Tiny Baker. Vegan/Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies.

IMG_5510We do a lot of vegan, gluten-free cooking around here. We make our own almond milk a few times a week which leaves us with the fantastic byproduct of almond flour (which is an oxymoron and technically not real flour since it’s wet, but whatever). We use the flour for pancakes and various raw bar goodies, but cookies are the most fun and usually taste like regular eggy, oily varieties.

Alice likes to eat batter and help spoon out dough. I think the vegan aspect is perhaps best suited for toddlers. At least mine, who seems eager to disregard anything I say and go ahead and eat raw dough until her “tummy hurt, Mama.”

I rarely measure anything–so usually I have to give recipes a second shot to confirm what I did the first time. But here’s my estimated recipe.

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Heat oven to 375.

Combine 1 cup ground, soaked almonds (water drained out so it clumps a bit). *dry almond meal works too, just add a table spoon of water and mix a little until it looks shaggy.

Add:

1 ripe banana (use a mixer to mash or if blending by hand smash in good processor or put in plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin…or clean wine bottle works too…

Then:

2 table spoons almond butter

2 table spoons honey

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Mix all together and add:

1 table spoon flax seeds

2 table spoons shredded (unsweetened) coconut

2 table spoons honey

And fold in:

2 table spoons vegan chocolate chips

Spoon out around 1 table spoon-sized cookies on parchment. Cook 13 to 15 minutes (checking on them at around 10–until bottoms are darkening. But coconut burns/cooks differently depending on shredded finely verses flake, etc.)

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Have you seen the little piggies?

ImageMy blogging as of late is disgraceful.  I think it’s largely due to Moses and my on-going discussion on blogging and privacy.  I wouldn’t say we’re at a disagreement: on the contrary, we mostly agree, but we’re not any closer to a resolution.  The issue at hand is whether or not we’re comfortable showing our baby on this (admittedly small-knit community of viewers) once she makes her debut.

I’ve mentioned before pregnancy has made me balk a little at the idea of sharing, which is a little unlike me.  But I’m finding it hard to say if baby is truly mine to share.  What if some day she resents that I posted pictures of her or shared her babyhood?  Moses, in the same vein, thinks online images are awfully open…and so very potentially permanent.  But is there really any stopping it?  And I am really excited—and I love to write and photograph things—and I know there will be no better subject (judging the by volume of Kitty Vivienne pictures I have lurking on my hard drive, the baby’s first year of images is likely to paper a trail to the moon and back), but is it fair?

Fortunately I have a few more months to go back and forth, back and forth.  I’m sure I’ll need them.

ImageBut in the mean time here are a few pictures from our latest weekend trip.  For his first (sort of first?) father’s day, Moses decided we should get away for the day.  We’ve become Montauk enthusiasts, but since variety is the spice of life, we opted for a new direction this time.  Woodstock.  Moses found The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary and we got a zipcar.  We brought our sunhats and bought some bagels on the way out of town—and voila, goodbye New York (for the day).
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ImageImageImageThe animals are all farm animals, and mostly refugees from Brooklyn and Manhattan—there was a cow a couple had purchased from a farmer that was taking him for slaughter, lots of very lucky hens and roosters, ducks and a handful of (huge) pigs.  There were sheep, and my favorite, goats (they’re really affectionate), and one absolutely terrifying turkey that walked around intimidating people (me) by making this weird sound like a furnace lighting up and getting just a little too close (I ended up running into an air conditioning unit to try to get away from him/her, bruising my arm).

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But, despite some of the very sad stories and a lot of serious talks about animal rights (no matter how much I do I know I could always do more) we had a great time.  It was wide open and beautiful, and we bought some fresh jam and had some delicious juice, and even though our tour guide worked her hardest to convert my meat-eating significant-other, his last father’s day request was…you guessed it: BBQ in Harlem at Dinosaur BBQ on the way back into the city.  Sometimes the gap between the guided tour and the dinner table seems like a very long way.

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The not-so “Sometimes Vegan.”

