How did it get to be Sunday already, and five days since my last post? Well, I haven’t been lounging around watching soap operas and eating bon-bons, that’s for sure (just watching soap operas–I’m not allowed bon-bons on the ACD, silly!). Actually, my dear friend Sterlin has been visiting from England, and I’ve been spending as much time as possible with her (including a surprise birthday party–with Sterlin as the guest of honor–yesterday evening). And though I cooked up a storm for the party, most of the dishes were tried-and-true Indian fare, many of which I’ve already shared on this blog. I fully intended to try out a few new recipes, but ran out of steam, and time, before the party.
So, instead of a new recipe today, I thought I’d address a topic that’s garnered a bit of attention on my blog over the past year or so, both from me and from readers. In fact, over the past month, I’ve received quite a few emails asking me about the ways in which I use stevia (the predominant sweetener allowed on the ACD, along with vegetable glycerin or yacon syrup, which I use only rarely).
For anyone just starting out on the ACD, anyone required to eat low-glycemic or low-carb foods (ie, diabetics, people watching their weight, and so on) or anyone interested in ditching artificial sweeteners, stevia is an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener that you might like to try.
*Please note: I am not a scientist, a chemist, or an expert on stevia, and this post is not intended as advice for anyone contemplating using the sweetener. I’m writing about my own personal experience with stevia, and this is my own, personal, opinion.
How I Discovered Stevia
In the home of my childhood, sweets and desserts were ubiquitous. My mother was an accomplished from-scratch baker and my father, an immigrant to the country, was accustomed to a big slice of home-made cake after dinner each evening. Consequently, my sisters and I grew not only to expect freshly baked confections in our house at all times, but also to prefer sweets to any other types of foods.
As I grew older and my sweet tooth became more ferocious, I began to leap on every chance to eat something sweet without the caloric consequences. When saccharin first became available in Canada, The Nurse and I concocted a cream-cheese based cherry cheesecake sweetened entirely with Sweet N Low (my mouth still puckers at the thought). Later, I found myself buying Weight Watchers Mousse (containing aspartame) in bulk, as I’d often consume an entire batch (supposedly enough for six people) for dinner. When I lived on my own, I stocked Diet Pepsi as if I were hoarding for the next pandemic, and would often imbibe a liter or two of the stuff almost daily.
Needless to say, my sweets addiction got me into some trouble, not once, but twice. About a year ago, I found myself afflicted once again (the previous time had been 10 years prior) with a raging case of systemic candida. The only solution? A strict, relatively restrictive diet and herbal (and, in my case, prescription) anti-fungal medications.
When I was in nutrition school, there was a lot of buzz about a “new” herbal sweetener called stevia. I must admit, I was a bit wary at first (perhaps it was my Pavlovian response to any sweetener that came in little blue packets), but I’ve come to appreciate and even love the mighty sweetleaf. And this time round, it’s certainly allowed me to placate a persistent sweet tooth even while adhering to the diet that will eventually restore my overall health and digestive balance.
What is Stevia?
While the Stevia rebaudiana plant (a leafy shrub) is native to Brazil and Paraguay, it’s actually been grown here in Ontario since 1987, which may explain why Canadians are more familiar with the sweetener than Americans (it’s been designated as GRAS–generally recognized as safe–only since 2008 in the US). Still, stevia is considered an herbal supplement in Canada, so you won’t find it on supermarket shelves next to the Equal; instead, it’s available at health food stores. It’s also the most popular sweetener in Japan, where they’ve been using it to replace artificial sweeteners since 1971.
When the stevia leaves are dried and the liquids extracted, the compounds acquired (called stevioside and rebaudioside) give stevia its sweetness (at about 250-300 times sweeter than sugar). The compounds can be dried into powder or used in liquid form; either way, they are usually augmented with fillers, since the pure extract is so sweet the amounts used would be infinitesmal. Liquids usually have food-grade alcohol (such as they use with vanilla extract) or glycerin (for a non-alcohol version) added. Just a few drops of the liquid offers sweetness equal to 1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) of sugar. (The powder is premixed with dry bulking agents such as cellulose, dextrose, or maltodextrin so that one packet equals about 1 tsp/5 ml of sugar). You can also consume the fresh leaves, which are about 30-45 times sweeter than sugar. [information from here].
