Friday Favorite: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

Today’s Friday Favorite is – gasp – not a Happy Herbivore recipe. Shocking, I know. Nor is it a savory recipe like the last two have been. Instead, it’s a sweet recipe from my very first (and much-loved, if currently underused) vegan cookbook: Vegan with a Vengeance. VwaV is full of tried-and-true recipes, and I’ll likely include them in future Friday Favorite posts. But today I want to highlight a relatively simple recipe that I’ve made repeatedly, and always with excellent results.

An upturned palm holding two small chocolate cookies with jam in the center; one is filled with a light orange apricot jam and the other is filled with a red cherry jam.

Cooooookies.

Check out my vintage food photography, circa 2009! I’m holding the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies here. One is filled with cherry jam, and the other with apricot. I can never decide which variety I like best – usually it’s the one I’m eating at the moment. :) I’ve made these cookies quite a few times, and I posted about them here when I brought them to a gathering of friends.

I always adjust the recipe, substituting vegetable oil for the peanut oil and extra vanilla extract for the almond extract, to make it nut-free for my family and friends with allergies. However, I once made an experimental version with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter centers, rendering them totally unfit for folks with allergies, but also totally delicious for those of us who can partake of peanuts. No matter how much I tinker with this recipe, I always get the most delicious, chewy morsels of chocolate-y goodness. And that, friends, is the sign of a worthy Friday Favorite.

What’s your most tried-and-true cookie recipe? What recipes do you love from VwaV?

Today, I am the Cookie Monstaaah

Happy Tuesday, all! I’m glad to hear that some of you also enjoy young adult literature – and thanks to Theresa for bringing a new [to me] YA book series to my attention! I’m going to have to see if the library has these available, because I’m in need of some more easy, enjoyable reads. :)

Other than YA novels, I also enjoy cookies, and today I am massively enjoying the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from VWAV. OH MY GOSH. They sound so simple and, perhaps, boring, but I LOVE them. Or, rather, I’m addicted to them. But that’s the same as thing as love, right?

And you thought crack was a white powder. As if.

The thing is, I don’t even know WHY they’re so addicting. Maybe because they’re both chewy and soft all at once? Or because the pumpkin flavor is subtle and pleasing, not in-yo-face obnoxious? Or because the chopped walnuts are such a nice surprise? I so rarely think to add nuts to my cookies (my sista is allergic to them) that when I do, it’s always a revelation. I also – shockingly! – added Zante currants to my cookies, because I’ve had a box of these fellas sitting in the pantry for far too long. Luckily, they don’t taste at all like raisins (i.e. like bloated, nasty, gross-flavored bugs) in baked goods, and I barely noticed them in my cookies.

Anyway, I don’t know quite what it is about these guys that has captured my heart, but I’m hooked (or “hookied,” as I just typed… hooked + cookies?). I made a half batch last night, and… well… it’s almost gone. Lest you think “oh, a half batch isn’t that much,” let me tell you that the “half batch” resulted in about 24 cookies. Granted, they were small (only 3 or 4 bites each), but still. Pig, much? I’m addicted; it’s not my fault!

Do you like raisins in your cookies? What about other add-ins?

Yummy Things That I Have Made

Okay, that’s it – I’m officially retiring the whole “I just moved to a new city and started a new job and therefore have no time to blog!!1!111!” excuse. I mean, I’ve been here for a good two and a half months, for crying out loud!  Now that I’m all settled into my new life, I’ve been doing lots more baking and cooking than I was at first. So I hereby promise to post more regularly from this point forward.

…and now let me show you a few photos with minimal text. What? I’ve had a busy weekend, by which I mean I went ice skating for the first time in some fifteen years in a misguided attempt to replicate all the fantastic feats of athleticism seen in the Olympics. Yeah… fail. I ain’t no Apolo Anton Ohno. Anyway, these are some photos that’ve been hibernating in my iPhoto for a while now, so I’m going to show them a little bit o’ love. Totally less than they deserve, but c’est la vie.

