4th Sunday of Great Lent: Cookies of Divine Ascent

I hope my friend Carolyn doesn’t mind, but I have to share some pictures of the cookies she and her granddaughter made for our Lenten bake sale today, on the 4th Sunday of Lent when the Orthodox Church commemorates St. John of the Ladder.


St. John wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent sometime around 600 AD.


It describes the means by which the highest degree of religious perfection may be attained.


There are 30 rungs in the ladder, listed below – and shown here in cookies!


I bought this one for myself 🙂 and picked out a few other favorites for my family.

Jesus Christ’s teaching is overwhelming in its simplicity. Rather than give us burdens, He tells us to take up only one thing: our cross. Instead of demanding many sacrifices, He desires from us only one thing: our lives. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.” (Mk 8: 34-36)

Because such words are overwhelming in their directness, Jesus Christ ordained Apostles and teachers to help guide us in living this simple God-centered life; much of the Epistles in the Bible are given over to this subject. Jesus Christ did not stop appointing such people to lead us after the death of the Apostle John, and so in addition to the Holy Scriptures there are many other treatises intended to humbly guide us through the snares and pitfalls of this world and toward Salvation. One of the best known and well-loved is The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Gr: Κλίμαξ), written by St. John Climacus c.a. 600 A.D.

Read more at A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons

St. John Climacus – The Rungs of His Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1. On renunciation of the world
Step 2. On detachment
Step 3. On exile or pilgrimage
Step 4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience
Step 5. On painstaking and true repentance
Step 6. On remembrance of death
Step 7. On joy-making mourning
Step 8. On freedom from anger and on meekness
Step 9. On remembrance of wrongs
Step 10. On slander or calumny
Step 11. On talkativeness and silence
Step 12. On lying
Step 13. On despondency
Step 14. On that clamorous mistress, the stomach
Step 15. On incorruptible purity and chastity
Step 16. On love of money, or avarice
Step 17. On non-possessiveness (that hastens one Heavenwards)
Step 18. On insensibility
Step 19. On sleep, prayer, and psalmody with the brotherhood
Step 20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to obtain spiritual vigil.
Step 21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice
Step 22. On the many forms of vainglory
Step 23. On mad pride and unclean blasphemous thoughts
Step 24. On meekness, simplicity and guilelessness
Step 25. On the destroyer of passions, most sublime humility
Step 26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues
Step 27. On holy stillness of body and soul
Step 28. On holy and blessed prayer
Step 29. Concerning Heaven on earth, or Godlike dispassion and perfection
Step 30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues

Carolyn used my old standby Sugar Cookie recipe.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2015-3-16 Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies Vegan
This is an easy one – simply use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and replace the butter and eggs with margarine (I used Earth Balance) and an egg replacer (I used No Egg). Add a few heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder with the flour. 

I baked up a batch and sold them fresh from the oven at our Lenten bake sale yesterday. If you love chocolate, you will love these cookies! 

For reference, I veganized the original Toll House Cookie recipe:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, minus 2 Tbsp
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 heaping Tbsp Extra Dark Cocoa Powder
1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
No-Egg, equivalent to two eggs
12-oz. pkg Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (Sorry, Nestle, we’ll use yours when you stop putting milk in everything including dark chocolate! :p )

Instructions Here.

Furniture City Creamery

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I’ve been following Furniture City Creamery on facebook for about a month now, but I just finally got there last week. Why did I wait so long?!??!??

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I didn’t take a ton of pictures because it’s a small space and I felt weird, but it has a fun retro look.

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Kind of hard to see, but the vegan flavors are marked by a cute little bracket drawn on the glass case. They have multiple vegan, and gluten free, flavors every day. You can try a sample before you order. I tried the Apple Pie flavor, and guess what? It tastes EXACTLY like apple pie! I mean, it’s supposed to, but it was really dead on. I was impressed. In the end I went with Pumpkin Pie.

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Mother went with a cup of Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip. She’s not really into sweets, so this was perfect – probably the most “savory” ice cream flavor, with a light nutty flavor from the toasted coconut. But still definitely a dessert!

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Sure, you can just get a cup or cone of ice cream, but why not reminisce with ice cream on your grandmother’s davenport? Or at least ice cream in a davenport. As in, in one of these little bowl-shaped vegan oatmeal cookies!

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There’s a cute little seating area outside. This was probably the last day this year anyone would ever want to sit outside and eat a frozen dessert. It’s getting so cold 🙁

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Something for your pup. And finally….

