A Plea for New Camera Recommendations, Double Sunday Running Round-up, and Delish Cookie Bars (sans pictures)

My camera is officially broken.

I thought I had enough pictures of un-blogged recipes to keep blogging, but I really don’t. I have enough for maybe a handful more posts. Sigh. It’s hard to get excited about posting a new recipe without pictures to go with it. I’ve made a few blog-worthy things, but without pictures, blogging just isn’t as enticing.

There’s something wrong with the camera’s internal mechanism for recognizing the memory card. Every time we put in the memory card, whether it is locked or unlocked, the camera tells us it can’t take pictures because the memory card is locked (even when it is not). My husband’s tried to release it using a straightened out paper clip, but to no avail.

Any suggestions?

If we have to get a new camera, any suggestions on what to get? We mostly take pictures of our kids, dogs, and food. 🙂

On to my running stats.

Last week: Monday 6; Tuesday 5, Wednesday 4.5, Thursday 0, Friday 3, Saturday 15, Sunday 3. Total: 36.5

This week: Monday 3, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 3, Thursday 1, Friday 17.5, Saturday 5.5, Sunday 4. Total: 40. Not bad! I really needed to get over the 15 mile mark; every long run I’ve done over the past few weeks has been 15 miles. The marathon I’m doing is in about 2 months, so I really needed to run more than 15, but somehow I just couldn’t do it. Surprisingly, the last 2 miles of this run were not bad! I must have just had a mental block hitting at mile 15. I did suck every last drop of water out of my Camelbak, and I listened to the entirety of Mahler 2 and Stenhammer 1….but it was a really good long run!

I made these fab.u.lous bars from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com:

http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2012/08/coconut-white-chocolate-chip-blondies.html

Her pictures are about 1,000 times better than any I could ever hope to take, so really, we’re not missing anything here by my lack of accompanying photos. Just check out her post. Drool.

I made a few adjustments:

I doubled the recipe 🙂 and used a 9 x 13

I wasn’t sure I’d be into a 1:1 flour-to-coconut ratio, so I used 3 cups of flour/coconut total, with about 2.5 cups flour and 0.5 cups coconut. I used unsweetened coconut because that’s what I had. The bars were plenty sweet.

I used flax seed and water to replace the eggs. It worked just fine.

I used vegan margarine instead of butter (duh) and vegan white chocolate.

I did not use any melted chocolate on top because I didn’t want anything to detract from the white chocolate flavor. I order vegan white chocolate from Amazon and basically hoard it. I love white chocolate and would use it instead of regular chocolate all the time, if it wasn’t so hard to find good vegan white chocolate. So, when I do decide to use some of my precious vegan white chocolate chips, I am very careful to make sure those sweet little morsels of deliciousness are truly appreciated and noticed.

These bars were incredible. They are definitely very sweet and rich; my husband found them a bit too sweet. I loved them. I definitely like sweet things, but not all the time. These I might be able to eat every day, if they were around. They are dense, chewy, with a good, substantial texture; the coconut is not overpowering, and the white chocolate both dominates the bar and complements the brown sugar and vanilla flavors. I love vanilla. I love white chocolate. I love brown sugar. These bars are essentially a perfect flavor combination for my three loves.

I’ve been trying for years to get that perfect dense-but-not-gummy, gooey-but-not-wet texture to vegan brownies/blondies. This recipe is ingenius because there’s no rising agent – no baking powder or soda. That kept the bars good and dense. The flax egg substitute gave moistness without making the bars cakey or fluffy. Perfect. Definitely a recipe worth trying.

Oatmeal Ice Cream: Best. Homemade. Vegan. Ice cream. EVER

Creamy vegan goodness, covered in my mom’s hot-fudge sauce (made vegan)

This stuff is awesome. It is just utterly, completely the bomb. A few months ago, as temperatures got higher, I started my annual round of homemade vegan ice cream experimentation. Like many others, I seem to face the same problems every year: not creamy enough; too watery; doesn’t freeze well; doesn’t resemble ice cream, etc. etc. This is the first summer I’ve experimented with oats as an ice cream base, and I was delighted with the results. So were the people (vegans and omnis alike) to whom I served it.

