The Holidays Are (Mocha Coco-)Nuts!

It’s that time of the year again.

No, not the time of the year when people spend cold days cozying up with their families by the fire, opening gifts and making resolutions; the time of year when people can’t find parking in the mall parking lot at 8 am. The time of year when peace and goodwill only applies after you’ve elbow-checked at least three people while trying to find the cheapest (insert-product-you-must-own-now-here), and then yelled at the barista for making your coffee 5 degrees too cold.

Needless to say, my day job is in retail.

I don’t know if it’s a symptom of my “profession,” or just a real sea change, but the holidays don’t feel like holidays anymore.

And for those of us on the other side of the cash register, sometimes the only thing that can get us through the ultra-long holiday shifts is a little extra boost from modern American (wo)man’s best friend: caffeine.

Personally, I gave up coffee when I went vegan back in August, but I figured that my fellow coworkers might need a day-after-Christmas pick-me-up.

And so I bought espresso beans.

And covered them in chocolate.

And then, for no reason other than the fact that “Mocha Coconut” is so much fun to say, I added coconut.

Better than Snow

And thus, Vegan Mocha Coconut Cookies saved the retail Christmas. (Or at least brightened up a few of my friends’ days…)

Love & Cookies,

KP

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Orange You Glad…

It’s almost Christmas, and, let’s face it: I’m sick of Christmas cookies.

Blasphemy (sort of), I know. But here’s why:

In 2007, I signed up for email newsletters from Allrecipes.com, Epicurious.com, and FoodNetwork.com. I read them for inspiration–and, before Twitter, they helped me get an idea of baking trends and seasonal flavors. And every year, come December, all three websites try to outdo themselves with suggestions for Christmas cookies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like gingerbread. I’m not a huge fan of candy canes, but I can see their worth. Shortbread and sugar cookies will always have  a place in my heart, whether or not they’re decorated with red and green frosting or cut out to look like snowflakes. But it gets old after a while. Every year, we see variations on a theme, and every year, I yearn for something different.

And then I happened to stumble upon, as I often do while jumping from blog to blog in a quasi-ADHD fashion, a link to a blog talking about a traditionally English Christmastime treat: Terry’s Chocolate Oranges.

If you have never had a Chocolate Orange, I ask–no, I implore you to go find one, smash it on a table, eat it, and then come back and finish reading my blog. No, seriously; I’ll wait.

Done? Ok, good. Because, frankly, you’re a better person for having added that amazing-ness into your life.*

And so I had an idea: Chocolate Oranges are Christmas-y. Oranges are in season right now. Chocolate and orange taste amazing together….Why not make a Chocolate Orange Christmas cookie?

Done.

What you see next is a brief montage of citrus and chocolate-y goodness, from the candied orange peels to the divine cookie integration.

(PS, there is no “zest” in these cookies. I used an orange flavoring I found at Whole Foods–made from sunflower & food-grade orange oils–instead. There are, however, chunks of orange peel, candied in sugar and then smothered in chocolate. You’re welcome.)

Candied Chocolate-Covered Orange Peels

Yes.

 

Just...yes.

*I swear they’re not paying me to say that. Those things are just awesome.

Happy holidays.

Love & Cookies,

KP

Bad Breath Cookies (and other “weird” foods)


I want to start by stating that my food habits have never been what one might classify as “normal.”*

When I was a toddler, I refused to eat anything but hot dogs and broccoli. And then there were the unfortunate years that can only be referred to as the Era of Steak-Umms and Tortellini (but we try not to reference those years much)…

There were also the (too many) years of disordered eating, in which I ate almost nothing but rice cakes, all natural peanut butter and apples, and, most recently, the super-high-protein-and-supplement diet I undertook in order to become an NPC Bikini competitor.

But right now, I’m finally eating “normally,” and people still give me funny looks.

So let me start this post by stating: being a vegan is both normal and healthy. It’s also possible to be abnormal and unhealthy–but being a vegan, if you’re doing it right, means that you’re not just eating steamed broccoli and maybe some pasta for dinner. In the past few months, I’ve learned so much about balanced vegan eating from a ton of amazing, informative bloggers, that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could see veganism as unhealthy or weird. It’s not. I promise. And being a vegan is helping me to get past my disordered eating and into health. So there.

If you want weird, however, I can give you weird.

Weird like garlic and chocolate. Together. In a cookie. A vegan cookie.

No, seriously.

Have you ever eaten a clove of roasted garlic? It’s one of my desert island foods (seriously…this is where my eating habits get weird.). And so the other day, while eating a salad (with tempeh and black beans, mind you) liberally sprinkled with cloves of sweet, addicting roasted garlic, I had an idea: why not put that amazing sweetness into a cookie?

