November 30, 2008

Best "Healthy" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is a GREAT cookie that will surprise anyone when you announce that they are vegan.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Brown Sugar (Kosher/Vegan), firmly packed
1/2 cup Organic Sugar or Evap. Cane
1 cup Earthbalance Soy Margarine, cool – not cold
1 Tb Ener-G Dry Egg Replacer
1/4 cup Warm Water
2-3 t Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 cup Wheat Bran
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
1 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and soy margarine. (Margaine CANNOT be melty - this will create flat lifeless cookies that will frustrate and disappoint you! It must be cool, only 5 minutes out of the frig. Work it with the mixer spokes before you turn it on. Then let the friction do the work.) Blend with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg replacer, water and vanilla and continue mixing until even more light and fluffy.

2. In a separate large bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, wheat bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Fold the butter and sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Then add 1 cup of dark chocolate chips, fold them into the dough.

3. This is the key to great looking cookies (taste is already mastered if you followed the above directions). Using an ice cream scoop or some uniform scoop, portion out equal sized balls of dough, then roll them in your hands and shape like a hockey puck.

4. The formed dough should be chilled for 15-30 minutes prior to baking, otherwise you will have a cookie sheet full of crispy cookies all melted together. Once chilled, bake for 15 minutes. Each oven may vary, so check after 12 minutes, rotate pan if they still need more time and check every 2 minutes. The finished cookie will have just an hint of brown on the edges. If you like them more crispy, bake longer – but they are great chewy!

5. You can double this recipe and store the formed dough “pucks” in a well sealed container in the refrigerator for a week. The dough is great raw, and since it’s vegan, help yourself without worry and let the kids enjoy a safe spoon-full.

Super Cookies

I created these cookies a few years ago when I was asked to lead a presentation on healthy foods at a Relay For Life event. Most of the recipes I shared that day were things you don't want to live without, but if you've survived cancer you might be looking for alternative ways of making your favorites. These cookies are vegan, loaded with healthy grains, seeds, fiber and nuts. Ideally they are made with maple syrup or agave syrup and all organic ingredients. Oh yeah, they are SO good!

Preheat oven to 350

1 cup Organic Maple Syrup
1 cup Earth Balance Soy Margarine
2 Tb Ener-G Dry Egg Replacer
½ cup Filtered Water
1 cup Organic, no sugar added Applesauce
1 ½ Tb Organic Vanilla Extract
5 cups Organic Rolled Oats
2 cups Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 cups Organic Wheat or Oat Bran
½ cup Ground Organic Flax Meal
4 tea. Organic Cinnamon
2 tea. Baking Powder
2 tea. Baking Soda
1 tea. Kosher/Sea Salt
½ cup Dried Organic Fruits: raisins, cranberries, figs, etc.
½ cup Organic Nuts and Seeds: pecans, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.
1-2 Tb Organic Orange Zest

Cream the maple syrup and soy margarine in a mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in egg replacer, water, applesauce and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet in thirds until just combined. Add nuts, fruits, and orange zest and mix. Using an ice cream scoop, portion the dough and shape each like a hockey puck with hands. Place on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 14-16 minutes. Enjoy!

November 28, 2008

Pecan Pie

For most of my life I refused to touch the stuff, though it was a staple at my family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner (store bought, I would guess--not really any pie-makers in my family). Those days I was too busy savoring a fat slice of the only pie I cared for--pumpkin. Something about pecan pie creeped me out... maybe it was that oozy, gelatinous goo below the pecans.

Well, I don't remember what finally convinced me to branch out a bit and taste pecan pie for the first time, but when I did--holy sweet angels in heaven! It was delicious. For a few years after that first foray, I tried to divide my loyalty equally between the pumpkin and the pecan after our turkey dinner. Then somehow over the years pecan pie pulled ahead and is now unequivocally my first and foremost favorite pie. I wanted to make it.

So, I scoured the Internet and found plenty of recipes. Most of them had about a cup of corn syrup in them, but one on touted itself as corn syrup free. (Plenty of sugar instead!) I liked the idea, but would it be any good? As it turns out, 366 people had reviewed the recipe and given it an average rating of 4.5/5, mostly commenting that it was even tastier than the corn syrup version. Done.