Peanutty, eggplanty goodness.

A while back, I bought an eggplant and wanted to do something exciting and new with it. As any self-respecting vegan would do, I headed over to the PPK in search of inspiration. Inspiration came in the form of an intriguing recipe for Spicy Peanut Eggplant and Shallot Stew, a combination of ingredients too bizarre to pass up. Despite the fact that I had no shallots, peanut oil, roasted diced tomatoes, fresh ginger, chilis, green beans, or cilantro, the recipe was very forgiving – I replaced the green beans with peas and improvised for the other missing ingredient, and the results were surprisingly tasty. I still have a serving of this in the freezer, waiting to be brought to work for a yummy lunch one day soon. Two thumbs up!

Samosas... and beyond!

There’s a lot going on here. Let me draw your attention to the foreground – those are some damn tasty Potato-Edamame Samosas from VWaV. I whipped up those beauties for a Super Bowl party a co-worker held, and they were well-received by everyone except her two-year-old, who took one bite and immediately spat it into his hand before dumping the soggy samosa-bit onto a plate. I learned that he later developed a fondness for the samosas and actually enjoyed them – score! Anyway, this is a really excellent recipe. The samosa filling has a great blend of flavors, and I had so much of it left over that I ate it straight-up, as you can see in the photo. This huge dinner featured samosa filling, actual samosas, baby carrots, and roasted cauliflower with so-called Indian Barbecue Sauce. Nom to the zillionth power!

Check out those exposed apple bits! Shocking!

Last but not least, check out this amazing Apple Pie-Crumb Cake Muffin, also from VWaV. I don’t think you can tell from the photo, but this is one giant muffin – for Christmas I got one of those tins that makes 6 big ol’ muffins, and this was my first time using it. Oh my gosh, guys – these muffins are absolutely spectacular. They’re moist and amazingly flavorful, even though I used plain ol’ apple juice instead of apple cider. I also replaced some of the oil with applesauce to cut down a bit on the fat content. And even though I used some seriously old and mealy apples in these guys, they were seriously delicious.

Aaand that concludes my sad little return to srs blogging. Coming soon: a post filled with the fruits of rampant consumerism. Ooer.

Pixiepine Swag & a Chocolate-Covered Breakfast

A package full o’ wonders made its way into my mailbox a few days ago. I was so excited to win Pixiepine‘s smoothie and drink mix giveaway, because look at all the awesome swag I received:

A whole lotta yummy!

Everything was wrapped in some beautifully cut tissue paper, but unfortunately it got a little ripped up and didn’t photograph well. :( But at least the contents survived unscathed! Yesterday, I tried out this Natural Calm powder mix.

Calming cows?

I mixed the packet with hot water as instructed and drank it like tea. The flavor was… interesting; it was sort of sour and I couldn’t really take more than a few sips at a time. But between bites of my cereal, I had no problem finishing my mug. I don’t know if I necessarily felt calmer after drinking it, but I’ve got so much going on right now that I doubt anything other than a stiff drink could mellow me out! ;P

This morning, I tried out one of the products I was most excited to receive – Amazing Grass Chocolate Green SuperFood. I knew I didn’t want to just drink this in a smoothie, but what else could I do? Hmm…

How mysterious...

What could be behind that packet?! Well, last night I remembered Katie‘s post about using it in super healthy pancakes! Chocolate for breakfast? Um, yes, please!

I think Katie must be psychic, because I woke up this morning to find her post about chocoholics in my Google Reader. Needless to say, this further solidified my resolve to make a delicious chocolate-covered breakfast. I decided to make a recipe mash-up for my pancakes, mixing Katie’s recipe with Isa’s pancake recipe from VWAV. Here are the results!

SuperFood? You better believe it!

These were yummy, but not quite perfect. I used half a banana, but next time I’ll use applesauce because I’m a freak who doesn’t really like bananas. And I used a flax egg, but I don’t know if that was actually necessary. I am glad that I used blackstrap molasses, though; you can’t beat that little boost of calcium! Anyway, here’s the first version of my recipe for Chocolate SuperFood Pancakes. You really can’t go wrong with a batch of ~8 pancakes that include 7 servings of fruits and vegetables!

