Peanut Butter Coast

After traversing up the west coast from my childhood home in Oregon, over and through beach and mountain and park and forest and water and snow, we’re sitting in a small restaurant in Seattle where we order real Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream for dessert.

“Do you think that when we get home, you could add chocolate to the peanut butter ice cream you make?” he asks.

Why, of course. Chocolate goes very well with anything naturally vegan and gluten-free. And while I shockingly haven’t yet incorporated chocolate into this recipe as requested in the few days since our return, I will. Very soon.

In stark contrast to the oppressive heat and humidity of Ohio in July, Oregon and Washington offered a good chill — cold, even. Coupled with layers of athletic clothes, peanut butter + chocolate = comfort food and part of the camping experience, the hiking experience, and finally the downtown experience.

In Ohio, during less climate-oppressive months, combatting the chill means having a crochet experience. Crochet is warm and comforting too, like peanut butter. Is it any wonder that I crochet in peanut butter ? Or vanilla, for that matter? What food reference is this color — wheat? Whoops, that blows the gluten-free deal.

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But back to ice cream. As stated before, I almost never exactly follow a recipe. I’ve had great success with making one or all of the following substitutions in this Peanut Butter Coconut Ice Cream recipe (Vegetarian Times):  Brown sugar for maple syrup, almond milk for the soy creamer (add a little more vanilla than the recipe calls for if you go this route), full-fat coconut milk instead of light, and creamy peanut butter instead of crunchy. I’ve always used the ice cream maker method. And while I haven’t yet blended liquid or powdered chocolate into the batter, throwing chocolate chips on top of the ice cream upon serving is a no-brainer yes.

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Peanut Butter Coconut Ice Cream
“A heavy-duty blender (such as a Vita-Mix) makes quick work of this frozen treat, but a regular blender will get the job done if you just keep turning it off and pushing down the ice cubes. Or you can simply blend all the ingredients, chill, and process in an ice cream maker.”
  • 1 13.5-oz. can light coconut milk (1 ½ cups)
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup French vanilla soy creamer, divided
  1. Purée coconut milk, maple syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla in blender until smooth. Pour mixture into 2 ice cube trays, and freeze solid. Transfer to resealable plastic bags if storing for more than 2 days.
  2. Place half of ice cream cubes and 1/2 cup soy creamer in blender, and process until smooth and creamy. Repeat with second tray of cubes and remaining ½ cup soy creamer.000_2169

This is perfect for when:

Your parents and your significant other’s are going to meet for the first time in just a few days.
You’ll be with a new client in your renovation-pause home exactly 12 hours from now.
You’re internally and externally challenged about turning on the air conditioning. In a big way.
The fish bowls need cleaned.
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Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Melissa — the Allman Brothers
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The other blog.

Sensitive Cookie

When you sit alone under the Arizona starry sky and quietly tell the Universe, bring it on, I’m ready — ready for the good stuff, to learn, to move forward, to make it all real — you probably don’t anticipate the added challenge of suddenly becoming sensitive to certain foodstuffs. An elimination diet might help, but you have residual emotional baggage from when you did that in a different way decades ago and ran into trouble. So you resort to your own type of experimentation.

Like wheat elimination. Enter the Heart Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World (Vegetarian Times). No denial necessary, good for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner, snacks between, and gig accompaniment. I knew someone who swore that eating raw cookie dough late at night helped him maintain and/or lose weight. He would step on the scale the very next morning and see a lower number. What do you call that kind of diet? Perhaps The Salmonella Special.

No raw eggs here (vegan, gluten-free if you’re careful with your oats). And baking is instant gratification — thoroughly smashing stuff up followed by warm gooey comfort. Here, a food processor, plus chocolate, confirms that cookie baking helps you work through, and have, it all.

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I almost never follow a recipe exactly. I will say that using brown sugar here instead of white is definitely preferable taste-wise. To make oat flour, process the same measurement of oats into a semi-powder, i.e. one cup oats = one cup oat flour. You’ll probably want to make your oat flour in the food processor before you start making that yummy awesome walnut butter paste, as above. All photos in this post represent HALF of the recipe below.

