[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
Last week, I was whipping up a favorite walnut-chocolate nut butter when it hit me: why not make a bean-based “butter,” too? Beans could add more fiber and drastically lower the fat content. I looked around and discovered that I’d been preceded in my quest for a bean-based chocolate spread by Celine (of course), Hannah, Stef, and even Oprah! But calling it “chocolate hummus” just didn’t seem right to me. . . so Chocolate Bean Butter, it is!
I blended this up with some raw cacao and posted the delectable result on Facebook:
Then this morning, I decided to try it out with regular cocoa powder for a more intensely chocolate flavor. And wow–this stuff blew me away! The spread is incredibly rich and impossibly smooth and light. I’m happy to eat it right from the container with a spoon.
Made with white kidney or navy beans, the flavor is milder than a chickpea-based spread. This would be perfect as a filler for a back-to-school sandwich or atop your favorite pancake, muffin, or biscuit. Protein, minerals, fiber and chocolatey flavonoids all in one silky, irresistible “butter.”
Bring on more beans, I say!
Chocolate Bean Butter (ACD Stage 3 and beyond, with Stage 1 variation)
I prefer canned beans in this butter, as they are usually softer and easier to blend than my homecooked ones. But if yours turn out really soft when cooked from dried, feel free to go with those instead. If you use the raw cacao here, you can omit the coconut sugar and replace it with more stevia; the spread will be bitter without the coconut sugar if you use regular cocoa, though.
1 can (19 oz or 540 ml) white kidney or navy beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups (480 ml) well-cooked and drained beans
5 Tbsp (75 ml) dark unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut sugar (use with cocoa powder), or replace with more stevia (with the raw cacao option)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) stevia powder or 40-50 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
up to 2 Tbsp (30 ml) water or unsweetened almond milk, if needed
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until perfectly smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Once you think it’s smooth, process for another minute. Scrape into a container or jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Makes about 2 cups (480 ml).
Variation for ACD Stage One: Use carob instead of cocoa and sweeten entirely with stevia or yacon syrup.
Welcome to the new year, and to the first SOS Kitchen Challenge of 2011! It’s hard for me to believe that we’re already at January 4th–seems as if the HH and I just celebrated Christmas! Thanks, all, for your New Year’s wishes and for the great response to my call for recipe testers. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the response and will get back to everyone this week. I’m looking forward to cooking with you in 2011!
Now that the HH’s holiday from work is over (Canadians had a day off yesterday to compensate for New Year’s falling on a Saturday), it’s back to our regularly scheduled blogging. . . Kim and I are both refreshed after our holiday season, ready and raring to kick off this year’s SOS Challenges with a bang.
Our featured ingredient this month is something that both of us use almost daily in our kitchens. In fact, we’re both so coconuts for it that we want to share some with one lucky participant through a giveaway at the end of the month. This ingredient is versatile for cooking, baking, bath and body applications, and has some impressive nutritional and medicinal characteristics. It is a solid at some temperatures, and a liquid at others. And it smells like the tropics.
What could it be?
Drum roll please…
[Beautiful, white, fragrant chunks of coconut oil. Cold temperatures mean very solid oil!]
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut. High in lauric acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin K, coconut oil is definitely at the top of the “healthy fat” category. Don’t worry about the high saturated fat content–the high concentration of medium chain triglycerides in the oil are said to assimilate well, converting directly to energy in the body.
Although we can’t technically say that coconut oil has specific medicinal or curative properties, keep in mind that many of the naturally occurring properties of coconut oil such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid function as natural antimicrobial agents, and may help strengthen the immune system. Coconut oil is also very versatile for health and body applications; it can be used foroil pulling, topically as a moisturizer or massage oil, as a carrier oil for essential oils, and as a hair treatment (note: I’ve never actually tried oil pulling, though I would be willing to give it a go. The link was provided by Kim. But I did get a kick out of the second video on that page!).
Unlike olive oil or other popular plant oils like flax, sunflower, or canola, coconut oil is NOT destroyed or changed chemically from its original form by using low heat. The medium chain fatty acids present in coconut oil are very resistant to any change via heat. Even commercial oils heated to a very high temperature have their medium chain fatty acids kept intact. This makes coconut oil one of the best oils to use in cooking and baking, because it does not break down easily. It can be used as a replacement for butter in any recipe, since it often behaves much like butter (solid at room temperature and liquid when hot). It is also wonderful spread it on bread or muffins instead of butter; you can add a dollop to smoothies or hot chocolate; or melt it over cooked vegetables or grains. The uses are endless!