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My vegan Pumpkin Pie ice cream, reclining comfortably on an oatmeal cookie davenport, wrapped in a warm, snugly blanket of vegan caramel sauce. It’s all made in-house.

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The ice cream is coconut milk-based, making it extra rich and creamy. The caramel had a perfect slightly burnt flavor. Now the davenport, I have to say, was a little hard to eat. I couldn’t get through it with my spoon, so I ate all the ice cream and then picked it up and ate it like a regular cookie. A regular cookie sticky with caramel and melted ice cream 🙂 But it was so very good.

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And for green people who care ^

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And in case the ice cream didn’t give you enough of a sugar buzz, you may want to try an Oatmeal Cream Pie (made by Sweet Batches). Delicious creamy frosting-type filling sandwiched between two extra sweet, soft oatmeal cookies. This was much too sweet for my mom, but I (keep in mind I have been known to sip maple syrup from the bottle) LOVED it.

Now I see on their facebook page they also have vegan hot chocolate!!!!! And hot coffee, and hot cider. I really want to go back and try the Apple Pie ice cream with a steamy cup of hot apple cider. Yeah. I will be going back!

Furniture City Creamery is located at 958 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and veganized it, and I’ve been told they’re the best cookies I’ve ever made. So I figured I should share the recipe.

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This is my version of the recipe.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup margarine
Ener-G Egg Replacer or chia egg equivalent to 1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vegan milk sub
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup oat flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
dash of ginger
dash of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first five ingredients. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk sub and stir in.
In a separate bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, spices & salt. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and firm.

*Or use 2 C all purpose flour. The second time I made these I used 1 C all-purpose flour and 1 C oat flour, but it changed the texture and, although they still tasted great, they didn’t look as pretty (the ones shown are from the less pretty batch).
Also, these are really great if you let them cool on a rack and then chill them in the fridge. It’s suggested in the original recipe, and it’s a great idea! Also wonderful with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream on top!

P.S. In the reviews, some people complained the pumpkin cookies weren’t orange enough, so they added food coloring. At first I thought that was a weird problem, but…I do love making my food bright and beautiful. Instead of food coloring, though, I recommend adding a dash or two of turmeric with the dry ingredients.

<3 Valentine's Day for singles <3

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Yes, this involves more cookies. You know, Valentine’s Day is a day for love (and sweets), and love (and sweets) is for everybody. So, single friends, let’s make our Valentine’s Day awesome! What follows is a slightly modified version of my sugar cookie recipe, along with a few pictures of how I make my favorite VDay cookies. I made a half recipe.

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In this bowl, we have:

Ener-G Egg Replacer, equivalent to one egg
1 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
3/4 C Smart Balance
3/4 C coconut milk beverage
1/2 tsp vanilla

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In this bowl we have:

1/4 tsp salt
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 1/2 C flour (I did 3 1/2 C white flour and 1 C oat flour)
cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to taste
Optional: A few pinches of nutritional yeast
Mix dry ingredients…

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Mix wet.

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Mix dry into wet a little at a time, until…

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dough forms. After a while it started getting hard to mix with the handmixer, so I took my ring off and did it by hand. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy, it’s fun!

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Now, tear off a chunk of dough and roll it out 1/4″ to 1/8″, depending on the cookie cutter you’re using. For HRM cutters, it’s somewhere in between there.

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In this case they can be thicker because I’m using a pattern I made myself, and I don’t have to press it in. I simply drew a human heart onto a thin piece of cardboard, cut out the shape, and I lay it on the cookie dough. (Yes, I know I’m not the best artist)

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Now take a little knife, I use a paring knife…

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and cut out the shape, staying as close to the pattern as possible.

Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, or until they are lightly browned around the edges. Don’t over-bake them, or they’ll get really hard!!

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Here they are with the other cookies I did, we’ll get to the others in a bit.

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I made an icing with 1/4 C confectioners sugar, red food coloring, a little raspberry extract (to taste), and water. Add water just a tiny bit at a time. You want the icing to be loose enough to spread easily, but thick enough that it won’t run all over the place.
I spread mine on the main part of the heart with a small butter knife, then use the tip of the handle of a food-grade paintbrush to do the drop of blood. Let the icing dry.

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Voila. Bleeding heart Valentine’s cookies! Eat them all yourself, or share them with some other lonely person. Haha. Half joking…! They also look great in hot pink, or with sprinkles.

