Monthly Archives: May 2011

Another Yummy Cookie

It would be completely wrong of me to take any credit for this delicious cookie, other than the fact that I chose a good recipe. I posted about this cookie on Facebook, and a few people asked for the recipe, so I figured I’d toss it into a blog post. I know, I post a lot of things about food. It’s a passion of mine. Cooking and eating are two of my greatest pleasures in life. Even though I’ve switched to a primarily plant-based diet, I’m not at 100% simply because it would reduce my ability to be flexible when I am with others who don’t eat with such restrictions.

The recipe that follows is basically straight out of Veganomicon, except that what I’m putting here is the quantity I used to make a larger batch. I tripled the recipe to make enough for two different potluck gatherings. They are wheat free, and if you buy GF oatmeal and grind it yourself, you are going to have a bona-fide GF Vegan cookie on your hands.

22oz bob’s red mill oat flour (one whole bag)
1 1/2 tsp soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c canola oil
3 tbsp ground flax seed
3/4 cup soy milk (almond or rice would work, too)
1 tbsp vanilla
3 c chocolate chips or so…

Pre -heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together.
Emulsify flax, soy, sugars oils and vanilla until thick. Add to dry ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. The recipe called for ungreased sheets, but I always use parchment paper anyway. Bake 10-12 minutes. They will look a little shiny and crackly when done.

The end result is a delicate, oaty, nutty, cookie that is simple yet very tasty. My husband is still a bit wary of baked vegan items. He’s been pretty good about “regularly vegan” things–that is stuff that I make that doesn’t have stuff that ‘pretends to be meat’ in it. When he tried these cookies, he declared them more than edible and ate his fair share.

They were very good the first two days. By the third day, they were beginning to show signs of being chewy-hard rather than delicately crispy. If you don’t plan on sharing them, you might consider doing a third the recipe I’m including–which would reflect the original.

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A Little Cathartic Day Music

I’ve been a slacker at the piano lately. It’s not that I don’t want to play or practice, I just don’t enjoy it as much when I sound like crap. The other night my oldest child had a Eurythmy performance at school, where her class moved to a Chopin Nocturne that had me thinking, “I can play that piece better than the accompanist. At least, I USED to be able to play that piece better.”

Got to thinking about it today and pulled it off the shelf. The photo to the left tells a bit of my struggles with music. Anyone who’s heard me play or sing knows I am rhythmically challenged. Metronomes help, but the best thing for me is to play Debussy or other Impressionists who make liberal use of rubato and whose rhythm markings are left for open interpretation. This doesn’t, however, stop me from playing music that has more strict timing. I managed to stumble my way through the Chopin, but found myself growing increasingly annoyed at the fact that I could hear the machinery from the road project over the piano. The piece didn’t fit my increasingly agitated mood. The clumping and thumping and grinding from down the hill had me gritting my teeth, and I tossed the Chopin aside rather than work at perfecting it.

I pulled out a couple of standard power pieces and got to playing. Really playing. Oh, yeah…I lifted the lid on the piano to it’s full tilt–something I don’t do much because the cats seem to think the inside of the piano is their personal playground. It’s a small thing, this powerful feeling that comes along with certain pieces of music, but it was great. Sure, I fumbled a tiny bit on the faster parts of the Pathetique, and my fingers are sort of in pain after trying to go for those magnificent reaches in the Rachmaninoff, but I didn’t hear a single sound from the machines outside while I was playing. There’s nothing like playing big music on a grand piano with the lid open.

For reference:
The Beethoven with way more applause than I got from the cats. And the Rachmaninov. Both pieces begin rather tame and then get more finger-trippingly loud as they go along. Maybe I just got into them enough that I was completely distracted from the road work. I don’t know, but it felt good to play with some old friends.

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Halfway Through the Challenge

Back on Earth Day I posted about the UU Sacred Waters challenge. We are about halfway into the forty day challenge, so I thought I’d post an update about how I am doing.

