Spiced Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (of enduring tastiness)

For a long time I made my grandmother’s recipe for oatmeal cookies.  Recently I started wanting crispier cookies and then we tried this vegan experiment which demanded finding a different recipe.

This recipe is almost certainly a lingering winner.  I am even experimenting with a protein-like bar variation.

  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups quick cooking or rolled oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together the margarine and sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and soy milk and mix well.

Add flour, baking soda and spices until well mixed, then stir in oats and cranberries.

Spoon 1 1/2 inch balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until done.

But, of course, I’m not posting here just because I like to use copy/paste.  My first modification to this was to find a way to increase the crispiness.  I tried baking for 20 minutes and that didn’t do it.  My attempt to bake for 25 minutes failed due to “I’ll remember” as apposed to using a timer… oops.  What I also did on that attempt was use vegetable oil instead of margarine — which I think helped.  The cookies did come out crispy, but some were a tad scorched.  I do also notice a huge difference depending on the pan used… so, as they say, ymmv.

My next, measured, test will be to follow the same second modification but to definitely time them for 25 minutes.  There is a chance I cooked them for 30 minutes which is why they were overly crisp, though still edible.

Protein Bar Attempt #1

This is a relatively easy variation.  Changes and additions were…

  • +1 cup flour (so, 2 cups)
  • 2oz (basically, two servings) protein powder of choice (mine was one soy, one rice)
  • +1/2 cup soy milk (so 1 cup)
  • Optionally, replace cranberries with another berry mix like an anti-oxidant mix

I then spread this out on a cookie sheet to get it as flat as possible.  Bake the same way.

Results:  It was edible, in a good way.  It wasn’t as dense as I wanted nor as protein-like.  It was also more moist than I inteded.

Next time:  an additional scoop of protein, 1/2c less flour (so 1-1/2c), and +5 minutes cook time.

Ambush of Spices Chick-Pea Stew

I learned a lesson recently that is very important:  no two powdered cinnamons are created equally.  Some are bland and cardboard-like and others can almost light my mouth on fire.  This (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-chickpea-stew-recipe.html) recipe could vary wildly depending on what kind of cinnamon was used.  But that’s not the only ambush — for me, the ambush was the lack of spices listed in the ingredients list.  Once again there is much importance for a Kitchen Kleric to read an entire spell — you don’t want to invoke the Kooking Kthulhu because you trip up half-way through a recipe.

  • 2T ground cinnamon
  • 2T ground cumin
  • 2T ground corriander
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. (200g) carrots, halved and coarsely chopped (about 4 … ish)
  • 4 oz. (100g) sweetcorn (1 cup)
  • 8 oz. (200g) courgettes (zucchini)
  • 8 oz. (200g) chick-peas, cooked (or 2 tins of pre-cooked chick-peas)
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tbsp. tomato purée

Mix dry spices.  Heat 2T olive oil and saute onion and carrots for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in dry spices.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in sweetcorn, courgettes, chick-peas, water, tomato purée.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Paella — but you can call me Goulash

When I was a kid, a family friend once entered the room with a bowl of some sort of food.  When I asked what it was he gave me a sinister look and declared “Goulash…”.  I’ve since looked up goulash, but whenever I see a mixture of stuff that is tomato-rich, I think of him.

I think this (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-paella-recipe.html) was one of the first vegan recipes I made from this book.  It is good enough to repeat and I think the presence of the cashews makes a nice crunch and adds a good flavor.  This was the amusing recipe I was thinking of that lists spices in the directions that aren’t in the ingredients list and the ingredients were very out of order.  I have fixed that below.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2t chili powder
  • 12 oz. (300g) brown rice (1 cup)
  • 3 cups (800ml) of vegetable stock
  • 6 fl.oz. (150ml) dry white wine (or substitute with 1 tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 can (454g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2t tarragon
  • 1t basil
  • 1t oregano
  • 1T tomato puree
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 8 oz. (200g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 oz. (50g) mange tout [1] topped and tailed
  • 4 oz. (100g) frozen peas
  • 2 oz. (50g) broken cashew nuts (about 1/2 cup)

In a large, heavy saucepan saute the onion in 4T olive oil.  Add chili powder and the rice and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, wine, tomatoes, tarragon, basil, oregano, tomato puree, . Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, mange tout and cook for another 30 minutes until the rice is cooked. Add peas, cashew nuts, salt and pepper. Heat through until peas are ready and serve.

