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My Take on Heidi Swanson’s Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

18 Sep

Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks is one of my favorite sources for cooking inspiration.  I had seen this carrot oatmeal cookie recipe several months earlier, but like with many things, I see it, file it away in my mind, and later it pops back up when the right moment arrives.  That’s what happened with these cookies.  One day I decided it was time.  Also, the only ingredient I didn’t have was the coconut oil, which I had been meaning to experiment with.  Be sure to use virgin coconut oil, because it still smells and tastes like coconut.  Making these cookies was a great sensory experience.  The smell of the coconut oil permeates the air, and the oil gives these cookies a creamy sort of quality that I just love.  Extra virgin or virgin coconut oil can be on the pricey side, but it’s totally worth it.  I adjusted the ingredients of these cookies slightly from Heidi’s recipe. I used brown rice syrup to sweeten them, while she uses an equal amount of maple syrup.  One of the great qualities of this cookie is that it’s not too sweet–it’s just sweet enough to be a nice treat, but it’s not too much.  Heidi also uses whole wheat pastry flour, while I used white whole wheat flour.    It’s the same concept–white whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour have a lighter texture than whole wheat flour, making them more appropriate for baking.  Otherwise, I used the recipe exactly.  I do paraphrase a lot in the recipe below–this is not exact verbiage from Heidi’s recipe.  I also add a lot of my own commentary.

Ingredients (includes my substitutions)

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

About 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded carrots (this ended up being about 2 medium carrots)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup (I think honey would work as a substitute as well, as would the maple syrup Heidi uses in the original recipe)

1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil warmed until just melted-it should  be about  the consistency of softened butter  (you’ll know it’s unrefined if it smells like coconut!)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (to make it easier on myself, I used a teaspoon of the jarred grated ginger I keep in my refrigerator, but go ahead and use fresh is you have it and you so desire)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal.  Add the carrots and walnuts.  In smaller bowl, mix together the coconut oil, brown rice syrup, and ginger. Add wet mixture to the flour mixture until just combined.

Roll into balls of more or less equal size and place onto the cookie sheets.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are golden brown on top and around the edges.


Banana-Date Scones

3 Jan

Scones are a love of mine.  They’re great with my morning coffee, and make a great afternoon snack.  Most scone recipes involve quite a lot of butter, but this recipe is an exception.  It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Veganomicon (page 224), and has very little oil in it.  I am not a vegan, but I do enjoy experimenting with vegan cooking.  Veganomicon has so many interesting and creative recipes, and has helped me expand my culinary horizons.

One of the things I also love about this recipe is that it gives me yet another way to use overripe bananas that never fail to make an appearance on my kitchen counter.  I buy bananas with the intention of eating them that way, but they always beat me to the punch and get too ripe.  Even a few spots make a banana unappealing to me.  I almost never waste them, though, and use them to make banana bread, muffins, scones, or pancakes.  I also love, love, LOVE dates and walnuts, and aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you want a natural air freshener for your home, just bake something containing those spices.  I enjoy making a batch of scones and freezing them.  That way, I can pull them out one at a time and microwave them for breakfast.

I made some changes to the original recipe.  I used entirely white whole wheat flour, which you can usually substitute pretty well for white flour.  I also used soy milk instead of rice milk.  Other than that, I pretty closely followed the original recipe.


8 ounces of dates

1 T all-purpose flour

3-4 overripe, mashed bananas

2 T ground flax seed

1/3 cup soy milk or rice milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup brown rice syrup (in a pinch, you could also use 1/4 cup sugar)

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour, or 1 cup white and 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Mash the bananas using a fork or a pastry blender.  Chop the dates (watch out for the pits), and mix in a small bowl with 1 T flour to prevent the dates from sticking together.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flax seed with the soy or rice milk.  Then, add in the mashed banana, canola oil, and the brown rice syrup.   Set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix the flour mixture with the banana mixture.  Then, fold in the dates and walnuts.

Oil a 1/2 cup measuring cup.  Get out a large cookie sheet.  You can either spray or grease the cookie sheet to prevent sticking.  Scoop out dough using the measuring cup onto the cookie sheet, leaving around 3 inches between scones.

