Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Delicious Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I spent yesterday baking cookies. Is there anything better than warm cookies fresh from the oven? I made peanut butter cookies for my son, but for me I made my favorite cookies: Oatmeal Cranberry. I am going to spend today adding some cookie recipes to my website ( I have maybe a dozen oatmeal cookie recipes to type up and some peanut butter cookies. I decided to post my favorite oatmeal cranberry cookie recipe here as well. So, without further ado, here's my recipe:
Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 and 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp wheat germ
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 and 1/2 cups dried cranberries (Craisins)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly blended. I usually use a fork for this part, but you could use an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well until it becomes light and fluffy. Stir in 2 cups of the oats (reserving 1/2 cup for later). Now add the flours, baking soda, salt, wheat germ, and ground flaxseed (you can grind your own flaxseeds in a food mill or coffee grinder). Stir the mixture well until everything is completely blended. Now add the cranberries and the remaining 1/2 cup oats and fold them in gently. I like to add the final 1/2 cup oats at the end so that they remain whole rather than getting mixed into the dough. It gives the cookies a nice hearty texture and appearance. Drop cookies by small spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes per batch, or until they turn a light golden around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes before handling to prevent the cookies from crumbling.
I absolutely love these cookies! They are chewy and oaty and the tangy sweet cranberries are delicious! They are sweet snack foods that also have a lot of health benefits, so I can justify my snacking with less guilt. I am a firm believer that cookies can be sinful and beneficial at the same time. The cranberries are good for your urinary tract and kidneys. The oats give you protien and fiber and help with cholesterol. The whole wheat flour and the wheat germ add whole grains, protien and fiber, along with many other beneficial nutrients. And the flaxseeds add protien, fiber and the additional boost of omega-3. So, yes, the sugar, butter and egg is not good for you, but these cookies do their best to balance the bad with a whole lot of good. So, enjoy your treats and feel a little least these calories aren't completely empty. These make great treats for the kids. They may as well get some health food in them while enjoying their after school snack. They are so sweet and chewy they'll never notice the wheat germ and flaxseed! :)
I have about a dozen variations on my oatmeal cookies, including cinnamon-raisin oatmeal and oatmeal chocolate chip. I am also developing vegan versions of most of my cookies. You can find all of these recipes on my website The vegan versions have less fat and cholesterol since they don't use butter and eggs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuscan Bean & Pasta Soup

I was experimenting in the kitchen again yesterday. I love to browse through cookbooks for inspiration, and it seems like almost every vegetarian cookbook I read has a recipe called Tuscan Bean Soup, or something similar to that. I decided yesterday to create my own Tuscan Bean Soup. Well, actually, mine turned out to be a Tuscan Bean & Pasta Soup. I used dry small white beans as my base (Great Northern Beans or Cannellini beans would work just as well) and stuck to Italian style herbs. I added a lot of fresh basil and included small shell pasta. It turned out really good, so I am adding it to my blog. The beans developed a smooth delicious broth as they simmered. So, here's the recipe:
Tuscan Bean & Pasta Soup
2 cups dry small white beans (soaked overnight in 6 cups water)
8 cups water
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
1 bay leaf
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil (or canola oil)
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 large celery stalks, sliced
Dry small shell pasta (about 2 cups)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
Soak the beans in a covered pot in 6 cups of water overnight, or for at least 8 hours. When the skins begin to split the beans are ready. Drain and rinse the beans. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over med-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring a bit to prevent sticking, for about 3 minutes. Pour in 8 cups of water, all the beans, the bay leaf and the dried herbs. Stir well to blend, cover and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce heat, crack the lid a little, and simmer over low or med-low heat for 90 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery and onion. Stir well and continue to cook another 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender and a nice broth has developed. Add the fresh basil, stir well, and cook another 15 minutes. (The soup should cook a total of at least two and a half hours, but it can also be allowed to simmer for up to five hours before serving, just be sure to add the basil during the last 15 minutes of cooking.) During the last 20 minutes of cooking the soup, cook the pasta in a separate pot of rapidly boiling water according to package directions. Cook the pasta al dente, (do not overcook) drain, rinse and set aside. To serve, scoop about 1 ladleful of pasta shells into each bowl and then add a few ladlefuls of soup. Stir it together in each bowl and serve. I don't add the pasta directly to the pot of soup because it will absorb too much broth and get soggy.
