vegan oatmeal cookies, fruit-sweetened (gluten-free option)

100_9170As I shared before I left on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I returned…if the work I was doing before would mean all that much after working to provide a home for a family.

And though I am finding it hard to be back (and not just because of the snow and the cold), I am realizing that the work the Lord has for me to do here does matter…just in a different way. I’m grateful for the work I do have here and it’s keeping me moving forward instead of stuck with longing to return.

Before getting down to business, though, I want to share a couple pictures from the trip to capture the change God wrought for a family. The one on the left is of the one-room home they lived in, smaller than many garages in North America and devoid of running water. The photo on the right is of the family in front of the home we helped build complete with a full bathroom and separate bedrooms and living spaces. What’s hard to capture on “film” or in words, though, is the joy and excitement the family and team felt over this move to a new home.

vargas family houseAnd if I lived in the neighborhood, I might welcome these new neighbors with a batch of cookies. But since I’m here and they’re there, I will do the next best thing and share one of my favorite cookie recipes with you.

oatmeal cookie recipe The inspiration for this recipe came from here at Oh She Glows. I had almost given up on oatmeal cookies because it’s hard to approximate the buttery, butterscotch undertones when eliminating butter and brown sugar. It was a joy to discover that toasted pecans are an excellent substitute.

Because I have substituted fruit sweeteners and date paste for the sugars, these cookies have a different taste and texture from the traditional oatmeal cookie, but that doesn’t stop them from disappearing when served to a crowd! Also, feel free to add in your favorite mix-ins (raw cacoa nibs can sub for dairy-free chocolate chips if you want to keep the cookies sugar free).

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the vegan oatmeal cookie recipe

vegan oatmeal cookies, fruit-sweetened

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 20-24 minutes

Yield: approximately 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c. pecans
  • 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 2 c. oats, gluten free if needed
  • 3/4 c. date paste
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. mix-ins, if using
  • 1/4 c. white grape juice concentrate
  • 1/4 c. apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Mix-in Suggestions

  • Dairy-free chocolate chips (if you don’t mind adding in a little sugar)
  • Raw cacao nibs
  • Unsweetened dried coconut
  • Raisins
  • Unsweetened dried cherries
  • Apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries

Instructions

Heat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly toast pecans and walnuts (see this post for a tip on toasting nuts), then combine with oats and date paste in a food processor. Blend until the nuts, oats and dates resemble a coarse crumb, then pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add flours, baking soda, cinnamon and stevia to the bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

In a small saucepan, warm the juice concentrates, oil and vanilla until the oil melts then add to the dry ingredients with any mix-ins you’d like to add. Stir to combine and the mixture holds together when pressed between your fingers.

To form cookies, roll into a ball in your hands, then gently press flat onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The cookies don’t spread, so you can place them close together.

Bake for 20-24 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Cool at least 10-15 minutes before removing from pan to help the cookies set. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes

You can use all pecans if you’d like, but I toss in some walnuts because they are a little cheaper, but it’s best to have mostly pecans because of the butter undertones they provide.

You can use all brown rice flour or any combination of your favorite flour, though the texture may vary. I like adding in the coconut flour because of the additional sweetness it provides.

If you have a hard time find white grape juice concentrate like I do, see this post for making your own fruit juice concentrates.

I bought my stevia at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own scoop. Be sure the stevia you are using is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives and other sweeteners included in the ingredients.

Powered by Recipage

leaving on a jet plane…

bagsThis week I’m switching pastry brushes for paint brushes, spreading peanut butter for spreading cement and hanging up my apron in exchange for flip flops and a ball cap.

As you read this, I will be in the Dominican Republic on a construction mission trip. We’re building a house for family and leading a VBS. We’re also giving out indestructible soccer balls, instruction on dental hygiene and the Word of God in a women’s Bible study so that they may have life and have it to the full.

I’m excited yet uncertain.

DR trip

Though we are doing God’s work to help a family in need, it is the work He will be doing in me that brings the apprehension. Because I know I won’t return unchanged.