Bake the scones for about 30 minutes.  Because ovens differ, check on the scones after about 20 minutes.  They should be browned on the outside.

A Saturday Russian Feast!

22 Nov

This will be a 4-in1 post–four recipes in one post!  I’ve never shared so much cooking fun in one day!  My Russian friend Ksenia invited me and a few friends to her host family’s house for a fabulous Russian feast.  What a terrific day for food and drink!  There were four courses to this meal, so this post may prove to be long…..But the common theme of the day is that everything we made has only a few simple ingredients with simple preparation.

From left to right, Ksenia, me, Michelle, and Sarah

I made borscht, a bright magenta soup made of beets, potato, cabbage, carrots, onion, dill, and vegetable broth, topped with plain, whole milk yogurt.  Michelle brought a simple Russian salad she ate often while she lived in Russia, and Sarah brought vodka, Kahlua, and cream to make White Russians, which is probably a very un-Russian drink.  Except that it contains vodka as a key element.  Ksenia made crepes using her grandmothers batter recipe.  So authentic!

Let’s start with the borscht.  There seem to be a million ways of making borscht–the only common element seems to be that all borschts are made with beets.  Ok, fair enough.  Borscht=soup containing beets.  I got it.  Here is the recipe for my borscht:


(Makes about 6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium beets

3 medium carrots

1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion

1 russet potato

1 or 2 cups cabbage

8 cups of water or vegetable broth (I used a few tablespoons of Better than Bouillon organic vegetable broth paste, mixed with 8 cups of water)

3 tablespoons dill (it’s really, really hard to get too much dill)

Salt and pepper to taste

A few splashes of red wine vinegar


Peel and chop the vegetables into roughly the same size.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, and stir to coat the onion in the oil.  Cook just a few minutes, then add the beets, carrots, and potato.  Stir to mix and coat in the oil.

Fill the pot with the broth or water, turn up to high, add a few teaspoons of salt, and grind some pepper into the soup.  When you soup comes to a boil, turn down to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add the cabbage and cook for 10 minutes more.  Make sure the beets are tender to test if the soup is done–they will be the last of the vegetables to finish cooking.  Once the cooking is finished, get out your blender.  Strain the vegetables using a slotted spoon (big spoon with holes in it), and add them to the blender.  Add a few ladles of broth.  Puree.  Dump your newly pureed soup into a separate large bowl and set aside.  Repeat this process until all the vegetables are pureed, and you’re left with some broth in the pot.  Only fill your blender about 2/3 full, because hot soup in a blender can be a dangerous thing.  Once all the vegetables are pureed, add them back into the pot of broth, and stir.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary–you may need additional salt at this point.  Stir in the dill.  Ladle your soup into bowls, top with more dill if you want, and spoon some yogurt over the top.  Yum!

Russian Salad


3 medium tomatoes

2 cucumbers

1 red bell pepper

1/2 cup fresh dill

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Chop the tomatoes and bell pepper and add them to a large bowl.  Peel the cucumbers and chop, and add to the tomatoes and peppers.  Chop the dill, and toss it with the vegetables, olive oil, and add some salt to taste.

Of course, the White Russians!  Sarah mixing some up:

Sarah’s White Russian formula for two servings:

2 shots vodka

1 shot Kahlua

4 shots half-and-half


Mix and drink.  Repeat.

Last, but certainly not least, Russian crepes!  Ksenia making the inaugural crepe of the afternoon:

Ksenia’s Russian Dessert Crepes


2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

a few pinches of salt and baking soda

2 cups of flour

2 cups of water

1 cup hot milk



Heat a crepe pan or skillet over medium heat.  When I make crepes, I just use my stainless steel skillet and coat it in butter between each crepe to keep them from sticking.  Crepe pans don’t require butter.  Heat the milk in the microwave for about a minute and a half.  Add to a mixing bowl, and beat in the 2 eggs, add the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix using a whisk.