[1] The other fun I had was “mange tout”.  Being silly I wondered “what’s a mangy toot?”  It’s unripened pea pods for the not French among us.

Maybe I Can Make This Better Yellow Split Pea Dahl

This recipe (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-dahl-recipe.html) isn’t quite a failure, but I usually really like dahl.  So what went wrong?  The Kooking Kleric went wrong, that’s what.  When composing your special entree golem, using the right ingredients is so important that if you don’t you could end up with a puddle of yellow-brown stuff (or Cthulhu) instead of what you expected.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit some of the substitutions I made, but let others learn from my mistakes (or missing limbs of my pride).

  • I ran out of cumin, so compensated with more garam masala — mistake.
  • I used canned chili peppers which, unbeknownst to me, had been rendered impotent — mistake.
  • The recipe did not call for onion — and it would be much improved by one.
  • It is not a crime to use salt to liven things up — and I should have.

So here is the recipe as it should be, at least according to this Kitchen Kleric.

  • 8 oz. yellow split peas  (soaked overnight — that’s 12 hours)
  • Dried chilli (or 1/8t cayenne pepper / chili powder)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice (maybe even 1T)
  • (1 tsp. salt)

Soak the split peas overnight. Boil them for one hour in fresh water (about 6 cups).  Drain and rinse.

If you have the right ingredients… Heat 1T (ish) Olive Oil in a small, heavy pan.  Add a small piece of chilli and fry (printed book says “until blackened”… not sure about that, so let’s say “very well”).  Add the cumin seeds and fry.  Add this mixture to the cooked split peas.  Also add the mustard, garam masala and turmeric.  Boil until the lentils are soft (about 30 minutes).  Add lemon juice.

But this is how I’m likely to make it… Add the mustard, garam masala, turmeric, red pepper (or chili powder), ground cumin, and salt to cooked peas.  Add just enough water to cover the lentils, but not more. Boil until the lentils are soft (about 30 minutes).  Add lemon juice.

I would try this again both with the right ingredients as well as my substitutions.

Non-Loaf Vegan Nut Roast

While I based this recipe very heavily on this (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-nutroast-recipe.html), I am going to write it according to the minor changes I made.  The printed version is a little funnier because it reads “bread made into crumbs” while the online recipe reads simply “breadcrumbs”.  Since I make a fair amount of bread, I used actual crumbed bread.  I think the various chunks of bread provided a more interesting texture than if I had used packaged breadcrumbs.  Of course, with the latter it is also difficult to tell if they are truly vegan.

  • 1t olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped small (but not diced)
  • 1 grated carrot (I shredded it with a peeler)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2oz. sliced mushrooms, chopped — about 1/4 cup
  • 8 oz. chopped mixed nuts — about 1 cup
  • 1 oz. (25g) wheat flour — about 4t (I’ll confirm later and update)
  • 5 fl. oz. (125ml) vegetable stock
  • 2oz. (50g) breadcrumbs — about 1/4c
  • 1T Mixed herbs — I used rosemary, sage, and basil at 1t each
  • 1/2t salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4t pepper (or to taste)

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5 / 190 °C / 375 °F.

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion until translucent (5-10 minutes). Add pepper, celery and mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes — only trying to bring them up to temperature. Add the grated carrot and saute for one more minute. Remove from the heat, add the flour and stir. Add vegetable stock, nuts, breadcrumbs, mixed herbs and a little salt and pepper, and mix well. Grease the inside of a loaf tin. Put the mixture into the tin, pressing it down with a spoon. Bake for 40 minutes.