Are There Problems Associated with Stevia?
If you’re concerned about possible side effects or health risks, you should know that there have been some studies that indicated genetic mutations in animals who ingested large amounts of the herb. However, these studies haven’t been replicated on humans. Additionally, stevia has been used for hundreds of years in its countries of origin, as well as longterm in Japan (where it’s the number one sweetener, before sugar).
Because it’s derived from a plant and undergoes very little processing, I would much prefer to use stevia than any of the artificial, chemical-based, sweeteners such as Equal or Splenda (and I take issue with those who refer to stevia as “another artificial sweetener”; to my mind, that’s a misnomer). Like saccharin or aspartame, stevia adds zero calories to your food; it tastes very sweet; and it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.
The difference between stevia and sucralose or sodium cyclamate, however, is that stevia exists as-is in nature, and doesn’t require laboratory procedures to be made sweet. In fact, I’m a little leery of some of the new products like PureVia or Truvia (and please note that I’ve never tried either one of them) that extract only the rebaudioside A only (it’s one of the factors that makes stevia sweet) so they can manufacture sweeteners from it. Why not continue to use the whole plant (you can steep the leaves like tea leaves) or the natural, whole extract from the whole leaves, as people have done for centuries? For my part, I’ll use only products labeled as whole “stevia,” containing that one ingredient only, rather than those with trademarked names that are not “stevia.”
I tend to prefer using stevia in foods that are naturally sweet to begin with or recipes that require very little sugar (1/4 cup or less), as well as recipes in which the texture isn’t changed (much) by the addition of sugar. For instance, my favorite use is in my morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal. It’s also great as a sweetener in salad dressings, puddings, pancakes and pie fillings, since they don’t rely as much on sugar to produce a particular texture.
The greatest challenge with stevia, I think, is using it in baking, because its intense sweetness (up to 300 times sweeter than sugar) permits only a minute amount to be added to batters or dough. When you substitute 10 drops (or 1/4 teaspoon powder) for 1 cup of sugar, you alter the dry-to-wet ratio in your baked good, as well as the chemical reaction that takes place with baking. As a result, I’ve had to experiment quite a bit with my stevia-sweetened baked goods. Keep that in mind if you try stevia as a sugar replacement. (There are also one-for-one stevia-based sweeteners on the market that allow you to measure one cup of the mixture for one cup of sugar, but these always contain bulking agents. While they produce a good product, my digestive system hasn’t taken kindly to the added ingredients, so I avoid them.).
If you do use stevia in baked goods, remember that you’ll need to compensate for the loss of sugar as a binding agent (due to caramelization when it’s baked). Instead, try using nut or seed butters, or fruit purées in place of some of the sugar, as I do in this recipe. You can find other stevia-based desserts like cookies, puddings and cupcakes with frosting (plus some savory dishes as well) in my ebook, Anti-Candida Feast.
My Favorite Brands of Stevia
Until this year, the only brand of stevia I used was NOW Foods’ brand, as it was the one most readily available here. I prefer the liquid (some people have noted a slight bitterness or aftertaste with the powder; I’ve never found this to be the case with the liquid).
Recently, however, I’ve had the opporunity to try out a few other brands, as well, such as Stevia in the Raw (powder, extract of whole stevia), which I won in a blog giveaway; NuNaturals (vanilla and unflavored liquid) and Stevita chocolate flavor (both of which I received as samples for review on this blog).
Granted, this isn’t a representative sample of all the brands out there, and I’m always scouring the local health food store for other brands. While I loved the NuNaturals and Stevita brands, I did notice that they require a bit more volume than the NOW brand to achieve the same sweetening power (so if I need only 5 drops of NOW stevia to sweeten my bowl of oatmeal, I need up to 10 of the others for the same degree of sweetness). I haven’t detected any bitter aftertaste in any of these brands, though, so perhaps I’m just one of those lucky people with a genetic quirk of the tastebuds that doesn’t register that particular type of bitterness (then again, I also adore brussels sprouts).