[Coconuts on a coconut palm tree in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo courtesy of Kim!]
Since many of Kim’s and my readers have food allergies or sensitivies, we want to share a note regarding the allergenic potential of coconut. Coconut must be labeled on food packaging as a tree nut, according to regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On the other hand, neither the EU nor Canada considers coconut as a tree nut for food labeling purposes. Botanically, the latter is more accurate – coconuts come from coconut palm trees, are not closely related to most other tree nuts, and technically, they are the seed of a fruit, not a nut. While you can’t simply rely on botanical relationships to determine the potential cross-reactivity between two foods, those foods which are close biological relatives generally share related allergenic proteins (like cashews, mangos, and pistachios).
That being said, there is some evidence of cross-reactivity between coconuts and hazelnuts and between coconuts and walnuts, which is strange because those trees are not at all closely related. However, allergies to coconuts are believed to be far less common than allergies to many true tree nuts, such as walnuts, cashews and almonds, a point with which the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network agrees. A June 2007 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology indicated cross-reactivity between coconuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts in one patient. Your allergist can advise you on the suitability of coconut for your diet.
I don’t have allergies to tree nuts and am fine with coonut, too, but I know that many readers require substitutions for coconut; it will be different for everyone. However, for many of us with dietary restrictions, coconut is a nourishing addition to our diet, and it makes an excellent substitute for dairy butter in most recipes. [see References at bottom of post for sources]
THIS MONTH’S GIVEAWAY
This month, we’re giving away a jar of beautiful organic coconut oil to a lucky SOS participant. To learn how you can enter to win, click here.
TO ENTER THE CHALLENGE, link up your healthy vegan recipe with coconut oil. Please be sure to adhere to the SOS Kitchen Challenge General Guidelines, posted here.
And to get you in the mood for coconut oil-based recipes, here’s my first contribution to this month’s challenge: ACD-Friendly, High Protein, No-Cook Snackin’ Orbs!
This recipe was inspired by one posted on the forums at the Whole Approach website. As those of you who’ve been following my anti-candida journey might know, Whole Approach has been my primary guide for the diet I’ve followed since March, 2009 (that’s right–almost two years! I’ll be posting more about my diet and an ACD Update later in the week–stay tuned).
These snacks offer a great protein boost in the form of portable little spheres (I just can’t bring myself to call them “balls,” ever since that classic Christmas skit aired on Saturday Night Live). Halfway between a protein bar and a raw truffle, they’re sweet (but not too sweet), chewy and a little crunchy. I played around with various combinations of seeds, powders and protein sources (all rice protein-based) to find what worked best for my tastes. I’ve added my two favorite variations at the end.
I’ve found myself snacking on these in the afternoon or biting into them for breakfast. There’s only one caveat: when the HH tasted these, he remarked that they tasted “healthy.” Those of you who whip up hemp protein smoothies for breakfast likely know what that means. If you’re the kind of person who likes an extra-thick (and perhaps green) smoothie in the morning, you’ll really enjoy these.
[On the left: hemp seed-lucuma-coconut variation. On the right: sesame seed-carob-pumpkinseed.]
ACD-Friendly, High-Protein, No-Bake Snackin’ Orbs (ACD Stage 1 and beyond): Inspired by a recipe on Whole Approach
The beauty of these orbs is that they’re portable–they stay firm at room temperature and can be packed in plastic wrap or a container for later consumption, or grab a few on your way out the door in the morning and feel confident that you’ve started your day with a good portion of your protein requirements. Alternately, press the “dough” into a pan, refrigerate, and cut into bars.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut flour
1/2 cup rice based protein powder (I used SunWarrior Vanilla or NutriBiotic plain; you could try flavored powders as well)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) carob powder (or use lucuma powder or a mix of carob and mesquite)
1/8-1/4 tsp (.25 ml to .5 ml) stevia powder or more, to your taste, depending on how sweet your rice protein is (I used NuNaturals)*
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely ground flax seeds or flax seed meal
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (or use hemp seeds)
1/2 cup (120 ml) pumpkin seeds (or use sunflower seeds or unsweetened dried shredded coconut)
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened carob chips, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) nut or seed butter (natural almond, hazelnut, walnut, sunflower, pumpkinseed, etc.)
