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.

Sunday Running Round-up and Grilled Pizzas

My husband was away for much of this week, and it is too wickedly hot for me to run with the girls in the double stroller, so I’ve had to depend upon the kindness of others to come sit in my house while the girls sleep and I run. Thus, I did not get a long run in, and I did not run every day. Now that I have my snazzy new Garmin watch, I am trying to run an hour every day (longer on long run days). I think this is a goal I can attain – I love data, and I love watching the time and miles go by on the Garmin.

Monday: 0 Tuesday: 5.5 Wednesday: 6 Thursday: 5.5 Friday: 4 Saturday: 3 Sunday: 0 Total: 24. Ipod listening: Stenhammer and RadioLab, both awesome. Mileage: Oh well, better luck this week!

I succumbed to the grilled pizza trend, and made grilled pizza twice in a week. It really is tasty, and it is much more energy-efficient to make than baked pizza. When it’s hot, turning on the oven seems like  a crime; this is a nice way to enjoy pizza without heating up your entire kitchen. I don’t have an outdoor grill, but I do have a stove-top grill that worked really well. I made my standard (yeast-based) pizza dough recipe, let it rise once, then tore off pieces/handfuls of dough, stretched ’em out, smeared each side with olive oil, and threw ’em on the grill. After 5 or so minutes, the dough was ready to flip; after flipping, I put sauce and toppings (olives artichoke hearts, spinach, mushrooms, sauted onions) on the hot side, let it cook a few more minutes, and then enjoyed! It really was quicker and cooler than making regular pizza. I don’t expect to make oven pizza again in the summer! Plus, we had guests both times we made this; each person got to make their own personal-size pizza, which was an added bonus. Everyone got the toppings they wanted, and got to be involved in the process. I think it’s fun for guests to pull their own dough, smear on their own sauce, choose their own toppings. Working alongside friends in the kitchen is a treat.

The only criticism I have of grilled pizza is the problem of getting the toppings hot. It would be hard to get vegan cheese to melt, for sure. Maybe on a real grill, this would not be a problem, but on a stove top grill, the heat is too concentrated on the bottom to reach the toppings.

Today I wanted some cookies but did not want to make a whole batch, partially out of laziness and self-control, and partially again because of the whole turning-on-the-oven-in-the-sweltering-heat thing. So I made a mini-batch (half of a dozen) of cranberry-chocolate chip cookies and baked them in our toaster oven. This worked beautifully. It was great for portion control, it was quick, it didn’t heat up the whole kitchen, and I did not feel wasteful by using energy for making just a few cookies.

I’ve seen some recipes on the blogworld for single-serving muffins/cookies/cake/whatever; these recipes are great for portion control, but they all require you to turn on your oven and bake ONE muffin/cookie/cupcake/whatever. To me that just seems extremely wasteful – that is a LOT of heat and energy to generate for one treat. When I use the oven, I try to be mindful of the energy I’m using; I try to bake two things at once, if possible (for example, I’ll throw in some sweet potatoes while I’m baking cookies).

However, if I had a real problem with portion control, I could see the benefit of a single-serving recipe. Lord knows it’s hard to find vegan treats, so we vegans usually have to make our own, and some of us don’t want 4 dozen cookies in the house. Understandable. With a family and a  freezer, it’s not hard for me to handle the extra cookies, but I can totally see the benefit of built-in portion control.

Question: Do you like/use single-serving recipes that require oven use? Is the instant portion control worth the trade-off of using a good bit of energy for a cookie? I can completely understand NOT microwaving single-serving treats…..most baked goods are quite inferior when made in the microwave. I have to say I am really, really liking the toaster oven for smaller batches of baked goods…..

Do you

Friday Fun, Vegan Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, and Spinach-Basil Pesto

Today WAS indeed fun, although it is wretchedly hot here. I went for a run – I am totally loving my new Garmin watch, which was a birthday splurge. After running, we had pancake breakfast, and then headed to the courthouse to file some motions, and then we were off to a playdate at a pool. Good times. No coffee shop or library or playground today; we did all of those things yesterday, and will probably do them again tomorrow (my husband is out of town so I took some time off from work to be with the girls).