This recipe makes a very large pot of soup. I always make my soups in large quantities and reheat it throughout the week. It makes for easy lunches and dinners that way. If you want less soup just divide all the ingredients in half and proceed. The soup will last about a week in the fridge. To reheat, heat individual servings in the microwave, or scoop what you need into a smaller pot and reheat over medium heat. If you reheat the whole pot of soup each time the beans and veggies will eventually turn to mush. Do not save left over pasta in the soup, as it will absorb too much of the broth. Rather, you should make new pasta to add to each serving of soup, or save left over pasta separately in a ziploc bag and add to each serving of soup during the last few minutes of reheating. This is a really good soup, and it is very healthy. Naturally low in fat, totally vegan (although you don't have to be vegan, or even vegetarian, to enjoy this wonderful soup), and packed with protien, fiber and many vitamins and minerals, this soup is a great meal in itself, or a good starter for an Italian dinner. Serve it with crusty Italian bread or warm whole grain rolls and a nice leafy salad for a complete, delicious and healthy meal. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A couple of days ago I bought a block of gorgonzola cheese from the store. I wanted to find out if I like it. I have a vague memory of my father once making me pasta with gorgonzola cheese in the sauce, but cannot actually remember the taste of it. I know that gorgonzola is often paired with walnuts, so I bought a bag of those as well. I then looked up a few recipes on the web for inspiration. Most of the walnut gorgonzola pasta recipes I found used heavy cream, butter and thyme. I decided to come up with something similar, but simple. I used low-fat milk in place of the cream, since the gorgonzola already adds so much fat and cholesterol to the recipe. I decided not to use any herbs, because I wanted the flavors of the walnuts and gorgonzola to stand out. I did use garlic, because I seem to put that in almost everything I cook. It must come from the Italian side of the gene pool. I also threw in some green onions to add the slightest bite to what is otherwise a very creamy and earthy sauce. I was very pleased with the results. The sauce was the perfect consistency, and very tasty. The cheese was a tad salty, and definately a little heavy, so I kept the portions on the smaller side. I found that by sprinkling some fresh, uncooked, diced tomatoes over the top the dish looked beautiful and it mellowed out the salty bite of the cheese. Don't get me wrong...this is a delicious, and very elegant looking, dish. It was quick and easy to make, and I recommend it highly. So, here's the recipe I came up with:
Walnut Gorgonzola Pasta
1 cup low-fat milk (or non-fat)
6 oz block of gorgonzola cheese, crumblrd into small pieces
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp canola or light olive oil
4 green onions, chopped
12 oz dry pasta (fettucine, linguini, farfalle or fusili)
Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water according to package directions. Be sure not to overcook the pasta. Drain, rinse and set aside.
The 1/2 cup ground walnuts can be made in a food grinder, food processor or even a coffee grinder.
In a medium skillet heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and 1/3 of the green onions. Saute 3 or 4 minutes, or until the garlic becomes frangrant and tender. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the milk and add the gorgonzola cheese. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring slowly and constantly, until at least half of the cheese has melted into the milk. Add the ground and chopped walnuts, mix together well. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until all the cheese has melted and the sauce becomes thickened and smooth. Remove from heat.
To serve, divide the pasta onto plates (makes about 4 servings) and then divide the sauce over the top of each sering. Spinkle the remaining chopped green onions evenly over each plate, and add diced tomatoes if you want them (about 1/2 a medium tomato per serving). Serve with a nice garlic bread and a leafy green salad. The green salad helps your body to digest the cheese sauce.
So, that's my Walnut Gorgonzola Pasta recipe. Enjoy!