Heart Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World
Makes 30 cookies
30 minutes or fewer

  • 3 Tbs. canola oil — (I typically use coconut oil)
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups oat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 3.5-oz. bars bittersweet vegan chocolate, chopped, or 1½ cups vegan chocolate chips (12 oz.)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

2. Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

3. Whisk together brown sugar and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

4. Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

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5. Shape cookie dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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These are perfect for when:

You want something semi-healthy and sweet, but not cloyingly so.
You are power-planning a trip to the other side of the country.
You need something to hold you over until gluten-free pizza time.
Your heart aches. But make sure you include a long walk, too.
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Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
New snippets-in-progress from Andrew Bird’s Measure for Measure (NY Times) May 2013 post
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The other blog.

Dairy-free Coconut Cherry Macadamia Ice Cream. Yep.

Here’s the deal — it’s hot and we all know that.  Add in frustrating computer work and something like this is birthed and consumed in no time flat.

Coconut Cherry Macadamia Ice Cream (vegan)

2 cans regular (not light) coconut milk

1/4 to 1/2 cups white sugar (because not long ago I overdosed on agave)

pure vanilla extract to taste

pinch of salt

about 1/4 cup macadmia nuts

about 3/4 cup pitted organic Washington cherries

Process coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in blender.  Throw in macadamia nuts and pulse for just a few seconds.  For a less grittier texture, don’t grind them at all.  Chill mixture in refrigerator until coconut milk starts to solidify, not more than an hour.

Pour/scrape mixture into ice cream machine and process for about 20 minutes, then add cherries and process for 5-10 minutes more.  Spoon some into a bowl for immediate intake and freeze the rest.  It will freeze hard but in these temps, leaving it out on the counter for just a few minutes brings it right back to its way-too-easy-to-eat soft-serve texture.

Related posts (um, all of them? But more specifically):

Lemon Bundt Cake
Mango Mousse
Raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Mango Mousse

This, my friends, might be the easiest dessert you ever make.  And, it sports all the latest trendy descriptions — vegan, vegetarian, dairy-, egg-, gluten-, and sugar-free.

It firms up semi-solid in the refrigerator, about the consistency of full fat yogurt, so it’s delectable on its own or with, say, strawberries plus homemade granola = Triple Threat Yum.

Mango Mousse

one 14 oz can of full fat (not lite) organic coconut milk

one peeled mango (I prefer yellow Champagne and here’s how to cut it)

vanilla extract to taste

agave nectar to taste

Place all ingredients in the blender and mix well.  Pour into a small container and refrigerate overnight if you can stand to wait that long.  You will be rewarded with spoonable mousse-like foam that will be hard to put down and very easy to guiltlessly and joyfully put away (eat).

Can you imagine a chocolate version? OH YES.

 

The Need for Chocolate

This is a blurry picture of a perfectly-shaped piece of homemade dark chocolate; I’m unable to take a better picture because the chocolate is, of course, now gone.  This bar sits atop the small saucer of one of my grandmother’s teacups.

Sometimes, I run out of chocolate.  It’s rare when I do, but when cashews aren’t cutting it and I can’t get to the store soon to replenish my dark chocolate reserves, I make my own.

This little bar sports peppermint and a bit of vanilla and tastes just like those Olive Garden mints from so long ago, minus the strange green stripe.  And it is crazy easy to make.

Combine equal parts coconut oil (melted) and cocoa powder, add agave nectar to taste.  Other possible additions:  vanilla extract, peppermint extract, nuts, fruit and/or extracts, flavored salt.

Spoon melted chocolate goodness into an ice cube tray, and place tray in the freezer.

Coconut oil solidifies at low temperatures, with no blooming.  If it’s taking too long to solidify, you’re opening the freezer too often and you’re better off just going to the store.

When it’s ready, it will pop out of the ice cube tray with ease, and the result is extremely smooth flavored chocolate in bite-size bits.  Savor it and the moment by serving it on something you love, from someone you love.

Braid Bread

I finally got to the grocery store, which is the perfect way to start the new year.  My December performance schedule had me scrounging around for eats and consuming too much sugar.  This is not at all in line with having the energy I need and want, to do the work I need and want.

