients. And, basically I want to share food, recipes, ideas, photos, colors, tastes and adventures with people. So here it goes.

It is possible to make, find and eat vegan food in the middle of nowhere. Living in a small mountain town in Montana for the last two-and-a-half years has taught me that. Before, it was finding ways to convince my college cafeteria to include something other than soft cubes of tofu smothered in a mystery sauce as the "vegan entree" of the day, or to notify us diners with dietary restrictions that there happened to be chicken broth in the vegetarian tortilla soup. The path of practicing a vegan lifestyle has also included numerous questions from my family about what the heck is on my plate, or what I eat on a daily basis. My grandma has an ongoing curiosity with how I get my vitamin B and protein. I am by no means a nutritionist, but food has been something of a constant interest of mine, well for my entire life seeing as I eat food each and every day. I like to read vegan food blogs and can often end up searching for recipes on the Internet or perusing through the pages of my beloved cookbooks for hours. Sometimes I just wonder if I take a little bit of that and mix it in with some of this if it will taste good or not. It might look like a science project, but usually it's edible and more times than not it actually tastes good.

I decided to embark upon my first blog post as I was chopping some roasted red potatoes this morning to throw in the crock pot. A friend of mine is having a SAG Awards party at her house tonight and we were all asked to bring a favorite potluck-type dish.
A three-pound bag of potatoes has been sitting on my bottom shelf waiting to be used. Roasted red potatoes have been one of my go-to dishes for a long time now and I haven't tried throwing them in a slow cooker yet. I've made lemony Greek potatoes for friends and family on many occasions and potatoes always seem to be in the kitchen somewhere. This is a low-cost and easy meal, whether you decide to "set it and forget it" with the crock pot for a few hours or crank up the heat in your oven, whip out the baking pan and roast those spuds to crispy perfection. This morning was the ideal time to give it a go (and create a blog in the process).

Potluck Crock Pot Potatoes
• 1 three-pound bag of red potatoes
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or more to taste. I like a lot of lemon.)
• about 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 tablespoon white miso paste (I had some miso in my fridge and threw this in to give the dish more taste.) (optional)
• 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• About 2 tablespoons of a mixture of spices like an Italian spice mixture, oregano, rosemary, dill and parsley
• garlic powder to taste
• minced garlic to taste
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1 medium onion, sliced thin

-Peel and chop your onion into thin slices. Spray your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil and line the bottom of the dish with the layer of the sliced onions.

-Mix the spice mixture with the garlic powder and salt and pepper.

-Mix the lemon juice, water, miso, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, spice mixture and minced garlic all together in a large bowl. Give it a taste and adjust the lemon juice, garlic, spices and seasonings to your taste preferences. I added in a little bit more of my Italian spices and lemon juice.

-Wash the potatoes and shake them dry in a strainer in the kitchen sink. Quarter the potatoes into chunks. Toss them in the bowl with the liquid and spice mixture until everything is evenly coated.

-Throw the potatoes in the crock pot on top of the layer of onions.

-Cook on low for about six hours, checking on the potatoes every hour or so. When the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, they should be done. Stir the mixture if necessary if the edges start to brown or burn.

-Bring the dish to a potluck or use this as an easy meal for dinner. Eat and enjoy!

Thanks for reading my first dive into blogging about all this delicious vegan food!