Isn’t this sundae cup simply adorable? I found it in our cupboard. I have no idea where it came from, but I love it!

Of course, as a disclaimer, I have to put that there are two completely standard but completely fabulous vegan ice cream recipes that are super easy and always work in a pinch:

1. Blend a frozen banana. Eat as is, or add a splash of soymilk, vanilla, cocoa powder, sweetener, etc. etc. This takes all of 1 minute and results in yummy, creamy, non-banana-y soft serve ice cream.

2. Take a carton of Silk creamer (vanilla and hazelnut are particularly good). Pour into ice cream maker, and enjoy creamy richness 20 minutes later. Not the healthiest, but quick, easy, reliable, sweet, and creamy. Always a good choice.

However, for times when you want more than frozen banana puree masquerading as ice cream, and you either don’t have Silk creamer or don’t want to think about eating half a container of creamer :), I present this recipe.

It is 1. delicious 2. creamy 3. versatile and easily adjustable to fit your preferences 4. cheap 5. easy 6. made from ingredients we all have on hand all the time. The oats, soaked in water, release a nice gumminess that makes the ice cream creamy and thick, rather than watery. However, the recipe is suprisingly low in fat, with no actual added fat. (I did try it with some added oil, and there wasn’t a significant enough of a difference to mandate oil in the recipe.)

There is seriously nothing not to love about this ice cream.

It does take more steps than my normal recipes, but most of the time is waiting time rather than active time. It’s worth it.

Oat-based ice cream

1.5 cups oatmeal

3 cups water (or use half water, half soymilk for a richer product)

1/2 cup sugar, or to taste

splash of vanilla

dash of salt

Grind oats into flour. Put the oat flour into a blender with the water. Puree for a minute or so. Let the mixture sit for a while, about an hour. Puree again. Let sit for a few minutes. IF desired, strain the oat mixture at this time. Straining results in a creamier texture, but it is not completely necessary. If you’re okay with a little textured bite to your ice cream, don’t strain.

After straining (or not), add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. (at this time you could add other extracts or cocoa powder, etc.). Put the mixture in the refrigerator and let it sit at least an hour or two, and preferably 4-6 hours. This is so that the oats get absorbed into the liquid and the natural gums come out, thus resulting in a creamier, thicker ice cream product.

Whisk (or blend) the mixture prior to putting it in your ice cream maker. Some of the oat flour will settle to the bottom; you want to reincorporate it into the mixture (do not strain again or else your ice cream will be all watery). Pour into your ice cream maker and follow instructions henceforth. Enjoy!
Note: similar to other homemade ice creams, this once gets pretty hard when frozen, so it’s best to eat it as soon as possible after making.

Also, adjust the oat flour/water proportion to your liking, as well as the sugar and flavoring.

Double Sunday Running Round-up and Healthy (-ish) Peanut Butter Cookies (plus some recipe lust)

YIKES! We were on vacation sans Internet, hence the lack of posts. I’m not doing well on my 5-posts-a-week goal. It will be better from now until Christmas, because I don’t think I have any going-away plans. We went to New Hampshire to visit my family. (Of course, we picked the one week when the temperatures got into the 90s, and of course there is no air conditioning there.) I got in some decent runs; we swam in the pond, hiked, visited a farm, went to farmers’ markets, ate fresh produce, had communal meals, played with nieces/nephews, had in-door parades during a power outage, and generally had a great time hanging with my family.

Last week’s running, as much as I remember: Monday 0; Tuesday 6; Wednesday 4; Thursday 0; Friday 6; Saturday 0; Sunday 5ish. Total: 21. Not horrible, considering I was away much of that time and was hanging out with family I rarely get to see.

This week’s running: Monday 10 (in the New Hampshire mountains, no less!); Tuesday 3; Wednesday 0; Thursday 3; Friday 2; Saturday 3; Sunday 14. Total: 35. Not bad!