My birthday was a few days ago. Normally I would make vanilla cupcakes, or the standard vegan chocolate cake (you know, the one that uses vinegar and baking soda as rising agents). However, I had some Trader Joe’s low-fat vegan mayonnaise that I needed to use up, so I made a chocolate mayonnaise cake. I had bought the mayonnaise totally on a whim. Having been a vegan for so long, I just haven’t had mayonnaise in forever. Even before I was a vegan, I don’t think I ever really ate mayonnaise. TJ’s had this great deal on a big thing of vegan mayo, so I completely impulse-bought it. Then, once I got home, I puzzled over what to do with it. I didn’t like it on sandwiches, and it was okay in potato salad, but I still had some left. So, after looking around at various non-vegan recipe, here’s what I came up with:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

salt (1/2 teaspoon or so)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup vegan mayonnaise, low-fat okay

1 cup water

Mix dry ingredients; stir in wet. Spread into a 9 x 13 and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I frosted it with a simple buttercream frosting. I found the cake a tad salty, and not overly sweet, so I think it really benefited from frosting. The cake has a really good texture and is not crumbly. My omnivore mother-in-law really liked it. I would make it again if I had mayo to use up, but I’m not sure I’d buy mayo just to make it. It was definitely good, but it just wasn’t different enough from the standard vinegar cake to warrant the extra expense of vegan mayo.

Yesterday I made my standby spinach pesto, but since a friend had given us some fresh pesto from his garden, I threw that in as well. It was DELICIOUS. The basil mellowed out the bite of the spinach, and the combination of almonds and cashews made it soooo creamy. You can find the spinach pesto recipe under ‘main meals’ and ‘sauces’; it’s basically a bag of spinach, olive oil (about 1/4 cup), a clove of garlic, and 1/4-1/2 cup raw nuts, blended. This time I added about a cup of pesto. Delish.

I’ve been working on two big new recipes. Here’s a picture of one to get you drooling. I’m going to try to have the recipe up early next week.

Vegan Cupcakes (that I didn’t have to make myself!)

Our sweet and smart intern surprised me today with 4 vegan cupcakes that she got at a bakery in Columbia called, appropriately, Cupcake. She told me a few weeks ago that she had seen vegan cupcakes there before; I was completely surprised and thrilled with today’s surprise treat!

There were 4 of the same flavor (I think they have at most one vegan offering a day, but for the south, that’s not too bad!). I’m excited to have any vegan dessert that is not something I had to make, so I think these tasted extra good just for that reason. The cake part was, I think, the standard vegan chocolate cake recipe that everyone uses and that is posted on everyone’s vegan blog and has been around forever – you know, the one that our parents/grandparents had during leaner times when eggs and milk were not available, and that uses vinegar and baking soda to replace the eggs – you totally know the recipe I’m talking about. It’s one my family has used forever, and it was our standard cake recipe even before the word ‘vegan’ was known to our family. I think I even have it memorized: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, between 1/3-1/2 cup cocoa powder, salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, vanilla, 1 cup cold water or cold coffee, 1/2 cup oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar. See? I knew you knew it. It is a GREAT recipe – tastes good, is easy, and is made with simple, standard ingredients. It kind of cracks me up, though, when people post this recipe or a close variation thereof (like, with 3/4 cup sugar instead of 1 cup) and act as if they created some vegan genius. This recipe has been around forever, and will be around forever. It’s that good.

Anyways…..the cake was good; sweet and satisfying, but nothing extraordinary. The frosting was strawberry flavored and was delicious. It was thick and sweet, with some salt and a little bit of tartness from the strawberries.

The best part, though, was the big sugar sprinkles. I never cook with sprinkles, and every time I have them, I am reminded of what a treat they are. I love the crunchy texture, followed by melting……all so good! I really liked these because they were nice and big and had a really satisfying crunch. They reminded me of sprinkles you’d find in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue – high class, high quality. Eating this cupcake was an experience!

Anyways, if you are in the Columbia or Charleston area, check out Cupcake for its vegan cupcakes! And hooray for awesome interns who bring treats to their associates!