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract (or use 1/2 tsp/2.5 ml almond or orange extract)
3/4 cup (180 ml) water or unsweetened milk alternative (soy, almond or rice),or a bit more, as needed
In a medium bowl, sift together the coconut flour, protein powder, carob powder, stevia and cinnamon, if using. Add the flax, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and carob chips, if using, and stir to distribute the seeds and chips evenly.
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot melt together the nut butter and coconut oil over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and water until smooth. Pour the nut mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine; it should come together and be slightly moist and smooth, like a cookie dough.
Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoon, scoop the dough and form into balls. Place on a plate in the refrigerator until chilled and firm, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Alternately, press into a greased or parchment paper-lined 8 or 9 inch (20-22.5 cm) square pan; refrigerate until firm and then cut into bars. Makes 6-10 servings for breakfast (4-5 orbs per serving) or 24-30 snackin’ orbs.
Carob-Pumpkinseed Variation: Use sesame seeds, vanilla protein powder, carob powder, almond butter, pumpkin seeds and water options
Lucuma-Coconut Variation: Use hemp seeds, plain protein powder, lucuma powder, sunflower seed butter, coconut, and unsweetened almond milk options
*NOTE: If you are at a later stage of the ACD or can use other sweeteners, up to 2 Tbsp (30 ml) agave or yacon may be used in place of some of the stevia.
Overview: Tree nuts include macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, chestnuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts (pignoli or pinon), gingko nuts and hickory nuts. Like peanut and shellfish allergies, tree nut allergies tend to be severe, and are strongly associated with anaphylaxis. Walnuts and cashews are the two tree nuts that cause the most allergic reactions. At least 90 percent of children diagnosed with tree nut allergies will have them for life.
Question: Is Coconut a Tree Nut? Answer: That’s a surprisingly complicated question. If you ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the answer is “yes:” a food containing coconuts is required to be labeled “contains tree nuts” under FALCPA.
Allergic reactions Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the nine priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat and sulphites (a food additive).
[In a bit of unrelated news, I'll be doing a guest post on Amy's blog tomorrow. Hope you can drop by and check it out!]
[Looks pretty decadent, doesn't it? Tastes that way, too.]
Okay, so who WAS that woman who wrote my last post?! I do apologize if I alarmed any of you (though I don’t think I went so far as to frighten the horses ). I guess something about that particular topic hit a nerve for me. But wow, did that post ever spike my blog’s traffic! My Google Analytics stats shot through the roof! And man, look at all those comments! Well, I guess we all know how I’ll be choosing my blog topics from now on, hmmmnn? Ahem.
Seriously, thanks to everyone for your insights, reactions, commentary! I am really loving the exchange of opinions and all the differing perspectives on the topic. I think peeking in on the IFBC sparked for me a renewed interest in ideas for ideas’ sake –it felt sort of like what grad school was supposed to be. So, once again, thanks. And it’s not too late to contribute your own ideas about why and how we blog–join the conversation here.
But now. . . it’s time for us to head back from summer holidays and dive back into the daily routines once again–which means (for me, and for many of you)–back to school.
When I was a kid, the beginning of September was always a bittersweet time. After two whole months of sleeping until I awoke; throwing on shorts and sneakers and a T-shirt before wandering outside to meet up with friends; reading books while lounging on the grass in our backyard or writing furiously in my journal, the sun warming the sheets of paper as I wrote; ice cream on demand; or simply soaking in the freedom of “no fixed schedule”–the end of August marked the shift to autumn and a return to predictability.
I didn’t particularly look forward to the the stuffy classrooms, the mercilessly rigid desk chairs, the overloaded backpack, the trek home at lunch or long afternoon hunched over my textbook, pencil in hand, reading from a book that (more often than not) didn’t interest me.
On the other hand, there were some high points in returning to the classroom. September also felt like a fresh start, that moment when you’ve just stepped out of the shower, scrubbed and still glistening before you decide what to wear that day. It was an invitation for self-renewal and embracing new identities, a chance to rectify personal slights or last year’s mistakes. New shoes, a new haircut and (my favorite part) fresh, pristine pages of new notebooks–those were the beckoning aspects of returning to school.