Is there anything else you’d like to know about the ACD, my diet, recipes on the blog or any of the ingredients I use? I plan to post more informational blog entries like this one on occasion, in which I answer readers’ questions or address comments related to the diet. So let me know what you’d like me to cover!
“Mum, I know there have been some tests on animals, but dogs can enjoy stevia too, can’t they? Because, you know, we don’t want to give up taste-testing those Carob-Coconut Sweeties you make.”
For even more desserts, check out Desserts without Compromise, my new ebook with 19 original recipes (all sugar free, gluten free, egg free and dairy free)! To learn about the recipes or to purchase, click here. To see photos of all the desserts, see this post.
[Raw key lime tarts--NOT an ACD-inspired recipe (yippee!) See below.]
After the great response I got from my Anti-Candida Breakfasts post, I thought you all might be interested in some ACD desserts. Since this phase of the diet is very clear about NO SWEETENERS (except for stevia), NO FRUIT (except for limes, lemons and avocados), and NO FLOURS (except for bean flours, in teensy amounts), we ACD followers have to get pretty creative when it comes to satisfying the sweet tooth. And believe me, my sweet tooth has been mighty insistent of late.**
So today’s post is all about desserts–the non-sugar, non-sweetener, non-flour way! Doesn’t that just sound unbelievably appetizing? (I know, I have been deluding myself this way for over a month now). OOOOOH, YUM! Read on to share my painbe glad you’re not me find a few surprises you might actually like!
[Seriously, doesn't that look just like applesauce?]
For some reason, the ACD vetoes all squashes except zucchini, yellow squash (basically jaundiced zucchini) and spaghetti squash. While browsing through one of the forums about the diet, I came across this idea for mock applesauce–essentially, you bake a spaghetti squash, scoop out the (remakrably spaghetti-like) flesh, then purée it with cinnamon and stevia. I added a touch of ginger and cardamom as well. It was surprisingly good, and, I’m sure, would be fabulous if made with an actual sweetener like agave or pure maple syrup. I’ve been enjoying this after dinner on occasion when I need something I can pretend is fruit.
[Well, the texture is perfect, at least. . . . ]
I placed the title of this dessert in quotation marks, because there is no way anyone would mistake this for actual chocolate pudding. Oh, the texture was fabulous, but when you sweeten cocoa with stevia, the result is, shall we say, rather pucker-inducing. Well, except to me, when I’m desperate for chocolate and don’t care if it’s bitter or has a stevia “aftertaste,” that is. The HH wouldn’t even finish the first spoonful (though he did concede that the texture was great). I’m going to work on a non-candida version of this because I know it will be irresistible when made with some other type of sweetener!
One of my favorite junky sweet treats when I was in my teens and 20s was Nielsen “Macaroons.” They were essentially milk chocolate (or should I say, “milk chocolate flavored“) rosettes–sort of like Hershey kisses with toasted coconut in them–and I adored them. I’d stop at the Bulk Barn on my way home from class and purchase a small bag, then munch away during the bus ride home. In my 20s, of course, I was able to do so without any ill effects or physical consequences (well, except for the time that guy in the seat beside me put his hand on my knee–not connected to macaroons, I reckon). My, how times have changed since then! Not only can I no longer eat that way, but these days, I’d be whacking that guy’s hand with my umbrella and disturbing fellow passengers by shrieking at the top of my lungs.
Although I haven’t eaten the Nielsen variety in about a decade, these little confections reminded me of them–only much, much healthier. To me, these sweets taste like actual milk chocolate (not chocolate “candy”), mixed with coconut.
Now, I know there are about 17,428 versions of a “nut butter, carob and coconut” treat on the Internet, but this one is my own (original!) creation, and dear to my heart. And besides, I’d love to know whether any of you out there agree about the taste (or is it simply my ACD-addled tasted buds playing tricks on me?).
I’ve deliberately made a small batch here, so that (if the highly unlikely situation should ever arise, you understand) it’s not a tragedy if you happen to eat the entire batch. However, if you’re sharing with more than one person, or serving several, you may wish to double the recipe.