Chocolate SuperFood Pancakes
Ingredients
3/4 cup flour (I used a blend of AP and whole wheat)
1 packet Amazing Grass Chocolate SuperFood
1 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 flax “egg” (1 T ground flax whisked with 3 T warm water… optional!)
1/2 small banana, mashed (or 1/3 cup applesauce)
3/4 cup vanilla rice milk
1 1/2 T blackstrap molasses
1 T Sugar in the Raw
Healthy handful chocolate chips
H2O as necessary

Make your flax egg and set it aside. Sift all dry ingredients except the sugar into a large bowl and mix. In another bowl, mix all wet ingredients plus the sugar and whisk together. Add the flax egg and whisk some more. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. If the batter is too thick, add tablespoonfuls of water until it reaches a good consistency. Throw in your chocolate chips, mix it all up, and cook on a lightly oiled pan over a medium burner. Voila!

Short ‘n Sweet: Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m keeping things short and sweet tonight, mostly because there’s not much to say about peanut butter cookies. It’s peanut butter… in a cookie. With chocolate chips, if you’re me. You really can’t go wrong.

I made the Crispy Peanut Butter Cookies from Vegan With a Vengeance tonight. Actually, I think these are the first straight-up vegan p.b. cookies I’ve ever made; I baked a batch of the Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies from VWAV last year, but yeah, not exactly the same. These are simple cookies that get the job done. What else is there to say?

Actually, I will say that these cookies are more sandy than crispy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I prefer a chewier cookie, but still. They didn’t hold together very well during the baking sheet —> cooling rack transfer, although I might’ve been a little overzealous in my transferral and moved them before they were properly cooled. Whatever; they’re still tasty enough. I can’t say I’d rush to use this particular recipe again, but that’s due to personal preference more than major recipe fail.

Don’t worry  – my final two MoFo posts will be way more creative than this one. Pinky swear!

Tried and True and Tried Again

Having go-to recipes is fun. I get a funny little thrill when I can say, “Oh, yeah, this is my go-to recipe for awesome cookies,” or “Isa’s Bakery-Style Berry Muffin recipe from Vegan Brunch is a no-fail delight.” It makes me feel like a real cook, y’know, like I’m starting to chalk up a sizable amount of experience points in the kitchen. Go-to recipes are solid and reliable; the results are predictable and comforting in that predictability. I appreciate that in a recipe. I really do.

But sometimes, you’ve just gotta mix things up a bit.

I’ve been craving super-chocolaty cookies for a few days now, so last night I decided to rely on a fall-back recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance – the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. I’ve made these a few times in the past – and mentioned them once – and even when I make them too big and kind of obscene-looking, they still taste damn good with cherry or apricot preserves in the center. But after my post on innovation in the kitchen, I felt like messing with a good thing. I meant to do it that very night, but it was late and I live with my parents and I didn’t think they’d appreciate me banging around in the kitchen and whatnot. So my experimentation was postponed ’til last night.

And, oh, what a lovely experiment it was. I decided to use Hershey’s Extra Dark cocoa in my cookies, because I’ve fallen hard for the beautifully dark color and sinfully rich depth of chocolate flavor that Dutch-processed cocoa imparts to baked goods. And I also decided that the perfect pairing for dark chocolate cookies just had to be peanut butter. So I made two versions of these chocolate-peanut butter delights; for most of the cookies, I just put a small bit of peanut butter  into the thumbprint-y center of the cookies. I thought it’d create something like the inversion of those peanut butter cookies that are ubiquitous at holiday parties, you know, the ones with Hershey’s Kisses in the center? I imagined a cross between those and the original Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. But because I’d mixed the peanut butter with confectioner’s sugar to make it a little more solid and to sweeten it up, it didn’t spread in the center like jam usually does in thumbprint cookies and thus just kind of made a little peanut buttery blob in the middle. Which, if you think about it, is pretty akin to those holiday cookies. It just wasn’t what I was hoping to achieve; I’d wanted it to spread out a bit, to create a little pool of peanut butter… not a lump. See what I mean?