Perhaps because I work in academia, September still feels like the beginning of the year to me. Yet it’s also a tacit “start date” in many other contexts as well: television shows (Hey, Ellen! How about that guest spot this year?); arts and cultural events (you wouldn’t believe how many TSO, TIFF or AGO brochures have landed on our doorstep lately–and, just an aside, does EVERY Toronto-area event use a three-letter acronym?), and even religious holidays (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, usually occurs around September).
I mentioned in a previous post that I had a few exciting giveaways up my figurative sleeve–and now that we’re on the threshold of back-to-school, what better time to hold them? During the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling and experimenting with an array of new ingredients and products, some of which were truly exceptional.
So now, I’ve chosen the best of the lot–the ones I liked most and think you will, too–and will be giving away one at a time over the next few weeks.
See? Back to school can be fun!
For a great ACD-friendly Fudge Recipe and to enter the first in the “Back to School Swag” series of giveaways, click here!
[You won't believe what's in this fudge. . . or how easy it is to make!]
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
I heard an interview the other day on CBC radio (ie, home of the dreamy Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q and object of my major, make-me-squeal-like-a-tween-at-a-Jonas-Brothers-concert, crush) with a woman whose father had Huntington’s Disease. She had decided not to be tested to see if she had inherited the wayward gene because, as she observed, “We’re not meant to know the future” (or something like that).
Would you choose to be privy to your own fate if you could? Well, perhaps where deadly diseases are concerned, I’d say “yes”; but in day-to-day matters, it might make for total paralysis if we knew the outcome of our every move.
Take Vegan MoFo, for instance (from fatal illness to food blogging? How’s that for an original segue?). Ah, yes, I had such good intentions for Vegan MoFo. When I first heard about the event last October, it was too late to participate. I vowed I’d play along this year. But when the time came, I was overwhelmed by ongoing ACD woes and challenges at work; so I decided to sit it out this round as well. “No matter,” I reasoned, “I’ll simply read from the bounty of other vegan blogs (and there sure are enough from which to choose!), and comment instead.”
Or so I thought.
Was that REALLY 224 items in my Google Reader last weekend?? Yep.
And so, apologies to all the wonderful MoFo’ers out there. I’ve opted to read more and comment less. But please know that I am reading and enjoying all the amazing foods, ideas, and photos (so many cute pets, too!) that people are posting. Yay MoFo!
Similarly, when I started this ACD last March (March?!), it never occurred to me I’d still be on the diet this far into the game (perhaps if I’d foreseen the outcome, I would never have started). And while the weight is still moving downward (albeit at a much slower pace) and I do feel better overall, I have not yet reached my objective of “all candida symptoms eradicated,” nor my “goal weight” (still about 7 pounds away–though I may revise the number when I get there).
A major problem for many people following the ACD is the lack of sweeteners except for stevia, an herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. Now in Phase II of the program, I’m allowed one fruit per day and a few more grains (welcome, Oh Beloved Oats, back into my life!), but that still leaves me adrift when it comes to desserts.
Don’t get me wrong; stevia is great, and I use it in oatmeal, smoothies, salad dressings, and teas; but it is NOT great for baking.
And I dearly miss baking.
Worse, my few experiments in baking with stevia have resulted in, shall we say, less than fortunate outcomes.
“Mum, they’re fortunate for us! We love those new dog cookies you gave us yesterday!”
On the other hand, there are many other desserts that can be sweetened with stevia. In my earlier post, “Anti-Candida Desserts: What Can You Eat?” I wrote about Raw Key Lime Pie (with a secret ingredient!) and Carob-Coconut Sweeties, soft and creamy dessert tidbits made with carob, almond butter, and coconut. And yet, I felt that something was still missing.
Which brings me. . . FINALLY, to chocolate. (See what I mean about knowing the future? If you’d known I would ramble this long before getting to the recipe, you might have opted out of this blog post.).
If you were reading this blog before I started the ACD, you already know how much I love chocolate. Chocolate is my Romeo. Chocolate is my Mark Antony. Chocolate is my Edward. Sadly, chocolate is also my albatross, my Picture of Dorian Gray, my Great White Whale*, and a major reason why I found myself in this candida dilemma in the first place.
So what’s a gal to eat when she loves chocolate, but can’t indulge? Why, she makes up her own, stevia-sweetened substitute, that’s what!
Today’s recipe is for faux chocolate made with carob. I have tried it with cocoa powder as well, but find that so much stevia is required to sweeten the cocoa that the taste is rather unpleasant. However, if you can use agave, I’d recommend giving that a whirl instead. The recipe itself is so simple it’s outlandish. Equal parts carob powder, silken tofu, and coconut oil. A splash of vanilla, a few drops stevia, pinch of salt. That’s it! And yet the outcome is smooth, creamy, solid, chocolate-hued.