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Now, if you’re using an HRM cutter, dip it in flour, then tap it on the side of a bowl to get the excess flour off.

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Then you can really press it hard into the dough and wiggle it around a little to make a clear impression, and you shouldn’t have any problems with the dough sticking. These were for Mr. Lincoln’s birthday yesterday 🙂

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Now, for the icing for my Abe bust cookies, I did 1/4 C confectioners sugar, 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder, a little vanilla, a little water.

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Mix it up. Yeah, it might not look too pretty, but it tastes good.

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Again, I apply with a butter knife.

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All done.

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I think he approves,

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although I still think some of them look more like JFK. Oh well.

How are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

moar cookies!!!!

For those of you who would like to know, the recipe I used to make my Abe Lincoln cookies yesterday is THIS excellent sugar cookie recipe. I love it because the dough never gets stuck in my vintage HRM cookie cutters, although many of the cutters are very intricate. I modified the recipe, and I also made some special Valentine’s Day cookies.

I’ll post more about that later, but for now…

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Here’s Abe with a shiny coat of chocolate icing. The only thing is,

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I think he looks more like JFK. Is it just me? Looks like his nose should be bigger, and the hair definitely needs to be messier. Oh well. I’ll still eat him!

popcorn cookies & pancakes

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Just doing a little experimenting with my favorite snack food…

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Popcorn. I ground it up in my food processor and played around with it.

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The recipes need some tweaking,

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but I did get some decent “cookies” out of the first test run – they were really more like candy. Delicious, buttery popcorn flavored candy.

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Then I whipped up a pancake batter. I was hoping I could replace the flour with popcorn, but…it didn’t really thicken up. I did use less flour than usual, though.

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The pancakes were great as long as they got nice and crispy on both sides,

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so they needed to be made tiny and thin. Thicker pancakes were not as impressive.

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Both recipes are pretty time consuming, but worth it if you love popcorn. I will perfect the recipes and get back to you soon!

Lenten oil free chocolate chip cookies

Srsly guys. If you have tahini, you can do pretty much anything. I realized the last time I made tahini chocolate chip cookies, I only took a picture of the final product. This is a variation on the original recipe, complete with pictures. Enjoy.

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This is another one where I halved the recipe and had weird measurements.

For this version, I used 3/4 C all purpose flour, 1/4 C teff flour, scant 1/8 C brown sugar, 1/2 C coconut sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt.

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In a separate bowl, 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp tahini, 1/3 C milk substitute (can use water) – you might need a little extra to thin it down. And 1 tsp vanilla. Mix it up. If it’s very thick, add more liquid a little at a time until it’s *just* thin enough to drip off the spoon.

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Add to your dry ingredients.

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Mix. Add vegan chocolate chips (Ghirardelli semi-sweet, for instance). I just threw in a couple handfuls, put whatever you like. You could also add chopped nuts and raisins.

Drop by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes. In the original recipe I said to grease the cookie sheet, but I didn’t grease mine and they came off just fine (get ’em off while they’re hot). I also didn’t bother sticking these ones under the broiler since they’re already brown from the teff flour. If you’re using all white flour instead of part teff, you could add a little cocoa powder. Otherwise, you should still place them under the broiler for a minute or two as in the original recipe, to give them a little color.

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I can’t believe how well these turned out, flavor-wise. BUT…even though I cut down on the sugar, they still seemed too sweet. I’ll just have to keep trying (and eating) until I get it right.

vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookie chocolate brownies!!!!!

As I mentioned yesterday, this Sunday I’m hosting the coffee hour at church, so I’ve been baking up a storm. Not like a tropical storm or anything, but a nasty drizzle with a slightly annoying wind. It all started when I made my old standard, the gluten free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. I whipped up a huge batch, threw a baking sheet of 24 small cookies in the oven…waited…cried.

Actually, I’m very proud of myself because I didn’t really cry this time, but I was super disappointed. Not sure what I did wrong, but the cookies kind of melted and bubbled, they were way too soft, in odd shapes and sizes and breaking apart when I removed them from the pan. Dang. I put in the next tray anyway, but with more space between the cookies, and hoped for the best. But it was not the best. I put the rest of the dough in the fridge and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, I had a bunch of broken cookies. Thus, the cookie brownie was born. I used this Easy Double Chocolate Chip Brownie recipe from Nestle Toll House as a guide, but of course I veganized it. Preheat your oven to 350, grease a 9×13″ pan.