And when I come back from the poverty, the dirt floors, the hearts that know what it means to trust in the Lord just to exist, will any of what I hold dear now matter? Will I be quicker to snap at my children’s complaints over the abundant, fresh but not favorite, food they are served? Will I be less tolerant of my first world concerns over snowbanks taking over parking spaces and the desire for more living space and wanting new, wanting more?  How quickly will my senses dull and forget the very real needs of dry shelter and safe water and enough food for every meal?

I share this to explain perhaps a little silence at brownberry tales as I participate in and process through the mission trip. It may be quiet here for one week, or two or three. I don’t know. I won’t know until I return.

My prayer is that this work of recording recipes and stories is one that God called me to do and so will continue. And if you pray, then please join me in praying for the family who will receive a new home and the women who will receive the Word of God.

skillet pot pie (gluten free option)

100_1058Every year the  Dairy Farmers of Canada release a free calendar featuring recipes starring one or more dairy products. The Milk Calendar is a fixture on my parents’ fridge. Even though they no longer eat dairy. But it’s an endearing tradition and I always look forward to flipping through it.

While I cringe at the propaganda that continually tries to convince the public that eating dairy is a good and essential thing to do (it’s not), a few of the calendar’s recipes can be adapted to suit a vegan diet. One of the recipes my mum tried years ago was the Milk Calendar’s Turkey Pot Pie. It was an instant hit in our family.

I’ve been making the same recipe for years for my own family, although I had taken out the turkey even before changing my diet. Once I eliminated dairy from diet, I further modified the recipe to incorporate plant-based milk and butter.

Traditionally, I’ve made this recipe in a casserole dish, but decided to change things up and make it in one of our cast iron skillets.

No skillet? No worries. Simply cook in a regular pot, then transfer the filling to a casserole dish and top with the crust. It’s as easy as…pie.

spp

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the Skillet Pot Pie Recipe

Skillet Pot Pie

Prep Time: 30-45 minutes

Cook Time: 45-55 minutes

Keywords: bake saute entree casserole gluten-free nut-free vegan sugar-free potato carrot peas mushroom

    For the Filling

    • 2 cups diced organic potatoes*
    • 2 cups sliced carrots
    • 1 medium-small onion, minced
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • 1 cup diced mushrooms
    • 1/4 red pepper, finely minced
    • 1 cup peas
    • 1 cup organic corn
    • 1 tsp tapioca flour or organic cornstarch
    • scant 1/4 cup flour of your choice, gluten free if needed*
    • 1/2 cup unsalted veggie stock
    • 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk*
    • 1/2-3/4 cup water
    • 1/2 tsp. thyme
    • 1/2-1 tsp salt
    • dashes of pepper and turmeric

    For the Crust

    • 1 cup flour of your choice, gluten free if needed*
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 T parsley
    • 1/2 c. of unsweetened dairy-free milk, chilled*
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/3 c. organic dairy-free butter, chilled*
    • 1/2 tsp. xantham gum if using gluten-free flour
    *see Recipe Notes for details

    Instructions

    For the Filling

    Par boil diced/chopping potatoes and carrots until just fork tender. Par boiling saved cooking time and ensures the potatoes and carrots will cook properly.

    Meanwhile, in the skillet, saute onion and garlic in a little veggie stock until onions begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and saute until the vegetables are tender. Add more stock as needed to prevent the liquid from boiling away.

    Stir in tapioca and flour until thoroughly mixed, then pour in stock, milk and water and bring to a boil while stirring frequently to prevent the flour from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

    Once the mixture boils, add thyme, salt, pepper and turmeric and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Cool the filling, then add potatoes, carrots, peas and corn.

    For the Crust

    Mix together the flour, baking powder, parsley and salt. Cut in chilled butter until the mixture has crumbs the size of peas. Pour in milk and gently stir to combine. Drop by the spoonful over the filling.

    To Bake

    Place skillet in an oven warmed to 375 degrees and bake 45-55 minutes or until the filling is warmed through and the crust is baked. To prevent the crust from burning, you might need to cover the skillet loosely with foil for the last 10-15 minutes of baking. Placing a large baking sheet on a rack below the skillet is recommended to catch any drips from the filling as it likes to bubble over the pan.

