Saturday, February 28, 2009

Midnight Baking

Due to a recent bout of insomnia, I baked up a storm in my kitchen from 2AM to 6AM. While I made a total of four different cookies, (one batch of which was a complete and utter disaster), the majority were pleasant, despite the half-awake state they were created in.  

Quite surprisingly, the most successful cookie made was found not in a high-end cookbook, but on the back of the whole wheat flour bag. The Whole Wheat Sugar Cookie recipe was not vegan, so I replaced the required egg with a well-mashed ripe banana. Though the technique of using a banana instead of an egg may sound odd, the cookies bind together extremely well, have added health benefits of potassium, and create an almost indistinguishable hint of fruity flavor that enhances the orange zest. In addition, I used margarine instead of butter, which wasn't my first choice but not many grocery stores are open at 4AM. 

So whether you bake these cookies at midnight or during the day, they are sure to be a pleaser. 

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
makes around 3 dozen

1 cup sugar

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or pumpkin pie spice)

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons soy milk

1 tablespoon orange peel zest

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 well-mashed banana

Extra sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon for coating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vigorously stir the butter or margarine with the sugar. Add the banana, soy milk, vanilla extract, orange zest and the nutmeg. 
In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. 
Stir the two mixtures together. 
Take tablespoons of batter and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture before dropping on a greased cookie sheet. Bake around 10 minutes, until golden on the edges and soft in the middle. 

And if you are feeling extra crafty... It was my friend's birthday the following day, and I decided to create a massive, 7 inch diameter cookie. Though I expected it to burn on the outside and be raw on the inside, it came out perfectly! The trick to making huge cookies is flattening them down prior to baking, and placing them on their own cookie sheet. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cowboy Cookies

There are some food pairings that just seem to go well together: peanut butter and jelly, garlic and onion, tomato and basil- you get the drift. Though these food couples are fantastic, there seems to be no two foods that compliment each other as well as coconut and chocolate. While fruit and chocolate are no strangers, there is something about the slight smokiness of coconut that coaxes out the deep richness of chocolate. 

The following recipe for Cowboy Cookies, adapted from Martha Stewart, was originally supposed to contain pecans and oats in addition to coconut and chocolate. However, in an effort to display the flavors  of the two feature ingredients, I added an extra handful each of coconut shavings and chocolate chips, omitting the pecans and oats all together. The result caused quite a stampede of roommates in the kitchen!

Cowboy Cookies
makes around 3 dozen

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks butter

3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 oz of chocolate chips

3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. 
Cream the butter with the sugars until very pale. Add eggs on at a time. Add vanilla. 
Slowly add the flour mixture, chocolate and coconut. 
Drop rounded spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet spaced around 3 inches apart, (they spread!)
Serve warm around a fire. Eat and yee'haw!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All the Vegan-Phobes Beware: Melt in Your Mouth Cookies

While I am not a vegan myself, vegan food is a hallmark of healthy eating. When making cookies, many ingredients that are often considered essential in baking, (like butter, eggs and milk), can easily and deliciously be substituted for animal-friendly alternatives. In the following recipe, oil, honey, soy milk and peanut butter are artery-friendly stand ins. The absence of a complex binding agent, such as an egg, lends for a more delicate cookie, allowing it to simply melt away in your mouth. 

I like to serve these to my vegan-scoffing friends and then smirk with glee when I see how much they are enjoyed. 

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
makes around 20 cookies

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 cup honey

1/4 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in medium sized bowl. Mix well. 
In a separate bowl, vigorously stir sugar with olive and canola oil. Add peanut butter, vanilla extract, honey and soy milk. 
Add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. 
Place rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Take a fork and make a cross-hatch pattern on the top of each cookie so the dough flattens a bit- they don't spread out much so they can be fairly close together. 
Cook for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. 

Have You Had Your Granola Today?

For me, breakfast is pretty much the driving force that gets me out of bed. After fasting for about 12 hours, (aka after dinner and sleep), I am consistently famished when I wake up. It must also be said that I am a modern dancer and remain active for most of the day. Therefore, it is essential that I make a breakfast powerful enough to see me through dance class, rehearsal and onto lunch, without making me overly full. No one likes to stuff themselves into a leotard after a gut-breaking meal anyhow. 

Because Granola Medley is a compilation of items, it is extremely easy to add your own components. Try a bit of unprocessed peanut butter if you don't have any yogurt on hand, or maybe add a dash of cinnamon or flax to get some cholesterol-lowering benefits. Later on in my posts, I will share an outstanding homemade granola recipe. 

Granola Medley
serves 1

1 apple or banana, cut into chunks

small handful of your favorite granola

2 sheets of graham crackers, broken into pieces

dollop of plain, fat free greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite)

drizzle of honey

snips of fresh wheat-grass (optional)

Combine the granola, crackers, fruit and yogurt into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the wheat-grass. Finish with a hefty drizzle of honey. Eat. 

Because the bowl is shallow- perfect for licking!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welcome to Oven Zest!

After several months of pondering, wishing and debating, I have finally gotten my very own food blog up and running! Healthy, unprocessed and natural foods have always been one of my passions because I am a firm believer that people, (and excuse the cliche), really are what they eat. What you put in your body becomes you on a cellular level. Food dictates almost every aspect of life because it affects how people not only feel, but how they act, both psychologically and physically. So in a nutshell, if you eat happy things, you will be a happy person. 

Taking care of ourselves is perhaps the most important thing we can do as humans because, after all, the only real possession we ever have is our body. Sure, we can own clothes and cars and fancy gadgets, but those are merely temporary things that can always be replaced. This is the essence of why eating right is such a crucial aspect of my life. 

That said, it is vital that we allow ourselves little treats every now and then. The posts in this blog will contain recipes of how to cook treats in a more healthful way, both sharing my own creations and experimenting with existing recipes. In addition, updates on mind-expanding news, art and public policy will be included for added tidbits of enjoyment.

Above all, perhaps this blog will add zest to your culinary adventures!
Stay tuned and zesty!