Here is my adapted version*:
No Corn Syrup Pecan Pie
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans (I used 1 cup pecan halves and 1/2 cup chopped pecans)
  • 1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (Kate recommended the Pillsbury pre-made crusts to me. I'm now officially recommending them to you.)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Stir in the slightly cooled, melted butter. Quickly stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and flour so that the sugar begins to dissolve. Mix well. Add milk, vanilla and nuts. (That's it! So easy!)
  3. Sprinkle both sides of pre-made pie crust with flour and place in a 9" pie pan. Pour pecan mixture into prepared crust. Cover edges of crust with tin foil or a pie crust protector.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. (I know--it was preheated to 350 degrees. Turn it up; go with it.) Then reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust protector and bake for another 25 minutes or until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
* This pie doesn't look completely like an ordinary pecan pie; it comes out a little darker.
* When you pour in the filling, it won't fill up the crust, but it will rise when baking.
* I baked my crusts bare for the first 20 minutes and then covered with tin foil; but my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (old-school!) says to put it on first--which seems to make a lot more sense. It was kinda tough attaching the tin foil strips to a hot pie.
* This pie tasted pretty fantastic. Especially when served with homemade whipped cream. Try it!

November 26, 2008

Sweet Flaversome Baked Apples

It's a dessert we often forget about, but it is certainly the time of year to be reminded! This is a great dessert to prep before cooking dinner and just before sitting down to eat pop 'em in the oven.

6 large apples (I used jonagold)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup slivered pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins
some butter
*recommended option to add caramel - yum!
(adjust accordingly to how many apples you need)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core each apple to 1/2 from the bottom and about 1" wide. Get all the seeds and tough stuff out. You may use an apple corer or a pairing knife works well. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and raisins in a bowl. Fill apples with mixture to the top of the apple. If using caramel fill half of the apple, add a layer of caramel, and top with more of the mix. Once apples are "stuffed" place a tab of butter on top of each. Bake for about 35 minutes. If sauce is in bottom of pan then baste before serving.
*Goes well with vanilla ice cream!

Super Easy Flan

When my husband and I were in France I realized he loved flan; ate it almost everyday. So, when we returned to the Land of Ports I thought I'd give it a shot. This is a bit different than their flan, in that I didn't see any dishes there that had the caramel sauce flowing so sweetly over it. Nontheless, it is a tasty and simple version.

Here is the recipe:
1 & 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs
(1) 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
(2) 13 oz cans evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You will need 6 ramekins or other specialty flan cook ware (I used a glass pie dish) and a large baking pan to put them in. In a mixer or with a whisk, blend the eggs together. Mix in all milks then slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, then the vanilla. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added. Set mix aside. Now to begin your caramel sauce: Pour the remaining 1 cup sugar in warm sauce pan over medium heat. Constantly stir sugar until it browns and becomes caramel. Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each ramekin, tilting it to swirl the caramel around the sides. Before it begins to harden pour custard into caramel lined ramekins or dish. Place ramekins in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with about 1-2 inches of hot water. Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife just to the side of the center. If knife comes out clean, it's ready. Remove and let cool. Let each ramekin cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. Invert each ramekin onto a small plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard. If using larger cook ware, after slicing the flan, spoon sauce onto each piece.

Note: You may choose to prepare the caramel sauce before mixing the custard and if it hardens just reheat. Also, if using a 1 large dish to bake, the time may take a bit longer.

November 25, 2008

Mark's Chicken Merry-Nade

It's winter. It's cold. But I've decided that barbecuing shouldn't be relegated to summers in the back yard. Bundle up, make yourself a hot toddy, strap a headlamp to your skull and fire up the grill.

This marinade is very simple and open to interpretation. My brain starts to hurt when I think about numbers or measurements, so I like to use pinches, skoshes, splashes and dashes. But I made it today using conventional means so that I might translate it to others.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Hunan Red Chili Sauce (more if you like it hot!)
4-5 splashes soy sauce
3-4 ounces beer (preferably a darker brew)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
fresh ground pepper

Put all ingredients together in a shallow baking dish, mix well, pour into a tumbler and drink it down! Kidding. Don't do that. Keep it in the baking dish, and add two organic chicken breasts. Let it marinate 5-6 hours. Throw them on the barbie and poof---it's July again.

November 24, 2008

Now you can eat beets!

It took me about a year to figure out how to cook beets.  Not to mention it took the first, oh, 25 years of my life to even taste a beet (and fall in love with them).

Here's my tried and true procedure for cooking beets.  One thing to keep in mind, if you use the dark purple varieties, don't bother using any other color, because the juice will just dye the rest of them purple.  Speaking of dying, the purple beet juice stains pretty easily, so be careful.

Buy one bunch of beets (3-4) of medium size.

Cut off the bushy greens about an inch from the beet. (You can saute and eat the greens if they look fresh).  Don't bother washing the beets, they are usually dirty.

In a large pot, using a steamer basket, bring water to a boil.  
Steam the beets whole for about 30-45 minutes.  Be sure the water doesn't boil out.  The beets are done when a fork inserts easily.  The skin will also look like it's started to separate from the beet, and looks a little dry.

Take the beets out and let them cool a few minutes.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the tops and bottoms off the beets.  Use a spoon to peel the skin off the beets.  This should be easy.  If not, they may not be cooked enough.  Cut the beets into cubes (about a half inch by half inch), and put in a bowl.