Once the pan is hot, use a ladle and spoon a ladle-full of batter onto the pan.  Immediately pick up the pan and move it around to spread the batter around.  The crepes will only take a minute or two to cook, and don’t really require flipping.  They are so thin that they cook on both sides at once.

For fillings, we used apples, strawberries, ricotta cheese, honey, and sour cream….not necessarily all together!  I spread some ricotta on my crepe, added apples, and a bit of honey.

Wrap up, and enjoy!

What a fun afternoon!  Thanks ladies!

Random-Stuff-From-My-Refrigerator Soup

20 Nov

Perhaps this is not the most interesting or appetizing sounding title for a recipe, but it’s the absolute truth.  I used a base of red beans, their cooking liquid, with some additional water, and added some leftover cremini mushrooms, a few carrots, some frozen corn, and half an onion.  This soup turned out very tasty.  I had a bag of red beans in my freezer, and I soaked them overnight, put them in the crock pot on low, and they cooked while I was at work.  I came home and made this soup within about a half hour.  This is the perfect time of year to make a hearty pot of soup, and this combo turned out to be a winner.

Soups are really excellent ways of cleaning out one’s refrigerator by using odds and ends, especially where vegetables are concerned.  Basically, a soup can be made with any number of combinations of vegetables, grains, beans, herbs, and possibly cheese and/or meat.  I view soups more as a tasty vehicle to get your vegetables easily in one bowl, so I typically keep my soups to the vegetables/herbs/grains/beans combo.

I enjoyed my soup with an Ebenezer Ale from Bridgeport brewery in Portland and a piece of my very own homemade whole wheat baguette with organic butter.  Yum!  Talk about comfort food on a cold day.

Note that my ingredients are approximations–soup is one of those dishes where you can be absolutely flexible on amounts.  Who cares if you don’t have a whole cup of frozen corn?  Use what you have, or, I don’t know, use some frozen peas.

Makes about 4 servings


About 3 cups cooked red beans (adzuki beans are fun), or 2 cans of red beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

1/2 large onion or one medium onion

3 peeled and sliced carrots

1 cup frozen corn

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, cook for a few minutes, then add the carrots, mushrooms, and a bay leaf.  Add a few pinches of salt and some pepper.

Cook, stirring every few minutes, for about 5 minutes.  Then add the frozen corn.

Stir to mix, then add the beans, plus about 3 cups of cooking liquid and 3 cups of water, or 6 cups of water if you’re using canned beans.  Add some salt, about 2 teaspoons.  Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Once the soup boils, turn the heat down to medium and cover.  Cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.  Once the soup is finished cooking, remove the bay leaf .  When the soup cools a bit, taste to determine if you need additional salt.  Grind some pepper over the top, and enjoy with a salad, some bread, and maybe a beer.  I’m really enjoying the seasonal beers, like Ebenezer.

If you want to make your own refrigerator soup, all you really do is follow these same steps–heat some oil, saute some veggies, add some liquid along with beans and/or grains, bring to a boil, turn down to medium, and cook until the vegetables are tender.  That’s it!

Blue Potato Soup with Rosemary

8 Nov

I’ve created a blue soup!  And it’s not like the blue soup in Bridget Jones’ Diary–the blue in my soup is from some lovely blue potatoes, not blue string.  Blue potatoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I used some small ones.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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This soup is basically pureed cooked blue potatoes with rosemary, milk, pepper, and salt.  Here I used fresh rosemary but you can use dried if you prefer.

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About 1 pound blue potatoes, sliced to roughly the same size

About 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, less if you’re using dried (around 1/2 tablespoon)

Salt and pepper to taste

About 1 cup milk or soy milk

Potato cooking liquid


First, place the sliced potatoes in a pot of water over high heat.  Bring to a boil, and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Drain the potatoes, but reserve the cooking liquid to use as the liquid base of your soup.  Place about half the potatoes in your blender, half the milk, a few pinches of salt, pepper, and a few cups of the cooking liquid.