For those on soy-free diets, you can, certainly, omit the tofu. I tried the recipe this way initially and the flavor was fine, but the texture was much denser (in fact, brick-solid) when refrigerated. It also melted quickly at room temperature. I found that the addition of tofu rendered this smooth and creamy, much more like real chocolate (though slightly less dense than the real thing).
Maybe I can’t read the future, but I do know there will be more of this sweet treat in my life from now on.
“Mum, we see faux chocolate in our future, too! After all, carob is totally safe for dogs, you know.”
* Actually, with chocolate in my life, I myself am more like the Great White Whale.
With a hefty portion of coconut oil in the mix, all you need of this confection is a small square to satisfy your sweet cravings. But don’t feel guilty if you end up having more–organic coconut oil is heart-healthy, and carob contains a good amount of calcium!
4 Tbsp (15 ml x 4) extra firm silken tofu (such as Mori Nu)
1/4 cup (60 ml) organic coconut oil, firm at room temperature*
1/4 cup (30 g) carob powder
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-15 drops stevia liquid
pinch fine sea salt
If you have chocolate molds, keep them at the ready. Alternately, stretch a piece of plastic wrap across a dinner plate (to create a smooth, taut surface on the plastic) and set aside (this is what I did).
In a small food processor (I used a Mini Prep), measure out the tofu one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time (it’s true that 4 Tbsp/60 ml is the same as 1/4 cup, but I found that the tofu must be fairly firmly packed, and I achieved a more consistent result by measuring it one spoon at a time). Blend a few seconds to break up the tofu.
Add the coconut oil and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Don’t overblend at this stage; you don’t want the oil to melt!
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth and creamy and no tofu is visible. Scrape sides occasionally to incorporate all bits of tofu. The consistency should be like a smooth buttercream frosting (and, in fact, you can use it as such at room temperature).
Either fill the molds or spread the mixture in a rough square over the surface of the plastic wrap. Pull the sides of the wrap over the square one side at a time to enclose the faux chocolate in plastic. Refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours), then cut in small squares. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week. Makes 12-20 squares (depending on how big you cut them).
* If you room is warm enough that the coconut oil has begun to melt, place it in the refrigerator for a while until it firms up again. It should be solid when you begin the recipe.
[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
[Dig those green threads of lime zest in there! Red and green--how festive!]
I bet you can tell from the title alone that this is a retro recipe. For me, the name “Tutti Fruiti” brings to mind Mrs. Cunningham’s kitchen on Happy Days, or Leave it to Beaver, or Doris Day. I mean, it just sounds so Barbie doll. . .so potroast-and-mashed-potatoes. . . so poodle skirts and bobbysocks. . . so 1950s Housewife. Or does it?
Maybe it’s just me, but just when did feminism get such a bad rap? (Oh oh–I’ve uttered the “F-Word”!! I can hear the roar of footsteps as droves of my readers hightail it for the exit). But seriously. I happened to grow up during a time of great social change for women, when being able to make our own choices and earn our own money was still a novelty, one that was both thrilling, and ground-breaking. (Hmm. Sort of reminds me of the excitement in the air over recent political developments, too).
These days, I’m sensing a backward shift in attitude all over the media. It makes me sad to think that young women today feel they can’t embrace independence and self-sufficiency without giving up everything old-fashioned at the same time. Claims of Grrrrrrl power from hyper-sexed, no-unmentionable-flaunting, party-hardy starlets who trumpet liberation but are really just craving male attention are just one facet of the problem. You know that social attitudes have really shifted when they hit your soap opera. As The World Turns (my own indulgence, as I may have mentioned before) may have one of the first gay story lines on daytime, but they seem to have abandoned their women back in the fifties.
Case in Point: Jack and Carly. Here’s a sample:
Carly [to her ex-husband, Jack]: What? You spent the $5000 intended for our son’s boarding school tuition on your new wife-to-be’s wedding dress??!!
Jack: Don’t worry, Carly, I will make sure our kids are taken care of.
Carly: I’m warning you, Jack, you’d better not squander your money on that woman. If our kids have to suffer because you can’t pay for them. . . well, I promise you, I will make your life a living hell.
