Hearty Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

October 28, 2012 § 6 Comments

October hasn’t gone the way I thought it would. Just when you think you’ve got it all under control, the rug is pulled out from underneath.

I had high hopes at the beginning of the month that I’d be able to blog throughout Vegan MOFO but life had other plans. Instead of a quiet month at home, I put on my funeral dress for the third time for 2012 – the fourth time for the past 12 months. I seriously want to burn this dress – too bad it is actually a really nice dress…

My gram, my dad’s mom, passed away unexpectedly on Friday, October 12 – five months after my dad died and eight months to the day after my granddad,  her husband, died.

Nothing lasts forever.

This world is an illusion.

Nothing is guaranteed.

Today is all that is real…

Thank goodness I went to visit her in August. I almost didn’t go…

She was one of a kind – a gem. A little rough around the edges, but a star. Always eccentric, she sought to make everything fun and quite frankly over the top. A lover of the water, she swam 100 laps a day until recently. My dad got his zest for life and can-do attitude from her. For her, nothing was out of reach.

Imagining this world without her is near impossible – almost as impossible as reminding myself every day that my dad is not coming back. I still go to visit his grave and say to myself, he can’t be in there. Surely this is a lie we are living. But the leaves sway and the birds chirp and indeed the world continues to spin. Life continues. Even inside of me, life is growing.

To prepare for the funeral and the grueling week ahead I decided I needed something to give me strength – chocolate chip cookies to be exact. I’d made these cookies before and can attest to their name as “the best chocolate chip cookies” ever. Now, I don’t want to claim to have made them better, but in my humble opinion, I prefer the new version.

This was the first time I made them this way. I was trying to make a “healthier” cookie – I know, I know, a healthy cookie is an oxymoron, but I tried. I subbed the butter for coconut spread, the white flour for whole wheat, and the white sugar for coconut palm sugar which is lower on the glycemic index. Lastly I added chopped walnuts to the mix.

These were intended to take the family through a few days of grieving but they didn’t even make it all the way to Vegas. Halfway through the plane ride, they were already gone. I almost didn’t make them. But at 10pm the night before, I figured it would lift our spirits even if just for a moment – and they did.

Hearty Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Adapted from Super Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut spread
  • 2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Mix flax with water and set aside several minutes to create a “flax egg”
  2. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. You can sift if you like, but I always skip this step 🙂
  3. In a large bowl cream together the brown sugar, coconut palm sugar,  and coconut spread with a fork. Add in vanilla and flax egg
  4. Gradually incorporate the flour mixture into the sugar mixture with a spatula. You’ll have to work it a bit to get all the flour incorporated.
  5. Add desired amount of chocolate chips and walnuts. Don’t worry if you have a hard time incorporating. Just try to get them mixed in as good as you can. Form cookies using a tablespoon and drop on a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-23 minutes. Don’t be alarmed, these cookies don’t spread. Just ensure they cook all the way through.

The Elvis Sandwich – Elevated

October 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Welcome to Day 10 of Vegan MOFO. Today I finally have a recipe for you! Well, not as much a recipe as much an assembly – regardless it’s a winner. I’m calling it The Elvis – Elevated! Here’s why.

I was a bit surprised to learn when I googled “the Elvis sandwich” to learn that it usually is made with bacon! Yuck! This isn’t the Elvis I recall. For many years I’ve enjoyed the vegetarian version – bread, peanut butter, and banana. It’s hard to imagine it being any better but I just may have elevated the Elvis today.

I’m a big peanut butter fan. I never liked deli meats growing up (again, I think I was always meant to be vegetarian or vegan!) so my mom packed me many peanut butter sandwiches as a kid. Sometimes she’d switch it up and add marshmallows for something a little different. I don’t recall when I started adding bananas to my sandwich, but I’ve been eating the PB and banana sandwich for years.