Toss the beets with about a tablespoon of vinegar and sprinkle with salt.  The vinegar will keep the beets tasting fresh and keep their color.

I like eating my beets by themselves at room temperature or slightly warm.  I will also put them in salads.  If anyone has any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Now you can eat beets!

Winter Squash and Chicken Stew

This recipe was originally from, but the below is a slightly modified version. Butternut squash is a pain to work with - if you're not lazy, throw it in the oven for a bit first to soften it up so that it's easier to cut. I always go straight at it with a heavy-duty knife on a very sturdy surface and although I always walk away with sore arms, it's always well worth it.

If you want every bite to be delicious, use sweet potatoes instead of russets. Serve directly on top of a bed of white rice. This dish keeps very well in the fridge and tastes even better the next day. It's perfect for November!

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs, skin removed

1 1/3 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (I didn't have curry powder the first time, so I just threw in some extra cumin, turmeric and coriander)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut or acorn squash
2 cups 1-inch pieces peeled sweet potatoes
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1 14 1/2- to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven or any deep saucepan suitable for a "stew" over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pan; sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon; stir 1 minute. Return chicken to pot. Add squash, potatoes, broth and tomatoes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and liquid is slightly reduced, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro.

November 23, 2008

Whiskey-Apple Crumble Pie

I like to make this pie. It is easy. It is apple. It is whiskey. And with this much butter and sugar, a team of monkeys could put it together and it would still taste good. The most difficult part is the crust, which I suppose is true of any pie. If you're pressed for time and you're not a crazy vegan, you can use the already-made stuff from the store.

(I'm sad to admit that most of the time I go with the pre-prepared crust; sad, because I think I lose out on the rewards that come from the craft of pie-making. My advice: take the extra time and roll out your own pie crust. That way if civilization ends and there are no more grocery stores, you'll still be able to have pie after a long day traversing the blackened landscape under a scorched and sunless sky.)


Dough for a 9-inch single-crust pie
3/4 cup, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup, packed, brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2-3 pounds tart apples (e.g. Granny Smiths), peeled, cored and slice 1/4 inch thick
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (or scotch, if that's how you roll)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough and line pan. Prick dough with fork, then line with foil. Fill bottom with pastry weights or dry beans. Bake 8 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake 8 to 10 minutes longer, until pastry looks dry and is barely starting to color. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Place flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor and process briefly to blend. Dice 6 tablespoons butter and add, along with pecans; pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

3. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet. Add apple slices and saute over medium heat about 5 minutes until a bit softened around the edges, with some just starting to brown. Remove from heat. Mix remaining brown sugar and cinnamon with a pinch of salt, the cloves and nutmeg. Pour over apples and fold together. Fold in whiskey.

4. Pour contents of pan into crust and top with crumbs. Place pie on a baking sheet, bake 10 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees and bake 35-40 minutes longer, until topping browns and juices bubble. Allow pie to cool completely before cutting.

  • I got this recipe from the New York Times' website, which is a surprisingly good place to find things to make.
  • I never remember the pecans. Whatever.
  • The part about waiting for the pie to cool completely before cutting is unreasonable. If you wait for the pie to cool, you'd probably be able to serve slices of pie to your guests that resemble slices of pie (the slices of pie would resemble slices of pie; your guests wouldn't). I've never actually done this, because it requires waiting and the pie smells so good.

November 20, 2008

Amber's Brownies

It will probably take me longer to post this than it took to prepare these brownies.  If you know me well, then you've had these brownies.  Mom used to make these to bring to my Brownie meetings, which is about all I remember about Brownies.

I recommend doubling the recipe, and baking in a 9x12, otherwise a 9" round is good for a single batch.

1C sugar
2 heaping Tbls cocoa
1/4 C melted butter

3/4C flour
1tsp vanilla
2 eggs unbeaten
1/2 C nuts

Pour into greased baking pan
Bake 350, 20-25 min (done when inserted toothpick comes out clean)

Apricot Ginger Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is also from my mom, though I think she got it from a magazine some time ago. I was skeptical at first about the flavor combinations in this dish, but it only took one taste to convert me. I like that it's easy to prepare. It's perfect for fall and more delicious than you imagine.

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (hint: Trader Joe's sells them pre-cut!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss potatoes in a single layer on 2 large baking pans. Bake 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine maple syrup, preserves, butter, ginger and salt in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until preserves melt, around 5 minutes.
  3. Mix together and serve warm. Enjoy!
I have a mini-tradition making this for Thanksgiving. (Amber, this would probably be great even without the crystallized ginger!)

Butternut Squash Soup

I've made this soup twice already since the leaves started changing colors. It's a great standby for dinner parties or to have in the frig and eat for a week (we've done both recently). Also, if you don't use chicken stock, it's vegan!

