gluten-free peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies are relatively new confection because peanut butter itself is relatively new. It all started in 1890, when Dr. John Kellogg of cornflake fame created peanut butter as a healthy protein substitute that his toothless patients could easily consume. Meanwhile, George Washington Carver, founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, was promoting peanuts as a replacement for the cotton crop, which the boll weevil destroyed in the 1890s. Carver developed hundreds of recipes using peanuts, and in his 1916 research bulletin How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, he had three recipes for peanut cookies calling for crushed peanuts as an ingredient. The commercial production of peanut butter began in the 1920s when J. L. Rosenfield perfected a process to prevent the oil from separating from the peanut butter and spoilage prevention methods, resulting in the Skippy brand peanut butter. In the 1930s, peanut butter finally began to appear in cookie recipes, which often called for flattening the cookie with the tines of a fork, a tradition still practiced today.

Most peanut butter cookies I've tasted have a rather weak peanut butter taste, while the few that use peanut butter as the sole flour and oil taste a bit too rich. Trying to find a compromise, I made batches and batches of peanut butter cookies which turned out good but rather chewy and greasy, until one time I accidentally used a teaspoon of baking soda in place of baking powder, and they turned out crumbly and delicious like peanut butter cookies are meant to be. These always vanish immediately no matter how many you make, so make a double batch if you plan on sharing. One carnivore told me "this is the best cookie I've EVER had."

Crunchy peanut butter is my favorite for this recipe, but I don't recommend using the bulk peanut butter available at some grocery stores. I wanted to use this kind because I can save packaging by using my own container for the peanut butter, but I've tried to use it countless times for this recipe and it always ruins the texture.

Also, an obvious complement to peanut butter is chocolate, so I recommend throwing some chocolate chips into the batter or half-dipping the cookies in melted chocolate. I would advise chocolate chips over dipping if you're in a time crunch or if the weather's hot (because the chocolate won't set up), but the half-dipped look is very pretty. 

Makes 1 dozen
Total time: 1 hour

2/3 cup (175g) crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar (or vegan brown sugar)
3 tablespoons (40g) melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup (30g) garbanzo bean flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (or up to 1/2 teaspoon if your peanut butter doesn't have any salt)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 oz vegan chocolate, chopped, or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
several pinches coarse sea salt for garnish

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, sugar, and coconut oil, vanilla, and maple syrup for several minutes. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. If using, mix in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill for at least 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough on a greased baking sheet, setting them about 2 inches apart. Dip a fork in melted water and press the tines to flatten the dough in a crisscross manner. If desired, sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of coarse salt.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until beginning to brown around the edges. The cookies will be very, very soft right when you take them out of the oven, which may be quite deceiving, but they should firm up to a crisp, crumbly cookie after they have completely cooled.

To dip the cookies in chocolate, fill a small saucepan an inch or two high with water and place a small, heat-proof bowl on top to create a double boiler. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to barely simmering. Place the chocolate in the bowl and with a spatula, gently stir until consistently creamy, then remove from heat. Spread the melted chocolate over half of each cookie with a spoon, and place the cookies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet to until the chocolate sets. If you're pressed for time you can set the sheet in the fridge.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for several days, or freeze them and I guarantee they will be eaten before they go bad. They are good defrosted on the counter or in the microwave, but they are also really good frozen. 

maple pecan sticky buns

Makes 12 small sticky buns or 6 large buns

For dough:
1/2 packet (1 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup almond or coconut milk, warm
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 orange

2 cups flour

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl, and let stand 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Then add the remaining sugar, oil, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, and flour. Knead for 5-8 minutes on a floured surface. Grease a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat in the oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the filling and glaze.

For filling:

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon almond or coconut milk

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir in the olive oil and milk. 

For glaze:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut or almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Grease a rectangular baking pan between 7x11 and 9x13, or a round 10" cake pan.

Stir together the syrup, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, and spread in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the pecans over the glaze. 

Punch down the dough. 

Preheat the oven to 375. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

basic dahl

3.5 cups veggie stock, preferably homemade
3/4 cups slit peas or red lentils
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, cored and choppe
1 tbs oil
2 tbs tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp mustart seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/16 tsp cayenne
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

In a saucepan, bring the stock and lentils to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until tender (about 40 minutes for split peas). Meanwhile, in a skillet heat the oil, add onions and carrots, saute until slightly browned, add garlic, spices, and cook a few minutes until golden. Add to the nearly finished lentils. Add tomatoes, paste, and cook for a few minutes, adding salt to taste.


gluten-free german chocolate cake

No, German Chocolate Cake is not really German. A recipe for German's Chocolate cake appeared in a newspaper in Dallas, Texas in 1957, sent in by a homemaker. It used a chocolate bar called "German's," created by Englishman Sam German for Baker's Chocolate Company. The cake was an immediate hit, and the possessive in "German's" was dropped, resulting in the current misnomer. The cake soon became a regular in bakeries all across America.

For my family, all big fans of coconut, pecans, and dark chocolate, german chocolate cake is a perennial guest at birthdays. Fortunately, I can still enjoy this cake after becoming vegan. And as happens with many vegan recipes, using coconut cream instead of dairy makes the cake if anything more delicious than traditional versions. This cake takes a lot of work, but for special occasions it's worth it.