The offending cookies.

Chop, chop, chop….

Chopped.

I did 1 1/2 cups, thinking I’d use them to replace the nuts and the unmelted chocolate chips. So for the actual brownies:

I started by melting 1 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 C Smart Balance Light in a heavy sauce pan (actually a neat vintage pressure cooker) on low.

Let it melt some. Stir. Let it melt some more.

Stir until smooth.

Like this.

Now, remove the pan from heat. It would be time to add eggs, except I am instead using 2 large bananas that have been mashed. I also added approximately 2 Tbsp coconut milk beverage.

In they go. I was tempted to stop right here and eat the chocolatey banana mixture with a spoon. Luckily I have at least *some* self control.

Stir to combine.

Next I added 1 1/4 C flour, scant 1 C sugar (do you really need to add an entire cup of sugar to a cup of melted chocolate? NO), 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vanilla extract. I know, it doesn’t look very pretty. That’s okay, we’re not finished.

Stir it all in. I added just a sprinkling of chocolate chips. Now where’s that greased 9×13″ pan?

Pour in enough of the brownie batter to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Now sprinkle the chopped cookies on the batter. I ended up using just over 1 cup.

Use the remaining batter to cover the cookie bits. Don’t leave any batter to lick off the bowl when you’re finished – scrape it all off! I have a feeling the cookie chunks will get hard or burned if they’re not covered with batter.

Now into the oven. Since I use a convection oven, I baked mine at 340 for 14 minutes (the instructions said 350 for 18-22). I think they probably actually finished at 12. I learned you check brownies for doneness the same exact way you check a cake – stick a toothpick in the center. Of course when you have hot melty chocolate chips in there, it gets tricky, but I bet you’ll be able to tell the difference between that and raw-ish brownies.

Brownies. I don’t remember what regular brownies taste like, these might be a little more cake-like. I didn’t eat one because I want to have enough for Sunday! But there was a thin film of brownie on the bottom of this pan when I took them out, and I ate it and it was really good : ) It was also VERY sweet, even though I cut down on the sugar. Next time I might use only 1/2 C.

They also were pretty soft, so after I cut them, when they were still in the pan, I put them in the freezer to firm up. I removed the pieces when they were frozen. I wonder if I should add a little cornstarch or something next time to firm them up some more, but I’ll tell you how it goes tomorrow!

SUPER tahini chocolate chip cookies +

First of all, I have a confession. I do a lot of experimenting in the kitchen, and sometimes…well…it doesn’t work out so well. I’ve forced myself to eat a few things I would never, ever feed to someone I love, and also forced myself to throw away things that were too horrible even to feed myself. So when I start playing around with recipes and I’m baking for someone else, I get a little nervous.
I got a little nervous this evening thinking about those cupcakes I made for the bake sale tomorrow/today (maybe it’s still Saturday since I haven’t gone to sleep yet?), so I decided I had no choice but to try one of each flavor. Guess what? I really liked them! A lot! I only ate half of each so my dad can try the other half. THEN I decided I also had to try the cookies I was baking, a brand new recipe I’ve never tried before, but have been searching for for months. Or years, actually, would be more accurate. Chocolate chip cookies made without oil.

My sister and BIL go to a monastery in Wisconsin every so often, and once in a while they bring back a little treat for me. They make all kinds of wonderful pastries, Greek desserts, mostly. But they also make chocolate chip cookies that are perfectly Lenten: No eggs, dairy or oil. I was told making cookies without oil couldn’t be done, but they did it. I searched all over the interwebs, and I finally found one recipe that came close. And then I altered it. And then…I made delicious cookies.

SUPER Tahini Cookies

2 C flour
1 1/4 C sugar*
1/4 C brown sugar*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tahini*
2/3 C water (or unsweetened non-dairy milk)
2 tsp vanilla
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, add flour, sugars, baking powder & salt and whisk to mix. In a large bowl, add all remaining ingredients but the chocolate chips. Mix with a hand mixer. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix again -the dough will be very sticky and thick. You could maybe add a little  more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, but the cookies will be OK as long as the dough isn’t dry. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop by the spoonful onto an oiled cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. (I did mine for 8, then stuck them under the broiler so they’d brown on top.)

*They are good as-is, but for me they were a little too sweet. Next time I will decrease the sugar by about 1/4 cup.
I also decreased the tahini slightly and added some carob molasses.

Enjoy!