(This photo is horrible. Please forgive me.)

Luckily, my second experiment yielded much yummier results. I added enough confectioner’s sugar to the peanut butter so that it reached an almost dough-like consistency, and then I rolled this into smallish logs and twirled them with thicker logs of the chocolate cookie dough, creating a marbled, swirly-type effect. I used to make clay beads with this technique all the time, and cookie dough is just edible clay, right? Heh. In any case, the marbly cookies were the stars of the bunch – the contrast between the rich chocolate and the salty, stickier peanut butter is amazing. I wish I’d done this for all the cookies!

All in all, my experiment was a success, I’d say. Reese’s were always my favorite candy in my pregan days, and I think I’ve found a way to approximate that flavor contrast in cookie form. Hooray!

Veg-innovation: Improvisation in the Kitch

Last night, my mom decided to make something to bring on a day trip to visit out-of-state family. She wanted to use up some of the apples we’d picked a few weeks back and came to me for help choosing a recipe. The first thing that popped into my mind was the Apple Pie-Crumb Cake Muffin recipe from VWAV; I’ve never made them before but have wanted to try them for a while now. Mom thought they sounded excellent, but then while she was skimming the ingredient list she noticed that it called for apple cider.

“Oh no! We don’t have any apple cider! My plans are ruined!” she wailed.*

“Mom,” I said, calmly, “We have apples. We have a juicer. Just use fresh apple juice instead.”

“Ah. Well, I suppose I could do that… but apple cider is different than apple juice! It’s tarter! And, um, fermented!”

I sighed. “Yeah, but do you really think the muffins will be utterly ruined and inedible because you substitute one apple-based liquid for another? C’mon now, woman! Don’t be afraid – experiment in the kitchen!”

Experiment she did, and I’m happy to say that Mom’s muffins came out perfectly, as any muffin recipe by Isa is wont to do. But the point here is not that Isa is a muffin goddess but that my forays into vegan cooking have helped me to loosen up when I’m in the kitchen. Yes, it’s true – I used to be like my mother, scared to alter a recipe for fear something awful would happen, oh noez!1!!!11! Having always been a rule-abiding, authority-fearing good little girl, the discovery that I could use my intuition and my creative side in the kitchen was truly a liberating experience.

Today, even though I still love following recipes, I’m much more creative than ever when it comes to cooking. I am learning how to improvise, how to sense which ingredients would pair well with which spice, how to size up the state of my cookie dough and decide that, yes, it needs more flour, and – gasp – even how to eyeball measurements. For an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, that’s a big step forward, folks. I never thought that I’d be capable of coming up with recipes of my own; somehow, the idea of experimenting with food always scared me a little bit. But how silly is that?! It’s just food! It’s not like I’m going to create Frankenstein’s monster and then have to chase it across the Arctic whilst contemplating nature vs. nurture and the duties of a creator! The worst that can happen is that I come up with an inedible mess that I have to throw in the compost. Big deal.

Nope, I’m not afraid any more, and I have vegan food – and vegan food blogs – to thank for all that. Without having discovered all these amazing veg*n blogs last year, I would never have had the courage to start trying new ingredients and to start experimenting in the kitchen. But I am so, so glad I did. So thank you, veganism, and thank you, vegan bloggers, for helping me to find a new passion and to break out of my rule-abiding, scaredy-cat shell!

…and now I’m off to mess around with a tried-and-true recipe from VWAV. ;)

*I may be exaggerating slightly for effect. Possibly. Just a little bit.

Deliveries & Delicacies

Yesterday, the UPS truck drove up to my house. As my little doggies reached epic levels of barking frenzy, the delivery man deposited this innocent-looking package on my front step.

A mystery!

Hmm, what could it be?

Aha!