In a food processor (I use my Mini-Prep; any small processor is recommended for this recipe), blend the almond butter, tahini, carob powder, salt and chia until you have a smooth paste. Add the stevia and vanilla, if using, and whir again to blend. Add the coconut and hemp seeds and pulse until evenly distributed. Scoop the mixture by teaspoonfuls and roll into balls. Refrigerate (or freeze) 20 minutes or more to allow the mixture to firm up a bit. (If you can’t wait to dig in, they’re still delicious right away, but they will be fairly soft). Makes 4-5 balls.
ACD variation: use stevia instead of other sweetener and be sure the vanilla is alcohol-free.
[This is carob, but for a chocolate variation of the pudding, use chocolate almond, soy, hemp or other milk]
As I mentioned in a previous post, this is one of my favorite treats, even when I’m not following the ACD. This version boasts carob, cinnamon, and a touch of stevia. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a teaspoon or two of ground flax seeds to the mix as well. (You wacky dessert-lover, you!)
I was amazed to discover that this recipe, which I’ve been eyeing for almost a year now, is actually more or less acceptable for the ACD! A few minor adjustments, and the HH and I were both able to enjoy these lovely tarts (pictured above is the date-sweetened crust). You could also make the filling on its own and spoon it up as a pudding. As a bonus, this is a raw dessert. You don’t want to overindulge, however, as it does contain quite a hit of fat in each serving.
3/4 cup (80-90 g) dry, raw macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or a combination
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) pitted dry medjool dates, chopped (see note)
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped just-ripe avocado flesh (1-2 avocados)
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar, light or dark
2 tsp (10 ml) finely ground chia seeds, optional (but the filling is more runny without it)
lime zest or kiwi slices for garnish
Lightly grease 5 individual tart pans, or line with parchment rounds (I use 3″ or 7.5 cm pans with removable bottoms). If your pans don’t have removable bottoms, it’s worth it to line them with parchment paper rounds, as the crust will stick otherwise. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the coconut, nuts, and sea salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the dates and process until it comes together in a “dough” (it’s ready when the mixture sticks together if pinched between your fingers and thumb). Press the “dough” evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tart pans.
If you’ve scraped the processor bowl fairly clean, there’s no need to wash it for this step. In the same processor, blend the avocado, lime juice, agave and chia and blend until very smooth. Spoon the mixture evenly into the crusts and smooth the top.
Freeze the tarts until firm, at least 2 hours. Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving, garnish with zest or fresh fruit, and enjoy. Makes 5 tarts.
ACD Variation: Instead of the dates, use 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) smooth almond, cashew or macadamia butter to help the dough adhere. Or omit the crust and just eat the filling! For the filling, use stevia to taste in place of the agave.
**Every source you read about the ACD says that, as long as you stick to the plan, your sugar cravings will disappear in 3-4 days. Excuse me while I guffaw. I’m well in to Week Five, and sugar is calling to me just as loudly and insistently as ever.
PS. To read about a non-ACD dessert recipe by yours truly, flip open the May/June issue of Clean EatingMagazine for my second Happy Endings recipe!
UPDATE: SOME OTHER ACD-FRIENDLY DESSERTS on Diet, Dessert and Dogs, below. This is just a partial list. For a full list, see the Desserts Category in the Recipe Index (note that Wellness Weekend posts may contain non-ACD recipes):
Desserts without Compromise, my ebook with 19 ACD friendly dessert recipes, from grain-free fudgy brownies to cookies to mousse to vanilla custard–all sugar free, egg free, dairy free and gluten free (desserts for all phases of the diet)
Cupcakes, frosting, puddings and other non-sweet dishes in my Anti Candida Feast Ebook(for those just beginning, and 2nd phase of the diet)
[Welcome to the new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs! I'm still tweaking the format and layout of the blog, so please bear with me while I update some links, combine some page tabs, etc. It should all be up and running smoothly within the next week or so!]