I committed to using a reusable water bottle rather than picking up a new plastic bottle every time I went to the gym. I don’t know why I grabbed the bright blue ugly thing I did on that first day, because it is all dinged up and sort of nasty looking, but it’s functional. Three weeks in, and I’ve only failed to bring it with me to the gym once. I keep it in the car next to me and have even washed it several times to keep it clean. In the last twenty days, I would have used roughly nine plastic bottles from the gym and they would have all been piled up on the floor of my car. It’s a double bonus as far as I’m concerned. I’d say I get an A- so far.

Another thing I said I would do is to use a sponge rather than running water to pre-clean the dishes as I load the dishwasher. We have a funky European dishwasher that doesn’t do well with any food particles on the plates, so they have to be pretty well wiped before going in. I’ve managed to do pretty well on this. I’ll give myself an B- on this bit because I still find myself consciously shutting off the tap and picking up the sponge.

Blogging about the challenge is another thing I said I’d do, so…here’s blog post number two. I didn’t say I would do a daily blog, so I’ll give myself a shiny A for that.

Now for a few bonus points. I’ve been thinking about water usage more often by making sure my laundry loads are as full as possible without over-loading the machine, shutting off the water while brushing my teeth and reducing the water I use during showers.

And now for Thursday’s bonus moment… Gilgamesh is a water kitty. He has always curled up in our smaller bathroom sinks and he has always been fascinated by running water. He’ll come into the bathroom during bath-time and put his paws up on the edge and look over and into the pool of water. Some of you might recall that the cats had flooded our house once and that they just like water. Recently, Gilly has been spending time at the art room sink, literally crying for us to turn it on. I posted a video of it on facebook and you can see the little image from that here. So, we’ve turned on the water to a drizzle and let it run for a while. Over the last week or so, I’ve let it run for a long while and felt guilty the entire time even though watching him play with it has been rather cute.

While shopping for kitty litter at the local Petco, I came saw the Raindrop Design Stainless Steel Water Fountain for cats. We had a plastic Drinkwell for a long time, but, frankly, it got rather gross and seemed like a health hazard after a while. This fountain comes completely apart and goes into the dishwasher with ease. I put it down for Gilly this morning and he circled around it half a dozen times, his ears perked forward with clear interest. It only took him about a minute before deciding he might like this new thing. The fountain uses a quart or so of water and gives our kitty the running water action he enjoys so much while saving gallons of water from flowing down the sink.

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The Best Cookie In The World!

That’s what my daughter called it. This plain looking little brown cookie comes in a very boring little package. Sure, it might look fancier in a different wrapper, but the plain brown cupcake wrappers were all I had when I realized there was no way these things could be served without something to hold them together and separate. It had been years since I had made them, and I had forgotten how sticky they could get.

The recipe comes from Theresa Karas Yianilos’ “The Complete Greek Cookbook” that I stole off my mother’s shelf. I don’t know if she ever used it. I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ve ever made from it is this cookie. My first batch was sometime in 1985 or 1986 when I made a care package to send off to Bill who was at MIT while I was still living in Reno. I probably put in some other things, but these cookies were definitely part of my routine. His memory includes the packaging that came with the cookies–a less than charming odor of second hand smoke from my parents that puffed out of my boxes when he opened them. If you’ve ever had something sent to you by someone who smokes, you can probably imagine what I’m describing pretty accurately. Once the stale smokey smell cleared away, he was faced with a couple of dozen of these honey laden yummies to wile away his lonely hours.

I don’t remember making them at all since we got married, but I have been assured that I have made them at least once. Neither of us can remember when, and my sixteen year old is certain she’s never had them before. As I was looking through my cookbooks for an interesting addition to the dessert party I was having for the school fundraiser I was putting on, I decided to pull this one out of the closet and give it a fresh spin.

I sometimes wonder why I bother with cookies for this party because they usually get ignored in favor of the lemon cake, tiramisu or other gooey treats I make. Actually. I take that back. I know why I make cookies. I love them. I always have. I used to make 1-015 different kinds of cookies to send to relatives at Christmas time. I’d start the day after Thanksgiving and bake a different kind almost constantly for a few weeks, starting with the buttery rich nut cookies that taste wonderful after resting for weeks.