Being such a peanut butter fan, a few friends have warned me about having too many peanuts while pregnant. Apparently it can lead to the peanut allergy some kids have. Then I read somewhere else that having nuts every day can increase your child’s chance for asthma. I don’t know if I’m buying that or the peanut butter myth – but I figure I might as well try and not have peanut butter every single day as I’d been doing. So I’ve been switching it up with almond butter here and there.

The other day I was at Whole Foods and saw Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread. I’m a big Nutella fan thanks to spending a week in Italy. As Nutella isn’t vegan, I haven’t touched the stuff in over a year. But Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread looked promising. So I decided to pony up the $10 for the jar and indulge.

Did I make a wise investment? Yes. Yes I did! The first night I tried my new goody slathered on hot toast. Mmmm. Instantly I was taken back to that week at the little Italian B&B – mornings of croissants, crusty baguettes, Nutella, and espresso. Justin’s doesn’t have quite the same rich hazelnutty flavor as I remember Nutella having – but it does have a deeply rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of nuttiness. Every few bites offers a little course salt too for a delicious surprise.

Today I figured, why stop there? Let’s take the Elvis to new hights. Toast some hearty bread, slather on the chocolate hazelnut spread, and banana slices. For a pregnant woman, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

Learn more about Vegan MOFO and follow my favorite recipes from other bloggers here.

Earthlings

October 9, 2012 § 5 Comments

Today is Day 9 of Vegan MOFO. This whole blogging almost every day when I can’t cook is getting challenging. Usually I’d be whipping up recipes and opening my cookbooks but alas, the kitchen is still my enemy.

So today I figured we’d talk about a movie that made such an impact on me and really made me commit to a vegan diet, and continue to commit to one – Earthlings. I was flipping through my first Veg News I’d ever purchased and there was an interview in it. Now I wish I’d kept that version so I could remember who the interview was with.  The woman they were interviewing said she became a vegan after watching Earthlings. The interviewer said “oh yeah, that’ll do it.” And I thought, I have to see what they mean – what is so compelling that just saying Earthlings makes anyone understand why you went vegan?

I found it on Netflix and my husband and I settled down to watch it. I think it was a Saturday. What followed was complete horror. There is just no other way to describe it. I’ve heard of people that can’t even make it through the first ten minutes – a friend of mine posted so on Facebook when I said I had watched it – and she was vegan!

What followed was 108 minutes of documented examples of animal torture, so brutal that over a year later I still can’t get some of the images out of my mind. I honestly was horrified for about a month – eagerly researching what I’d just learned. The sad thing was this torture wasn’t one-off cases. Sadly, they were the norm. There were several times that all I could do was sit with the pillow over my face waiting for my husband to tell me when that scene was over.

Now for those of you who haven’t seen it, I don’t say all this to scare you. Earthlings is incredibly powerful and showcases the amazing planet we live in. You will be spellbound by the wonder of animals and nature by the end – and yes, you will be saddened that some could have so much pain in their hearts that they could inflict such pain on helpless animals.

The truth is, we don’t like to face the fact that we eat animals. We don’t like to realize what it means. But how long can one really live in denial? Earthlings opens your eyes to the reality of what it means to subject animals for any purpose – food, clothing, science, etc. It’s incredibly powerful and I’d recommend it to anyone that wants to understand how this complex dynamic works.

Head on over to Vegan MOFO to learn more and check out my favorite recipes along the way here.

Vegan MOFO: End of Week 1

October 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

Today is Day 7 of Vegan MOFO. I’m so glad I decided to jump in this year. I remember watching last year and thinking it was just amazing. It is great fun to be a part of – plus I’m learning about all sorts of tips, tricks, and discovering new fabulous vegan bloggers. What’s not to like?

I’ve been keeping tabs on the Vegan MOFO blogroll and pinning what catches my eye on my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board. Hah, you can tell this is a pregnant woman pinning away – it’s all pancakes and cookies and such. But I’m not complaining. Leave it to me to still not be able to eat a vegetable but find all this chocolate appealing – go figure.

One of the best things about Vegan MOFO is learning about all these vegan bloggers out there that I’ve never seen before. Here’s a few that have caught my eye.