    Recipe Notes

    Using organic vegetables is always best, especially for the potatoes (due to pesticides) and corn (because of GMO). If using soy-based dairy substitutes, it’s best to use organic because of GMO.

    I found cooling the filling mixture before adding the potatoes, carrots, peas and corn helps the peas retain a bright green color instead of turning an unappealing grayish green.

    For the filling, I used organic brown rice flour and unsweetened organic soy milk. For the crust, I used equal parts organic brown rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour, unsweetened organic soy milk and Smart Balance organic dairy-free whipped buttery spread.

    Since the crust is unfussy (more of a biscuit, really), feel free to experiment with your favorite blend of flour. However, its best to add xantham gum if going completely gluten free.

    Powered by Recipage

     

     

    making fruit juice concentrate

    fruit juice concentrate2

    (I’m posting this Kitchen Help along with this one to prepare for a recipe I’ll be posting soon.)

    Ever since I did a three-month fast from sugar (including maple syrup, honey, agave, and for the first two month, dried fruits), I haven’t had much desire to incorporate back into my diet. Not only did eliminating sugar eliminate a very annoying problem, I found it also drastically reduced my anxiety.

    However, the challenge is finding new ways to sweeten recipes (which is why I enjoy this one so much). Fruit juice to the rescue!

    White grape juice is especially sweet, but I’ve found it difficult to find it as a concentrate in the frozen foods section. Which leaves making my own. It’s a simple process and all you need is a little third grade math. It’s always best to use organic juices because of pesticides, but if your budget doesn’t allow for the splurge, use regular juice instead.

     

    How to Make your own fruit juice concentrate

    100_0947

    1. Determine how much concentrate is require for your recipe and multiply by three. So if you need 1/2 cup of concentrate, you will need 1.5 cups of fruit juice.

    2. Pour fruit juice into a pot and bring to a boil.

    3. Simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid reduces by two-thirds. Therefore, if you started with 1.5 cups of juice, your goal is to boil away the water until you are left with 1/3 cup of concentrate.

    4. Cool before using.

     

    Notes:

    (This really is an easy process but I share the following notes based on past experiencing of almost ruining a pot because I didn’t pay close attention as the juice was boiling.)

    I recommend checking a few times during the reducing process to see how close you are to the desired concentrate amount as it’s easy to boil away too much water.  It’s best to pour the liquid into a metal measuring cup with a pie tin or other pot underneath it to catch any spilled liquid. If you need to further reduce the juice, simply pour all liquid back into the pan.

    Watch the liquid carefully and stir occasionally, especially as the liquid approaches a concentrate since the sugars in the juice can burn.

    I often will reduce a larger quantity of juice than my recipe calls for and will freeze the extra. However, reducing a larger quantity of juice takes longer and I suggest reducing the heat to medium low once your close to the concentrate stage to avoid burning the sugars in the juice.

     

     

    toasting nuts

    toasting nuts

    I’ve burned many a thing in the kitchen either due to impatience or lack of attention…including my fingers.

    And sometimes I forget to account for minor, yet important, details in recipes. Like roasted nuts.

    Roasting brings out their flavor, adding new dimension to a recipe which is why it’s  a good idea to use roasted nuts when a recipe calls for them. To save time, you could buy pre-roasted nuts, but it often costs more to do so and it can be hard to find certain roasted nuts which are free of added salt and oil. Sooo…that leaves roasting them yourself.

    Traditionally, nuts are roasted in the oven. When I’ve used this method, I found that it either took too long (and I was impatient because I forgot I needed to toast them in the first place) or I forgot about them and they burned.

    Clearly, a new method was in order.

    Ever since I started using the stove top to toast nuts, I’ve been pleased with the results. It’s quick and I’m less apt to forget about something that I can see. The following method is one I’ve used for almonds, pecans and walnuts and it takes less than five minutes. If you try other nuts or seeds (like pine nuts, sunflower or sesame seeds), you might need to adjust the cooking time.