As with so many adventures, my very first step (bite, in this case) resulted in a “this isn’t what I bargained for”.  For some reason, I was expecting something more like a “meat loaf” from this, but it was nothing like it.  This was a “roasted nut casserole”.  I think the next time I will subject the nuts and mushrooms to a joy ride in the Machine of Whirling Blades to get a more granular texture out of them.  Perhaps that would help it be more “loafy” in texture.  An Ooze of Vegetable Broth (aka a gravy) might help as well.

Garbanzo and Spinach Mixup

This recipe (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-chickpea-spinach-recipe.html) was the first I made from this cookbook.  I managed to get a bit ambushed by not reading the ingredients list right and wondered where all the spices came from — for me, they’re a little understated in the ingredients list.  But I can be a bit pedantic when it comes to that.  The result was very good.  This is a repeat for certain.

Original recipe:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 8oz (200g) spinach
  • Cumin seeds
  • Chilli powder, ground coriander, cumin powder
  • Lemon juice

Boil water and cook spinach until soft. Drain and chop.

Heat some oil and fry 1 tsp. cumin seeds. Add chopped onion and cook until brown.

Add cooked spinach and chopped tomatoes. Add some salt, 1/2 tsp. chilli powder, 2 tsp. coriander, 2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. lemon juice.

Stir in chick peas and 6 fl. oz. (150ml) water.

Cover pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

My rewritten “For Level 1 Wizards” recipe:

  • 8oz (200g) spinach
  • 1 onion, julienne cut
  • 1t cumin powder
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cans chickpeas (normal, soup-can sized cans)
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2t chili powder
  • 2t coriander
  • 2t cumin
  • 1t sugar
  • (1t sesame seeds)
  • (1t minced garlic)
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 6oz water

Combine dry spices and set aside [1].

Steam spinach until soft.  Watch carefully when steaming as this shouldn’t be cooked to serve, but merely wilted.  Drain and chop.

Heat 1T olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and cumin.  Cook onion until slightly fried — beyond sauteed.

Add cooked spinach, tomatoes, dry spices, and lemon juice.  Stir in chick peas and water.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

My minor improvisation was not using cumin seeds.  Nothing dramatic, but I’m sure I missed something in the flavor.  One thing I would add in the future would be some toasted sesame seeds (1t) and, of course, minced garlic (1t).

[1] Something I finally learned is to prep all my dry spices in advance.  Measuring out 5 dry spices, then the lemon juice and the water is a tad annoying compared to tossing them in all at once.  Small bowls (be they specifically for this or the little custard bowl — I prefer the latter) are invaluable for this.

Mediterranean Vegetable and Grain Salad

This was last week’s offering for the pot luck dinner. Much less work than tonight’s dish.

One cup of the same old baked barley I’m always talking about. 375 degree oven, 3 cups of water, one hour. Blah blah blah.

While that is cooking, in the food processor combine

  • a dozen cloves of roasted garlic (I make huge batches of this by getting bulk peeled garlic at Costco)
  • lemon juice (a fair bit)
  • olive oil (to match, you’re making a dressing)
  • red pepper flake
  • smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • sumac
  • thyme (dried)
  • sesame seeds
  • cumin
  • oregano (dried)
  • cilantro (dried)

Render that into a dressing.
Course chop the following (either in the processor or by hand)

  • green, black and kalamata olives.
  • artichoke hearts
  • one can stewed tomatoes
  • capers

Toss the barley (after it has cooled and been fluffed) and the chopped veggies with a can of garbanzo beans and a can of black beans. Toss in the dressing.

Salads like this taste best if allowed to mellow overnight, but taste just fine after a couple of hours setting up. Served immediately upon combining, they will seem flat in a way you can’t put your finger on, somehow.

Szechuan Tofu

John has been shaming me on the recipe posts, so I’ll sneak in two weeks worth of Lenten pot luck dinner recipes and redeem myself, somewhat. Both are vegan (for Lent). I’ll start with tonight’s and work backwards. The first week of Lent’s dish was already posted here.