I make the cookies for the dessert party knowing full well only a few will get eaten and the rest will be left for me. It’s a nefarious plan, but there it is. The truth is out. I made these cookies though, knowing I don’t particularly like them and would be less tempted to actually eat them. They don’t exactly fit my diabetic friendly vegan-like diet. Here’s the recipe from page 170:

Theresa Karas Yianilos' "The Complete Greek Cookbook"

Venetian Honey Cookies (Fenekia, melomakarona)

These marvelous honey cookies fragrant with spice were brought to Greece by Venetian bakers during the time when Venice ruled certain islands of Greece from te 14th to 17th centuries. The women of these islands, particularly of Kefallinia, Zakynthos, Corfu, and Ithaka which are part of the Ionian Islands, pride themselves on making the best fenekia or melomakarona in all of Greece.

1 egg Yolk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 ounce whiskey
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups butter or oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup farina (regular Cream of Wheat)
1 1/2 cup regular flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon each clove and grated orange rind
1 teaspoon cinnamon

syrup:
2 cups honey
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup ground walnuts or almonds (optional)

Melt butter. Allow to cool slightly. In a bowl or blender, put egg, juice, soda, whiskey and sugar and mix or blend together. Add butter or oil and continue blending until thick as mayonnaise.
In a bowl, sift flours and baking powder and spices. Add orange peel. Mix in batter, and finish by kneading smooth. Dough will be stiff. Place a tablespoon of dough in your hand and squeeze it to form an oblong egg shape. If a filled cookie is desired, add a small amount of nuts in the center before pressing it.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and press top slightly with a fork making a crisscross design or press with a cookie mold. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.
Bring honey and water to a boil and allow to simmer. Dip cookies for a few seconds in syrup and place on a cookie sheet to absorb syrup. Sprinkle with nuts and allow to cool. These cookies keep very well and taste better after a day. (or ten.)

The cookies soaking up the honey syrup.

I didn’t use nuts this year as I wanted to minimize allergy risks for folks…and, I don’t just dip the cookies briefly–I leave them on the cookie sheet and spoon the syrup over the cookies and let them sit on the trays until most of the honey is absorbed. Might be overkill for some people, and probably not very traditional. Whatever. People seemed to eat them up. I somehow managed to not put them all out, though, so we had a few leftover.

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May Day!

I have a love-hate relationship with ritual. I usually love the first couple of times through something, but then I end up hating too much repetition. How many times will I sing “Merry Month of May” in my life? I’ve already lost track, and we have six more years! The May Day festival at my son’s school has morphed over time. It’s better now–the 5th-8th graders perform Morris dances so that it’s not an endless k-8 stream of dancing around and around. It’s colorful, and there’s always festive music. Add a Welsh native in a kilt bedecked in flowers and ribbons as the emcee, it’s a pretty fun time.

This year, I approached the day, actually celebrated on Friday since school was in session and May Day landed on a Sunday,with some amount of trepidation. As I noted in this blog post a year ago the date had been tinged with melancholy for me the last few years. I went to the festival this year more annoyed that it was still 44 degrees and overcast. I carried my umbrella with me sure that we were going to be standing in a muddy field. To my surprise, the weather held and the slight misting that did appear was a far cry from the thunderous downpour I was expecting.

My anger at my mom’s death has dulled, and I’ve found the last year has taken me along way to being more nostalgic and allowing me to share with my kids little things about my mom so she can live on in their memories as well as my own.

As I was getting ready for my annual dessert and charade party that I host for the school as a fundraiser, I found myself rummaging around in the liquor cabinet. No, it’s not so stressful it sends me careening off the wagon. I was making a cookie that requires a quarter cup or so of whiskey. I found this bottle (pictured to the right) in the back of the shelf. I know it’s a little bit of a disconnect for someone with 23 years of sobriety under her belt to be holding a nearly empty bottle of booze, but I’m safely past any kind of temptation to go on a binge.

My mom bought this bottle during her last trip her in 2006. She didn’t quite finish it, and I couldn’t just dump out perfectly good bourbon. I let it get shoved back behind the cognac and calvados until I went searching. It was finding this bottle of whiskey that sent me into a moment of thinking about my mom and the fact that we were coming up on the anniversary of her surgery. I used what I needed for the cookies and put the bottle back in the cupboard. Given the rate I use up booze around here, that little connection with her will be sitting around for another year at least.

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