Aha! Of course – it’s the spiralizer I won from Katie‘s contest a few weeks ago! Just look at this lovely little lady.

Pretty girl.

Ain’t she a beaut’?

Alas, I haven’t yet broken in my new friend yet. She arrived yesterday just before dinnertime, and as my dear daddy was already making a delicious dinner feast, I didn’t want to usurp his role as top chef for the night. But rest assured that some super spiralized meals while be making their way onto my little blog in the very near future!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quick photo from this morning’s breakfast. After spending a wonderful week with my boyfriend, best friend, and another close friend from college, I’m in a bit of a funk now that they’ve left. What better way to cheer myself up than by making french toast and dousing them in locally-made maple syrup?!

French yum!

Yum. While this tasty breakfast didn’t quite salve my saddened heart, it definitely helped to ease my woes. My visiting aunt and uncle – who are both vegan! – have never made vegan french toast before and were amazed by how “real” it looked. I’ll have to share the VWaV recipe with them in the future. :)

The Great Cake Debacle (and some raspberry-chocolate goodness)

Fun fact about me: I hate failure. Obviously nobody likes it much, but it seriously grates at me. As a perfectionist with OCD, I can’t stand when things don’t work out correctly. Failure is like a festering wound into which I keep pouring salt in the form of continually obsessing about what went wrong and why things didn’t turn out perfectly. I feel the compulsive need to fix my problem, to make it right. Bear that in mind as I spin the following tail of woe.

On Wednesday evening, my family had a little get-together because my darling baby sister is going away to college in a few days, and we wanted to send her off properly. I found myself in charge of providing sustenance in the form of desserts of my sister’s choosing. First she decided that the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance sounded mighty fine, so that went on the list, and after procuring a few choice items, we threw together the blondies with no problem. They came out perfectly; the Lindt dark chocolate bits we used in place of chocolate chips contrasted most deliciously with the raspberry filling. These were a huge hit – and they didn’t look too shabby, either.

Chocolate and raspberry delight.

Tantalizing, no? But we had to make something else, because a proper dessert gathering is all about having options. So, after much hemming and hawing, Sister Dearest decided she wanted something lemony. A lemon cake, perhaps.

But where to look for a sophisticated, lightly lemony cake recipe? It was obvious to me. I headed over to Have Cake, Will Travel to see what Celine could offer. I found perfection in the form of her Lemony French Cake. You all need to go check out Celine’s gorgeous photos of this cake to understand why I was so enamored with it. It’s truly a thing of beauty, understated in its elegance yet clearly sophisticated. Wildly eager to recreate this statuesque stunner, I followed Celine’s gentle hint to bake the cake a day ahead of time in order to to “let the flavors develop.” After successfully and easily pulling together the blondies, I imagined that this next endeavor would be – pardon the expression – a piece of cake. With only eight ingredients, I anticipated a surefire success. So imagine my dismay, friends, when ding of the oven’s timer revealed this to me:

Pancake-cakes!

Oh, the horror! I’m exaggerating, though; the baking of this cake was fraught with adversity and halfway through I knew with dreadful certainty that no good would come of it. First, my poor, helpful, little sister zested her finger instead of a lemon and was out of commission. Next, because of my local grocery stores’ lack of plain or even vanilla non-dairy yogurt, I had to resort to this “recipe” instead.* I’d used it successfully in the blondies, and it never fails in the muffins from Vegan Brunch I’ve made a few times, but I think that for this cake recipe, it’s just not right. Because I sort of eyeball the amount of cornstarch, I often tend to add a little too much, thus creating a quite thick “yogurt.” I also sometimes neglect to add the splash of lemon juice or vinegar the recipe includes, which in this case was a punch in the gut since I had lemons right there – this is, after all, a lemon cake. Then, because the soy yogurt was so thick, my cake batter was very, very thick. So I added a few squeezes of lemon juice (I was replacing the lemon extract with extra zest, by the by) and a dash of soy milk, and had to keep stirring to mix everything together. Only after I had thoroughly stirred my batter did I notice Celine’s note to “stir until just combined;” it was then that a 1000-watt lightbulb flashed on in my brain and I realized that this was a delicate cake, one that required a light touch and definitely not extra mixing.