I LOVE spicy tofu dishes. While I’m not one of those people who wrinkles their nose at tofu, in fact I like it quite a lot, I do kind of insist that frankly, by itself, it tastes like nothing at all. BUT, this just means that it is all the more perfectly prepared to be the canvas for a universe of sauces and preparations. Thick, sticky, dark, sweet and blow your head off spicy just happens to be my favorite. As with any genuine culinary tradition, I have no idea what I’m doing, but like any good wizard or cleric, I know how to put on a good show and fake it.

Keep in mind, these are preparations for a communal meal where a few hundred people show up, so if the quantities seem big, they are — adjust down as you see fit.

Two tubs of firm (not extra firm, too crumbly) tofu, drained. I have seen this dish done with silken tofu, but it requires more finesse than I have. Slice in half such that you have to fairly flat, big rectangles — like a stack of 3×5 note cards. Lay the four rectangles out on something very flat, either plastic cutting boards or the bottom of cookie sheets. Place a second cutting board (or cookie sheet bottom) on top, and then pile on as much weight as you can find. I stack my #8 and #10 cast iron skillets and my #8 Dutch oven (with #8 lid) and that’s just about the minimum I’d use. Press and drain (this is why the cookie sheets have to be upside down, if you use the normal surface the liquid can’t drain off) the tofu for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better. Undo your press and then slide the rectangles into large squares. I usually cut the long way into four strips and then six pieces the short way for a total of 24*4=96 chunks of tofu. This is not actually as much as it seems.

Coarsely chop one good size stalk of lemon grass into pieces you’ll be able to remove easily later.

Put your wok (or other very large vessel that can take big heat) over your hottest heat source (dragon’s abdomens are just about hot enough), add a liberal amount of a high heat oil like canola or peanut and augment with toasted sesame oil (for flavor). When the pan (not the oil) begins to smoke, throw in the tofu and lemon grass. Boil the tofu in the oil, moving frequently, until the tofu just start to shrink, then scoop them out into a sieve of some kind to drain. Pick out all the lemon grass which is probably now rock hard and flavorless. Pour out the excess oil but do not wipe down the wok.

Dice a red onion. Split six Serrano peppers in half the long way. Remove seeds and membranes according to how hot you want your end result to be. The less you remove, the hotter the dish. I took out all of the membrane and seeds and the end result still wasn’t exactly tame. If you are unaccustomed to cooking with hot peppers, maybe try just one pepper the first time, left intact, and ramp up on subsequent occasions if you find you enjoy more heat. Take the long halves and make thin crescents.

In the blender or food processor place four to six big chunks of fresh ginger, peeled, along with dozen or more cloves of roasted garlic, soy sauce, honey, molasses, Chinese five spice, liquid smoke (or smoked spice alternative) and vegetable broth — enough broth so that the result is too thin to be a sticky sauce, but not so thin it will take too long to drive out the water to make it a sticky sauce. Now take a good measuring cup’s worth of tamarind paste and rehydrate it with boiling water. Once soft, push through a screen into the blender (or food processor). Alternatively, have the good sense to buy tamarind paste in a jar that you can just spoon out rather than a block of mashed tamarind with all the seeds and pulp still in it, like I did.

Put the wok back on the dragon’s belly and begin to saute the onion and peppers. Open one can of bamboo shoots and one can of sliced water chestnuts, drain both. Once the onion and pepper begins to make you sneeze violently, I mean, brown up, add the bamboo and water chestnuts. Once the extra water is off the canned veggies, put the tofu back in and pour on the liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir or fold occasionally to prevent sticking down at the bottom center of the wok.

Meanwhile prep about half a pound of snow peas and a half dozen green onions. I like to leave the peas whole, with just the tips cut off, and slice the green onion into very thin rings. Get both the white and green from the onion, because both the flavor and texture are quite different.