Trying To Get Noticed On The Web

So, I started my own blog and my own website over the last couple of months. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I began, but I have muddled through pretty well. I have learned a lot about web design and whatnot, and am pretty happy with how my sight is coming along. At this point the largest hurdle is trying to get noticed on the web! I spend a lot of time researching methods of site promotion and blog promotion, and I follow through with as many as I can, but it is a long, slow, often discouraging process. I often feel like I am just screaming madly into an endless void. I sometimes spend a whole afternoon on my computer wandering in circles on the web like a dog after its own tail. I submit my site to search engines, only to be told it will be two months before they get to me. I submit my site to other sites, requesting link exchanges, only to be told they aren't accepting new links, or will get to me when they can. A few told me they would link to me, but two or three weeks later have yet to do it. I place classified ads on newspaper sites, and a few of those have been reasonably successful, but others have not. One problem I run into is that everyone wants to catergorize my sight as a professional business, even though it just me managing it and I don't charge for or sell anything. It is just my personal collection of recipes and personal thoughts and experiences with being vegetarian. A few classified sights actually removed my ads within 24 hours because they want me to pay for business class ad space. I can't afford to put that kind of money into my site promotion. So, how do I get noticed? The web is such a huge place, crowded with so many people! I am not totally unrealistic. I understand that it will take months, and even years, to get really good search engine rankings, and high traffic volume. I am willing to do the work. I just wish I could find more productive means of site promotion, so I didn't have to waste so much of my time on fruitless efforts. A better defined and focused plan of action would be nice. At this point I am just blindly feeling my way through it all. But, despite how frustrated and gloomy I sound here, I am still enjoying myself and am actually quite hopeful. I will succeed....eventually! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lentil and Brown Rice Stew

A couple of days ago I was going through the cupboards trying to decide what to make for dinner. I stumbled across some green lentils and a bag of brown rice I had bought one afternoon for no particular reason. I was inspired. I spent the next hour adding a little of this and a little of that until a fairly nice stew was bubbling on the stove. It came out so good (in my opinion) that I thought I would share it. So, here is the recipe I came up with which I am calling Lentil & Brown Rice Stew:
2 cups dry lentils 1 cup dry brown rice (I used long grain) 10 cups water (9 for the soup & 1 for cooking the rice) 2 tsp dry basil 2 tsp dry oregano 1 bay leaf 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 large yellow onion, diced 2 tbsp canola oil 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with their liquid 3 celery stalks, chopped 3 carrots, peeled & sliced 6 red potatoes, washed & diced (skin on) 1 cup shredded or diced green cabbage 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 very large pot and a rice pot
Combine the 1 cup brown rice with 1 cup water in a small pot over med-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to very low and let simmer for about 45 minutes, covered, or until the rice absorbs the water. Set aside. You can use more rice if you want a very hearty stew...just keep the measurements 1/2 rice and 1/2 water.
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over med-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrots, give it a good stir, cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Stir once or twice to prevent sticking. Add the potatoes and the dry herbs and stir. Cover and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the lentils and water, cover and bring to a boil...then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add both cans of tomatoes with all their liquid, the cooked rice, the cabbage and the parsley. Stir it all together well and let simmer, covered, another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.
This stew is super hearty, very healthy, low in fat, high in fiber and high in protien. What a great combination! It is a wonderfully warming comfort type food that would be perfect served on a cold or wet evening. It is certainly a meal in itself. I served it with warm whole wheat rolls. Brown rice, green lentils and whole wheat rolls! I must be a vegetarian hippy! :)
This recipe does make a HUGE pot of stew. I always cook my stews and soups in huge pots. I like to keep it in the fridge for days as a quick lunch or dinner waiting to just be warmed up. If you wanted to make less you could simply cut all the ingredients in half and proceed with the recipe.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Vegetarian Menu For Easter Dinner