Sunday Running Round-up and Vegan Doughnuts from Revolution Doughnuts

This was a decent running week!
Monday and Tuesday: 3 miles each. Wednesday: 1 mile (cough, cough). Thursday: 5 miles, on a completely new route. Friday: 0. Saturday: 5-6 miles with my new running buddy! Today: just under 15 miles, in wretchedly hot and humid weather. I could have wrung out my shorts when I got home, it was that hot. Ugh. Total: about 32 miles.

My new running buddy has one of those fancy-schmancy running watches that calculates your pace and your miles (through gps). I have been toying with the idea of buying either a GPS or a Kindle for the past few years and have never been able to decide between the two. When I learned about this watch, it made that decision easy: I just ordered a Garmin running watch in lieu of either a GPS or Kindle. I’m very, very exciting about it. Today I meant to do 15 miles; I ended up doing 14.7, and if I had a watch that calculating distance, I would have run around the block to make it an even 15. Do any of you use any kind of tracking gadget while exercising? Do you like it? What do you use?

Yesterday I got to try some vegan doughnuts from Revolution Doughnuts in Decatur/Atlanta. Doughnuts are something I love and miss, and something I have not been able to make very successfully. These were GREAT doughnuts. They have both cake and yeast style; in Boston I grew up eating cake style, and had never had a yeast doughnut, but after having tried them yesterday, I think I’m sold on them. I still like the cake doughnuts, but there’s something so satisfying about the spring and chew of a yeast doughnut. We got a variety of flavors: cinnamon sugar (cake), chocolate glazed (both cake and yeast), strawberry lemonade (yeast), vanilla glazed (yeast), coconut (cake), and almond-covered (cake). My favorite was the vanilla glazed (gasp! what a shock!) but they were all good. It seemed like they used the same dough for each doughnut and the flavor was all in the glaze; this is probably typical, but somehow I was expecting the vanilla and strawberry lemonade doughnuts to have more flavor than just the flavored glaze. Still, though, delicious. It does bring up my never-ending desire to create the perfect at-home vegan doughnut recipe. The baked ones never are quite the same, and yet I cannot get the hang of frying; plus, I have never achieved the perfect dough consistency. I think this is a project I will embark upon in the fall. 🙂

I have some new recipes coming up, for some new no-bake bars, and ice cream. I had pictures of both but somehow they’ve disappeared from my picture list (AND I think I already deleted them from the camera….UGH!). I guess I’ll just have to make more and take more pictures. 🙂

 

 

Sunday Running Round-up and Minty Chocolate No-Bake Bars

This week’s runs were sort of pitiful. I need to get into marathon-training mode! Since my 15-miler a few weeks ago, I’ve had mostly uninspired runs. I had a few good hilly runs while in Boston a few weeks ago, but that’s about it.

too much light, but you can see the three distinct layers: slightly crunchy crust with a wholesome texture from oats; smooth frosting-ish layer with strong flavors of mint and vanilla; and soft, sweet chocolate on top. Divine.

This week’s runs: Monday 0, Tuesday and Wednesday,  3 each; Thursday 0; Friday 3; Saturday 5; and today, a sloggish 10. I woke up at 4:30 (!!!!) today in order to get up and at ’em prior to the wretched heat setting in too badly. It was still pretty darn hot, but at least the sun was mostly not out. I went through almost all of the water in my CamelBak, which is somewhat shocking for only a 10-miler. I dread longer runs in August….I may end up having to buy a new, bigger CamelBak. Ugh.

To reward myself, and to help with end-of-the-semester grading, I made some minty chocolate no- bake bars, based loosely on this recipe from www.loveveggiesandyoga.com: http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2009/11/vegan-creme-de-menthe-bars-no.html It is WAY too hot to turn on the oven; luckily, with this recipe you don’t have to! I used the microwave for the second and third layers, and only used the stove for the crust layer.

not enough light! You get the idea, though.

I’ve made this recipe a number of times, but I’ve never followed it exactly because I’ve never used nuts in the crust.

This is the only piece I ate. Right. Ahem.

Here’s what I did this time. I think the bars came out the best ever, and will make it this way again:

-I used all ground oats for the crust, and I melted the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder in with the margarine. This made the crust layer all fudgy. In fact, it was so good I think it could stand on its own. Note to self: make no-cook fudge using ground oats, cocoa powder, and confectioners’ sugar. NOW.