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Coombs Family Farms, an organic farm in Vermont that specializes in “all things maple,” to see if I’d like to sample some of their syrup. Since maple syrup is a well-loved staple in my kitchen and many of my baked goods feature it as a key sweetener, I was delighted to accept their offer and eagerly awaited the package.
A few days later, I received this:
A bottle of their certified organic syrup, along with a maple-leaf shaped piece of maple candy!
Anyone who’s ever consumed real maple syrup can attest to its unique flavor–sweet, slightly smoky, with an appealing, earthy aroma. Made from the sap of maple trees, it’s naturally rich in minerals (per volume, higher in calcium than dairy milk!). The syrup is available for purchase in three grades of A (light, medium and dark) and one of B–each darker and more intensely flavored than the last. I was sent a bottle of grade B, an intense, soulful auburn that was so thick and deep it was nearly opaque. As soon as I removed the cap, the maple perfume escaped to envelop the room with that distinctive scent.
Now, I’ve enjoyed maple syrup for many years. Like pretty much everyone raised in Quebec–the heart of Canada’s maple country–I consider myself a maple aficionado, if not an expert. Maple syrup is ubiquitous in La Belle Province: you can find it on every checkered tablecloth in every greasy-spoon breakfast diner, cheerily lining the shelves in corner grocery stores, awaiting the call in every kitchen cupboard. When I was in grade school, each spring our class would make an annual trek up north for “sugaring off” parties, where freshly tapped, warmed maple syrup was poured over vast expanses of pristine snow to create a kind of maple taffy that we kids scrambled to scoop up with plastic spoons. I might even classify myself as a bit of a maple syrup snob, in fact, one who’d never even consider trying the artificially flavored stuff from that iconic slender-waisted bottle.
Still, despite my fine maple sensibilities, I’ve never really thought it essential to buy organic maple syrup. For one thing, the price is usually, shall we say, immoderate. In addition, I’ve always recalled a conversation I had with a student once in a sociology of food course I was teaching. She mentioned that her family owned a local maple tree farm. There was really no difference between organic and non-organic syrup, she explained, since most maple trees aren’t sprayed with pesticides anyway (unless infected by some vermin or another). I filed away that bit of information and continued to purchase my regular (non-organic) variety.
Well, let me tell you, that student got it wrong (luckily, she wasn’t writing a test at the time). Now that I’ve tasted the Coomb’s organic version, I’m not sure I can go back to my generic brand. Their syrup is outstanding, with a rich, deep amber color and more intense maple flavor than I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly sweet and subtly smoky, with a heightened maple essence that lingers gently on the palate, enduring like an unexpected compliment.
Seriously, I may not be able to tolerate my old brand any more. To heck with the price–I’ll just have to be more judicious in my use of it, I reckon. Or else use a bit less and savor every drop more. Or simply ignore the cost entirely (I suspect that a pawn shop may come into play at some point). Seriously, it’s that good.
My first taste of the syrup was straight, poured onto the Lemony Almond Pancakes I wrote about a few days ago (I wanted to sample the delicacy in its pure, unadulterated state before combining it with other ingredients). The flavors melded beautifully, the maple’s presence strong enough to match the zesty lemon while counterbalancing the slight sourness of it. The HH practically asked to drink the stuff straight out of the bottle (but I wouldn’t let him, of course, as I was saving it for my subsequent kitchen experiments). He did manage to polish off the maple candy in one sitting, however–I got barely a nibble!
With such a winning flavor, I opted to design a cookie that would really showcase the unique taste that is “maple.” I concocted these Maple Flax cookies (sorry, the two of you who are also on the ACD; these are NOT ACD-friendly–I created this recipe a couple of weeks ago). They are naturally gluten free (and even flour-free, in fact). In this case, the light, chewy texture was a natural outgrowth of my desire to minimize other ingredients in order to allow the natural maple to shine through. And you will most definitely taste it, with every chewy, sticky, sweet and maple-y bite.
Thanks again to everyone at Coombs Family Farms for allowing me to sample this extraordinary product. Now my only lament is that I can’t find any more of it here in Toronto!
They’re not quite Irish, but since they contain oats, I can claim a Celtic connection, anyway. . . Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!