I baked far less this past holiday season than in years past; this year I chose to make Swedish Cardamom Bread because it seemed to be a safe bet when considering everyone’s dietary needs.

In one loaf I folded raisins, and the other, chocolate chips.  I used whole wheat pastry flour for the first batch.  Above is the second batch — I had only about 3 cups of WW pastry flour and didn’t want to add white.  So I ground up about 2 + cups of oats and added that to the flour, which resulted in a wonderfully nubbly texture.  I think if I use oats again, I will let them sit in the liquid mixture a little longer before incorporating them into the dry mix.

I have not worked with cardamom before, and read that it quickly loses its intensity once ground.  I did purchase ground cardamom from the bulk spice section at Whole Foods and am happy to report the whole kitchen adopted this scent for a few days.  I must have got a fresh batch.

I wrapped these up in brown paper and burgundy or brown yarn, and presented them with locally made apple butter and jam and several packets of Good Earth Original tea — a powerful blend.  Preparing this type of gift was actually fun, and made me realize how long it has been since I created a braid of anything.  So simple and satisfying.

Bright spots — squash and lemons

Possibly the only thing I like about the time change is that I naturally get up earlier.  Or, now that I think about it, maybe I just still haven’t adapted.  Anyway, alarm clocks were banished long ago, so waking when it starts to get light happens with the assistance of non-curtained windows.  I had butternut squash and a pot of black beans all cooked before 9 AM.

I also decided to make a lemon bundt cake as I have some meetings this week that could use a sweet addition.  I got through the entire recipe of the Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake before I realized that I really had intended on making the Coconut-Lemon Bundt Cake.  My biggest focus was to use my coconut milk, and somehow it escaped me that I had not done so until I was stirring the batter together.

This one is still delicious, though because of the agave it tends to brown easily.  And sometimes, you just can’t beat real sugar.  This cake needs something on it — I did not have enough cashews to make the icing, so I made a quick lemon glaze out of briefly boiling sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest and pouring/brushing that over the top.   This picture was taken before the glaze was added, and yes I staged this on top of my piano.

It’s glowing! I so enjoyed the sun today.

Later this evening and I had a nice wrap of sorts — sauteed mushroom, onion, garlic, the rib of a chard leaf, and black beans layered over butternut squash and olives, the whole thing put back in the hot skillet to toast — yummy crispy warm goodness. Oh yeah and another bite of cake for dessert.

Harp Food: Pastries and Choking

Some last-minute plans came up last night that included going out to dinner when I wasn’t hungry.  And then, spontaneously, going to hear some live music after that until the wee hours of the morning.  This meant that I did not eat anything for a very long time.  While music satisfies me more than anything, I had an aching stomach when I got home.  I squirreled away some raw cashews and a few of the aforementioned oatmeal raisin cookies to improve my chances of sleeping.  Good thing I ate something more colorful earlier in the day for no meal in particular — maybe brunch?


Sauteed tofu, carrots, chard, corn, garlic, onion, white mushrooms, and olives.  How do you like that unfinished floor?

This weekend a favorite local nursery is having an open house, so today I paid a visit.  It was decorated to the hilt with holiday fare, which actually isn’t appealing to me, but the new addition’s roaring (fake) fireplace was.  I have been fantasizing about sitting near it while nibbling on my just-purchased delectable goodie among the pretty plants and crafts, since they told me last week they would have their french bakery open for business this weekend.  Turns out some licensing something got in the way and they can’t open the bakery until December.

I had gone with my camera to be able to snatch a picture of my treat and the surroundings, but to also talk to some people about playing harp there for special events.  After having that always-sort-of-awkward conversation, my other plans were foiled — I realized that if they were going to pass out pastries despite the bakery counter not being open like they said they were going to, they would have done so by now.  To ease my disappointment, I opted for a taffy from the register counter which a few minutes later I promptly choked on and spent the remainder of my time trying to desperately hide my inability to breathe.  Time to go! I think it greatly influenced my not wanting to bake anything sweet at home tonight.  Potatoes are more grounding than sugar after not breathing for a bit.  And now sleep.  The good kind.