Wandering Ladle – As I scrolled through the Vegan MOFO blogroll, the posts from Wandering Ladle nearly jumped off the screen. The photography on this site is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks amazing – and as she’s posted lots of chocolate this week, I’m a happy camper 🙂

Vegan Culinary Crusade – I was in heaven from Lisa’s first post. She invited her readers into Vegan MOFO with an imaginary B&B and she has not disappointed. She has been posting the most amazing breakfast items. The only downside is that this B&B is imaginary. If it was real, I’d be there tomorrow!

Carrie on Vegan – Carrie’s overnight oats caught my eye and what I got when I visited her blog was much more than a healthy breakfast option. Carrie has thyroid cancer and is about to undergo surgery. Her posts are so honest and inspiring. Please head over to her blog, read her story, and wish her well!

And last but not least, here is a very helpful post on oil-free baking. Something I haven’t tried, but with these tips, I may give it a go.

To learn more about Vegan Month of Food, click here. Looking forward to Week #2!

Where Does Chicken Come From?

October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not a Nugget pendant from crobinsondesign on Etsy.com

I distinctly remember sitting at the dinner table one night when I was young – I don’t recall how old, but I’m guessing I was probably about 7 or 8 – and realizing the chicken we were eating came from real chickens. As I type this I find it strange to think that I wouldn’t have thought or known about it until so late, but that is the way I remember it.

We always loved animals. We never went a year without a dog – they were always an extension of our family. I fondly remember coming home one day and to my surprise finding two adorable little bunnies running around the dining room table and my mom smiling at her gift for us. Years later a stray cat found its way at our doorstep and quickly found a place not only in our house but in our hearts.

We were and are animal people. That night at the dinner table, I didn’t feel eating the chicken was right and I remember questioning my parents. My dad said not to think too much about it – he wasn’t being cruel or anything in this statement. I just think he didn’t know what to say. So that is what I did for the next 20 or so years. I ate chicken and I just didn’t think about where it came from.

That is until I began eating a vegan diet over a year ago. I think because I’ve always had this underlying feeling that eating animals is wrong, a vegan diet was a natural fit for me. And I’ll admit there are times that it can be challenging – but reminding myself that it is in line with my values makes me deal with those challenges in a positive way.

Just because you decide to become a vegan or adopt a vegan diet, doesn’t mean that choice will always be easy, every day. I’m not trying to paint it as difficult – but there are times where it can feel inconvenient or frustrating and you may forget the reason you went vegan. I think allowing yourself to feel these frustrations is important to your long term success of remaining vegan. There’s nothing wrong with reminding yourself why you made that commitment when needed – in fact it will just make your commitment stronger.

The Great Soy Debate

October 5, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s Day 5 of Vegan MOFO. I had to skip yesterday due to crazy pregnancy fatigue. But I’m back, and today we’re talking soy.

I remember my mom coming home one day many years ago with soy milk – she’d seen some show (probably Oprah or Dr. Oz) professing its various health benefits and insisted we give it a try. Naturally she bought the chocolate flavor to ease us in. I gave it a try — yuck! I didn’t like it at all. I’ve never been able to catch on to soy milk. I just really don’t care for the flavor. I much prefer – and enjoy – almond milk. My one exception is a soy chai latte which I love! (BTW as I can’t visit Starbucks anymore, I’m loving the Bolthouse farms one as it has only 24 mg of caffeine and is GMO free!)

Source: kidmissile on Flickr

Fast forward a few years – I was first trying a vegan diet due to my friend who was battling breast cancer. She’d warned me against eating soy. I’ll never forget her one day saying in annoyance, “Everything gives you cancer.” It’s probably true to some extent. By the time we consider our food, beauty products, cleaning supplies, furniture, etc. everything probably really does give you cancer. But still, I’d heard way too many controversial things about soy so I wasn’t about to start eating tofu on a regular basis.