Like most intelligent Americans, Moses and I get an awful lot of our important, informative information via Netflix “Watch Now.”  (The other half comes from the Colbert Report, South Park and occasionally Jon Stewart…you know you’re lopsided when Jon Stewart seems too “straight-laced” to watch frequently…)  Regardless, after Moses subjected me to a documentary advocating a lack of meat and dairy in a diet = healthier, less-cancer-prone and heart-disease-ridden people (he stopped watching half-way through, about the time they said bacon cheese burgers might be a bad idea) I had to admit, even taking all the un-said things into consideration, as long as it doesn’t KILL you, it’s hard to see the down-side of it (because meat and dairy in abundance certain DO seem to kill you…I can say that.  I believe that).


So anyway, while not vegan, because I want to always love food and be able to experience new parts of it (aside from the things I’d like to snuggle with more than eat, which was a hard choice to make), I am having a lot of fun baking vegan lately.  It’s something I never thought I’d do because, well, frankly, butter is one of the most marvelous things on earth in terms of baking.  Where there was once a solid-ish blob there is now slightly salty pockets of air–a la puff pastry.  Crunchy, crispy, browned and lightly bubbling pockets of butter–yum.

But, I like vegan baking in a way I’ve never liked regular baking.  In “typical” baking you have butter.  In vegan baking you have a vacuum.  So what do I put in it?  In this case, BANANA!  AND man it was good.

The key, (I think) is complimentary flavors.  Since I knew banana was my bonding agent sans egg, best to use flavors I LIKED with banana.  I chose chocolate (duh) and peanut butter (double duh, since I’d probably like peanut butter on a rubber shoe sole).

I also opt for coconut milk instead of soy or something thinner because I like the thick, luxuriousness of something cream-like.  The baseness, which so frustrates me in cooking without a curry spice, is great for baking.

I also did a few Thanksgiving experiments.  When I was baking professionally this cranberry caramel pumpkin upside down cake was a hit.  Using vegan Earth Balance it’s equally good, though the “caramel” is slightly less thick, but seriously, a room full of meat eaters went nuts for this upside down cake.

Recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Mini Loaves:

2 Bananas (ripe)

2 table spoons Earth Balance vegan butter

2 1/2 table spoons peanut butter (Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator works best!)

1 cup vegan, raw chocolate chips

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup brown sugar (or 1/2 cup maple syrup and combine with bananas–since they’re SO sweet already)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut milk

1 to 1 1/2 cup flour (until the batter is “shaggy”)

Combine vegan “butter”, sugar/bananas/maple syrup, banana and coconut milk in a stand mixer or mix by hand until banana is pureed and smooth and looks like typical “batter”.

Add salt, baking powder (with a sifter, if you want to avoid lumps) followed by your flour.  Make sure the batter is very moist looking, yet solid.

Add in chocolate chips, careful not to use stand mixer once they’ve been included (the force will break them apart into chunks.  They’re way more fun in chip forms so they make chocolatey pools).

In a mini loaf pan, muffin pan or cake pan (if using 9″ cake pan make sure to grease sides with vegan butter or oil and use parchment paper cut to size) scoop batter into equal parts.  Cut remaining half banana and put in 3s as garnish to top along with a peanut or 2.

Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes to see if tooth pick comes out clean.  Let sit 10 minutes before inverting on plate and turning right-side-up.  Because there’s no “real” bonding agent, the sides will pull away and the middle may fall away from the banana a bit…that makes it taste better.

*The pumpkin, caramel, pecan upside down cake was SO easy too–just use vegan butter instead of real butter, for slightly oily, but super delicious caramel:

8 oz. vegan butter

1 cup pecans

2 bananas

1 cup pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons veggie oil

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup sugar (brown or white)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine “butter” and sugar over low heat and stir constantly until caramel forms.  Pour into pie pan and arrange pecans and cranberries, then mix remaining ingredients into batter and smooth carefully over caramel pecan mixture, bake at 350 for 40 minutes or so until the “top” of the pumpkin mixture is solid and caramel bubbles up around solids.

Peanut Butter Cups.

Peanut butter is my favorite.  Long before I stopped eating meat and introduced various nuts as my “fatty” feel full food I was a peanut butter fanatic.  Reese’s, of course, were my candy of choice as a kid (the only candy I liked, actually), but as soon as I started processing ideas of shelf life and preservatives they didn’t look quite so delicious.  (Have you had a “bad” Reese’s?  The WORST.  It’s like peanut butter dry-wall powder.)

