Favourite Recipes, Baked Goods Edition: Cornbread and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Deliciously and moist cornbread

When I was vegetarian but not vegan, I was very skeptical about vegan sweets and baked goods. I would visit Fresh restaurant in Toronto and devour everything on the lunch or dinner menu, but never even try the (vegan) desserts. Obviously, I was way wrong and ignorant. I know now that vegan sweets and baked goods are every bit as wonderful as the traditional ones, and even better for being made with compassion.

Here are two of my favourite baking recipes, for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and cornbread. These aren’t my own recipes; I’m a baking beginner. Both of these recipes can be whipped up and in the oven in less than five minutes (seriously). Both are absolutely top-notch and ensure that you’ll never have to look for another oatmeal chocolate chip cookie or cornbread recipe.

Cornbread

This recipe for cornbread from Pickles and Honey is perfect. Ridiculously easy and virtually foolproof, the cornbread is delicious either as directed, or with endless variations like added jalapenos, vegan cheddar, roasted corn, or whatever else you’d like to throw in. I follow the recipe exactly and don’t make any changes (except add-ins).  Served warm and smeared with some vegan butter or margarine it is so, so good.

Cornbread

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Growing up, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were my favourite sweet by a large margin. After going vegan I tried several recipes with variable results. This recipe from Vegan Occasions blew my socks off when I tried it. R. loves them, my mom loves them, everyone loves them.

Recipe tweaks: I find that the cookies are just as good with 1 cup loosely packed sugar, rather than the 1.25 cups called for. You can also trade off a little bit of the oil for extra juice (apple or orange juice work equally well) if you like.  If you’re using mini vegan chocolate chips rather than the stadard size, I suggest reducing the amount to 3/4 of a cup.

Important: Don’t overcook these cookies! I find that they take about 10 minutes. Watch them like a hawk for the last couple of minutes and remove as soon as they start to turn the slightest bit golden. If they do end up getting a bit too much time in the oven, they will cool crispy rather than chewy. They’re still great, but I suggest a few seconds in the microwave to soften them up before serving if they’ve cooled hard.

Best cookies EVER

Dragon Fruit, Arugula, and Avocado Salad

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This salad is a delicious combination of tastes and textures: fresh and creamy, bright and peppery.  It’s super easy and quick to make, with just a few ingredients!  Plus, it looks impressive and is perfect for serving guests; dragonfruit has a mild taste (I find it similar to kiwi) and shouldn’t scare off those who haven’t tried it before.

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Yield: 2 large or 4 side servings

  • 1 large dragon fruit
  • 1 package baby arugula
  • 2 avocados, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more, if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or less, if you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar

To prepare the dragon fruit, first cut it in half lengthwise.  Using a large spoon, separate the flesh from the rind.  Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes.

Combine the arugula, dragon fruit, and diced avocado.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and agave nectar.  Taste and adjust with more lemon juice if desired.  Pour the dressing over the salad, gently toss to coat, and serve immediately.  *If you aren’t ready to serve the salad, hold off on adding the dressing until just before serving.*  Enjoy!

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Favourite Recipes: Vegan Mac and Cheese

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This recipe from Fine Tune Pilates is touted as the best ever, and I have to agree.  I tried four or five different vegan mac and cheese recipes before finding this one, and it is by far the best I’ve had.  Plus it’s easy to make, and uses sweet potato as the sauce base, allowing you to sneak an extra veggie into this yummy pasta dish.  I make this dish regularly; R and I both love it.

I do make a couple of modifications from the original recipe.  First, I do not add whole sunflower seeds (though I do use them in the sauce).  Also, I use more kale than the recipe calls for; about twice as much.

More significantly, after preparing the recipe as written, I pour the whole thing into a casserole dish, top it with panko or breadcrumbs, top the crumbs with lots of tiny dots of vegan margarine, and bake it for about 25 minutes.  The crumbs add nice texture to the finished dish.  I like to eat it with ketchup (much to R’s chagrin), but it’s also great with just some fresh ground pepper, or even hot sauce.  Delicious!

Mushroom Risotto

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Before I had ever tried making risotto, I had an idea that it was very challenging and only for experienced cooks.  I don’t know where I got that idea, but it was wrong.  Making rich, flavourful risotto is actually very easy; all it takes is some patience and a willingness to babysit the pan for a while.  It’s a great dish to prepare while working on something on the counter, like making a big salad.  You stir the risotto, you chop some veggies, stir, chop, stir, chop, etc.

If you haven’t made risotto before, try this recipe.  It’s easy and so delicious, you’ll be hooked.  I can practically guarantee you’ll start making it (and trying variations) regularly.

Important:  You need to get Arborio rice in order to make risotto.  Don’t bother trying it with any other type of rice; it’ll end in heartache!

Yield: About 4-5 cups of risotto; 4-6 servings

  • 4 cups vegetable stock (you’ll end up using between 3 and 4 cups)
  • 5 large portobello mushrooms, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1.5 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (it won’t work with other types of rice!)
  • ½ cup red wine (or you can use white)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan parmesan (optional)

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms.  While the mushrooms are cooking, put the vegetable stock in a pot over high heat.  Just before it boils, turn off the heat but leave the pot on the hot burner to keep the stock very warm.  Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are done: tender and juicy.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary and then add the onions.  Stir and cook until they are translucent.  Reduce heat to just below medium and add the dry rice.  Brown the rice a bit, being sure to keep scraping the pan to prevent it from sticking.  Add the wine, and stir the rice until the wine is absorbed (this will happen pretty quickly).

Begin adding the warm broth to the rice, one ladle at a time.  Stir frequently, and as soon as the rice starts to stick, add another ladle of broth.  Continue this process until the rice is cooked al dente.  (Probably between 15 and 25 minutes).

Add the mushrooms to the rice and mix well to incorporate.  If you have any vegan parmesan on hand, add some of that too.  Serve warm with a salad for a hearty and delicious dinner.

Note: You could substitute lots of other veggies for the mushrooms.  Try asparagus! Gently steam it until just done, and add it back to the risotto at the end.