I’ve really been pondering the soy question lately. After a year of eating vegan – sometimes a little tofu or edamame or soy cheese is nice for some variety, not to mention it can sometimes be the only option when dining out. But more importantly I’ve been wondering about soy because of my baby (that still feels so strange to say 🙂 ). If you want a non-dairy formula – soy is your only option. I’m still really surprised at this and curious why. I have every intention of breastfeeding but also want to be aware of my options in the event that I can’t – or get sick, or my travel schedule doesn’t allow for it, etc. Having to rely on soy formula as a back-up really has me nervous.

But tonight I’m feeling better. I was reading this article detailing the myths of soy. While I have more reading to do, I was pleased to see that it debunks many of these myths. In the end it says that like anything, soy should be consumed in moderation and in the least processed form possible.

So, do you eat soy? Does it worry you? Have you used soy formula? Curious to hear your stance on the great soy debate.

Click here to learn more about Vegan MOFO and all the great blogging participants. Also check out my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board for great finds.

Vegan Dining Out: Asian Love

October 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Today’s Day 3 of Vegan MOFO. My roller coaster of food aversions continues. I found out I was pregnant 10 weeks ago and in that time I’ve not been able to make a single meal at home (unless we’re calling toast and cereal a meal – which it has been for me almost every day). Eating out as a vegan occasionally is usually no problemo. But average twice a day every day for 10 weeks and factor in food aversions and you’ve got a mess. Both my hubby and I are so sick and tired of eating out. But until the smell of cooked, well anything, doesn’t throw me over the edge, I guess this trend will continue.

Under normal circumstances I love eating asian flavored dishes. It’s easy to find veggie options in Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. You do have to watch out for hidden fish sauce, but if you ask the right questions and know what to order it usually isn’t a problem. And I’ve found I can almost always get a stir-fry of veggies or tofu in any of the above without fish sauce. One note: even when things are labeled vegetarian, it is worth confirming that the stock is vegetarian. Some places label their soups as vegetarian because there isn’t fish or meat flesh even though the stock is made from fish or meat. Many places will make the veggie based stock to order if you just ask and confirm what you are looking for.

While driving home tonight I pondered what we would eat. I just can’t bring myself to eat another Panera sandwich or Jason’s Deli salad which has been the dynamic duo for the past few weeks. At the last minute I thought sushi! Now, of course I wasn’t eating sushi. But I knew I could get the udon noodle soup at Seito Sushi– a filling slightly spicy broth with thick comforting noodles and tempura veggies on the side (it’s served with shrimp but I ask for extra veg instead). I’ve ordered this many times and have confirmed with the chef that the soup does not contain fish stock and the tempura doesn’t have any egg or dairy binder. While I only took a few bites of the veg – cooked veggies just still aren’t working for me – the soup was warming and delicious and sure did hit the spot.

Alongside a fresh green salad with ginger dressing (perfect for nausea!) it was an ideal vegan pregnancy dinner.

And if you are in Orlando, here’s a list of some of my other favorite go-to asian restaurants that I know offer vegan options:

  • Thai House of Orlando – this is our staple. The vegetable noodle soup is fantastic. Other favorites are cashew stir-fry and thai basil noodles. They’ll make anything without fish sauce.
  • Pho 88 – great big bowls of vegetarian soup full of tofu and veg or just veg. Also one of the best values in town in my opinion.
  • Lac Viet – request a special order stir-fry or vegetarian soup (note their vegetarian options on the menu include fish sauce so you need to make the special request which they are very accommodating to).
  • Hawkers – this is a vegan’s paradise! Too many vegan items on the menu to even list here.
  • Yum-mi – vegetable spring rolls, tofu bahn mi, and don’t leave without a bubble tea – they usually have both soy and almond milk.
  • Pei Wei – they label vegetarian options. Just be sure to get rice noodles instead of egg. You can do tofu and veg or double veg.
  • Chai Thai – the best ginger dressing in town!

Check out some amazing Vegan MOFO finds on my Vegan Month of Food Pinterest board!

 

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