With Easter coming in a couple of days my mind has been on menu planning. Holiday meals always seem to be a big issue for vegetarians and vegans. It seems that so many traditional holiday meals are centered around meat...turkey, ham, etc.. Not to mention giblet gravies, or mashed potatoes made with chicken broth, or whatever!!! I know that my first few holidays after making the switch to a vegetarian diet were challenging to say the least. Over the last few years I have developed some new family favorites that we are building new family traditions with. Some of our holiday musts are Easy Candied Yams (minus the marshmallows of course), Brown Sugar Baked Squash, mashed potatoes with vegetarian Brown Gravy with Mushrooms, my favorite Potato, Leek & Spinach Deep Dish Casserole Pie, and my Classic Cheesecake. To this I always add some nice bread, a simple vegetable side dish, and maybe a pumpkin pie. I also try to find a new vegetarian entree to try each holiday. Last Easter I made a potato & leek was amazing...but I haven't found the time to type up the recipe yet. So, that's what we will be eating on Sunday. Of course we will also make some starters and snacks to have around the house while we wait for dinner to cook. I usually like to make crudites (assorted raw veggies) with some sort of dip, and a cheese and cracker platter. I like to keep the starters simple so everyone still has room for dinner.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I have been working all day on my new vegetarian cooking website. There is so much to learn along the way. I am trying to figure out how to best promote my site. It is turning out to be a long slow process, and I have to keep reminding myself not to get discouraged. I am working on submitting my site to search engines, which has not gone too well yet. And I am trying to get other sites to link to mine, which is apparently a crucial part of site promotion and search engine ranking. So far, I think I have managed to get one site to link to me and one search engine to include me in their index. I guess I have a lot of work ahead of me. I keep running into mentions of "meta tags" as something I need to include on my web pages, but I have not yet figured out what they are or how to go about including them. Oh well, I am determined to prove that someone as computer illiterate as myself can still manage to create, promote and maintain a successful website. I look forward to the day when my site, and my new blog, will be getting daily hits, and my readers will be responding to and interacting with me. I have always enjoyed writing and cooking, so being able to have an outlet for both of those interest would be great. I am also hoping to someday be able to design a money making business around all of this, but that is still somewhere in the future. For now, I am just happy to plug away at my site development and learn everything I'm going to need to know. I am really having fun experimenting in the kitchen and developing new vegetarian and vegan recipes. I am learning new things about myself along the way. I have always been the main cook in my family, but since beginning this project I am discovering that I really find a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in cooking, and in succeeding in creating a new recipe that actually tastes good! Plus, this is providing me with the motivation to try new foods and broaden my own family's eating habits. When we first made the transition to a vegetarian diet one of the biggest obstacles we faced was the "What do we eat now?" question. At first we were eating a lot of beans and rice, mostly in the form of burritos, and too many processed meat alternatives and soy products. Over the last few years I have learned a lot about the art of vegetarian and vegan cooking, and I have added many more foods to our diets. However, in the last few months, as I researched and worked on this idea I had for developing my own vegetarian website I have gained a tremendous amount of new knowledge regarding nutrition, food pairing, cooking and the many benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Much more than I think I ever would have bothered to learn if I had not begun this project. Now I am excited to begin sharing all of this new found knowledge with the rest of you. I am enjoying myself immensly, so I guess that makes this all worthwhile whether my sites ever gain any popularity or not. I am actually enjoying myself so much that I am beginning to have thoughts of someday writing my own cookbooks. Do people buy cookbooks from self-taught cooks? Hmmmm. I guess it's something to think about anyway. Another great thing that I am gaining from my efforts is that I am discovering and developing more vegan recipes. I have not yet made the transition to a vegan diet. I still have a terrible love affair with cheese. However, as I work on new recipes I am developing more and more vegan meals. As my family and I find more vegan meals that we love, we find it easier to replace the meals we were eating with the dairy or eggs in them. I believe that it is a lot easier to replace something with something else just as satisfying than it is to simply deny yourself something. When my family first decided to become vegetarian we had a lot of days when we missed our favorite foods. Over time we discovered new vegetarian foods we loved just as much. I think that if we had learned a lot of vegetarian recipes before actually making the change....if we had systematically replaced our old favorite meals with new vegetarian favorites....we would have found the change easier and more pleasant. So, that is how I am facing the transition from vegetarian to vegan. I am learning new vegan meals, and eating them more often, while still allowing myself to eat the dairy and eggs in other meals. I hope to someday make the transition completely, but I have decided not to pressure myself. I don't believe in being a fanatic. I made the decision to become vegetarian for my own reasons. I will make the transition to veganism in my own way and my own time. I also do not criticize or "freak out" on people who are not vegetarian. I don't want to force anything on anyone. I would like to think that maybe I will change a few opinions through my own example, and I am more than happy to share my own opinions and beliefs when people are willing to listen, but I won't attack you for having your own beliefs. I am not the confrontational type.
"We must become the changes we want to see in the world."
