The Art of Not Burning Cookies: Vegan Chocolate Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Cookies

I just finished an amazing seminar from The Art of Living Foundation called YES+ (Yoga Empowerment Services Plus).  Basically I learned about yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and practical advice for everyday living–but those words are so inadequate.  I can say–actually, I can feel that I have changed.

So I’m a senior in college, right?  This year I’ve been feeling all the stress and anxiety that comes with it and feeling like my life was off balance and out of control.  I’ve been stuck on the past and worried about the future, but YES+ pulled me back into the present.  After taking the course, I feel so much more balanced and calm, like I can accomplish anything.  I feel like I’m beginning an incredible journey of personal growth and finally learning to live in the present moment.   If everyone learned these things, we would have a stress-free, violence-free world.  I wish I would have learned this at the beginning of college!  Could have saved a lot of stress!

Anyway, we were challenged to keep a vegetarian diet during the six days of the course, which I thought would be very easy since I considered myself more of an herbivore anyway.  I was wrong.  Second day I was craving all sorts of non-vegetarian foods.  I’ve survived, however, and after hearing all the benefits of vegetarianism and eating some great vegetarian food, my interest in vegetarian cooking has peaked.

We had to bring a vegetarian item to a potluck today (our last day) so I had decided to take it an extra step and do something vegan.  I tried rice pudding with soymilk. Fail.  Then I found a recipe for eggless chocolate chip cookies and decided to try it (replaced the butter with butter flavor vegetable shortening.)  So I baked them in the morning before class.  Fail.  Utterly burnt.  The oven was way too strong (400F).  I ended up bringing a bag of mangoes to class.

Luckily, I had just a little dough left over, enough for about four cookies, so after dinner I tried round two.  I put the oven lower (about 250F, I think) and baked them for maybe 15 minutes.  Success.  They were soft and veeeery chocolately, mmm.  I was impressed.  Touche, vegan baking.  Touche.  I think if I would have kept them in longer they might have been more crispy but I was paranoid about burning them.

I followed the recipe, except for using crisco instead of butter and adding vanilla extract, as one commenter did.  Also, the only “oil” (how precise) I had was olive oil…so in it went!  I don’t think it affected the flavor of the cookies though.  They were still delish.  This was all that was left…

Cookie Pacman

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Maple Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe on Everybody Likes Sandwiches the other day, and I was too intrigued by the “maple” part to avoid trying them out.   She raved about them, and I can see why: they are delicious.   Chewy and crunchy at the same time with a slight hint of maple.   My tastebuds were singing and swaying in unison, and my supply of milk mysteriously began to decrease rapidly.  (Jeez, I just reread that sentence; the sad thing is, I actually do talk like that…)

I expected, and I think might have liked, more of a maple flavor.  I couldn’t resist tasting the dough before I cooked it because it smelled so good (salmonella, shhmalmonella!).  It really had that sweet maple flavor, so it built up my expectations.  I did subtly sense the maple in the final product though.

I enjoyed buying real, pure maple syrup for once, instead of “pancake syrup.”  It comes in cooler glass bottles (Not that I have anything against your figure, Aunt Jemima. It’s lovely.)  Some college students like to line up their empty liquor bottles in decorative triumph; I think I may do maple syrup bottles instead…

Anyway, not only were the cookies delicious, but my dorm room (and the kitchen downstairs) smelled AMAZING the whole night.  Can’t beat that.

DSC08780

Look at the green eye of my computer gazing longingly at these cookies.  So good even technology covets them.

Dorm Delights: Couscous

While the oven in my dorm was broken, I discovered an incredibly easy microwaveable meal.  Couscous, which is made from semolina wheat and is popular in North African cuisine.  Just put it in a microwaveable bowl with a little olive oil or butter and equal parts water, add any additions you’d like, and nuke it.   It’s filling and has tons of protein.  There are tons of couscous recipes out there to try, but usually just add whatever I have, beans, cheese, spices, anything.

cous cous w/ lentil beans

Couscous with lentil beans and spinach, and a side of some cherry tomatoes.

cous cous w/ cranberries and feta

Couscous with chickpeas, dried cranberries, and garlic and herb feta cheese.

The first time I made this version, I put the chickpeas in the microwave with the couscous and began to hear violent popping noises during the nuking.  Turns out the chickpeas were popping out of their skins and bouncing all over the microwave in bursts of couscous confetti.  It was a messy learning experience, but tasty nonetheless.

Back in Business!

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted, but I have indeed returned.  Senior year has been a whole lot more busy than I expected.  The supreme irony of it all is that just when I’ve become the most busy I have ever been in my college career, senioritis grips me like a vice and sucks out my motivation.

I haven’t been able to cook much, partially because I’ve been so busy and mostly because the oven in my dorm was broken for weeks.  I’ve caught the cooking bug once again, however, and the oven is now fixed to satisfy my culinary urges.

My renewed motivation/inspiration to cook/bake (overdid it on the slashes, didn’t I?) stems from browsing cooking blogs for work recently and getting a lot of inspiration, and also because one of my favorite holidays is coming up:  Thanksgiving.

Pilgrims, Indians, blah , blah, blah—it’s all about the food for me.  We always have a Cuban/American spread at our Thanksgiving.   Traditional American stuff like yams with marshmallows, but also Cuban stuff, like rice and beans.  We also give a Cuban twist to our turkey with a special top-secret marinade.  My favorite part is my mom’s  “estuffin” which is a Spanglified version of “stuffing.”  My mom likes to do this kind of thing often with words, and when she first said “estuffin,” we thought it was so funny it kind of stuck and became the official name.  I’ve been busy pondering what kind of desserts to make since the postres have become my domain for the past couple of years.

It’s good to be back, blogging and baking.  Stick around.