Harp Food: Raw cookies and hummus, but not together

On a Vegan Mofo day like today when the front door never opens (translation = no visiting students), you would think I would be more about cooking big lovely meals in the kitchen.  Instead, however, I’m catching up on paying bills, updating gig calendars, and following up on neglected correspondence, which means I get frustrated and tend to take a lot of breaks to snack.  Or graze.  Or forget what I have eaten up to the point when I’m looking again to see if something magically appeared in the kitchen while I was away for five minutes.

One of my favorite snacks is Ani Phyo‘s raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They are very simple and amazingly good.

1 cup raw oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pitted medjool dates

Process everything together in the food processor.  At first it looks like the ingredients are spinning pointlessly, but suddenly after a bit it all comes together into a ball and the machine almost leaps off the counter.  When you save it from itself and shut the processor off, your dough looks like this:

In looking up this recipe, I am finding that some mix in by hand the raisins so they stay whole.  But when processed like they are above, the dough is sticky, and you pinch pieces from it and roll /press them into a discs.  I like making small cookies so I feel like I have a stash of many, and store them in the refrigerator so they firm up a little.

I also tend to think of bread as a snack, which could be detrimental in a way.  Today’s bread actually turned out wonderful, using this recipe, but veganized, sans rosemary, rolled oats instead of meal, plus a small pile of flaxseed meal — I knew this recipe would work because I know this cook VERY VERY WELL.

And then I made hummus.  I have the proportions pretty much where I want them finally, but exact measurements? Fill the food processor halfway with garbanzo beans, a little water or cooking liquid from the beans, sprinkle that surface area with salt, add the juice of one small lemon, add one medium-sized clove of garlic, and one large soup spoon of tahini.  Blend.  This batch turned out perfect — light and fluffy and smooth.

What I love about this shot is that there is no trace of only a few hours before having shook the almond milk vigorously before adding it to the bread recipe and splattering it all up and down the kitchen cabinets.

Harp Food: The View from Here

So, this is usually what I’m looking at this time of night:

The food:  Another quick stir fry, this time with tofu.  The yarn:  Attached to a mega-size commissioned blanket scrunched in my lap that I’m crocheting for a client.  The laptop:  What enables me to pause and take a bite of dinner or add more stitches as I wait for files to upload, Google Reader to populate with one billion Vegan MoFo entries, or for an email with an answer to arrive in my Inbox.  No, this is not a healthy way to have a meal.  It’s multi-tasking at its finest.  But my other computer is upstairs in the darkest and coldest room of the house, attached to the wall with fifty thousand wires, and I just realized today that I absolutely hate working in there.  So not good for business.

And where is the harp? It’s in the other room (no, not THAT room — that one is UP -STAIRS, remember? That’s a situation the harp doesn’t like), sitting in the dark, because I just spent five hours with eight different students in that room and I need a bit of a break before I go back in that space and attempt to work through my own music.

I was reading one of my many e-newsletters today (I really have cut down) and the gist of it = people (clients) love to hear stories about what you’re doing.  It encourages connection as inevitably through your story-telling you strike upon universal experiences and ideas.

And so, the point of this blog was not only to contribute to Vegan Mofo, but to also illustrate the kind of lifestyle a creative type *might* have, gauge relate-ability and test the theory of whether or not I am an anomaly.

So, here’s my food-related life story for the day.  I had the aforementioned disaster cake for breakfast along with a few pieces of Halloween candy, and my late lunch was a big bowl of aforementioned soup.  Because soup is mostly water, a fact that seemed to escape me at the time, I was so ravenous by the time I was done teaching that my almost desperate food prep resulted in singeing my wool sweater over a stove top burner flame.   The scent of that incident brought to mind another from a previous night when I was concocting the cake-that-won’t-go-away (last mention, I promise).  After preparing its failed frosting, I was going about my nightly routine congratulating myself how beautifully I had made the house smell of peanut butter.  Part of this thought made no sense at all, but that idea was punctuated by how disastrous this could be should any of my students scheduled for the following day have peanut allergies.  When I went to wash my face that night, there in the mirror I saw the source of this house-pervading scent — peanut butter mayhem all down the front of my sweatshirt.

I really am a good / more careful cook / baker than perhaps I paint myself here — that’s my story and I”m sticking to it.