Makes 16 rich, filling slices
Cook time: several hours total, including cooling time (this is NOT a last-minute dessert)

complete ingredients list:
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups maple syrup and/or agave nectar (these are pretty much interchangeable, but in each individual recipe I list whichever one I tend to prefer)
5 tablespoons vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, around 70% (check for milk fat in the ingredients)
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (the finer the better unless you want chewy frosting)
1-1/2 cup pecans
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda

chocolate cake:
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil
2 cups maple syrup
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, water, vanilla, and coconut oil. In a medium bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 25-28 minutes, or until somewhat firm. Set the cakes on the counter to cool. Once they are no longer hot, I recommend chilling them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake; when they are cool they're more likely to come out of the cake pans without falling apart.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the coconut filling, rum syrup, and chocolate frosting.

coconut filling:
1 can + 1 cup coconut milk
1-1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups coconut flakes, toasted
1-1/2 cups pecans

To toast the coconut, spread evenly over a cookie sheet and bake for about 5 minutes at 350F. Take it out, stir it around with a spatula, and put back in the oven, checking and stirring every few minutes, until evenly golden brown.

While the coconut is toasting, spread the pecans over another cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes, until well browned and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and chop.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the coconut milk, agave, and salt nearly to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for around 10 minutes. Try not to boil it, because the coconut milk can lose some of its flavor. Mix together the arrowroot and vanilla and whisk in. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until thickened, whisking often to activate the arrowroot. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans and coconut. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

rum syrup:
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer for around 10 minutes, until it resembles a thin syrup. It will thicken slightly upon cooling.

chocolate ganache:
3/4 cup coconut milk (the rest of the can partially used in the coconut frosting)
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Place the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk, agave, and vanilla until it is about to boil. Pour over the chocolate and let it stand a minute. Stir with a spatula until smooth, slowly as to not create air bubbles. Let sit until room temperature, refrigerating if it is not firm enough to spread as frosting.

to assemble the cake:
With a plastic spatula or utensil, loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Remove the cake layers (this is easer if you refrigerate or freeze them for a short while beforehand) and place several toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake, halfway down. Using these as a guide, cut the cake in half horizontally with unflavored dental floss, wrapping it around the cake and tugging the ends toward each other until cut all the way through.

Set the first layer on a cake plate and with a pastry brush, douse liberally with the rum syrup. Spread a little less than 1/4 of the coconut frosting over the layer, being sure to reach the sides. Set another layer on top and repeat, brushing each layer with syrup and coconut filling. Be sure to save enough coconut filling for the top; it's okay if there is more frosting on top than in the other layers, but too little frosting on top would be a problem.

With a frosting spatula, ice the sides with the chocolate frosting, saving a little to pipe around the edges. Run the spatula under hot water, dry, and use it to smooth the chocolate icing around the sides. With a piping bag and tip (you can buy kits relatively cheaply at cooking supply stores), pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top and bottom edges of the cake.

Serve with vanilla or toasted coconut ice cream. The cake can be covered and stored in the fridge for several days.


gluten-free coconut macaroons

The word "macaroon" is used to describe a wide variety of light, baked goods. The word comes from the Italian maccarone, meaning paste; the earliest recorded macaroons were made from almond paste and egg whites, similar to amaretti. Some historians claim macaroons can be traced back to Italian monasteries where they were modeled after the monks' belly buttons. Italian Jews adopted the macaroon because it has no flour or leavening so can be eaten during Passover. Soon it was introduced to other European Jews and became popular year-round. Some cooks added coconut to recipes, occasionally replacing the almonds altogether. Today, what exactly a "macaroon" refers to varies from country to country. Coconut macaroons are the most popular type in North America, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, partly because they're easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues.

The three principle ingredients in traditional coconut macaroons are coconut, egg whites, and sugar. To me, as well as to many others, the use of coconut milk makes these macaroons even better and more coconut-intense than the traditional type. The coconut flavor is so delicious you may not want to disturb it with chocolate, but I like to half-dip the macaroons to create a more elegant and appealing look, and to break up the coconut intensity without covering it up. And although it may be overkill, I like to add a dash of orange oil or zest to the chocolate. In my opinion, the flavor combination of coconut, chocolate, and orange is unbeatable.

Makes about 2 dozen small cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

1/2 can coconut milk (about 3/4 cup, 200 g)
1/3 cup (100 g) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/4 cup brown rice flour (substitute any type of flour—its used mainly as a thickener here)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar or brown sugar
2 cups (160 g) unsweetened shredded coconut (the finer the better unless you want a very chewy macaroon)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips or 3 oz (85g) chopped chocolate
1/4 teaspoon orange oil or zest of 1 orange

Stir together the coconut milk, maple syrup, and salt in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Heat until it's just about to boil, then reduce heat to low. Whisk in the arrowroot powder and brown rice flour until there are no more lumps, then add the vanilla. Continue to cook, whisking often, until thickened. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir in the sugar, then the coconut flakes. Pack a tablespoon-measure with batter and place on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, and mold slightly with your hands to form a circular mound (or whatever shape you wantthe shape will not change much after baking). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are well browned. They should have a crusty outside and soft center.

If you want to dip them in chocolate, fill a small saucepan an inch or two high with water and place a small, heat-proof bowl on top to create a double boiler. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to barely simmering. Place the chocolate in the bowl (and orange oil or zest, if using) and with a spatula, gently stir until consistently creamy, then remove from heat. You might want to add half the orange oil and taste it, adding a few drops at a time, until you get the desired intensity, as orange oils seem to vary in strength from brand to brand. To half-dip, roll half of the top of each macaroon in the melted chocolate. The chocolate will harden if the macaroons are left at room temperature for a few hours. If you're pressed for time, set the cookie sheet in the fridge.



1 cup unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp salt
2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients, cut in oil, add milks, and mix to form slightly sticky dough. Place on a floured surface and pat into a mound 3/4" to 1" thick. Cut biscuits out, pressing straight down.

Bake 15-20 minutes.