P.S. It’s time for another Sweet Freedomgiveaway. . . stay tuned for details next post!
Maple Flax Cookies
Looking somewhat like oatmeal cookies, with a crunchy exterior and chewy center, these intesely maple-flavored treats will please everyone. Whole flax seeds add bulk, while the oatmeal and flax meal both contribute heart-healthy soluble fiber.
1/2 cup (60 g) whole old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cook)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil, solid at room temperature*
3 Tbsp (45 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Sucanat or other unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground flax seeds
3 Tbsp (45 ml) whole flax seeds
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking powder
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a mini food processor or coffee grinder, whir the oats until they resemble a coarse meal. Pour the meal into a small bowl and set aside.
To the unwashed processor bowl, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, Sucanat and ground flax seeds. Blend until combined well and smooth. Set aside while you measure the rest of the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
To the bowl of oats, add the whole flax seeds, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and mix to distribute everything. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir to create a sticky “dough”.
Using a melon baller or teaspoon, drop the mixture onto cookie sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Do not flatten the cookies (they will spread on their own).
Bake 10-13 minutes, until puffed and cracked on top and dry on the edges. Allow to cool completely before removing from sheet (they will firm up as they cool). Makes 8-10 cookies. May be frozen.
* If your room temperature is warm enough that the coconut oil melts, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so to firm up before using in this recipe.
For me, baking is a form of therapy and meditation rolled into one. Since it’s a long weekend here in Ontario (Happy Victoria Day!); and since I’ve been assiduously following my Total Health course guidelines up until now; and since I’ve got scads of marking to finish before Monday–I decided to take a break. In other words, I decided to bake cookies. I found the recipe for Cozy Inside’sOatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and prepared to adapt the general concept to a NAG-friendly alternative.
[Brief aside: It always astonishes me how acute (and also how "cute"--don't you just love their noses?) a dog's sense of smell can be (anywhere from 100 to 1 million times greater than humans', depending on whom you believe). No matter what the statistic, Our Girls are evidently both healthy in the realm of olfactory acuity. While I pondered my recipe, I unscrewed the jar of peanut butter, absent-mindedly scooping some into the measuring cup. Even before the PB hit the glass, I detected the patter of little paws as Elsie and Chaser sauntered nonchalantly into the room. "Um, Mum, it appears you are scooping peanut butter. Would any of that be directed, perchance, toward our Kongs?"]
After positioning The Girls in their usual spot just beyond the kitchen’s perimeter, I set about mixing my cookies. Maybe I was distracted by the canine audience in the peanut (butter) gallery; maybe I was preoccupied with the remaining assignments awaiting their grades; or maybe I took a subconscious cue from a fellow blogger who’s mentioned her propensity to overlook certain recipe instructions. . . but before I knew it, the cookies were mixed, they’d been popped in the oven and were baking. . .whatever the case, I was suddenly hit with the realization:
I’d omitted a MAJOR ingredient!
I mean, “Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies”–with NO OATMEAL? (Duh–Dude, it’s, like, the first word in the title!)
That got me thinking about lies. Lies, damn lies, and. . . biscuits. The cookies baked on; I waited, breath bated. Would my error end up a sin of omission–or a serendipitous oversight?
Well, I’m sure we’re all familiar with “little white lies” (To wit: “Oh, yes, your outfit is. . . really original” or “I’m so sorry to cancel at the last minute. . . must be that 24-hour stomach flu that’s going around. . . ” or “No, honey, I didn’t forget to pick up the milk on the way home, but my car was almost out of gas, so I decided to wait until tomorrow instead. . .”). Such behavior is often rationalized on the grounds that the recipient’s feelings are spared. Sorry, but I think that’s baloney (or, if you’re otherwise inclined, tofurkey):a lie is a lie.
But what about those lies of omission–just ”keeping mum”? When I was in my twenties, I knew someone who used this method with stellar results. If faced with an uncomfortable question, she simply avoided it and diverted attention to another topic, like a New York con man with a shell game. Alternately, she didn’t answer at all (in which case, technically, she never had to lie). Here’s an example:
Mother: Are you and your girlfriends going to a rave and taking drugs tonight?