    5 steps for toasting nuts

    1. Warm a pot over high heat.

    2. Add nuts or seeds.

    3. For the first minute or two, stir occasionally.

    4. Once the nuts are fragrant, stir constantly until they are very fragrant (about another minute).*

    5. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 30 second to 1 minute.

    *Notes: If you’ve never toasted nuts before, you might want to stir frequently until you can tell (smell 🙂 ) the difference between slightly and very fragrant nuts. Rely on your eyes and nose more so than on the clock as nuts go very quickly from being delicately toasted to decidedly burnt.

    Also, a pan with a thinner bottom will toast the nuts faster than a pan with a heavier bottom, such as a cast iron pan. So depending on the pan you use, cooking time may vary slightly.

    dark chocolate pudding-mousse (raw)

    101_0472

    Whenever I had to do a research project for school, I always leaned toward more sober subjects, like “why suntanning is bad for you” or “pollution in the environment.” Why I didn’t think I could combine my fondness for science with something fun like…chocolate…is beyond me.

    My oldest son, on the other hand, gets it. Several times in the past couple of years, he has checked this book out from the library.  The first time was for a research project in second grade and just for fun after that. I like his style.

    reese
    when he dressed as his favorite character – Willy Wonka – for school

    And reading through that book, it suddenly clicked with me why chocolate’s health benefits are  touted…it’s a vegetable! “Eat your veggies” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

    Of course, chocolate stops being a health food when paired with sugar and milk. Which is why recipes like this one for Dark Chocolate Pudding-Mousse are the answer to keeping your taste buds and body happy.

    The inspiration for this recipe came from a bonus recipe pack for the Oh She Glows cookbook, but I added a few extra ingredients including the full-fat coconut to further mask the avocado. When you first mix it up, it has the texture of pudding, but will take on the texture of mousse once refrigerated. To keep a more pudding-like consistency, try adding your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk a 1/2 cup at a time (I prefer unsweetened vanilla almond milk).

    pudding mousse photo

    A note of caution: If you are trying to lose weight, eat this recipe sparingly because avocado and full-fat coconut milk are heavy hitters in the fat department, even if it is plant-based fat. On the flip side, if you find yourself shedding too much weight from eating a low-fat, plant-based, carb-light diet, then by all means indulge away.

    And though, spooning it on a plate with sides of mashed potatoes and greens might be carrying it a little too far, I’m all for serving this to my children as an extra treat a breakfast. After all, what better way to start the day than with a cup of fruits and veggies?

    CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the dark chocolate pudding mousse recipe

     

    dark chocolate pudding-mousse

     

    Prep Time: less than 10 minutes

    Keywords: food processor raw dessert snack gluten-free low-sodium paleo soy-free sugar-free vegan coconut milk dates chocolate

    Ingredients

    • 1 ripe avocado
    • 1 14.5 oz can full fat coconut milk
    • 2/3 c. date paste
    • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (try fair trade!)
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia powder
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 2 T almond butter (optional)
    • unsweetened non-dairy milk as needed

    Instructions

    Peel avocado, remove pit and put in food processor.

    Add date paste, breaking into small pieces to help with the blending.

    Add remaining ingredients (except nondairy milk),

    Blend ingredients until smooth, anywhere from 1-3 minutes.

    If too thick, add nondairy milk 1/4 cup at a time to achieve desired consistency.

    Eat immediately or place in refrigerator for later.

    Recipe Notes

    An avocado that easily yields when gently pressed and is free of bruises works best.

    Be sure to carefully read your stevia package to make sure it is pure as many stevia products are a blend and may include undesired ingredients. I bought my stevia at Trader Joe’s and it came with its own scoop. One hundred percent pure stevia is potent so the scoop is tiny, less than 1/8 tsp.

    I use roasted almond butter in my recipe because that is what I have on hand. If you want to keep it raw, use raw almond butter.

    This recipe thickens as it chills, achieving a mousse-like texture. Adding nondairy milk (I like unsweetened vanilla almond milk best) helps return it to a pudding. This pudding should be consumed within 3 days of eating and must be kept refrigerated.

    Powered by Recipage