I’ve been listening to the following while running: Bach b minor mass; Stenhammer symphonies; Dvorak symphonies, and RadioLab podcasts. I really like podcasts for running; they keep me interested and not focused on any pain I might be feeling. However, I don’t get the daydream while listening to podcasts, as they require such concentration. Sometimes daydreaming during a run with music is just what I need. 🙂

What about everyone else: While exercising, do you listen to music, podcasts, something else entirely, nothing?

My husband has recently been put on a low-salt diet. I know this is healthier for both of us, but I LOVE SALT!!!! I think what we’re going to do is cook in a low-salt way, and I will add salt to my food if I want it (which I will). I am also trying to watch my food intake, as I have gained a few pounds over the last few months. I don’t weigh regularly, but I can tell my stomach is flabbier than usual, and my clothes are snugger. I don’t want a few pounds to turn into 20, so I figure it’s better to take care of it now. I always seem to gain a little weight when training for a marathon; I’m not sure why that is. Between nursing, running, and having a somewhat-fast metabolism, I’m usually pretty lucky to be able to eat whatever I want. Having just hit my later-30s, though, I guess I need to be more careful. Sigh. So, expect fewer dessert recipes, but they will still be made using real ingredients. I’m just not that into low-fat baking (or cooking), and I don’t like using too many artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. First, they’re expensive (even the natural ones like agave); second, they don’t always give the same results (notably, Splenda and stevia); and third, I would rather have a smaller amount of a full-sugar, full-fat dessert than more of a reduced fat-and-sugar one. I think for me it has to do with sustainability: I don’t want to be hooked into buying sugar replacements and substitutes all my life, so I’d rather just learn how to control myself around the real thing. Easier said than done, sometimes, of course! 🙂

Another question: real sugar and fat, or substitutes (other than substitutes to make something vegan)? What’s your preference, and why?

With both of our new diet needs in mind, I made these cookies tonight. I couldn’t take pictures because there is something wrong with my camera. Like most PB cookies, they weren’t that much to look at, anyways. They were yummy and substantial, and not too sweet. The ground oatmeal gave them a really nice chewy denseness, and the combination of peanut butter and vanilla is just sublime.

They’re slightly healthier than other peanut butter cookie recipes because of the oats, as well as the lack of margarine. Most peanut butter cookies, even vegan ones, call for a fat other than just the peanut butter; in fact, my own go-to peanut butter cookie recipe calls for a cup each of peanut butter and vegan margarine. Skipping the margarine makes the cookies lower in fat, and, surprisingly, less crumbly than traditional peanut butter cookies.

1 cup peanut butter, softened in the microwave for a few seconds

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt, more if you are using unsalted peanut butter

approximately 1/2 cup soymilk, more or slightly less as needed

1 1/4 cups oatmeal, ground into flour (I use the Magic Bullet for this)

1 cup flour

Cream peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and soy milk. Add in salt and flours and stir until well combined. Batter will be quite dry; add enough soymilk to make a pliable, but not wet, dough. I found that just under 1/2 cup (as in, a teaspoon or so less) was enough. I baked these in the toaster oven for 10 minutes at 350, because I didn’t want to heat up the whole kitchen; you could bake them in an oven at 350 for the same amount of time. Grab hunks of dough and flatten between your palms; place on cookie sheet and bake. These cookies will not spread, so you can put them pretty close together.

A recipe I saw today that I am dying to try is from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com. She has great recipes, but this white-chocolate blondie looks a.ma.zing. They look SO dense, but without being wet or gooey. She seems to get the ideal consistency in her bar cookies; I’ve never been able to mine as perfect as hers. Mine are either too cakey, too wet/gooey, or too dry. I’m going to try these sometime later this week. I have some vegan white chocolate stashed away that I guard very carefully and use only in absolutely wonderful recipes; I think this one is deserving. I’m thinking some flax would be a good egg substitute, but we’ll see.

Some other upcoming recipes:

the BEST homemade vegan ice cream ever. No lie.

peanut buttery-oatmeal-chocolate no bake bars. Drool.