-I used just a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder in the crust layer, and about 2 1/2 tablespoons of margarine

-I used quite a bit of vanilla in the crust – 2 teaspoons, maybe?

-I used 2 tablespoons of margarine in the frosting layer, and lots of vanilla and peppermint extract

-I used about 2 tablespoons of margarine in the chocolate topping

Other variations I’ve made: crushed Oreos and margarine for the crust (yummy but crumbly) and combinations of whole and ground oats in the crust.

Vegan Peach-Blackberry Crisp and PureFit Bars

Peach Blackberry Crisp with Almond Topping and the BEST homemade vegan ice cream EVER (recipe coming soon!)

 

Oh my GOODNESS, it is hot here in the South! I stumbled through a 5-ish mile run this morning, and I really need to walk the dogs….but it is SO HOT! I’m not sure they even want to go.

The less cooking/baking in this weather, the better. Tonight’s dinner was a massive Thai curry, with tons of farmers’ market veggies: zucchini, squash, white eggplant, carrots, kale – YUM! The white egglants were surprisingly tender and did not have a strong flavor, as purple eggplants usually have. I also made some spring rolls, which I’ll post about later.

I haven’t turned on the oven in almost a week! Last week I made this crisp/cobbler (what’s the difference, anyways?), also with farmers’ market peaches and blackberries.  It was so good! We served it to two sets of guests and everyone loved it. I used almond extract in the crisp topping because I was out of vanilla (gasp! horrors!) and I really like almond, particularly with fruit. Use either or both!

Fruit:

1 dozen peaches, sliced

3-4 cups fresh blackberries

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white flour

Topping:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

salt, to taste (1/2 – 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract, optional (but totally delicious!)

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance or Fleischmann’s unsalted

1/4 cup coconut oil

Method:

Put the fruit in a bowl; sprinkle with flour and sugar and stir gently until well-combined.

Peaches and blackberries mixed with the sugar and flour

 

Put flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the margarine and coconut oil until the mixture resembles coarse sand with  a few pebbles thrown in. Add the extract(s) and stir to combine.

Put fruit into 2 9 x 13 pans, or other similarly sized pans. Pour topping on top and press down gently to ensure the fruit is covered. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and topping is a nice light brown. Serve with your favorite vegan ice cream.

A few weeks ago, I won a box of PureFit bars, www.purefit.com,  from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com.

These. Bars. Are. AMAZING. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I’ve never had one before, and they were billed as high-protein and I’m not usually a high-protein kind of gal. Every now and then I buy a Luna or Clif bar, but in general I don’t buy bars. However, I will buy PureFit if I happen to see them at Whole Foods (or anywhere else). I got the Almond Crunch flavor. There was a distinct, but not too strong or bitter, almond flavor. I was worried that there would be too much crunch for my taste, but instead of being crunchy, the bar was dense and chewy with just little pieces (tiny) of almond that gave the bar  a nice texture. I don’t like big chunks of nuts in my food, and these bars definitely did not have that. The bar is not a granola bar; it is denser and chewier than a granola bar. However, as the wrapper proclaims, it does not melt – even after being left in a car in the southern heat! The bar was sweet without being overly sweet. I find Luna and Clif bars to be too sweet, most of the time; these were NOT too sweet. Score!

I’m not big on calorie counting or fat counting or any of that, but these seemed to have good nutrition. The Almond Crunch bars have 220 calories and 18 (!!!) grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. I like a bar/snack witha  good amount of fiber and/or fat, to help keep me full. These bars were GREAT in that regard – as a quick breakfast or snack, they really tided me over to the next meal. I have started stashing one in my bag on the days I’m running from one courthouse to another – they are a tasty, wholesome, filling snack on the go.

http://purefit.com/nutrition-info

PureFit has several flavors – Cherry Almond, Brownie, Peanut Butter Crunch, Granola Crunch – AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS VEGAN!!! That is just totally awesome. I love finding a product line that is 100% vegan – it is so convenient to NOT have to read labels. They are all gluten-free, too. Definitely worth trying, especially if you want  a bar that is not sickeningly sweet and has a solid dose of protein.