Teen: Geez, Mom, look at what I’m wearing. Do I look like I’m going to a rave?
Mother: Well, um. . . [knits brow in confusion]. Well, have a good time, dear.
See how easy? Here’s a slightly more intricate prevarication:
Mother: Hmm. So you’re going to spend two weeks at your boyfriend’s apartment in Los Angeles. Well, you know how I feel about these things. . . are you going to sleep in the same bed with him?
Daughter: [rolling eyes and grimacing distastefully] Geez, Mom. The place has a hide-a-bed in the living room.
Mother: Um, well, okay. . . . [knits brow in confusion]. Well, have a good time, dear.
It’s like the little kid who breaks a vase while Mum is at work, then gingerly hides the shards behind the potted plant; weeks later, when Mum finally happens upon the shattered porcelain and erupts, “Why didn’t you TELL me about this?!!” the child can respond in all honesty: ”Well, you never asked. . . “
Since this recent cookie debacle, I may need to loosen my standards on the issue. I’ve discovered that sometimes, omission can be a good thing–particularly when it involves chocolate chips and peanut butter. Those cookies were stupendous. In fact, they are probably the best PB and chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had–and that’s no lie!
Just barely dry and crisp on the edges, soft, gooey and fudgy in the middle, they possessed the most delightfully intense peanut butter flavor. I loved the interplay of crunchy bits of peanut alongside the soft, melted chips in every bite. (And believe me, many bites were had by all around here). Luckily, I halved the recipe (one of the advantages of vegan baking–no eggs to “divide,” so splitting recipes is easy), or I might have eaten even more.
Earlier this afternoon, the HH returned from a long dog-walk, scrounging for a cookie. “Where are those cookies you baked yesterday?” he wondered.
“Um, there aren’t any left.”
“What–none left? But there were, like, six left over this morning! Where did they all go?”
“I thought you ate some,” I stammered.
“Well, I did, but. . . I mean, I. . . Hey, wait a sec. DID YOU FINISH ALL THOSE COOKIES??”
I rolled my eyes, and grimaced distastefully. “Now, really, HH. Do you honestly think I would eat six cookies in one day?”
“Well, um. . . ” [knits brow in confusion]. He wandered back into the kitchen, searching for something else to eat.
What? Don’t give me that look. Well, he didn’t ask. And I certainly wasn’t about to tell.
(“Mum, don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. Besides, six cookies in one day is nothing. . . we could eat an entire bag of dog cookies in one day, if only you’d let us. . . “)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Because I have diverged from the original recipe so much and changed multiple ingredients, I feel comfortble printing this recipe here. Be warned: if you like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, you will find these cookies irresistible. I’d recommend staring with a half recipe first, to test your resolve.
1/2 cup (125 ml.) crunchy all-natural peanut butter (the only ingredient should be organic peanuts)
1/2 cup (125 ml.) Sucanat
1/4 cup plain soymilk
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) pure maple syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) organic sunflower or other light-tasting oil
1/2 cup (125 ml.) dairy-free chocolate chips
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (155 ml. or about 90 g.) light spelt flour
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) baking soda
1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, Sucanat, maple syrup, soymilk, vanilla, and oil. Whisk vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon until quite smooth and no lumps (except for the bits of peanut) remain. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
In a larger bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. The batter will seem too soft for cookies; this is as it should be.
Using a large scoop or 1/4 cup (60 ml.) measuring cup, drop mounds of the batter onto the cookie sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) apart. The batter should be very soft, but firm enough that it doesn’t run on the cookie sheet.
Using the back of a spoon or your fingers, spread the batter out a bit so that the tops of the mounds are flat and each raw cookie is about 3/8″ (1 cm.) thick. Bake in preheated oven for 10-13 minutes, until tops are puffed and cracked, and edges are just beginning to brown. (The cookies will still be quite soft).
Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookies sheet (they will firm up as they cool). These are even better the next day, when the peanut butter flavor intensifies (no idea what they’d be like on day 3, as they didn’t last that long). Makes 12 large cookies.