Jack: I told you I’d take care of it, Carly, and I will! [storms off in a huff.]
Does anyone else read that dialogue and wonder, “Um, excuse me, but where is Carly’s portion of that tuition?” Why isn’t she also contributing to her son’s schooling? And before you hurl epithets at my insensitivity to the woman’s dilemma, consider that Carly’s character is supposedly a millionaire. That’s right: as a former high-flying fashion designer, she has way more money than her honest-cop ex-husband. Yet despite rolling in dough, she expects the man to pay for everything. Poor old Gloria Steinem (and I suppose she really is old, nowadays) is probably rolling over in her Playboy bunny suit.
I don’t see any conflict of interest in calling myself a feminist and still enjoying all the activities that take place in the kitchen (no, not those activities, people! I was referring to cooking, baking, eating and the like!) In fact, I’ve always been proud to use the title ”Ms.” (and no, it’s not just a title for divorced women). Another shock: I also retained my name when I got married (to the first one, not the HH). I mean, I’d had the name since I was born, didn’t I? I was pretty attached to it. My ex-husband argued that we were more of a coherent “team” with the same last name. Okay, I countered, then let “the team” carry my last name. (I’m afraid I can’t reprint what he said in response to that.)
And what does this sudden pro-feminist rant have to do with cookies, you may wonder?
Well, in high school, one of the greatest feminist role models I’ve ever known was Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. J was quite a powerhouse: she held a full-time job as a high school teacher; she was on various academic boards; she had a part-time freelance gig outside of school; and she was one all around tough cookie (no pun intended). Probably only about 10 years my senior at the time, Mrs. J certainly looked the part: she was rather strident in her manner, with a mile-high ‘do that bore a striking resemblance to a rusted Brillo pad. Her shoes were sensible, her suits stiff and straight-cut in that “must-emulate-male-businessmen” way, and her demeanor was always entirely humorless. At the same time, she showed us girls what could be accomplished by women who were smart and self-sufficient.
Oh, and she taught Home Economics.
Home Economics! Even the name sounds anachronistic. But it was in Mrs. J’s class that I learned how to measure dry ingedients in the metal cups and wet ingredients in the glass cups; how to level my baking powder with the back of a knife; how to roll dough from the center outward; how to distinguish between a selection of six different kinds of milk**; and how to make Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. That woman really could do it all! And she taught us it was okay to be a feminist and still love all the old-fashioned female virtues, too.
Of course, the original recipe wasn’t vegan (Mrs. J wasn’t that liberated). But I’ve retained it all these years because these were just the perfect holiday cookie in every way: they are delicious, they are incredibly easy to make (of course, any woman with all that going on had to find ways to save time in the kitchen), they travel well, and they seem to appeal to everyone. The original recipe also contained old-fashioned gumdrops, chopped up. Well, darned if I didn’t have the perfect substitute right on hand–the yummy gummies I got as a gift in my swap package from Neil! The lime zest is my own addition, to round out the Christmassy colors.
Of all the fancy, frosted, cookie-cut or filled cookies I make at the holiday season, these remain my very favorites (and they’re not even chocolate!!). Soft yet slightly crumbly with a light, citrus, almond-perfumed aroma and dotted throughout with brilliant bits of shiny color like fragments of stained glass, these cookies are a treat to eat.
And when you don the frilly apron to serve these to friends and family, hold up your feminist head with pride! Real women bake cookies, too.
“Mum, we love all the activities that go on in the kitchen, too. And we would love to be self-sufficient with free access to our food.”
On a Final Note: I’ve also been totally remiss about a lovely award I received a while back from Georgia. I meant to post about it then, and of course it slipped my mind until now (I may be a feminist, but my memory sucks). Thanks so much, Georgia, for this Proximity Award! Here are the award details:
“This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open this up to anyone who’s willing to proudly call herself (or himself) a feminist!
** That would be whole, 2%, 1%, skim, sweetened condensed, evaporated, and dried-reconstituted. Nobody had even heard of alternative milks back then!
1/2 cup (120 ml.) chopped candied fruit, gummy candies, chopped dried cranberries, or any other small chopped festive food of your choice
1-1/4 cups (175 g.) light spelt flour
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) fine sea salt
In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water, extracts and lime zest. Stir to dissolve the Sucanat as much as possible. Add the flax seeds and melted oil, then stir in the chopped fruit or candies.
Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over the liquid ingredients and stir to blend. You will have a soft dough.