Friday Fun (….on a Saturday) and Vegan Chocolate Chip – Coconut – Peanut Butter Bars, a/k/a Beach Bars

I had a lot of fun stuff to blog about Friday, but I had a gig last night (which was part of the fun) and was too tired to blog when I got home. I think I’m going to start a ‘Friday Fun’ series, sort of like the ‘Thursday Things’ series I see some bloggers do.

But before the fun begins……15 mile run this morning! Woo-hoo! All while listening to the Brahms requiem (twice). I set out to do 11 or 12 miles, but I took a  wrong turn, which turned out to be a beautiful, peaceful, wonderful wrong turn. I’m always happy to increase miles, and this morning’s run was one of the best in recent memory. I did not see a single other runner (normal for here) and very few other people in general. I ran mostly on roads going through farmland. Some time I need to bring my camera with me and take some pictures, because there really is some beautiful countryside here. I love when cows stop grazing to stare at me as I run by, which happens pretty frequently. I also love running by old, falling-down farmhouses/barns….people in the South seem to leave old buildings up even when the buildings are far past repair. I’m sure it’s dangerous to do so, but the buildings are so neat to look at, and it’s fun to imagine how they were used.

The beautiful part of the run was the wrong turn I took, which took me through Mennonite farm country. We have a decent-sized Mennonite population here, and the part of the county in which they live really looks like Pennslyvania. It is hilly, and there are hay bales, and big, open farms with grazing cattle. It was a little sad to realize that all the cattle will be used for meat, but it is beautiful country to run through.

On to the Friday Fun! I was off yesterday, but instead of our normal library-coffee-shop-playground walk, we just walked to the playground. Before that, though, I went to the estate sale of a home down the street from us. I was hoping to find a real coffee maker, which I did not find, but I found a beautiful serving plate (2 bucks!) and a set of 8 blue-and-white candle holders for my mother-in-law. The house is an old arts and crafts style home, and I had always wanted to see inside, so it was neat to be able to. The platter is really cute; I rarely get into plates and such, but I thought it was pretty. As it turns out, it matches the tablecloth we use! Hooray.

The plate is actually a fairly dark green, but it is sunny out today so it looks lighter

I got all 8 of these for 4 bucks! Not bad!

We then went to the playground (an inmate had escaped and was reportedly fleeing near the library, so that cut our walk short! And yes, as a defense attorney I end up knowing about these things more than I really want to) and had a late afternoon playdate; then I went to play at a community college graduation while my husband played at a wedding rehearsal. That meant the girls got to take dinner in their brand-new bento boxes to the neighbor’s house……exciting times for toddlers! They loved eating dinner there, and they loooooove the bento boxes. I was getting tired of packing their lunches in tiny little containers, so I love the new bento boxes too!

I made these cookie bars a few weeks ago when my book club took a weekend trip to one of the barrier islands. I thought they were good, but my book club went crazy for them. I made them again a few days ago to perfect the recipe. Again, I think they’re good but not great, but everyone else who tries them looooves them. The coconut milk trick is borrowed from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com, who has a lot of recipes involving ‘flooding’ bars with sweetened condensed milk. My bars aren’t as gooey as hers, but I bet they would be with more coconut milk. A cup is all I had on hand, but a full can would probably produce more gooiness. Her bars always love beautiful. I tried making vegan sweetened condensed milk once, using coconut milk, corn syrup, and some other stuff, but it did not work. Oh well. Straight coconut milk is yummy and better for you, right?

I’ve named them Beach Bars in honor of our book group’s trip to the beach.

1 stick Earth Balance or other vegan margarine (1/2 cup)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons almond milk, or soy milk, or whatever

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

about 1 cup chocolate chips

about 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or more chips

1 cup coconut milk

Method:

cream margarine and peanut butter; cream in brown sugar. Mix in vanilla, salt, and almond milk; mix until well combined. Add in flour, salt, and baking soda to combine. Dough will be fairly stiff. Press into a 9 x 13. Sprinkle chips and coconut on top. Pour coconut milk on top of chips. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.

My lil’ old point-and-shoot camera is not so good for close-ups of food. Oh well.