-Mahatma Ghandi

Monday, April 2, 2007

I thought I would share one of my recipes from my site:
Banana Oat Nut Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raw rolled oats
1 and a 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups mashed banana (about 4 bananas)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Additional rolled oats, wheat germ & chopped walnuts for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, 1/2 cup oats, baking soda, 1/4 cup wheat germ, ground flaxseed, sugar, and salt. Mix it all together with a fork until it is well blended. In another bowl combine the banana, oil, eggs and water. Whisk together with a fork until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together until it is thoroughly mixed. Fold in the 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
Pour the batter into 1 large loaf pan or 2 smaller pans. Fill the pans about 2/3 full. Generously sprinkle the tops first with wheat germ, then with raw rolled oats and then with a few chopped walnuts. Bake a large loaf for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Bake 2 small loaves for about 50 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
I love this bread. The topping makes it look really pretty, and adds a nice nutty crunch to the bread. The addition of wheat germ and ground flaxseed lend it a nice nutritional boost. Flaxseed in particular is very good for you. One of its most important traits is that it has a high level of omega-3. If you are a vegetarian or vegan it can be hard to get enough omega-3 in your diet. For that reason I try to add it to most of my baked goods, pancakes, waffles, cereals, and anywhere else it will blend nicely. The walnuts also provide omega-3.
Just remember that both wheat germ and flaxseed can turn rancid easily at room temperature. You should store both in a sealed container in the fridge. Flaxseeds should be stored whole and ground as they are needed. You can easily grind them in a coffee grinder or food mill. Flaxseeds must be ground before you eat them, otherwise they pass through your body undigested. This is because their shells are too tough for your digestive system. If you don't grind them first you won't get the nutritional benefits. Ground flaxseed goes rancid even easier than whole flaxseeds, so if you have any ground left over store it in the freezer and use it quickly. Walnuts also store better in the helps them retain more of their nutrients longer.
If you are vegan you can try converting this recipe by replacing the eggs with flaxseed and water. Mix 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp of water. Whisk it or put it in the blender until it gets thick and a bit gooey. Use it in the recipe in place of the eggs. I haven't yet tried the vegan conversion on this one myself, but I have done so on some of my other quick bread recipes. It works pretty well. However, you may want to add 1 or 2 tsp of baking powder to the recipe as well, because I find that my eggless quick breads don't always rise as high. If you try the vegan conversion before I do let me know how it works out.
If you want to try more of my recipes you can find them at
Hello and welcome to my blog! This is my first entry and my first blog! I guess I should start with an introduction.... My name is Lara and I am 32 years old. I am married and the mother of a 13 year old boy and the step mother of a 15 year old girl. I am a vegetarian who has recently started a vegetarian cooking and information website. Check it out at or We are a new site, so not everything is up and running yet, but I work on it every day. It will get better and better...I hope! We have vegetarian and vegan recipes....which is our mian focus...and we are working on sections for resources, articles, book reviews, a veg kids section, and much more! So, as I was saying, I am a vegetarian and I am working on a website. I am also an RVer. My husband, my son, and myself have been full-time RVers for the last two and a half years. We are currently hanging on the coast of Oregon, but we have been in California, Idaho, Washington, and Alaska. I love the Pacific Northwest, so I tend to stay around here. We do hope to head east eventually. I was born in Southern California. My early years were spent in Hollywood, and then we moved around LA for few years. I spent my teen years in Humbolt Northern California. That is still my favorite place on Earth!!! I love to go back there and walk amongst the redwood trees. By the time I was 17 years old my family and I had moved to Alaska. It was there that I met my husband and where my son was born. We left in September 2004 and have been RVing ever since. Most of my family is still living in Alaska. I am an animal person. I have 2 dogs. A six and a half year old female German Shepard named Sadie and a one year old female red nose pit bull named Maggie. They are my babies! I also have a gang of spoiled cats. All of my pets are spayed or nuetered! Make sure yours are too! I love to write, sketch, paint, garden and cook. Those are my passions. I also watch a lot of movies. Okay, that is probably enough about me for now. I figure you can only stand so much trivial information at a time. I hope I will reach a few of you with this blog over time. I love the idea of it. Take care.