And so, I’ve always meant to teach myself a more “fresh” method for my former favorite.  Turns out it’s super easy–(and I realize “super easy” is relative.  My mother cringes when I say things like  pie crust are easy–she disagrees), but really, they are.   What I assumed where simply a fancy accessory to dress up Reese’s are actually the fundamental aspect–the baking cups.

So you’ll need cupcake/baking cups

2 bars of good quality chocolate (this is a great recipe to make vegan, because it’s JUST as good as if it weren’t vegan–just use vegan chocolate and you’re set).

At least a cup of peanut butter (I used fresh ground honey roasted, but Peanut Butter Company’s Smooth Operator is a great, traditional tasting choice–not too sweet, still no hydrogenated oils).

*I added Rice Crispy’s to mine because we had them and I like texture.  Coursely ground nuts would be good, too.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler (or if you’re ghetto like me, put a sauce pan inside a pot of boiling water) and stir until chocolate melts smoothly (careful not to burn it because burnt chocolate, next to butter, is the easiest thing to burn and also the saddest).

Take a table spoon and ladle two table spoons or so of chocolate into six to ten baking/cupcake cups, saving half the chocolate for the top layer (you’ll add later).

Put the melted chocolate cups in the freezer for five to ten minutes, until  pretty solid, then pull them out and do one table spoon of room temperature peanut butter (it spreads better and makes smoother looking peanut butter cups).  If you want to add Rice Crispy’s or anything else, do it now.

Your melted chocolate in the pan should still be “melty” (if you’re making this in sweltering hot Brooklyn I PROMISE it will be), so you can ladle a spoonful or two over the evened out peanut butter, enough to cover everything and try to even things out and make it pretty, then pop it back into the freezer for a bit.

After a few minutes in the freezer you should be able to remove the peanut butter cups carefully from the baking cups and artfully arrange them.  Just be mindful of your fingers–if you touch cold chocolate at all you ruin that pretty, silky texture and get a dull print (called bloom–an ugly word for any baker).

And now you should be set.  Delicious, easy, very little work involved–and no risk of getting an “old” peanut butter cup (these will be melty and eaten in moments.  Promise).

Lunch and Dinner

While our neighborhood certainly isn’t without it’s nice grocery and eateries it leaves something to be desired.  It always seems we’re collecting necessities from multiple spots while we’re out and I’m always without one fundamental thing.  We usually stick to a grocery store across the street for most staples, while a health food spot in Clinton Hill is reserved for organic produce and specialty veggie stuff.  Our favorite, of course, for things we don’t ever “need” but always want, is the Brooklyn Larder on Flatbush.

The “provisions” aspect of Franny’s (also on Flatbush–I haven’t been yet!), it’s our Brooklyn version of Food in L.A., which is run by a friend’s mother (and where I learned to bake professionally!).  Both have the same bread, cold goodies for take-away, gourmet beer, pastas, etc.  But Food also has a full-on restaurant going (personal favorite being brunch), and the Brooklyn Larder is more sandwiches and sides).   The Larder also has the most fabulous cheeses, including my absolute favorite, Moses’ Sleeper, by Jasper Hill Farms (creamy but still firm–perfect).

To celebrate my week free from classes we had a lovely lunch “in” with Brooklyn Larder’s tortilla potato “cake,” with spicy mayo, spring greens and rice, plus a summery lemon bar on a butter crust and a ginger Hatachino!  Yum.

To make up for a rather large scale lunch we kept dinner on the healthy-side.  I modified my traditional salsa verde recipe to thicken it up and made what turned out to be a totally delicious vegan dish with a salad.

Totally easy: brown rice topped with sauce–four tomatillos, a head of cilantro, one serrano pepper and a little onion processed and warmed up with half a can of coconut milk.  Topped with seared tempeh and served with a kale salad and avocado mash.  Perfect.

And today I’m off to cover some design week stuff for Core77, hopefully I’ll have lots of interesting things to share on Monday!