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Do not fill up the blender–only fill it about 1/2 to 2/3 full.  A full blender of hot liquid and vegetables is a recipe for disaster, for obvious reasons.  Give the blender a whirl until the potatoes are pureed, for just a few seconds.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Puree the rest of the potatoes and a few more cups of liquid, salt, and pepper.  Once pureed, add to the first batch in bowl, add the rosemary, and stir a few times.  Taste, and add additional salt if necessary.  Your blue soup will look like this:

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Baked Apples

8 Nov

This is like eating apple pie but with no crust!  I also added my own twist by using raisins. It’s a very easy fall dessert:  simple yet luxurious.

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For two servings:

Preheat oven to 350.

3 medium apples (you can use any kind of apples really, but I used Golden Delicious)

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2  teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinammon

1/2 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons raisins

Cut the apples into fours, and slice out the core.  Place in a small glass baking dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and the butter cut into small chunks.  Give it a stir.  Cover it with foil, and bake for about 30 minutes.  Your apples will look like this:

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Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes with Lentils, Arugula, and Goat Cheese

1 Nov

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I may be about to expand your definition of a salad.  This one contains lentils, vegetables, and arugula, and has no dressing.  A vinaigrette dressing would be good here, but I didn’t find it necessary at all–the salad has plenty of flavor without a dressing.  I like to experiment with salads combining lentils or beans, a type of grain, an herb or green leafy vegetable like spinach, and vegetables or fruit.  For example, I recently made a salad with millet (an underused grain a lot of people are unfamiliar with except as it applies to bird seed), black beans, cilantro, mango, and a red wine vinaigrette dressing.  Yum!

Salads that contain legumes, grains, veggies, fruits, and the like are great for a main dish, unlike a salad composed of mostly lettuce.  The legumes, in this case the lentils, are very satisfying and keep you full for a while.  It’s really a great lunch dish–easy to pack and you don’t even have to heat it up if you don’t want to.

It’s getting colder, and this time of year root vegetables come in season.  Root vegetables include beets, sweet potatoes,  potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, and others.  In this salad, I used beets and sweet potatoes because I happened to have sweet potato and because I am trying to find more ways to eat beets.  However, you can use any one root vegetable or a combination of 2 or more.  I like the beets and sweet potatoes in this salad, because they are sweet and pair nicely with the hearty lentils.  Lentils are easier to cook than other types of beans–no need to pre-soak, and they take less than 30 minutes to cook.

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Lentils are charming.  I really think I like them better than just about any other legume.  For this recipe, I used green lentils, aka standard lentils.  There are other varieties you can use as well, but don’t use red lentils.  They are smaller, thinner, and lose their shape in a hurry.  They literally turn to mush after 30 minutes in a boiling pot of water, and are much better suited to making a soup, like Indian daal.

So, for the ingredients and amounts:

2 medium sweet potatoes

3 medium beets

Or…a combination of other roots to equal about the same weight (2 lbs, give or take a little) Carrots and blue potatoes would be a fun combo for a salad like this too.

1 cup dried green lentils

About 4 cups of water for cooking the lentils

Salt and pepper to taste

3 big handfuls of fresh arugula (baby spinach is a good substitute)

2 oz. goat cheese

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil, toss in the lentils, turn the heat down to medium, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.  Do not salt the lentils until after they cook.  Salt hardens beans and they take much longer to cook if they are salted.   You may make the lentils ahead of time if you like.  Once cooked, uncover and remove lentils from heat to cool. Then, drain the liquid using a strainer.  Add salt to taste.

Peel and chop the beets and sweet potatoes.  Mostly uniform pieces are important here–if you have giant pieces and small pieces together, the big pieces will take much longer to cook.  Exactness is unimportant, but basic uniformity is your goal.  Check out the sweet potatoes:

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Wear an apron and know that your cutting board will be stained when you handle the beets.  I love beets, but they stain everything.  A photo of beet surgery:

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Once your vegetables are chopped, place them in a medium mixing bowl and toss with a few pinches of salt, pepper, and the olive oil.

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Then, spread on a cookie sheet.

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Bake for about 35-40 minutes.  The beets won’t be as tender as the sweet potatoes, but will still be easy to pierce with a fork.  Then, mix the vegetables with the lentils.  Stir in the arugula and top with the goat cheese.  Taste and add salt if necessary.