Why not indeed:

Imagine, if you will, garlic roasted in hazelnut oil and agave nectar and coated in semi-sweet chocolate.

Now, take that garlic and pair it with some hazelnuts, and then add them into the most Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie you can sink your teeth into…and:

Voilá!

I give you Bad Breath Cookies.

My house smelled like an Italian restaurant while these baked. And they were totally worth the garlic breath.

Not weird at all.

Love and Cookies,

KP

PS I am amazed by the response I’ve gotten to the concept (and the taste!) of these cookies. Evidence of their epic awesomeness:

 

*If there even is such a thing as “normal,” that is…

The Great Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment of 2011!

Hello, cookie lovers! I hope you haven’t forgotten about me…I apologize for the lack of baked goods recently, but I’ve been dealing with a rather (emotionally AND physically) time-consuming leg injury…

But never fear, for I return. And, boy, do I return with a doozy:

Let me start by stating that I have nothing against non-vegan cookies. In fact, some of my best recipes are non-vegan cookies. But when I came up with a crazy ridiculously out-there idea for a new recipe*, I decided that it needed to be vegan. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I like a challenge. Maybe because it means I can bake it for my sister when she comes home for winter break. Maybe because I want to be able to sample (read: eat all of) the dough while I bake.

Whatever.

Either way, I knew that this impending cookie insanity needed to have a  chocolate chip cookie base. (Oh, and I should interject here to explain that, for the large majority of my cookie recipes, I have two bases: chocolate chip and sugar. The chocolate chip base is made with melted butter, and is dark, rich, and chewy; the sugar base is made with a mixture of creamed butter and vegetable shortening, and is lighter, puffier, and more cake-like. This doesn’t include any of my shortbread cookies, or any of the crazy ones I’ve tried, like meringues, fortune cookies, banana/pumpkin base, etc.)

Why does this cookie need a chocolate chip base? Because it needs a dark, rich, chewy cookie that can stand up to some seriously intense flavor demands. My only problem is that, while I have and amazing Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which is tried and true and exactly what I would need, I don’t have a vegan Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookie.

And so began the Great Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment of 2011:

Because I’d never made vegan chocolate chip cookies, I decided to start with a tried and true recipe. I looked to Isa Chandra Moskowitz of The Post Punk Kitchen, because she is the definition of vegan baker, at least if the food-blogosphere has anything to say about it. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is made without fake butter or eggs. In fact, the recipe is as far away from my Better Thank Chocolate Chip Cookies (henceforth BTCCCs for reasons of brevity and convenience) as it can get. Her cookies involve vegetable oil, tapioca starch and almond milk.

Post Punk Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookie batter

The resulting batter was light & yellow, and it tasted very…bright. It was also very oily (which stands to reason, since it was made with oil)…Not exactly conducive to eating raw, which takes all of the fun out of making cookie dough. I put it in the fridge while I made another batter. (Since chilling cookies supposedly helps keep them from spreading as they bake.)

Better Than (vegan) Chocolate Chip Cookie batter

The second batter I made was based on my BTCCCs. In fact, I made the recipe exactly as written, but substituted Earth Balance for the butter and one tbsp of flax for the egg. This batter was dark and rich and spicy, almost exactly like my regular non-vegan BTCCCs. I placed that in the  fridge, as well.

See how different the batters look?

I baked my BT(v)CCCs first, because they bake at a lower temperature. The result? Ridiculous, amazing taste, but they spread like crazy and stuck to the baking sheet.

I turned the oven up to 350 and put in the Post-Punk Kitchen cookies. Shaping the cookies was difficult, because the chocolate chip cookies kept falling out. They tasted pretty good though–much brighter and more vanilla-y than the others…but these, too, fell flat and stuck to the baking sheet.

Glistening in their oily goodness?

Flat PPK Cookies

I was stunned. How could both recipes, one oil-based and the other butter/margarine based, spread like that?

I had some ideas (especially about the PPK cookies). And so I forged on.

Maybe, I reasoned, the BT(v)CCCs fell flat because I melted the Earth Balance. Maybe they needed more fat, because margarines have a higher water content than butter. Maybe they would be better served by adding two tbsp more Earth Balance and creaming the EB instead of melting it.

How could these possibly fall flat?

They fell flat.

And since Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome, I decided to be sane and change the recipe completely.

I found a good basic oil cookie recipe–no non-dairy milks or starches added. And then I added more oil. Better oil. Canola oil and a little hazelnut oil for good measure. I tripled the vanilla. I added some spices.

And, holy hell, thus was born the most divine vegan chocolate chip cookies ever. In fact, that’s what I think I’ll call them.

Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Rich.

Chewy.

Bliss.

Enjoy.

Love & Cookies,

KP

*And this might just be my craziest recipe yet…so check back, because it’s next to go into my oven!