1 large butternut squash
3 medium yellow onions
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 qt veggie or chicken stock
1/3 cup olive oil
Thyme (fresh or dry)
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop yellow onions. (I usually blend this soup at the end, so the size of chopped veggies does not really matter. If you are not going to blend the soup it would be best if you chop everything small and uniform.) Place the onions in large stock pot with olive oil and saute on medium until the onions are transparent, not browned. Add garlic and 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 tablespoon of salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Cook about 2 minutes longer.

While your onions are sauteing, halve and peel the squash. (It is easier to peel when cut in half or even quarters.) Use a sharp potato peeler and remove the tough skin. Scoop out seeds and chop into desired size pieces. Add to the onions and garlic. Pour in enough stock and water to cover the squash plus about an inch, add bay leaf. Cover the soup and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is completely cooked, you can turn off heat and season or prep for blending.

If you choose to blend the soup, make sure you chill it for a while. (Blending hot liquid in a blender creates a HUGE mess. The steam tries to escape and sprays soup everywhere.) I usually ladle the soup into two 9x13 pans and place in the frig for an hour or two.

Once you've blended the soup and put it back in the stock pot you can season the soup with more salt, pepper, thyme and nutmeg.


-Use sage or rosemary instead of thyme
-Add some curry powder instead of nutmeg
-I added two other kinds of squash last time and it was still wonderful! I had two delicato squash and 1 acorn squash. I had to halve and bake the acorn squash while the soup was cooking. When it was cooked all the way through, I scooped out the flesh and added it to the soup for the last 5 minutes.
-Put some unsweetened whipped cream on top

November 18, 2008

Crock Pot No Brainer Bean Soup

This morning I woke up two hours before I had to go to work, rode my bike to the farmer's market and TJ's, rode back, threw this together in the crock pot, and was on my way.  Fabulous! The best is getting home to a fully cooked meal.

1 package dried 17 bean mix (from TJ's)
celery chopped
carrot chopped
1 onion chopped and sauteed in butter
sausage links sliced
mushrooms chopped
1 box veggie stock
spices (salt, pepper, caraway, bay leaf, oregano...)

The way it's done
Disclaimer: depending on the size of your crock pot, you will want to adjust ingredient size.  I had to use only half a package of beans for mine, since it's so small.
You'll have to soak the beans in water overnight.  They soak up a lot of water, so be sure to have enough water covering them (2 inches). 
In the morning, put all the ingredients in the crock pot, and add water to fill enough liquid.  Put the crock pot on low, go to work, and come home to a warm and delicious meal!  I just ate mine with baguette and butter.
I'll probably make a second batch tomorrow with the rest of my ingredients, then freeze it for later.  Feel free to add or subtract variety of ingredients.

Easy Peanut Brittle

My mom and I always made this recipe during holiday baking sessions when I was a child. It's a recipe that her dad made often with her. I hadn't made this peanut brittle in years, but a friend of mine suggested a potluck of food our grandparents would have made and this was an obvious choice. I was a little worried it wouldn't turn out right, but it's as easy as I remember. You just have to move quickly! This is prepared mostly in the microwave, so it's nice to have a microwaveable pot (glass or porcelain) with a handle. Lacking anything close, I just used a glass mixing bowl, which meant I needed help pouring the molten hot brittle out to cool. It got a little messy, but the brittle turned out delicious. (My friends seemed to think so, too.)

Carl's Microwave Peanut Brittle:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Use a deep (microwaveable) mixing bowl with a handle. Mix the sugar and the light corn syrup. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  2. Add peanuts and mix well. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  3. Add butter and vanilla. Mix well. Microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Add baking soda. Mix together quickly and pour onto a buttered cookie sheet or marble slab.
  5. Break up when completely cool. (Do not put in the refrigerator.)
Different microwaves may require different times. (But these times worked fine on mine!)

Sharing is Caring

I collect recipes. For years, I've cut scraps of paper from newspapers and cooking magazines, pilfered recipe cards and old cook books from relatives and stolen ideas from the internet. Of course, most recipes are meant to be shared and enjoyed, so I never feel bad for taking them and pasting them into my own recipe book.

For all of the new recipes that I find, though, I only end up making a few of them. Sometimes I just don't know if a caramel toffee ice cream pie will be worth the trouble to prepare. Sometimes I just don't have a good excuse to make a goat cheese and blood orange crostini. Still, I never stop looking for new recipes.

This blog is about sharing recipes with friends. Ideally, interested cooks will cook or bake one recipe (a new, experimental one or a cherished favorite) each week, then post the recipe--with advice, adjustments and comments about the experience--on this blog. Hopefully, we'll all learn something along the way, and more importantly, start cooking and sharing more often. Invite your friends over to try your creations and fun and laughter will surely follow.

Welcome to Recipes for Laughter.