Shape the dough into two logs about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Unwrap the cookie logs and cut them into disks about 3/8 inch (3/4 cm.) thick and place about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets.
Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, rotating the sheets once about halfway through, until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes on sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies. May be frozen.
[I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan."]
What??? Another Flash in the Pan, back-to-back with the previous one?
Honestly, I was working on a post about cookies (a Gastronomic Gift to be shared next time, promise!) when I accidentally happened upon this amazing discovery. I was so thrilled with myself that I just had to share it immediately! (Yes, you’re right, I really must get another hobby).
And, as today’s post title implies, my life has been rather out of balance lately. Scrambling to complete a cookbook manuscript (oh, woe, oh, woe, I fear I may miss a deadline for the first time in my life!), marking student exams, preparing for the holidays and a visit from the CFO, tending to an injured Girl, my weight hopping between lows and all-time highs like critic’s reviews of Britney’s music–well, let’s just say I needed something to balance the mood.
And, as serendipity would have it, this recipe filled the gap. This is my version of a creamy, smooth, spreadable, nonhydrogenated, trans-fat free, yellowish in color, firm-when-refrigerated-but-not-melty-when-room-temperature, spread-it-on-bread or melt-it-on-a-pancake, tastes-rich-and-incredible, all-purpose, homeade and waaay-cheaper-than-that-famous-brand BUTTERY SPREAD.
And yesterday, this entirely fortuitous concoction was created in my kitchen. I was so shocked after I turned on the little food processor (I have one of those “Mini-Prep” processors for small batches) and saw the result that I did an internet search to check who else had already come up with the same recipe. It seemed too simple! Too easy! Too good.
I found lots of coconut oil-olive oil based mixes, Bryanna’s low-fat “Corn Butter” and a great-sounding recipe in Alisa’s new book, Go Dairy Free, but nothing like this. At first I thought the tofu in the recipe might be a problem (well, it is for those with soy allergies), but I checked out the Earth Balance website for a list of ingredients, and since it, too, contains quite a bit of soy protein, I assumed this would be fine (and that accounts for the similarity in appearance between the two, I imagine). A little tweaking, and I found my new favorite spread!
The only caveat I’d offer with this spread is that, made from coconut oil, it is, after all, mostly fat (specifically, saturated fat). Unlike the prepared spread, though, this contains no canola oil (which can be controversial) or other additives.
I don’t know if this would work as a butter substitute in recipes other than baked goods, but please, give it a try and let me know! Also, since I’ve never tasted Earth Balance, I don’t know if the flavor of this spread is similar or not. I do know that I really enjoyed it on bread (even though I was never a butter-on-bread kind of gal in the old days), and that the HH loved this so much, he ate three pieces of bread with it and proclaimed, “Hey, this is good stuff, man!”**
It may not balance the chaos in your life, your chakras, or even your budget–but I bet you will still love this buttery substitute!
You can spread this mixture as you would butter on any bread, pancake, or muffin. There are myriad possibilities for fruited butters, herb butter, garlic butter–use your imagination, and let me know how it turns out!
2 ounces or 60 g (I weighed it; 1/6 box) aseptically-packaged firm-silken Japanese style tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
1/3 cup (80 ml) refined (ie, tasteless) organic coconut oil (I used Omega Nutrition)
generous pinch or two turmeric
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) nutritional yeast, or a touch more, to taste
1/2-3/4 tsp. (2.5-4 ml) sea salt, to taste
tiny pinch paprika
In a food processor (I used a miniature-sized one; a regular size or even hand blender would probably work for this, too), whir the tofu to break it up. Melt the coconut oil and add it to the tofu mixture along with remaining ingredients; process to blend. It may look curdled and like it’s too soft; this is as it should be. Scrape down the sides and blend again, until the mixture emulsifies and you have a smooth, buttery spread. You can melt this on toast, spread it on bread, or spread in a thin layer and refrigerate until cold, then cut into squares for pats of “butter” (see photo, below). Store in airtight container for up to one week (I’m guessing you could freeze it longer). Makes about 1/2 cup (120 ml.)
* Actually, Elsie’s stitches came out this morning! The vet said all is fine and it looks as if the gash has healed really well. The HH and I are bracing ourselves for a day as referees at the dog wrestling marathon that will inevitably occur.
**Well, he didn’t actually use the word “stuff”–his was a little more colorful–but this is a PG blog, after all.