After the sauce looks like it will be quite thick when cooled, taste it and make any adjustments. If you need more cooking time, add more veggie broth so that it doesn’t get too thick and start to burn. Once the sauce meets your requirements, add the peas and green onions, fold in and immediately remove from the heat source as well as the wok itself into a serving dish. Steamed rice, brown or white, is the obvious accompaniment.

Spicy Lentil Casserole of Hidden Spices and Lentils

Spicy Lentil Casserole it said (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/recipes/vegan-lentil-casserole-recipe.html).  I am looking for both the spice and the lentils.  But this can be fixed pretty easily — which I will do on my next batch.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (or 2t minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1lb 9oz (700g) potatoes, cut into chunks — err… I think what I ended up with was more like 4c of potatoes when measured as chunks.
  • 4 carrots thickly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, thickly sliced — and PEELED!
  • 2T curry powder
  • 1.75 pint (1 litre) vegetable stock — in other words, 3-1/2 cups
  • 4oz (100g) red lentils
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional) — OR 1T ground corriander

Heat 2T oil in a large pot and cook the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips and cook over a high heat for 6-7 minutes, stirring until the vegetables are golden.

Stir in 2T curry powder and the stock and bring to a boil. Add the lentils, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lentils are cooked. Add fresh coriander, or 1 tbsp ground coriander.

That is pretty straight forward, but I would do things differently the next time.

First, I approximated my own curry using strange arts of divination and insanity I can’t repeat.  But what I did find was a recipe online that I would happily tweak.

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix well and store in an airtight container.

I would start by taking that up to 3/4t red pepper and going from there.  Maybe even some spicy paprika would tune this up nicely.

Second, I would add more lentils so this was more of a lentil dish and less of a potato/parsnip dish.  I would double the lentils and add another 1-1/2 cups of water or stock.

Third, I like garlic and this would benefit from the equivalent of a 3rd clove of garlic.

The adventure was small in this one, but from time to time we need a simple quest like finding a shrubbery.

Tomato Soup of Vegan Defiance

I found some vegan cheese in the hopes of having a good old grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch.  My bread is vegan [1] and I reckoned that tomato soup would be as well.  HA ha HA ha HAaa…  Most tomato soups have some form of milk in them.  Sitting right next to my tomato soup is cans of stewed and diced tomatoes (T is for tomato, after all…).  So I declared “Oh, yeah?!” at the pre-packaged soups, grabbed a large can of tomatoes and headed for my modern fire pit.

The list of ingredients for this was rather random.  As I recall, it went something like this:

Can ‘o tomatoes; that’s a good start.  Milk kinda creams this so how about some Silk soy milk.  But then we need some flavor.  What do I like with tomatoes?  Basil and oregano should work.  Perhaps a little salt and pepper as well.  Oh, and garlic is nice too, so garlic powder, come on down!

What I should have done was check tomato ingredients for salt.  Many canned tomatoes have salt added.  Thankfully, I did not add too much.  Having selected my components, now came the mighty incantation.

Empty can of tomatoes, juice and all into a 3+ quart pot.  The pot should have enough room for the contents and enough depth to withstand splattering.  Add 1/4c soy milk (SWAG).  Break out the magic wand [2] and transform the chunky puddle into a creamy puree (could also do with a blender).  Set pot on burner at medium heat and add remaining spices “to taste”.  If I was to guess at the amounts, I probably added 1/2t basil, 1/2t oregano, 1/8t salt, 1/4t pepper, 1/2t garlic powder.

Stir occasionally until steamy hot.  Serve and enjoy.

It was good enough to try again; definitely good enough and fast enough to make to consider skipping canned tomato soup altogether.  I need to work on the slight sharpness of the tomatoes without adding sugar.  I know that works, but I dislike the idea.

Some slight changes I would try would be (a) use minced garlic and puree it with the tomatoes and soy milk, (b) add 1T of of olive oil, (c) experiment with other spices such as celery seed, cumin, and onion powder.  Perhaps if I were very clever I might sauté some onions and then puree those with the liquids.