Presentiments of failure began to stir in my head at this point, but I pushed them aside for the time. The final piece of kindling in this fire of failure was my lack of a 6″ x 4″ round cake pan; we only have the small 9″ x 1″ ones, so after doing some hasty math, my sister and I thought we might just make two of those size and layer them. But by the time I halved my batter and poured it into the two pans, it was too late to save the cakes. A few minutes in the oven revealed that they were obstinately refusing to rise; I’d overmixed them and allowed the flour to glutenize. And the shallower pans surely didn’t help matters; in retrospect, after seeing how little they’d risen, I realized that just one 9″ x 1″ pan would’ve worked fine. Anyway, 25 minutes later, I ended up with two very, very flat lemon cakes… they were more like pancakes, really. I felt irritated with myself because the failure was my fault; I should have intuited what sort of cake this was and not taken it for granted. There was no way I could show these cakes to my family the following night, but by then it was too late to do anything; I’d have to wait until the following day. I went to bed, and visions of tiny, mocking lemon cakes danced in my head.

I awoke the next morning with a few possible solutions. I could save the cakes for “personal eating” and make something totally new, or I could try again and work to perfect the same cakes. But neither of those possibilities satisfied the frugal penny-pincher that lives inside of me; it seemed like a waste to make something entirely new. So I decided that if the cakes at least tasted okay, they might be salvageable.

A tiny taste revealed to me that – hallelujah! – despite their refusal to rise and dense appearance, the cakes still tasted mighty fine! The way was clear for a salvaging mission. After a little quick thinking, I decided to stack the cakes and make mock-petit fours with a layer of raspberry jam in the middle, thus turning VeggaSis’s going-away gathering into a vaguely raspberry-themed event. I covered my faux petit fours with a simple glaze, and guess what? They didn’t turn out half bad.

SUCCESS.

These sweet squares looked charming and had a delicate lemon flavor that was complemented nicely by the raspberry filling. So even though my inner perfectionist is still bothered by my initial failure, I’m happy that I managed to save the cakes and turn them into something presentable. I’ll try the recipe again soon, armed with a little extra experience under my belt. ;)

I’ll leave you with another gratuitous blondie shot, because these babies were amazing. My one tiny criticism of the recipe is that the actual blondie layer is much more cake-like than blondie-esque, even if the flavor is spot-on. I might tinker with it some day and try to give it a denser, chewier texture. But even if I don’t, I’m definitely adding this recipe to my arsenal of no-fail favorites!

Yum.

* I found this recipe while Googling for a quick homemade soy yogurt recipe, and I do believe that this must be an older blog of Celine’s, which I didn’t realize until now. Interesting!

Giveaway Madness

Hey folks!

I wish I had some yummy food photos to share today, but unfortunately the batch of Orange Glazed Scones I baked last night didn’t last long enough for that. The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance, and overall I was quite pleased with the results. The scones were quite fluffy and cakelike, and I appreciated just how much they rose during the baking process. I thought the glaze tasted a little too Earth Balance-y, but nobody else had any complaints so maybe I’m just strange.

So in lieu of food photos, I’m just going to mention a couple of fantastic giveaways going on in the blog world right now. Leslie of Leslie Loves Veggies is teaming up with Nature’s Path to give away a generous gift package of Nature’s Path products. Check it out here.

If you’re in more of a dessert mood, check out Gina’s Love Force giveaway at Vegan Strong. She’s offering up five Love Force bars to one lucky winner, so go enter thyself!

And if those weren’t tempting enough, Jessie is giving away – wait for it – a Vita-Mix! I know that many of you are already happy Vita-Mix owners, but I can’t yet count myself amongst your numbers. So I’m crossing my fingers and toes and hoping to win this contest!

Good luck to all of you! I’ll be back tomorrow for Raw Wednesday. Ciao!